When it comes to superhero teams in the Marvel universe, most people usually only think about the Avengers and the X-Men. Which makes sense I guess, they’re the more high-profile teams with really iconic and classic rosters. But there are other, more strange teams dotting the Marvel universe. Like the Champions, the crazy team that features Hercules, Black Widow, Ghost Rider, Iceman, and Angel. That’s a weird one. But my personal favorite will probably always be the Defenders. The name of the team is going to be more famous in the coming years at least, since they’ve decided that the Netflix heroes will be forming at team with that name. But while that is a great group of characters, they aren’t the Defenders. The Defenders are Marvel’s oddball team that specializes in magical and occult threats. Got an alien invasion? Call the Avengers. Got some mutant terrorists attacking normals? Call the X-Men. Got a weird warlock summoning demons in Central Park? Well the Defenders are your best bet. I’ve recently been going through the first Defenders run, and it’s really been a blast. I love the classic team of Doctor Strange, Hulk, Namor, Silver Surfer, and Valkyrie, and they’re adventures have been a lot of fun. And wouldn’t you know, the second issue had a really crazy story with some dynamite panels that I just had to talk about.
First off, a little context. The first issue of the series functioned like most first issues of team books, with some crazy event happening that requires these disparate heroes to work together. Which takes the form of a necromancer trying to sacrifice Namor in order to raise some dread god. Hulk finds Namor and goes to grab Doctor Strange to help, and the three are eventually able to stop the necromancer and part as friends. Well, except for Namor, who was convinced that the Silver Surfer kidnapped him and brought him to the necromancer in the first place. So as this issue starts off he and Doctor Strange are travelling around the world, trying to find Silver Surfer to figure out just what the hell is going on. And they just so happen to make it to some sort of arctic ocean, when Silver Surfer comes zipping out of nowhere and grabs Namor.
Which turns out to be a misunderstanding. Apparently Silver Surfer is just psyched to see Namor, and was basically just hugging his pal, unaware that Namor was essentially hunting him down to kill him. Which doesn’t go well. Namor gets super pissed, and starts punching Surfer wildly, as he often does, while Doctor Strange desperately tries to explain the situation. And he’s not good at that. Which may be because he’s stuck in his astral form, and can’t actually touch the two men while they’re beating the hell out of each other. But eventually they stop pummeling each other and Silver Surfer proclaims that he’s done with humanity, and is peacing out to his “private valley,” and blasts away faster than they can catch him.
So that didn’t go well. But that isn’t going to stop the Defenders! We cut back to New York where Namor and Doctor Strange are meeting back up at the Sanctum Sanctorum to brainstorm. And shockingly, based solely on the Surfer’s random mentioning of his private valley, Doctor Strange may know where he’s hiding. He pulls out a random book from his library, and discusses a magical valley in the Himalayas that host some creatures called the Undying Ones. And based on that….hunch I guess, they decide to travel all the way to the Himalayan mountains. But first they stop by some random countryside and pick up the Hulk. And now that the trio is assembled, they slap Doctor Strange’s cape of levitation on Hulk, and ride him across the world!
And after some unexplained amount of time they make it to the Himalayan mountains where this mysterious valley is, and set upon some locals. Which leads to some…problematic scenes where Hulk grabs a Nepalese man and refers to him as “yellow skin.” Yikes. Anyway, after Hulk threatens some of the villagers, they start to freak out and admit that there’s some secretive masters living in a hidden valley around them, which confirms the Defender’s suspicions. So they convince some Sherpas to help them find the valley, and head out.
But trouble strikes that night when the Sherpa’s refuse to go any further, and insist on bedding down for the night. And the next morning when our heroes wake up they find the camp deserted, and the Sherpa’s missing. So they start looking for their guides, trying to decide if they ran away or were stolen in the night, and quickly find two clues. First, some mysterious footprints that are much larger than human prints, and second, the mutilated bodies of the Sherpa’s. Hmmm, the plot thickens. And right on time, our heroes turn around and find that they’re suddenly surrounded by some goddamn yetis! Yep, the Undying Ones are yetis. And they are not happy about these strange intruders wandering into their land. So Hulk springs into action and joins Batman in the illustrious ranks of superheros who have punched yetis, and starts wailing on them. And just on time Silver Surfer comes blasting in to save the Yetis. We’re then treated to this spectacular scene.
Words cannot describe how much I love this scene. It just gets better and better. Silver Surfer appearing and claiming that the crazy yetis that Hulk has been beating up are his children is good enough. But then Namor just immediately socks him in the face and yells “Well Happy Father’s Day.” It’s just beautiful. And after that amazing scene, the two actually decide to talk about what they’re so mad about. Namor explains that he’s furious because Surfer was implicit in that necromancer trying to kill him. Which is news to Surfer, who claims that he’s barely left the valley in the last few months, and has no idea what Namor is talking about. Apparently after he was cursed by Galactus to stay on Earth forever he went zooming around the planet, trying to find meaning. And what he ended up finding was a tribe of simple yetis. So he logically decided to devote his life to teaching them as if they were his own children.
Case closed! Oh wait, no, that didn’t explain anything. But before anyone else notices that they’ve come all this way and haven’t solved anything, something crazy happens. Turns out the yetis aren’t simple. Or yetis. They’re actually a weird village of warlocks who are pretending to be yetis. They were apparently living with Surfer and pretending to be his children so they could gain his trust, and control his mind into kidnapping Namor for that other evil wizards plot. Confused? Yeah, me too, but that’s okay, because as soon as they’re done explaining what’s going on, the Defenders just start kicking some warlock ass. The four of them team up and easily knock out all of the warlocks, which was kind of anticlimactic, but whatever, the issue was almost over so they had to wrap things up. And the episode ends with the four allies deciding to be a team and solve more warlock-related crimes!
I really enjoy this story. Mainly because of how crazy things get once they get to the Himalayas. I generally love reading about the Defenders, and seeing this silly little early adventure where they get together to beat up the Silver Surfer’s foster-yetis is pretty great. The Defenders are just such a fun team of weirdos. Yeah, I love the Avengers, and their team of legitimate superheroes, but I’ll always prefer this rag-tag gang of weirdos who solve magical mysteries like the Scooby Doo gang. The issue takes a lot of crazy leaps of logic, like the fact that Doctor Strange just assumes that all valleys must be related, but who cares, it leads to an issue where they strap Doctor Strange’s cape to the Incredible Hulk, and he flies them around the world to yell racial epithets at Asian men. That’s some weird stuff right there.
“The Secret of the Silver Surfer” was written by Steve Englehart and drawn by Sal Buscema, 1972.