RETRO REVIEW: The New Defenders #131 (May 1984)

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Or – “WOO WOOOOOO! MASS DESTRUCTION!

By the time of this issue, The New Defenders have barely made a name for themselves, but they’ve NEVER seen anything like.. THE WALRUS!

And neither have we…  Your Major Spoilers (retro) review awaits!

THE NEW DEFENDERS #131
Plotter: J.M. DeMatteis
Scripter: Peter B. Gillis
Artist: Alan Kupperberg
Colorist: Glynis Wein
Letterer: Janice Chiang
Editor: Carl Potts
Publisher: Marvel Comics:
Cover Price : 60 Cents
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $3.00

Previously, in The New Defenders:  After an alien tribunal ordered the original Defenders to disband before they destroyed the universe, The Beast pulled together a makeshift team of his own.  In a rare instance where recruitment made actual sense, he called on two of his oldest friends in The Angel and Iceman, as well as team mainstays The Valkyrie and The Gargoyle.  In their travels, they encountered a sentient cloud-being (cleverly named Cloud) and were awarded custody of former Avenger Moondragon by Odin himself, the better to keep the bald bad-girl out of trouble.  During a lull in their super-heroing business, The Beast has agreed to take a series of public-speaking engagements at universities, starting with Brooklyn U.  Of course, little do the mighty Defenders know that, deep in the bowels of the Home Economics building, a bizarre experiment is being created by one Professor Humbert Carpenter on his hapless nephew Hubert, an experiment that Hubert believes will imbue him with the proportional strength of a turkey!

Before revealing Hubert’s new Beatles-inspired identity (The Nowhere Man?  Maxwell Silverhammer?  The Quarryman? The Day-Tripper?  The Silver Beetle?  The Hard Day’s Knight?  The Yellow Submarine?  Wannebeyour Man?  Seriously, I can do this all night.) the story cuts to a nervous Henry McCoy, dealing with a case of pre-show jitters.  Iceman and Angel aren’t sure that their pal will be able to finish his first gig (and Iceman even declares himself to be Beast’s boyfriend, Lance to drive off any potential groupies.)  I really enjoy the repartee between the founding X-Men throughout their Defenders tenure, even as it got all dark and existential near the end.  You really believe that these men have grown up together, and their interplay is fun to read about.  When it comes time for the curtain to rise, the uncertain Ex-X-Men await their furry blue pal’s arrival…

What’s really cool about this issue for me is the way that Angel references Hank’s early persona in the first issues of the original X-Men comics, back in the 60s, working his change from bruiser to big-brain into this story as an attempt by The Beast to find an identity for himself before settling into the wild and wooly bouncing Beast that readers in the 80s came to love.

Note the ‘Church of the Subgenius’ lapel button, a nice touch.  On a personal note, I clearly remember this as the first reference to Magneto I ever read, and remember wondering why his helmet had horns on it.  When Beast reaches the question-and-answer portion of the show, he is suddenly interrupted by Eugene Patilio, the son of Daredevil villains Leap-Frog, now trying to get into the super-duping business as… The Fabulous Frog-Man!

Yeah, he’s pretty awful…  While one animal-themed doofus ruins Beast’s show, another animal-themed doofus (The Norwegian Woodsman?  The Rubber Soldier?  The Tax-Man?  Sergeant Pepper-Spray?  Seriously… ALL.  NIGHT.) causes havoc in the streets of Brooklyn…

To this very day, I occasionally like to shout “WOO WOO!  MASS DESTRUCTION!  WOO WOOOO!” as I go about my day.  It helps to keep me sane.  In the concert hall, The Angel tries to explain that Frog-Man can’t be a superhero, because there are no super-villains for him to fight.  Cue: Hubert busting through the wall!

“…of dolts and clods and Beatles songs, of fisticuffs and… OOF!”  The Beast is a wordsmith of the highest caliber under the pen of DeMatteis and Gillis, but circumstances prove him to be a less-than-stellar combatant in a tuxedo.  Indeed, he, Iceman and Angel end up tripping over one another trying to wrap up The Walrus, and his unexpected strength allows him to knock out all three of the heroes.  It’s a good thing that the Frog-Man is on the scene (and also that the treatment that empowered The Walrus is already starting to wear off!)

The crowd cheers Froggie, even yelling to the Defenders to let him play their reindeer games, and it looks like they might have to oblige…  Thankfully, Papa Patilio arrives just in time, dragging little Eugene away by his rubber facemask, and saving their collective mutant bacon.  Angel realizes that he can still save a little bit of face, and makes a quick announcement…

Heh…  It’s a goofy tale, but one that has stuck with me for years (although it’s hard to tell whether it’s super-memorable, or that it was just one of my earliest interactions with The Beast’s awesome 80s fun-loving characterization) and one that showcases the talents of Paul Kupperberg.  (Kupperberg also scripted the first appearance of Ambush Bug, a long story that I’ll get to eventually, as well as the first-ever comic book miniseries in 1979.)  In the final analysis, New Defenders #131 is a pretty funny comic book, something that isn’t easy to pull off, and while its not a perfect issue, it’s memorable for both the right and the wrong reasons, earning 3 out of 5 stars overall.  What we need now is for The Walrus to make a comeback as part of Bendis’ new X-Men title…

Rating: ★★★☆☆

DID YOU READ THIS ISSUE? RATE IT!

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