Secret Defenders #9
June 8, 2009
Who says there aren't any overweight superheroes?
Linkara: Hello, and welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall, where bad comics burn. Let's talk for a moment about a comic concept that really shouldn't work, and yet somehow, it did: the Defenders!
(Cut to shots of a comic called "The Dynamic Defenders")
Linkara (v/o): The Defenders were a group of superheroes who came together for reasons I can't remember, but it's a weird concept, since these people really have nothing that brings them together. We have Doctor Strange, the sorcerer supreme and a powerful mystic; the Silver Surfer, the perpetually brooding but powerful cosmic surfer dude; Namor the Sub-Mariner – and while I think Aquaman is awesome with the correct writer, Namor is really the more badass of the two; and the Hulk, who smashes.
Linkara: While the membership of this team changed, the book itself lasted an impressive 152 issues, from 1972 to 1986. But we're not here to talk about the Defenders themselves, but rather a book that came about in the 1990s: "The Secret Defenders".
(Cut to shots of "The Secret Defenders")
Linkara (v/o): The idea was simple: Doctor Strange would call upon a group of heroes to temporarily work together to deal with a specific threat. In theory, this actually isn't a bad idea for a comic, kind of a Showcase Presents type of thing to highlight heroes. But if the rest of the series was anything like the subject today, I'll have to say it failed miserably.
Linkara: How did it fail? Well, let's dig into (holds up comic of review) "Secret Defenders #9", and I'll show you.
(Cut to a closeup of the comic cover)
Linkara (v/o): The cover is– AAAAGH!! MY EYES!!
Linkara: (squinting and feeling around) One second! (takes off his regular glasses and puts on some dark ones that make him look blind) Okay, folks, sorry about that, but... WOW! What the hell is up with this cover?!
Linkara (v/o): What does it say about the cover art when the small icons of the characters in the top-left corner look better than the ones on the cover itself? This dizzying cover features the three who will be working for Doctor Strange in this little adventure: Silver Surfer, War Machine, and Thunderstrike. I'll get to Thunderstrike in a future video. Anyway, the cover. While it's bad enough that the background colors are a nauseating collage of various shapes and wavy lines, the artwork we see on the three here is just nerve-wracking. I know Dark Age artwork took muscular structures and emphasized them considerably, but this is just sad! It's like all three of them were balloons that got filled with enough air that, any minute now, they're gonna float away. Their necks are only about an inch long, and they look like they can't run, only waddle. (the comic opens to the first page) We open up on a ballooned, menacing Roger Delgado... erm, I mean Doctor Strange. Either of his hands are roughly the size of his head, and he has a third eye on him for some reason.
Doctor Strange: Why have you come to the house of DOCTOR STRANGE?
Linkara (v/o): And his name is in red and made huge, as if he routinely walks around talking about himself in the most dramatic manner possible. I wonder if he does this in real life, too?
Linkara: (leaning forward with his hands out) DOCTOR STRANGE! ...demands his mocha double latte.
Linkara (v/o): Cut to a two-page spread of Doctor Strange floating above the weird crap we saw on the first page, as well as seeing what a cluttered mess his home really is. Oh, and his third eye is now gone. Silver Surfer is standing nearby an– Oh, dear LORD, has he put on weight! Seriously, the guy's stomach is showing from the backside, and his ass is at least twice as big as his head! I guess Galactus wasn't the only guy chowing down on planets when the Herald when to surfin'.
Linkara: For the love of Heidegger, Silver Surfer, get on the SlimFast plan!
Linkara (v/o): The tragically obese Silver Surfer says...
Silver Surfer: Wong let me in. He thought you would not mind. I can go if I'm intruding.
Doctor Strange: Of course not, Surfer. I wouldn't hear of it. Your arrival is simply unexpected--as are all of your appearances lately. But you know you welcome in my home at any time.
Linkara (v/o): Then why were you yelling at him a minute ago for entering your house? Furthermore, what's with the weird emphasis on certain words? Let's look at this dialog again, but with the emphases. (as Doctor Strange, emphasizing the emphases) Of course not, Surfer. I wouldn't hear of it. Your arrival is simply unexpected--as are all of your appearances lately. But you know you welcome in my home at any time. (normal again) Weird. The Surfer explains that he needs some help. And now it's time for the old flashback to kick in, detailing stuff that no one really cares about. Here's the gist of it: apparently, a self-styled pirate named Nebula tried to steal the Infinity Gauntlet from Thanos, and was imprisoned on Saturn's moon, Titan. She broke out and now wants revenge on the people living on Titan.
Linkara: By the way, while it's nice that we have this kind of exposition for new readers, it's probably not a good idea to remind people of other, better stories they could be reading instead.
Linkara (v/o): The Surfer further exposits that she's mustering forces on the Martian moon Phobos.
Linkara: Since when did Phobos have its own recruitment center for evil henchmen?
(A mock ad is shown called "Goons of Mars (Located Off of I-94 and the Carl Sagan Monument! Convenient Shopping! Get Your Ass To Mars! (Well, Phobos))", with a montage of comics that Linkara reviewed referenced)
Linkara (v/o): (announcer voice) Supervillains, evildoers and criminals alike! Have a big crime spree planned? Then you'll need henchmen and cronies to sacrifice or to distract the hero! They even come custom-designed to fit your ludicrous theme! Got a question mark motif? All punctuation is correct! Do you make constant ice-related puns? Try our new evil hockey player theme! Prices may vary. Henchgirls only included in some packages.
(Cut back to the Secret Defenders comic)
Linkara (v/o): Doctor Strange offers assistance, but the Surfer declines. We zoom in on his face as he explains why his help would be useless, showing that his face gets chubbier and chubbier, as if the more he speaks, the more his body fills out. Apparently, Nebula is a "master strategist", and that when she came into contact with many of Earth's heroes before, she gained knowledge on all of them and subsequently what their weaknesses could be. The Surfer explains that though he failed to stop her the last time, he'll take his chances now.
Linkara: Yeah, go up against the woman who already knows you and your weaknesses! Who's the master strategist now, eh?
(Cut to a clip of Patton)
Patton: (looking out through a pair of binoculars) You magnificent bastard, I READ YOUR BOOK!
(Back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): As such, he requests that Doctor Strange give him some allies who would be unfamiliar to Nebula. By the way, this is a weak premise to not get more powerful heroes. There's a difference between knowing a weakness and actually being able to exploit that weakness.
(Cut to a panel of a Superman comic where he gets exposed to kryptonite)
Linkara (v/o): For example, Superman is vulnerable to kryptonite. Okay, that's all well and good, but actually, getting kryptonite is a different matter entirely. Forgiving certain stories where it's fairly common, space rocks aren't exactly found on every street corner. Thus is the case here. This isn't Batman we're talking about. She can't have planned for every eventuality and every hero she'll go up against, and there isn't very much strategy you can take advantage of to counter getting hit in the face by Thor's hammer, the one that the friggin' god of thunder uses!
(Back to the Secret Defenders comic, with Doctor Strange's face halfway in shadow, grinning menaciingly)
Linkara (v/o): Okay, Doctor Strange says he can help with– AGH!! THAT FACE!
Linkara: (holding comic away from him) Doctor Strange is a good guy, right?
Linkara (v/o): Some time later, Doctor Strange has the Surfer come back to him, and he shows who he has obtained. They're veiled in silhouettes at first, making him confusedly think that Doctor Strange has obtained Thor and Iron Man.
Doctor Strange: No. Not quite.
Linkara (v/o): Not by a long shot, pal. And thus, we are introduced to Thunderstrike and War Machine. I just have to laugh here about how horrifying the artwork is on this page. War Machine looks like someone smushed him down so he was really wide, and his legs were compressed to make up about half his body. But War Machine got off light when you consider that's a suit he's wearing. Compare it to Thunderstrike here. His head is the size of his fist while the rest of his body is just muscle to the extreme. This is mind-numbingly, extraordinarily bad art!
(Cut to a shot of a Wonder Woman comic cover, with Wonder Woman posing near the added-on phrase: "Please forgive my example being the tall Amazon")
Linkara (v/o): The average human body from the top of the head to the toes (Wonder Woman's height and shoulder length is measured as Linkara speaks) is usually about the height of one's head times seven. Shoulder length is usually the width of two heads.
(Cut to back to Thunderstrike, who is also being measured)
Linkara (v/o): Thunderstrike in this picture measures (ELEVEN!) ELEVEN head heights tall, and five head widths for the shoulders!
Linkara: We're not even talking steroid abuse here, folks! This is getting into some horribly disfiguring diseases!
Linkara (v/o): The unintentional humor continues with the dialogue. Doctor Strange comments on how...
Doctor Strange: Almost nobody recognizes them... least of all, Nebula.
Linkara: No, least of all, the comic-reading public.
Linkara (v/o): What I really love is how Doctor Strange says right in front of them that these two aren't that well-known in the public, and I don't want to diss them, because honestly, both characters are okay, but here, they really, really are losers, and seeing Doctor Strange point out how they're unknowns is just icing on the cake. But hey, what does Thunderstrike, Goliath that he is, have to say?
Thunderstrike: Honored to meet you... though we've met before, sort of. But that'd be a long story...
Linkara: Oh, why stop now?
Thunderstrike: ...and... well... uh... Like I said... I'm honored. Really.
Linkara (v/o): Somewhere out there, Shakespeare is swooning, folks. Silver Surfer must be kicking himself as he asks...
Silver Surfer: You sure they're up to it?
Linakra (v/o): Doctor Strange affirms his confidence in the two, and the Surfer asks them if they've been explained what they'll be up against. War Machine replies...
War Machine: All right with me. Sounds like a good scrap.
Linkara (v/o): If you mean your armor, then yes, your armor will make good scrap.
War Machine: I need a chance to work out the kinks in this suit anyway.
Linkara: Oh, well, that should put the Silver Surfer's fears to rest! Your armor's apparently not even perfected, and yet you want to go up against the master strategist! Doctor Strange apparently didn't really spend that much time looking for these two, did he?
Linkara (v/o): Thunderstrike expresses his own confidence in the mission.
Thunderstrike: I mean, with the three of us, this Nebula doesn't stand a chance. Right?
Linkara (v/o): This coming from the guy whose original arch-nemesis was a wannabe Rastafarian Dr. Doom called Carjack, whose goal in life was to, well, carjack. On top of that is War Machine, who I'm sure has quite an arsenal that would make him a threat on Earth, but the amount of alien technology at Nebula's disposal must easily trump War Machine's weapons. And I hate to say it, but he's pretty much useless in this fight, because Nebula's already encountered Iron Man, who uses the same tech and therefore, she can outstrategize him! Here's a thought: instead of bringing in two losers that even Doctor Strange admitted nobody recognizes, how about you organize the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, and every other hero at your disposal and go on a huge assault!
Linkara: Sure, she's a master strategist, but it's kind of hard to think about strategies when you've got Captain America's smacking you against in the back of the head, Spider-Man's webbing in your eyes, Wolverine slashing at your stomach, and Iron Man's repulsor rays knocking you into a wall, and all at the same time!
Linkara (v/o): The Silver Surfer warns them not to get overconfident, especially since even by his own admission...
Silver Surfer: We are only three, and it's certain Nebula has gathered a sizable force by now. Her troops will be well-trained and well-armed.
Linkara: This is gonna be like the superhero Bay of Pigs, isn't it?
Linkara (v/o): Doctor Strange teleports them away, amidst more nauseating magical effects, and we can see once again that apparently, between panels, the heroes have gained significant weight, making me think this is actually going to be a superhero Bay of Pigs orchestrated by Fat Bastard, an elderly Marlon Brando, and Chris Farley. We cut to a two-page spread of the battle on Phobos. It's the kind of battle one would see in a big event comic, only it's ridiculously lame compared to the group shots in those books. We have only three heroes here, and the rest are just an assortment of unrecognizable aliens, who are either standing around or just getting blasted by Silver Surfer, War Machine, and Thunderstrike– BY DIE HARD'S CROTCH!!! What the hell happened to Thunderstrike's SPINE?!?! He's curving his body more than a female character drawn by Michael Turner! Somewhere, Rob Liefeld is looking at this image and crying tears of joy. The Silver Surfer says he'll go on ahead to hunt for Nebula while the other two take on the horde of alien soldiers. War Machine responds with a nonchalant...
War Machine: Fine. Everything's under control here.
Linkara: I guess he's as bored with this as the rest of us.
Linkara (v/o): Anyway, Silver Surfer flies up, blasting an alien in half... Come to think of it, all three of them aren't exactly pulling their punches to prevent slicing and dicing alien soldiers here. ...as he reasons where Nebula could be.
Silver Surfer: Resistance is heaviest near Nebula's flagship. I suspect that's where I'll find her... waiting for me. I won't disappoint her.
Linkara: (confused) So, his plan is to fly into Nebula's flagship, guns a-blazing, right where she wants him to, and... what, exactly? I guess Silver Surfer's plan is...
(Cut to a black screen with the following text: "Silver Surfer's Plan: 1. Fly right into Nebula's hands; 2. ???; 3. Profit!")
Linkara (v/o): One: fly right into Nebula's hands; two: (pause); three: profit!
Linkara: Brilliant plan, Napoleon. Weren't you the one lecturing the other two a minute ago about being overconfident?
Linkara (v/o): A weird energy burst comes from a gun in some green guy's hands that knocks out the Silver Surfer in one blast. We see Nebula herself now... Wow. Apparently, she's Locutus of Borg with child-bearing hips and actually quite an impressive package for a woman. She explains that the weapon was a "synaptic disruptor", for those who were wondering how some energy weapon could take down someone with the power cosmic. Oh, and she's also wearing a leather jacket for no particular reason, with a lightning bolt insignia on it. Because that makes all sorts of sense!
(90s Kid appears)
90s Kid: Duuuuude! You know what would make Locutus of Borg even more hardcore? If he was wearing a LEATHER JACKET, man! You wouldn't even need any dialogue, where we'd be all like...
(Footage of Jean-Luc Picard's assimilation into Locutus of Borg from Star Trek: The Next Generation is shown)
90s Kid (v/o): ..."Dude, I'm wearing a leather jacket. I'm rockin' now." And they'd be all like, "Dude, that is tight."
(Cut back to the Secret Defenders comic)
Linkara (v/o): The green guy sadly reports that the "synaptic disruptor" overloaded and doesn't work anymore.
Linkara: Oh, how dramatically convenient! How do they not just use this gun on all three, or to keep the Silver Surfer at bay? Uh, it overloaded! Honestly, it'd be more plausible if the thing's battery just ran out.
Linkara (v/o): Cutting back to Thunderstrike and War Machine, the two are actually having a decent conversation about how it shouldn't matter if they were viewed as imitations of more well-known heroes.
War Machine: If you're in this to do some good, doesn't matter who you look like. Long as you get the job done. Remember that, Thunderstrike, and everything falls into place.
Linkara (v/o): Of course, the touching little commentary on heroism and resemblance is undercut by the fact that the two look like overweight bikers trying to storm their way over to a sack of White Castles, but it's a nice sentiment for the two.
Linkara: And of course, the well-armed, well-trained soldiers easily smacked around by a guy in a suit of technologically-inferior armor and a guy who looks like Crocodile Dundee if he let his hair and beard grow out.
Linkara (v/o): Suddenly, some red, demonic-looking alien grabs Thunderstrike and threatens him with a blade, which is somehow supposed to create dramatic tension, except for the fact that we know the guy has enhanced strength, which means a little blade isn't gonna do crap on him! War Machine frags the alien, and I've got to shake my head at the thought that just a second ago, they were talking about being heroes. The two fly off in search of the Silver Surfer, and we finally get an explanation for how they can breathe: an artificial atmosphere envelope. Yyyyeah, I don't buy it either. They arrive at the edge of the artificial atmosphere envelope and find the Silver Surfer strapped to some kind of big hunk of metal. Nebula starts mu-ha-ha-ing about how she was ready for the Surfer while she stands in an awkward pose that not only points out how tiny her waist is, but how much junk she has in her trunk. And of course, the green guy is huge, too. Did everyone in this comic eat a huge stack of pancakes or something before going onto the battles? Nebula gets in a nice zing on the two has-beens.
Nebula: And you two jokes-- whatever you're supposed to be-- can't do a thing to stop me.
Linkara: Damn, those two just got owned by a cyborg Sinead O'Connor.
Linkara (v/o): Thunderstrike's ready to open a can of whoop-ass on over the insult, but War Machine tells him to take it easy, in quite possibly the best drawn panel of the entire comic, if only because we can't see their bodies, just their faces and part of their shoulders. Nebula exposits that the Silver Surfer is strapped to a fusion-reaction bomb that...
Nebula: ...he's going to ride all the way down to Titan.
Linkara: Dr. Strangelove, (points to camera) eat your heart out.
Linkara (v/o): This does raise even more questions, though: how exactly does she plan on getting the bomb to Titan? She supposedly has a flagship, yet every time we see her, she's standing on a bunch of rocks! Where is this purported ship of hers? And are we really supposed to take Nebula here as a "master strategist"? So far, the heroes have bumbled around, just leaping in without a second thought...
(Plus her "master plan" is just "drop a bomb on them.")
Linkara (v/o): ...and she's lost a good chunk of her army. Not to mention, it doesn't exactly take much to take down either of these two. Bear in mind, a good EMP could probably leave War Machine defenseless, and Thunderstrike can't even string two sentences together without going "um" and "er".
Thunderstrike: And you expect us to stand by and let you do it?
Nebula: No. Of course not. I expect you to stand here and be killed.
Linkara: (rolls eyes upward) Ugh. Even "S.C.I. Spy" had better zingers.
Linkara (v/o): And so, our comic ends with two more overweight aliens suddenly floating down... or is it supposed to be leaping? I can't imagine having that much fat on a body and being able to leap like that. And Nebula explains that they are her lieutenants, Kurg and Kruk, and that they're...
Nebula: ...particularly good soldiers because I've had their nerve endings cauterized. They feel no pain. BUT YOU WILL.
Linkara (v/o): Yyyyeah, nerve endings do more than just feel pain, you know. Cauterizing them is actually remarkably stupid.
Linkara: So, (dramatic narrator voice) will Silver Surfer the Silver Smudge? (a dramatic sting is heard) Will Thunderstrike and War Machine buy a Bowflex before they run afoul of a heart attack? (another sting) Does Nebula realize that Persis Khambatta isn't a good role model for one's hairstyle? (another sting) Well, tune in next week to find out.
(TO BE CONTINUED)
There's a 50% Off sale at Goons of Mars this weekend! Bring the kids!
(Stinger: 90s Kid is seen again)
90s Kid: I'm totally gonna make it into the theme song.
(No, he isn't.)