Defenders #13-14 (1974): Squadron Sinister!


The Defenders, now a trio, are spending a quiet night at home when Nighthawk blows down the door and somehow manages to hold his own against Hulk and Valkyrie before Dr. Strange breaks up the fight.

Nighthawk then tells them he’s here to warn them, not fight them, in a close up of his face that shows a critical need to modify his costume.  That orange beak looks ridiculous.

Nighthawk advises that the Squadron Sinister have reformed, and their new leader is Nebulon the Celestial Man, to whom Hyperion (Superman) has promised to give the entire planet.

Apparently, this was more than Nighthawk could tolerate.  I guess he was just into small-time crime, and this somehow made him turn good.  Sub-Mariner rejoins the team to help, because this is Nebulon’s plan…

And then we get the obligatory battles.  Hulk vs. Hyperion!  Strange vs. Dr. Spectrum!  Namor vs. Whizzer!  And Val…Sidelined?  Hmph.  (Incidentally, there is a reference to Spectrum’s prism being destroyed by Iron Man, but apparently Nebulon just recreated it.)

Anyway, all that is in just one issue.  A great issue!

In the next one, Nebulon transforms from a gold-skinned Adonis to this…

This is about as close as Len Wein gets to the kind of weirdness that was a staple of The Defenders under Steve Englehart.  And it’s not really all that weird.

In the boss battle, Nighthawk dies and Dr. Strange reveals that he has the power to restore the dead…

After which, Namor quits (again), saying “Do not seek to summon me again, Strange-for if I come it will not be as an ally.”  Then, Nighthawk joins.

This is a much more straightforward superhero book than we’re used to from this title, but it’s well done.  I’m okay with Defenders proceeding in this manner for a while.

I originally gave this one very low marks because it’s the return of the Squadron Sinister, who in my opinion never needed to appear again. I’m not a big fan of Nighthawk as a Defender, either. But putting that aside, it’s fine. Decent Sal Buscema art. A lot of the inter-team conflict feels forced (if Namor was in such a bad mood, you’d think he’d be ok with melting all the world’s ice caps, and more seriously the way he’s brought into the story is pretty heavy-handed), and the villains’ decision to slow-death the good guys is frustratingly cliche. But there’s some fun moments too.

Creators: Len Wein and Sal Buscema
Grade: B-
For the complete history of the MU, year by year, go here.


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