I sure love an all-star slugfest! Collecting Avengers Vol.1 #115-118 and Defenders Vol.1 #8-11 in one TPB volume, The Avengers Defenders War tells the story of the two fabled superhero teams clashing over possession of the Evil Eye. Ruler of the Dark Dimension, Dormammu, sought out the ancient device with plans to use it in envelope the Earth's dimension within his own. By tainting one of Dr. Strange's spells, Dormammu convinces the Defenders that reassembling the globally scattered device would set free their friend the Black Night, having been turned to stone!
Dormammu enlists Loki to help in his quest, now blinded by a previous battle with his Thunder God half-brother, Thor. Promised the restoration of his eyesight in return for his assistance, the untrusting Loki convinces the Avengers that the Defenders have impure & ambitious intentions with the Evil Eye. Pitting the two super groups against one another in hopes of foiling Dormammu's evil plot, Loki intends to save his own hide from whatever else his new employer might do if attaining the unfathomable power of the Evil Eye! While Dr. Strange sends the Defenders in opposite directions worldwide to retrieve the pieces of the Evil Eye, Loki deceitfully sets the Avengers on their trail! Needless to say, some epic brawling ensues!
Silver Surfer Vs. Vision & the Scarlet Witch!
In Polynesia, Vision & the Scarlet Witch intercept Silver Surfer fishing a section of the Evil Eye from a volcano, accidently triggering an eruption that knocks Wanda's ship from the sky. In a rage, Vision attacks Silver Surfer mercilessly, but chooses to save his beloved from the creeping lava at the last second, leaving the Sentinel of the Spaceways free to retrieve & make off with the section of Evil Eye for Dr. Strange.
Iron Man Vs. Hawkeye!
International businessman Tony Stark tracks down his section of the Evil Eye quickly in Mexico, discovered by Professor Figueras at the Intituto Tecnologico. But Clint swipes it with a grappling arrow, a fight ensues, the archer outdoing his former Avenger teammate at every turn, and making off with the prize.
Dr. Strange Vs. Black Panther & Mantis!
In the cornfields of Indiana, Dr. Strange casts a spell to find another section of the Evil Eye, but Mantis detects his escape disguise as a local farmer's wife and attacks with T'Challa. The two warriors are no match for the sorcerer's unfathomable power however, and succumb to another spell, Dr. Strange escaping unscathed.
Swordsman Vs. Valkyrie!
A castle hidden in the jungles of Bolivia is the scene of Swordsman and Valkyrie's swashbuckling duel. The owner of the castle throws a monkeywrench in the mix, shooting the Swordsman in the back for fear of his secret fortunes being exposed to the outside, the gentleman rogue running him through before collapsing. On the floor, Valkyrie deems his wound non-fatal before taking the section of Evil Eye the Swordsman deftly swiped.
Captain America Vs. Sub-Mariner!
In downtown Osaka, Japan, Captain America discovers Namor already found his section of the Evil Eye, and challenges him to fisticuffs, the arrogant Prince of Atlantis unable to resist. But Sunfire decides to teach the two a lesson in international law by taking the device himself! Wresting it back from Sunfire, the Cap and Namor begin to realize something doesn't make sense, and the two take off to get to the bottom of the misunderstanding.
Hulk Vs. Thor!
In Los Angeles, mystically guided by Dr. Strange, the Hulk easily digs the remaining section of the Evil Eye from beneath the street. But Asgard's most powerful god is upon him in no time, filling civilians with cold dread as the two strongest heroes on Earth duke it out, coming to an hour long, arm-locked stalemate before... Dr. Strange shows up with both the Avengers and Defenders, "United at last, to override the lies that set us at each other's throats... and ready to face the common foe!"!
Together long enough to see past their differences and reassemble the Evil Eye to rescue the Black Knight, the devious Dormammu unexpectedly steals it right from under the heroes, his plan all along to merge his dimension with theirs, sending all into chaos!
Now alert to Loki's meddling, Dormammu cages the God of Mischief, just in time for the Watcher to appear and benevolently observe "the spectacle of two dimesions shifting their essences".
Fighting for their lives and led by Dr. Strange, the Defenders manage to break Dormammu's barrier, only to be robbed of their consciousness at the last second. The Avengers follow to their comrade's aid, but Dormammu captures them in a sucking pool of quicksand before reverting the powerhouse Thor & Iron Man to their helpless human forms.
The Scarlet Witch, her mutant ability part of her essence is unaffected however, and manages to strike a hex upon Dormammu while he struggles with Loki, now free from his cage. Triggered by the blast the Evil Eye swallows Dormammu and then blasts Loki, returning his sight, and driving him totally insane!
The Evil Eye again in Dr. Strange's capable hands, the sorcerer returns to where he first found Dane/Black Knight in limbo, only to find him gone! Returning with the grave news, he and the rest of the Defenders are suddenly transported to the 12th century, where the Black Knight is in the middle of the Crusades against the Arabs! Caught in the fray, Dr. Strange manages to transport them from danger, and Dane can explain how he and his ancestor's souls now intermingle, endangering King Richard's war against the Mohammedans.
King Richard's evil brother John is now allied with Dane's evil ancestor Modred, and the Defenders must sneak into the castle disguised as cowled priests and free him. But Modred detects our heroes, conjures fierce gnomes to undo them, knocking the Evil Eye from Dr. Strange's grasp. Thrown into the fortress oasis by on of the mystical creatures, Namor realizes they are earthen elemental spirits, susceptible to water, and he sets about dissolving them with his command of what he knows best. Modred and Price John now holding the Evil Eye, it looks like curtains for the Defenders. Suddenly, Prester John, Master of the Evil Eye, appears from out of time to reclaim his charge, back now in the era of his birth! After dispatching Modred and Prince John, he returns the Defenders to their own time, Dane having resolved to stay in the 12th cetury as the Black Knight.
I remembered Prester John from Fantastic Four issue #54, which I read in my Marvel Essential: Fantastic Four Vol.3 . Getting back into comics over the last year, when all those connections start coming together in my head, it makes the whole thing more fun! This was a great adventure I'd reccomend to any Bronze Age Marvel fan.
More Later- Make It FUN!
*Read Bronze Age Babies exhaustive three part look at the series here and here and here! Love that blog- good stuff!
Author: Steve Engelhart Art: Bob Brown (Avengers #115-118) & Sal Buscema (Defenders #8-11). Marvel, 1973