SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Defenders #10 by Brian Michael Bendis, David Marquez, Justin Ponsor and Cory Petit, on sale now.
As the end draws near for Brian Michael Bendis’ time at Marvel Comics, and he prepares to make the jump to the Distinguished Competition, his current workload is winding down. The first of four final issues from the most prolific Marvel writer of the last decade hit the stands earlier this week; Defenders #10 sees the Netflix inspired team go head to head with the real threat at the heart of the title — an old favorite of Bendis’ dating back to New Avengers — Parker Robbins, AKA The Hood.
However, as The Defenders face off against The Hood for the final time, they call for some unlikely back-up, including Cable, Howard The Duck and a few other characters no-one was quite expecting to show up in 2018.
Made Of Stone
It’s an entirely fair criticism to say that the end of Defenders feels a tad rushed, so much so that it ends on a cliffhanger with an expanded roster ready to take on The Hood. The implication is that, of course, they defeat him; they’re the good guys, after all. The combined heroes feature many allies that you’d expect to answer the call; the likes of Deadpool, Blade and Misty Knight have all appeared in the title's previous issues, and heroes such as Spider-Man, Echo and Doctor Strange are long-time allies. However, there’s one hero that stands out, not just for his size but for the fact that he hasn’t appeared in comics for seven years: Gargoyle.
Gargoyle is an old-school member of the team, first introduced in the title by J.M. DeMatteis and Don Perlin in 1981’s Defenders #94. Isaac Christians was a World War I veteran who became mayor of his hometown and turned to the occult to save it when it faltered economically. He agreed to become the Gargoyle and serve the demon Avarrish in exchange for the solution to his hometown’s ailing ways, but found he could not complete his mission of kidnapping Hellcat and instead aided The Defenders against the demon.
The Gargoyle was among the team members who perished in the original volume’s final issue, a shocking send-off at the time, but through cosmic shenanigans, he was reborn in a new body with the ability to change between human and gargoyle form at will. He made odd appearances around the Marvel Universe for a few years and joined the Initiative following the superhuman Civil War. He was most recently seen as an agent of Misty Knight’s rebooted Heroes For Hire, which likely explains the connection to this incarnation of The Defenders. While it’s unlikely Marvel has major plans for the character going forward, it’s neat little continuity nod to the legacy of The Defenders as a team and a character that bridges the original incarnation of the team and the more Heroes For Hire-influenced incarnation of Bendis and Marquez’s run.
Under The Hood
There’s one other hero in this line-up that’s even more surprising than Gargoyle, because it possibly hints either to abandoned plans by Bendis and Marquez, or to an upcoming story from Marvel. All the way in the far corner — next to Cable, of all people — is Ronin.
Ronin was first introduced as a member of the New Avengers, and though at the time the plan was to reveal Matt Murdock was under the mask, word got out and the twist was changed to reveal Daredevil supporting character Echo as the mystery Avenger. The costume has since been worn by Clint Barton who took the identity following his return post-Civil War and Blade, who briefly served as Ronin as a member of Luke Cage’s Mighty Avengers. Daredevil, Echo and Blade are all present in the line-up and there’s no real reason for any of the former Ronins to once again don the armor, so who is the new mystery hero?
Clint Barton does seem conspicuous in his absence — especially with Kate Bishop travelling all the way from Los Angeles to be part of the group shot — but there's a chance that it is actually Hawkeye under the mask. Rumors have been swirling that Jeremy Renner's Hawkeye will become Ronin in an upcoming Avengers film, and Avengers: Infinity War is only a couple of months away. Marvel loves to synchronize with the movies when it can, so perhaps the finale of Defenders hints at Clint Barton's future and something is going cause him to step back into the costume in the near future.