Friday, February 15, 2013

1981: The Defenders Go Demonic Part IV: Six Fingered Finale

By Jef Willemsen (

In the fourth and final installment of this retrospective on J.M. DeMatteis’ initial Defenders arc, eight issues worth of set up finally paid off as the title hit issue # 100 and we learned you can’t spell ‘salvation’ without ‘Satan’.

When we last left our heroes, they had just entered a rift in space/time left behind after the demons of the Six Fingered Hand sucked the town of Citrusville through the nexus of all realities, landing it smack dab in the middle of their home dimension.

Now, Doctor Strange, Valkyrie, Daimon Hellstrom, the Gargoyle and latest recruit Devil Slayer entered the rift to take their long running conflict straight to the Hand. But seconds after entering, they realized their troubled fellow Defender Hellcat wasn’t with them and Devil Slayer was missing his teleporting shadow cloak as well. Unable to turn back, they pressed on and encountered manifestations no one was ready for...

Click on the image to see Don Perlin channel a Steve Ditko style pan-dimensional panorama dedicated to the bizarre… Seeing the images that are conjured up, it’s hard not to hear classic psychedelic Beatles songs like Lucy In The Sky or I Am The Walrus while the Defenders drifted towards the realm of the Six Fingered Hand. Upon arriving, they realized the demons weren’t just expecting them, they also had a surprise…

 Issue # 99 opened with the assembled Six Fingered Hand welcoming the Defenders to their home turf.  Figuring the heroes would eventually show up to finish them, the Hand created a little life insurance policy by luring Hulk, Clea, Sub-Mariner and the Silver Surfer into a trap that bound their life force to that of the demons. 

If any of the Hand were to perish, the caged heroes would share a similar fate. This new situation gave the Defenders pause…  Well, almost all of them.

Surprisingly enough, Maya laughed off what should have been a fatal wound as he invited the Defenders on a tour of what he called the ‘new and improved’ Citrusville. On the way, the Hand revealed their grand scheme. Citrusville was just the beginning as they planned to suck the entire planet through the nexus into their dimension. And judging from Citrusville 2.0, that… would be a bad thing. 

Enraged, Hellstrom once again attacked the Six Fingered Hand and this time even the ever patient Maya had enough.  Ordering the others to attack the Defenders, the team was overrun by demons ánd the possessed Citrusville citizens. All hope seemed lost until sudden salvation approached from the skies.

Yes, Silver Surfer, Clea and the others had regained their freedom, thanks to the Gargoyle who had remained behind to figure out a way to use his bio-mystical blasts to overload the energy prisons. Defeated, the Six Finger Hand demons started to shrink away just as Citrusville returned to Earth. All’s well that ends well then. Let’s go home and… wait a minute… they’re called the SIX Fingered Hand, right? So why are there only five of them?

Yes, Maya had survived, but before the Defenders went to rectify that matter, the leader of the Hand revealed himself to be a far more familiar foe…

 Being greeted by a gleeful, gloating Mephisto is very rarely a good sign. Just what did Doctor Strange do to make ‘all this’ possible? No worries, the Mephisto exposition express was about to depart…

Yes, the lord of lies was right… Doctor Strange had been voicing concern about overusing his unstable teleportation spell and his worries would prove well founded. But, let’s not get ahead of Mephisto’s monologue…

Every single event of the last 7 issues led up to this. Every. Single. Event… It’s a remarkable achievement on the part of J.M. DeMatteis to tell an interlocking story that connects all the dots yet wan’t so obvious it telegraphed the outcome halfway through.

“Oh, no! No! NO!”

Daimon Hellstrom’s cries of outrage weren’t without warrant. As Mephisto explained, the Defenders had been tricked into making this victory possible. Using the Hand, Mephisto played the heroes like, well, like a hand puppet. Which made the finale page of issue  # 99 particularly rough.

Issue # 100 opened with Satan, biblical lord of all evil, ruling over Earth, which didn’t sit well with Doctor Strange, the defender of said realm. Thankfully, the ever rational archmage retained his usual cool and collected composure.

Remember how Hellcat had suddenly disappeared before the Defenders entered the rift? As it turned out, Patsy was overcome by her dark side right after the battle with Man-Thing in # 98. She used her abilities to discreetly snatch away Devil Slayer’s cloak and used it to join Satan. But not before picking up her fellow Defender Nighthawk. As Satan explained, her human side needed an old, familiar face around before she truly became what she had always been: Hellcat, daughter of Satan. 

This particular tidbit of information gave the budding relationship between her and Daimon Hellstrom (aka: the Son of Satan) a rather icky twist. Daimon, never one for diplomacy as this storyline proved so far, attacked his father… For all the good that did him.

It’s interesting that Satan actually offered the Defenders a chance to undo all this. You’d think the scheming mastermind of all things dark and evil wouldn’t allow anything to mess up his once-in-a-millennia chance of dominating mankind. But here he was, risking it all by proposing a duel: if the Defenders defeated his lieutenants Mephisto, Satannish and Thog ánd ‘unleash the light in darkness’ heart’, Satan would leave Earth alone. 

Strange agreed to Satan’s terms and after the Defenders split into teams, they were teleported to their respective combat arenas. Devil Slayer, Gargoyle and a fully mobile Nighthawk valiantly faced off against Thog and his army of the ages, but perished when the demon dropped no less than four nuclear bombs on them. Silver Surfer, Clea and Valkyrie stared down Mephisto and withstood his silver tongued temptations, only to vanish into apparent nothingness despite their efforts… While Hulk, Namor and Strange failed to persevere against Satannish and the undying ones.

Expecting death, the Defenders were shocked to find themselves alive and well at Satan’s feet, learning once again why he’s called the lord of lies. The battles were merely a ploy to win time (not to mention for the creative team to pad out the anniversary issue). Instead of days, now only hours remained to stop Hell and Earth from merging.

Predictable, Daimon Hellstrom attacked his father for the heck of it. Tired of his son’s constant disobedience, Satan asked his newest child to deal with him. But when Hellcat proved no match for her sibling, ol’ daddy devil took matters into his own hands and attacked Hellstrom himself. He would have died within seconds, if not for the Defenders offering their strength to Doctor Strange in order for him to cast a spell that unleashed  Daimon’s demon soul, allowing him a fighting chance. Still, the outcome of the conflict wasn’t ever in doubt, really…

Turned out, love’s light can burn bright even within the heart of darkness. A heady message, but one that won the Defenders the day. Honoring his promise, Satan abandoned his plans of conquest and got ready to leave Earth. But not before Daimon made a surprising announcement.

“I am nothing but Darksoul now, father. I belong nowhere on Earth. I belong only by your side. Take me with you.”

Overjoyed, Satan accepted his son’s offer. But before departing, he left the Defenders with a celebratory gift of sorts…

With Hellcat returned to normal, Satan left the Defenders back on a restored New York City street while offering them very little in the way of a satisfactory resolution. Yes, he claimed they had won the day… But just before fading away he planted a seed of doubt.

Maybe, just maybe, their presumed victory had been part of his master plan all along. After all, he might have lost Earth but gained a true son and successor in return… Still, what an eternal archetype of evil (or good for that matter) would need with an heir is a question for another day. It certainly wasn’t on the Defenders’ minds as they watched the master of hell fade from view.

For those eagle eyed Don Perlin art fans, Satan dropped off the team right in front of a movie theatre showing the 1941 comedy The Devil And Miss Jones. A rather appropriately title considering the hell they’d just been through.

Speaking of which, where most comics of the era would simply end with the heroes rejoicing over their, admittedly, remarkable victory, the Defenders closed their 100th issue on a contemplative and even somber note.

DeMatteis would make good use of the team’s ennui as we’ll see next time in a coda to The Defenders Go Demonic, called All Bad Things Do Come To An End.


  1. Thanks for posting these Jason.

    Defenders 100, is still one of most off beat comics I have read. Will not forget the Merry Go Round in Hell sequence. The damned pushing the Merry Go Round stayed with me. The pairing of Dr Strange, Hulk and Sub Mariner was a nice touch as well.

  2. You're more than welcome, but all the credit should go to Jef, who's done a great job taking on DeMatteis' Defenders!



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