Fearless Defenders #3

Issue Date: 
June 2013
Story Title: 

Cullen Bunn (writer), Will Sliney (artist), Veronica Gandini (colorist), Virtual Calligraphy’s Clayton Cowles (letterer), Mark Brooks (cover artist), Phil Jimenez & Frank D’Armata (variant cover artists), Ellie Pyle (editor), Tom Breevort (executive editor), Axel Alonso (editor-in-chief), Joe Quesada (chief creative officer), Dan Buckley (publisher), Alan Fine (executive producer)

Brief Description: 

Hela boasts that she has come to save Asgardia and Midgard and will not let Valkyrie and her companions stand in her way. Hippolyta seems pleased to be alive, while the All-Mother demand from Hela an explanation as to her sudden appearance. Hela claims that if Valkyrie confronts the Doom-Maidens it will bring disaster. She reveals some of the Doom-Maidens’ history, and explains that Hippolyta is the only one who can stand before them, on Asgard’s behalf. But the All-Mother rules Asgard and they decide that Hippolyta will be accompanied by Valkyrie, Misty Knight and Annabelle Riggs. At another location, Caroline Le Fey and Mr Raven watch over the imprisoned DanI Moonstar as the ancient rite is performed, and Caroline hopes that Moonstar’s friends will come looking for her. Valkyrie, Misty, Hippoyta and Annabelle arrive at Harrowpoint Island, which they soon discover is some sort of testing ground, as it is devoid of any human life. Valkyrie senses a strange energy and she follows it down into some catacombs beneath a church. The others follow her, but think they need to wait and thinks things through. No time for that though, as they witness the Doom-Maidens, newly awake. Valkyrie, Misty and an eager Hippolyta engage the Doom-Maidens in combat, while Annabelle finds Moonstar and sets her free. Caroline and Mr Raven observe the battle, with Caroline particularly interested in how it will progress. And it progresses interestingly when the Doom-Maidens come to a halt before Valkyrie, one of them explaining that they have just realised who she is, they kneel before Valkyrie and call her sister!

Full Summary: 

‘Petulant child! How dare you raise arms against me without cause?’ Hela, Queen of the Dead, demands, her throat wrapped around Valkyrie’s neck on a chamber on Asgardia. Freyja, Gaea and Idunn, the All-Mother stand atop some stairs, looking down as Hippolyta a.k.a. Warrior Woman stands over Misty Knight and Dr Annabelle Riggs. ‘You are a treacherous hag of a goddess. When have you ever simply appeared without warranting a violent welcome?’ Valkyrie, mouthy even when she is down and out, manages to ask through snatched breath.

‘I am truthfully the only sage in a realm of mule-headed fools!’ Hela declares, adding that although Asgardia vexes her, she will save it, and the pissant world upon which it squats, just the same. ‘If I must eviscerate each and every one of you to prove my noble intentions, so be it’ Hela declares.

‘So… this is Asgardia. My father died here’ Hippolyta remarks casually. ‘Sorry for your loss. But if you and your boss lady don’t stand down, you’re -’ Misty remarks, her bionic arm at the ready. ‘Yes. Please do attack me… so I can wrest your clockwork arm from your body and beat you to death with it. I’ll send you bruised and whimpering to join whatever harem my father has created for himself in the Afterlife’ Hippolyta threatens.

‘Enough!’ Freyja orders. ‘Why are you here, Hela?’ Gaea enquires. ‘Tell us what you want’ Idunn instructs her. Hela turns to the rulers of Asgardia and drops Valkyrie to the ground. ‘Very well. I bring the All-Mother a warning. One I implore you to heed’ Hela announces, informing them that they must not send their Valkyrie to confront the Doom-Maidens. ‘Doing so invites naught save disaster’ she claims.

Rubbing her neck, Valkyrie utters ‘It is my fault this threat has taken root. It is my duty to set it right’. Hela smiles and asks Valkyrie if she believes it a simple task. ‘If this were such an undemanding challenge, why would I come here? Why would I not dispatch my Disir to annihilate our enemies?’ Hela remarks. She states that even before the libraries of Asgardia burned, the Doom-Maidens were a mystery. ‘They are nightmares from which godlings wake screaming in their beds. Cruel and merciless and unstoppable, they swept across the realms like Ragnarok made flesh and blood’. Hela reveals that there were those who stood as bulwarks against the wholesale destruction the Maidens wrought like the Frost Giant Jarls of Jotunheim, the ancient war-mongers of Breakworld and the Tuatha de Danann of Ireland. Entire cultures dedicated to war, ravaged for sport by the blighted host - and only the intervention of the All-Father stopped the Doom-Maidens. ‘They were forgotten - yet another disgrace for Lord Odin to secret away in his shame. But Midgardian rats seek to use the magic of the Golden Realm to wake the Maidens’ Hela announces.

She adds that there are ancient incantations that might decimate all they hold precious should they be scribed in Asgardian blood. ‘For this reason, Valkyrie, you must forswear this quest’ Hela tells the hero, adding that it is Hippolyta of Themiscrya who must stand for them. Hela explains that she called in every favor she had among the collective gods of death, made ghastly promises - but now the most powerful Warrior Woman walks among them again.

‘Ha! An Amazon?’ Valkyrie exclaims after getting to her feet. ‘You bargained with the gods of death to bring back an Amazon?’  ‘The Queen of the Amazons’ Hela points out. Hela reveals that Hippolyta’s people battled the blighted host millennia ago, so she knows how to fight them. ‘And as she is not a being of Asgard, she cannot be used against us’ Hela points out.

Valkyrie points a finger at Hela and asks her what game she is playing. ‘What do you care if these Doom-Maidens scour Midgard and Asgard of all life?’ she asks, enquiring as to whether that would only bolster Hela’s own kingdom. ‘And once they have despoiled the realm of the living, where do you think they will turn next?’ Hela replies, pointing out that already this adversary has demonstrated contempt for her domain, as one of her own Valkyrie has been abducted. ‘Dani Moonstar’ Valkyrie utters. Hela explains that Moonstar has served as Death’s Shield Maiden from time to time, and her connection to Hel might be enough to fuel the necromancies needed to awaken the Doom-Maidens.

‘But my champion will -’ Hela begins, until Freyja interrupts her, reminding Hela that it is not she who sits upon the throne of Asgardia. ‘It is not your place to decide who will fight our battles’ Gaea adds, while Idunn announces that in the interests of Asgardia, as well as the interests of Hel will be represented - that Hippolyta will not undertake this task alone. ‘These three will accompany her’ one of the All-Mother declares, referring to Valkyrie, Misty and Dr Riggs.

‘Hold’ Valkyrie declares. ‘Wait a second’ Misty calls out. ‘Do what now? What do you mean “these three”?’ Annabelle Riggs, until five seconds ago, an ordinary woman, and now, a Shield-Maiden, asks, wide-eyed.

Elsewhere, Caroline Le Fey, a woman who plays with her food, and her associate, Mr Raven, a ruthless mercenary, are in some sort of observation chamber deep in the catacombs where Dani Moonstar is being held prisoner, an Asgardian tomb encased over her. Via the communicator, Caroline declares ‘I’m sure you’re putting on a brave face somewhere underneath that stone mask, dear. But it’s wholly unnecessary. I can only imagine the terrified thoughts running through your mind. “Where are we”? and “Please set me free”. and “Why me”’. Caroline Le Fey remarks that it is pitiable, really, especially from one who has such an important role to play in such grand designs.

Other mercenaries stand around the tomb that Moonstar is trapped inside, while Caroline tells the young hero that she once felt the way that she imagines Moonstar is feeling right this very second - alone and so very, very afraid. ‘Of course, that was when I was only five years old and the woman who called herself my mother beat me severely whenever she was in one of her frequent bouts of self-loathing‘. Caroline frowns as she admits that she was too scared of her mother to stand up for herself. ‘I used to pray that the world would end, just so she would die, too, and the beatings would stop’ she reveals, then smiles, explaining that she eventually outgrew her fear of the $&#%, and fed her piece by piece to the housekeeper’s cats. ‘But I never could shake my more… apocalyptic proclivities. The end of the world… that’s something I still want to see’. Caroline suggests that they get started, before calling out ‘What’s that? “My friends will come looking for me?” Oh… I certainly hope so’.

Harrowpoint Island, in Washington, an empty street suddenly finds itself with four women and a flying horse set upon it. ‘I can appreciate the shock and awe of a dramatic entrance as much as the next girl. But next time we’re setting out on a rescue mission, maybe we should be less conspicuous?’ Misty suggest. She begins to say that teleporting into the middle of a town like this someone is sure to notice - but then she realizes that nobody is around. ‘Where is everyone? Doesn’t anyone else think this is -’ Misty begins, before Annabelle declares ‘Creepy. Definitely creep’. She is wearing a horned helmet, some Asgardian boots and carrying a very large axe.

Valkyrie instructs Aragorn to take to the skies, and she will call him when she needs him. The women start to walk down the deserted street, and Warrior Woman asks ’Hela tracked the resonance of the ancient rituals to this place? Give me armies to crush! Give me foes to cow! Give me a kingdom to raze or titans to despoil! This - this is but a ghost town!’ ‘At the very least, there could be a vineyard’ Hippolyta mutters, when suddenly, ’Over here! You might want to take a look at this! Just when you though this couldn’t get any weirder’ Misty calls out, as they find a battered mannequin dressed as Captain America outside one of the houses.

‘Odin’s beard!’ Valkyrie gasps, while Annabelle explains that as near as she can tell they are in some kind of replica town, the kind used during nuclear testing, except the mannequins are all dressed as super heroes. ‘So… the questions is… who would do something like this… and what the hell are they testing?’ Annabelle adds, looking at two mannequins dressed as Carol Danvers and Thor. ‘Gotta say… walking through a town filled with target dummies dressed as the super hero community… accompanied by a trio of Spartan cross-dressers… this is a level of crazy that I don’t enjoy’ Misty announces, looking a a beheaded mannequin dressed as Wolverine. Hippolyta looks at the mannequin resembling Hercules. Annabelle tells Misty not to make fun, as she feels like an idiot wearing what she has on. ‘Nonsense. The look suits you’ Valkyrie announces. ‘Oh… I just… it does?’ Annabelle asks, almost sheepishly, while Misty looks away. ‘Indeed. You would almost make a fine Amazon…were it not for the armor’s flawed Asgardian design’ Hippolyta announces, holding the head of the Hercules mannequin in her hand. She then tosses it aside as Valkyrie asks ‘Flawed design? That’s fair irony coming from the queen of a tribe of poor Valkyrior knock-offs’.

Hippolyta boasts that her people were bred to be proud and honorable and near-faultless. ‘Let’s not forget that it is the inherent weakness of the Shield-Maidens that got us into this mess’ Hippolyta adds. Misty steps between the two women, ‘There’s no need to whip out the rulers. You can out-Xena each other once we’ve finished the job’ she jokes. ‘What is…’ Valkyrie begins. She turns her attention to a building and starts to walk towards it. Energy glows around Valkyrie, ‘Do you feel that?’ she asks. ‘Valkyrie, maybe we should wait a second…’ Annabelle suggests, while Hippolyta declares that she doesn’t feel a thing.

Valkyrie pushes the door to a church open, and it creaks. She walks through the church, ‘It comes from below. Stay close’ she calls out to her companions as she starts to step down a narrow, winding staircase. ‘Val… something’s not right. Where are the guards? Don’t you think whoever is trying to perform this ritual would protect it?’ Misty suggests as she follows Valkyrie down the stairs. ‘Let’s think about this. Wait…’ Misty begins, but Valkyrie holds her hands up, she notices the energy glowing around her and declares that they cannot afford to wait, as she can feel it in her bones - the rite has already begun. ‘That’s all the more reason to take this slow, isn’t it?’ Annabelle suggests. ‘We don’t know if…how…this magic might affect you’ she points out.

The four women arrive in the catacombs under the church, and Valkyrie announces that if the Doom-Maidens are as terrible as they believe, they cannot chance even one of them waking. Holding her axe ready, Annabelle replies that she understands. ‘But we have no idea what we’ll - oh’ she utters. ‘We’re already too late’.

The women stare in awe at the sight of the Doom-Maidens, fully awaken. Moonstar is still in the tomb, while the mercenaries have been slain by the Doom-Maidens. There is Arnleif, the Maiden of Seduction, and Aldvi, the Maiden of Deceit. Balda is the Maiden of Slaughter and Sigotta the Maiden of Vermin. Then there is Hermotha the Maiden of Filth, Daggaerdh the Maiden of Torture, Disthora, the Maiden of Insanity and finally Nedra, Maiden of Carrion. ‘They’ve already roused them. All of them’ Valkyrie utters. 

‘Excellent! The hours since my return have been agonizingly dull! And I must admit… pummelling a Valkyrie… even a fallen one… sounds like fun!’ Hippolyta exclaims as she leaps forward through the cavern and strikes two of the Doom-Maidens down. ‘Ha!’ Hippolyta grins as her wristbands protect her from the sword of another, while a fourth throws her ball and chain towards the Amazon, wrapping it around her other arm. ‘Perhaps time has sweetened the memory of battles gone by!’ Hippolyta suggests, while pulling on the chain, she slams its wielder into a pillar, remarking that she remembers the insane Valkyrie being much tougher.

Watching from the observation booth, Mr Raven asks Caroline if this is what she expected. ‘Not quite’ Caroline replies. ‘The Valkyrie, yes. But not her friends’ she frowns, deciding that it is but a minor complication, for the end result will be the same.

‘What’s the play here?’ Misty asks Valkyrie. ‘First thing’s first - duck!’ Valkyrie shouts as one of the Doom-Maidens leaps up from behind. Valkyrie spins around and their swords clang. Valkyrie roars as she forces the Doom-Maiden, Balda, backwards.

From the observation booth, Mr Raven tells his employer that he doesn’t like what he is seeing, as he would have expected Valkyrie and her allies to be dead by now. But Caroline tells him to have patience, as the Doom-Maidens have been dead for a few thousand years. ‘Give them a chance to brush the sleep from their eyes’ Caroline remarks.

‘There! That’s where Dani is being held!’ Valkyrie calls out, pointing at the rune. Misty fires her guns at Balda and tells Annabelle that she has her covered. ‘Ready to play super hero?’ Misty asks as Annabelle goes over to the tomb, and using her large axe, starts to force it open.

‘I’ve got her!’ Annabelle calls out as she pulls the lid off, and a weary Danielle Moonstar sits up. Annabelle helps Dani out and holding her up asks ‘Now can we please get out of here?’

Mr Raven remarks that Moonstar has been released, but Caroline tells him not to worry, as the damage has been done - the ritual is mostly complete. ‘The girl might still prove useful, only in a different capacity’ she adds.

The Maiden of Deceit has surrounded Hippolyta with doppelgangers. The Amazon punches forward, but the particular Maiden she strikes is not the real one. ‘Bah! How could you wretched creatures have given me so much trouble in my youth?’ Hippolyta calls out, while Valkyrie is under attack by Nedra, ‘If you’re done gloating, I could use your help!’ Valkyrie calls out. ‘Ha! Your pleas for help are such a sweet sound!’ Hippolyta exclaims. ‘It’s about time you…admitted…’ she begins to say, but Arnleif, the Maiden of Seduction approaches her and puts Hippolyta under her spell. ‘What…oh… I… oh, my…’ Hippolyta utters, clutching her head.

‘Look at that. See how they work together? It’s almost sweet. Like a family… although incomplete’ Caroline remarks.

‘I… I…’ Hippolyta utters as she kneels before Arnleif. ‘There’s a good girl. Give yourself over to Arnleif. Yielding to pleasure is so much better than fighting it, isn’t it?’ the Doom-Maiden asks. ‘Pssh! Amazons!’ Valkyrie mutters as Nedra has her trapped. But the ritual of awakening, broken or not, thunders in Valkyrie’s blood. But what could it be calling to? Is she not already awake? Valkyrie bursts forth from Nedra’s restraints, then growls at her foe.

‘Now, this…this…is interesting’ Caroline remarks to Mr Raven as she watches Brunnhilde.

Two of the Doom-Maidens glance at each other, then Balda asks Valkyrie for forgiveness. ‘We beg of thee. We did not recognize you until now’ she remarks as the Doom-Maidens start to kneel before Valkyrie. And Valkyrie goes wide-eyed as Balda declares ‘It is good to see you once again… sister!’

Characters Involved: 

Misty Knight, Dani Moonstar, Valkyrie, Warrior Woman (all Fearless Defenders)
Dr Annabelle Riggs

Aragorn Freyja, Gaea, Idunn (the All-Mother)


Caroline Le Fey
Mr Raven


In flashback image:
Aldvi / Deceit, Arnleif / Seduction, Balda / Slaughter, Daggaerdh / Torture, Disthora / Insanity, Hermotha / Filth, Nedra / Carrion, Sigotta / Vermin (all Doom-Maidens)


Story Notes: 

Ares was killed during the “Siege” crossover.

Misty says “out-Xena”, referring to the fictional character Xena who was the starring character in the 1995 - 2001 television series filmed in New Zealand “Xena: Warrior Princess”. Xena was played by Lucy Lawless and was inserted into many historical events, meeting the Greek gods, the Amazons, other gods, and noble Romans.

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