It’s New To Me: Defenders #76 & #77

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I actually wrote this a couple weeks ago, at probably 2:00 in the morning, I was to put it mildly, a bit spacey. I thought about rewriting it, but that wouldn’t be as fun as forever documenting my brain trying to work. It probably makes no sense.

 

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Defenders #76

Two years later, slightly less time than how long it has taken me to finish these posts, and the story of Omega: The Unknown is finally wrapped up. In a different book, by a different writer. Steven Grant steps in where Steve Gerber left off. I’m not sure how much of his wrap up is what Gerber intended, but he tries. In the the real world, two years have passed, the the Marvel Universe, it’s been one week. I’m not sure what exactly was going on in Defenders before this, but a few of the Defenders, along with Janet Van Dyne, are using an Avengers Quinjet to search for Dian and James-Micheal Starling.

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In the Las Vegas City Morgue, the woman from the final issue of Omega: The Unknown, (apparently called Ruby Thursday) and Dibbuk, have arrived for Omega’s body. It is here for the first time that we learn that Omega is a cybernetic organism.

Dian and James-Micheal are staying in James-Micheal’s old home, trying to make sense of an inactive pair of robots that look like his parents. Could he be a robot like themimage

?

He is not, it turns out, we find out that though he shares the same incredible power as Model X-32 (which is what Omega’s actual designation is). The Defenders (and the Wasp) spot some flying saucers and decide to investigate, which leads them to James-Micheal and Dian.

There are a couple cutaways for Defenders uh…defendering. Nighthawk is being investigated for something and prevented from engaging in super-heroics. The Hulk comes across some sort of silver blob that claims it’s here to study him.

How dare they cut away to the characters in their own book.

Moondragon shows up, the robots show the proper amount of deference to her, but before she can get any answers, there is a blinding flash of light from the house. The robots claim the energy signature the seek has disappeared. In that flash, James-Micheal and Omega switched places.

We still don’t have much in the way of answers, aside from finding out that Omega is a cybernetic being of some sort and James-Micheal, has the exact same energy signature, but is fully organic. And Omega is still very much dead. At least the world doesn’t seem quite as awful as it did in the series proper.

Let’s put this thing to bed once and for all.

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Defenders #77

James-Micheal is now in the clutches of Ruby and Dibbuk. At first Ruby is angry at the loss of Omega but then realizes she can perhaps take what she wants from him instead. The robots show up with the Defenders not far behind. While Patsy Walker and The Wasp tangle with Ruby Thursday and Dibbuk. Moondragon follows James-Micheal. Another alien ship arrives and James-Micheal shoots it down . Previously when he used the power it was pretty much only good for one shot, this time, not only has he gotten more powerful, he’s glowing.

Moondragon scans the mind of an injured robot, and realizes that they have all been wrong about James-Micheal.

The Hulk is swallowed by the blob thing, turned back into Banner, spit out, and turned back into The Hulk. That would be a miniseries on it’s own these days, where the blob was also a guy that bullied Banner in elementary school. And by the blob, I don’t mean Fred Dukes or the Blob, that blobbed it up in a few movies.

Hellcat, Valkyrie, and The Wasp are fighting Ruby and Dibbuk. The Wasp, thinking that Ruby is wearing a helmet, blasts Ruby in the head. Massive head trauma? A hero nearly killing someone? That’s a bit more of the ol’ “Everything is awful,” that we’ve come to expect. But things still need to get much more awful. No children were beaten senseless, no characters have been mistakenly shot down by Johnny Law.

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Lets get some answers, and see if everything can go out in the worst way possible, shall we?

James-Micheal is out of control, laying waste to spaceships left and right. One of the flying saucers comes down right on top of the Quinjet. The Quinjet that had Dian, and the other supporting cast from Omega: The Unknown (or most of them). Possibly killing off everyone? That’s more like it.

Moondragon takes some of the power that she had given to Patsy Walker and uses this to link the minds of James-Micheal and one of the robots. The voices that James-Micheal’s mother warned him about were the robots. The robots themselves were making artificial life forms. The robots being robots are no longer able to evolve, the change they need to survive is lost to them.

They are creating artificial life forms to…Gather information? Or learn about new planets and societies so that their collective knowledge can be passed on? And these models, can’t know that they are there to gather information for…reasons?

All of the previous models had this information gathered and passed into model X-32. Omega. On the world he started on, because of his studies in “Biospheric Energy” that is totally not Krypton.

Omega is given the ability to tap into the very energy of the world itself. The robots, fearing the power that Omega will posses, and hearing he will pass on his abilities to the next model. X-33, James-Micheal. They head to where Omega is, and since he doesn’t know that he was created by them, taps into the power of the world, destroying it himself. Which is the scene from the first issue.

Sure the robots may have been there to destroy Omega, but he ended up destroying the world, not the robots.

He overhears the robots speak of the final model, which sends him to Earth to protect James-Micheal.

James-Micheal fully snaps at this revelation, and thinks Moondragon is trying to deceive him. He is fully prepared to destroy this world to survive, just like Omega.

Dian survived having a flying saucer dropped on her and reaches out to James-Micheal, telling him she doesn’t want to die. He can’t stop the power surging through him, so he turns it on himself. There we go, there’s is the awful topper. First Omega is killed by the police after being mistaken for a bad guy in the final issue of his series, but the child he sought and failed to protect, commits suicide in front of his friend. Who is also a child.

And I guess the ladies that took care of James-Micheal were killed in the Quinjet. Is that how Sexy Amber dies? Squished by a flying saucer, in a parked Quinjet?

And with the death of James-Micheal Starling, all of the other robots he destroyed, an entire race is snuffed out. An. Entire race. Gone. A child committing suicide in front of another child. Another planet destroyed by the mysterious hero of the book. A kid beaten nearly to death, recovering, then dying because someone kicked him in the ass and his stitches tore, and the ambulance got stuck in traffic.

And more.

It’s grim, unrelenting and depressing.

And it is totally worth reading. I wish we could have had Gerber finish it off, but at least it got an ending. As fitting an ending as we could get under the circumstances. Maybe it’s not that fitting. The first time I read it I was beyond frustrated. I’m still glad I read it.

It’s a mess. It cuts so close to be great, more than once, and is completely cut-off at the knees, and left to bleed out.

And the more Gerber I am starting to read, the more I realize how interesting Bronze Age Marvel could be. It could be so subversive, and full of heart, and madly wonderful. It’s kind of the best thing ever. Anyway, that’s that. For now.

-Kris

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