The Defenders (#36 – 37) – Steve Gerber

3 out of 5

Considered as part of the whole Head-Men / Nebulon plot of Steve’s Defenders run, these issues are pretty fun, and have some important beats. But in trying to divvy the series up in to separate arcs, they stick out as somewhat clunky attempts to bridge different parts of the storyline, and perhaps give a shout-out to Omega the Unknown, since Hulk had just appeared in that series. Bringing in Red Guardian is definitely welcomed – a much more dynamic female character than Val – but Plant Man is… not, as it’s not clear if he’s being played for a joke or as a legitimate threat, and then using him (and his pals) to connect to Nebulon and his clowns feels somewhat forced. Nighthawk’s “recovery” also gets short shrifted, happening totally in the background after building up to it for five issues, but his final, reflective moments with Strange are interesting. And even though it’s also kind of silly, putting Valkyrie in jail is a good setup for a Defenders’ spin on Women In Prison dramatics.

Again, reading this in a run with the other issues, it still mostly works, with Steve ably juggling goofy and serious and weird, but assessed as “The Plant Man arc,” they’re definitely weaker books.