The New Defenders #152 is a very bad comic. It's a terrible comic. But it's terrible for a few specific reasons, none of which probably had anything to do with writer Peter B. Gillis' actual intent. Well, OK, some of it probably did.
The Defenders had always been one of Marvel's odder books, a team book put together with a group of characters who really had no business being on a team together, seemingly for no other reason than that they didn't fit on the Avengers but a team book with these specific characters nonetheless sold pretty well in the 70s. The Defenders were a team of outcasts, oddballs, and loners, but a number of creative teams - most notably writer Steve Gerber in the series' early issues - were able to make something surprisingly interesting out of the idea that these guys really didn't want to be on a team together but, nevertheless, kept running into problems that necessitated being forced to work together for long periods of time. And in addition to the team's four titans - the Hulk, Doctor Strange, the Sub-Mariner and, sometimes, the Silver Surfer - there were lots of secondary players who supported these guys throughout the book's run.
The best explanation of this dynamic in more contemporary terms was Kurt Busiek and Eric Larsen's Defenders run from the early 2000s. That series had the Big Four being thrown together unwillingly by an evil curse, which strained their already occasionally tense friendships to the breaking point. (Left to their own devices the four main Defenders are all on friendly terms, but they're each monumentally willful and resent forced to cooperate under any circumstances.) But always underfoot are the secondary members, folks such as Nighthawk, Valkyrie, and Hellcat who really liked being Defenders but knew full well there was no group if the big guys couldn't get along.
By the time the original run of The Defenders had devolved into The New Defenders, the concept had been stretched far beyond its originally precarious shape. Gone were all the Big Four, replaced by longtime hangers-on Valkyrie and the Gargoyle, and joined by the likes of Andromeda, Moondragon, Manslaughter, and Cloud. Oh yeah, and three of the original X-Men, none of whom had played a substantial role in Chris Claremont's Uncanny X-Men in a long time: Angel, Iceman, and the Beast. This is important. These guys hadn't been active X-Men in a long time, and they had all spent time bumming around the fringes of the Marvel Universe - Beast, notably, as a long-serving Avenger, and Iceman and Angel, less notably, as members of the short-lived Champions.
The problem for The New Defenders was that, after years of Claremont's fighting against any arbitrary expansion of the X-Men franchise, 1986 marked the debut of the second ongoing X-Men spin-off, X-Factor, which was premised on the original five X-Men being reunited again after many years apart. And, oh yeah, Jean Grey was being brought back from the dead to star in this new book, an event which occurred without Chris Claremont's help. Jean Grey was resurrected in the pages of The Avengers and John Byrne's Fantastic Four, not Claremont's Uncanny (and if you think this is the last time the real-world enmity between Claremont, Byrne, and Jim Shooter is going to manifest in the pages of a Secret Wars II crossover, you are wrong). X-Factor was originally written by Shooter's pal (but not for long!) Bob Layton, and it would be years before Jean Grey's return was even acknowledged in the pages of Claremont's Uncanny.
So the edict was clear: the three X-Men had to be written out of The New Defenders, and without these characters a title like New Defenders was not long for this world. To add insult to injury, the word came down that the last issue - the last issue! - was going to be a Secret Wars II tie-in. Well, what better way to end a misfit series like The Defenders than killing everybody . . . well, everyone but the characters people actually cared about enough to want to see in a different comic.
The New Defenders #152 begins with the team fighting on-again-off-again hero-slash-villain Moondragon, who is pissed because - I don't know. Honestly, Moondragon was never a very well motivated character, and many of her early appearances fall under the rubric of, "powerful woman with a bitchy attitude, because, women, amiright?" (A lot of those stories were written by Jim Shooter, incidentally, who really doesn't have a good track record writing women.) But for whatever reason she wants to kill the Defenders - or, well, the New Defenders, because she's not stupid enough to try to kill the Hulk. So the issue begins with a handy-dandy recap of why exactly Moondragon wants to kill anyone, something she'd probably already want to do even if she wasn't possessed by the evil Dragon of the Moon.
Well, long story short, the Defenders defeat Moondragon, and that's that. Except, oh wait, there are still like thirty pages left. So of course that isn't the whole story. At the urging of the really quite nasty Dragon of the Moon, Moondragon summons the Beyonder to grant her a favor. He was in the middle of his whole cosmic messiah schtick at the time - he went back and forth between wanting to destroy the universe and wanting to save it, and he was big into helping other people attain self-actualization, so the most powerful being in the universe was easily tricked by Moondragon into thinking she had nothing but the best of intentions.
So there's this guy, who helps take Moondragon down:
And this guy, who helped train the other guy:
That last guy is The Interloper, one of my all-time favorite random OHotMU losers because he is completely useless. He walks around saying stuff like this all the time:
So, anyway, Moondragon comes back after getting The Beyonder's pep talk and power-up, and she is still intent on killing everyone. Thankfully, the Interloper is on hand:
I mean, seriously, look at this guy:
And there's also this rather uncomfortable sequence:
Finally, though, the ever-helpful Interloper reveals that he's got a plan to stop the Beyonder-powered Moondragon, and it's a really good plan because it involves everyone who isn't a mutant killing themselves. They have to save the lives of some supporting cast members Moondragon was torturing, because she's such a swell person.
This is, incidentally, also how the original Onslaught event ended, with a bunch of heroes randomly sacrificing themselves to stop the villain in some vaguely magical way, while another group of heroes standing right over there were for some reason prevented from sacrificing themselves because, oh well!
But, you know, that's life. Sometimes you're in a superhero team and everyone who isn't a Lee & Kirby creation just happens to die fighting a C-list Avenger turned psychopathic hell shrew empowered by The Beyonder with not a lot of oversight. And then, in the last page of one of Marvel's then-longest-running titles, Moondragon saves everyone from the series' supporting cast, even the damn dog, who reappears on the last page after just sort of hanging around when everyone else was killing themselves. Oh yeah, Moondragon also cured the Angel's temporary blindness, which is almost as bad as curing cancer but hey, since you're already sweeping everything else under the rug, why not?
For being a frankly awful mess, for being a poor coda to a long-running series that deserved far better, for being so obviously hammered together to fulfill multiple conflicting editorial mandates at the last minute, and just on general principles because Manslaughter and The Interloper are two of the worst characters ever dreamed up in an ill-fated attempt to recapture Steve Gerber's long-gone magic, we must consign The New Defenders #152 to that eternal quarter-box in the sky, the afterlife of Nobody's Favorites.
Oh wait, that's not even my blog. Well, still. This issue sucks.