The Avengers/Defenders War trade paperback is a wonderful look back at a bygone era of the Marvel Age. It was the prototype for the kind of ultra-dramatic crossover spectacular that a decade and a half later reached binge proportions. Unlike the Secret Wars/Atlantis Attacks/Onslaught/etc. crossovers, the storyline is self-contained within the pages of the two team mags, and has a definite beginning and an ending. And it has loads and loads of charm- and thank goodness for that!
This trade covers the whole of Avengers #116-118 and Defenders #9-11, as well as the parts of Avengers #115 and Defenders #8 that acted as prologue to the later issues. The trade is 128 pages in length, with a stunning cover by fantastic contemporary comic artist Carlos Pacheco- it's a real winner! Not only that, but the pages have been recolored, which means no dot-matrix headaches for you and me. I like that! The art is fine, with able work done by Bob Brown and "steady as she goes" Sal Buscema, and Steve Englehart's scripts are never short on drama.
The setup of the story revolves around the dread Dormammu's planned conquest of "the Universe!" Unable to do so without compromising his pledge to Dr. Strange to never invade our universe (oh how honorable!), he enlists the aid of a blind Loki to help him undertake a plan to merge his universe with our universe. And voila! No inner conflicts, no cowardly deceit! Our universe is now his universe, and he can enslave it at will.
The plot involves drawing the Defenders unwittingly into gathering together the pieces of the Evil Eye, an artifact that will help Dormammu merge the two realities. Standing in the way of the unknowingDefenders is the Avengers, who slowly realize the import of what is happening. Several battles ensue, including Dr. Strange vs. Black Panther and Mantis in an Iowa cornfield, Vision and Scarlet Witch vs. Silver Surfer in a volcano, and Iron Man vs. Hawkeye in Monterrey, Mexico! My favorite battle is between Swordsman and Valkyrie. Those of us who know the inevitable tragic fate of the Swordsman will find in his dialogue the tragic pathos of one who's time is near, and the battle scenes are straight out of Errol Flynn- well planned and ably drawn.
The final chapter, en epilogue if you will, is kind of anticlimactic, and there is a weird glitch where the lettering is off balance in about 5% of the pages, which is annoying. And Englehart inflicted Loki with a strange case of Norse ebonics throughout, whereupon he would moan such ignominy as "I be blind!" But overall, it was a real hoot to read this trade, and would highly recommend it for fans of Avengers, Defenders, Marvel comics, and team comics in general.