Secret Defenders #8

Issue Date: 
October 1993
Story Title: 
She Should have DIED Hereafter…

Roy Thomas (writer), Andre Coates (penciler), Don Hudson (inker), Clem Robins (letterer), John Kalisz (colorist), Joe Andreani (assistant editor), Mike Rockwitz (editor), Tom De Falco (editor-in-chief)

Brief Description: 

As Dr Strange, the Scarlet Witch and Spider-Man battle Xandu in the Death Dimension, Captain America is attacked by zombies in Manhattan as the Death Dimension and Earth begin to merge. Melinda Morrison, the Death Dimension’s rightful ruler, pleads with her lover Xandu to stop his actions, but he will not. Captain America is aided against the zombies by Detective Simons and some other police officers. Dr Strange attacks Xandu with his magical energies, while Captain America notices a strange jewel that has suddenly appeared at his feet. The jewel releases an energy which helps keep the zombies at bay, while Dr Strange uses his powers to send Melinda out of the Death Dimension and to Earth, where Captain America catches her as she falls from the sky. Melinda is able to control the zombies, but before long, Xandu arrives on Earth. Captain America takes Melinda and tries to evade Xandu, but a zombie stop him. Xandu collects Melinda and they both feel strange as the Earth tries to cast them out. Melinda is forced to return to the Death Dimension with Xandu, but as she returns, the demons merge with her, as do residual magics of Dr Strange’s powers. Melinda is able to attack Xandu and separate him from the Wand of Watoomb. Melinda then casts Xandu back to Earth, where he is arrested by the police officers. Captain America watches as the zombies crumble to ashes, while the merging of the Death Dimension and Earth proves unsuccessful, and the dimensions separate. Melinda and the Secret Defenders discuss the recent events, before Melinda transports the heroes back top Earth, and both she and Xandu shed a tear - he because he failed to merge Earth with the Death Dimension and become its ruler, and Melinda because she has lost Xandu once and for all.

Full Summary: 

‘Don’t you just LOVE it?!’ the mad wizard called Xandu exclaims from the Death Dimension. He declares that back on Earth, the walking dead are lurching out of their graves to conquer the land of the living, which is exactly what happens, with Steve Rogers a.k.a. Captain America the only hero available to prevent them from doing so, and all while the Winds of Watoomb whip around him. And, in the Death Dimension, only three heroes are present to face Xandu, who tells them that they have no chance of taking over his Death Dimension, as he blasts energies from the Wand of Watoomb at them. Dr Stephen Strange retaliates with a magic spell, while the Scarlet Witch a.k.a. Wanda Maximoff and Peter Parker a.k.a. Spider-Man are on hand to assist.

‘Actually, Xandu, we’ve got a slight edge’ Spider-Man declares as he dodges a blast, while Melinda Morrison calls out to Xandu, calling him “beloved” she pleads with him not to do this. ‘Death is death - and life, life!’ she exclaims, pointing out that they must remain equal yet separate parts of the cosmic experience. But, Xandu tells Melinda that they have never been equal, only separate, a condition which is about to end. Xandu exclaims that life lasts a few fleeting decades, while death is forever, so power should definitely not be in the hands of the living, himself excluded, of course, he boasts. As the space around them rumbles as the two spheres begin to merge, Melinda exclaims that the death-quakes seem to be growing weaker, as the two worlds converge.

‘Don’t let him fool you, Melinda!’ Spider-Man calls out, while Wanda reminds Melinda that Xandu can’t stay here while he is alive, and she is the Queen of the Dead. ‘His mere presence has been tearing the Death Dimension apart’ Dr Strange exclaims as he continues to hold his own against the powers of the Wand of Watoomb. ‘You refuse to understand - that’s why I’m merging the spheres of life and death with the Wand of Watoomb!’ Xandu boasts, while recalling that these three heroes have foiled his plans before. ‘But never again!’ he calls out as he knocks the Scarlet Witch backwards with a bolt of energy. ‘Wanda!’ Dr Strange exclaims, concerned, but Spider-Man tells him that it is no problem, and fires some webbing, which latches on to Wanda, preventing her from smashing into a brick wall. ‘Got her!’ Spider-Man calls out, while thinking to himself ‘Let’s hear it for false bravado. The Scarlet Witch and I are so beat we can barely stand’. Spider-Man knows that if Dr Strange can’t stop Xandu then the walking-around population of Earth is gonna increase by billions overnight!

‘That was my fault, my friends. The wand gives him so much power, I can’t break through!’ Dr Strange calls out, but Spider-Man points out that Xandu’s power seems to be at a stand-still with Dr Strange’s. ‘For the moment’ Melinda thinks to herself, before she approaches Xandu and tells him to stop this madness, if not for mankind’s sake, then for hers. ’I really can’t have all this interference, my dear…so I’ll have to immobilize you, until the deed is fully done!’ Xandu declares as he puts Melinda into a blank-state once more. He tells Melinda that she will thank him for it, when she is sitting on the throne of two spheres made one.

Several demons approach Xandu and one states that they know they shall serve Melinda again, long upon a plane where they rule both the quick and the dead. ‘And if you demons even think of attacking me, because I’ve entranced your queen -’ Xandu begins, but one of the demons assures him that they are content to serve under both he and Melinda, if it means an entire world to play with. ‘It does!’ Xandu declares, while deciding that as he doesn’t need to guard himself from the demons, he can devote all the wand’s considerable energies to the total defeat of Dr Strange and his lackeys. Xandu pours more energy onto the heroes, bombarding them. ‘If he was holding back before, then we may stand no chance against him now!’ Dr Strange thinks to himself.

As, back on Earth, at the edge of a certain Manhattan graveyard. ‘Bullets don’t stop these things!’ a police officer exclaims as he fires his weapon at the approaching undead masses. ‘They can’t really be dead people come back to life - can they?’ Detective Simons asks Captain America, who replies ‘Not back to life - just back!’, while one of the zombies grabs a police officer by his neck. The officer calls out for help, so the Star-Spangled Avenger leaps into action, ‘There are people dying every day - we don’t need the dead to help them along!’ Cap exclaims as he pulls the zombie away from the officer. More officers raise their guns, with one remarking that Cap tossd the zombie a mile away, but as soon as he touched the ground, he just got up and started walking again!

‘Blast away at them! It’s our only -‘ one officer calls out, however Detective Simons tells the police officers to fall back to the perimeters of the graveyard. ‘That’s an order!’ he shouts, unaware that some zombies are fast approaching him. ‘Simons! Watch out!’ Cap shouts as he throws his shield towards the zombies, knocking them back like pins struck by a bowling ball. Detective Simons thanks Cap, who catches his shield as it returns to him. ‘Who’s to thank? All we’re doing by falling back is gaining a bit of time - and not much of it at that!’ Cap exclaims as the zombies close in.

At the same time, back in the Death Dimension, the demons guard Melinda’s motionless body, while Xandu announces that he can feel Strange’s psychic shield weakening moment by moment. ‘Why not bow to the inevitable - and I’ll make you and your little friends the newest recruits in my army of the dead!’, to which Dr Strange replies ‘You make it sound so tempting’. Xandu declares that it is too bad they didn’t bring Captain America along, as he would dearly love to see what the Wand of Watoomb would do to his shield. ‘Captain America? Yes!’ Dr Strange exclaims, but Spider-Man tells him that he can’t drag Cap in here too. ‘He’d fare even less well than we are’ the Scarlet Witch points out. But Dr Strange continues his assault on Xandu while explaining that he doesn’t intend to bring Cap here. The once-Sorcerer Supreme realizs that by diverting his attention from Xandu, even for an instant, he risks death, and, worse than that, it is a risk he must take.

In the shadow of a heartbeat, Strange casts a spell, and the energies exit the Death dimension, and traverse that great unmeasurable void between life and death, to find, unerringly, its predestined target - Captain America, who, despite the raging storm, notices some light, hitting something in the grass - it looks like a jewel. Cap picks it up and wonders if the light or the gem has anything to do with Dr Strange. ‘He didn’t want me going with him and the others, because I didn’t show up on his tarot cards. If this is his way of sending out a distress signal, Cap isn’t sure how he would reach them in the Death Dimension. However, the gem starts to get warm, he can feel a pulse coming right through him, and the effect on Captain America is sudden, even painful, as a brilliant light engulfs everything, of course the effect on the undead is even more devastating.

Cap watches as the zombies are hurled back like paper dolls, but he doesn’t know how long he an bear the overwhelming pain, however, he senses that he must not put the jewel down. Cap knows that a lot more than just their lives may be at stake. Sweat drips down his face as he tells himself to hang on at all costs, until it does, whatever it really came to do, or else it tears him apart - whichever comes first.

Back in the Death Dimension, Xandu declares that this is almost to easy, that Strange has left himself and his colleagues utterly defenseless. ‘And, if you think you’re going to pull any last minute help into this dimension!’ Xandu adds, while Strange tells him that he has it backwards, and casts his energies at Melinda Morrison. ‘I don’t want to pull anything in - rather, I want to send something that absolutely, positively, has to be there - today!’ Strange declares as Melinda vanishes. ‘NO!’ Xandu calls out, while Melinda is encased in energy as she slides through the nothingness between the real world and the Earth. ‘Well. Hello’ Captain America greets her as Melinda falls into his arms.

‘You ever-meddling medicine man!’ Xandu shouts as he knocks Strange back with energies from the Wand of Watoomb. ‘You have tried to separate me from my Melissa - from the only one who makes life worth living - or death worth dying! But if won’t work, do you hear me?’ Xandu declares, as he opens a portal, and announces that he is going after her, calling out that he will let the demons deal with Strange and his over-touted allies. Dr Strange gets to his feet and rubs his head, as he, Wanda and Spider-Man gather together, and the demons close in on them. ‘With him gone, we can take these guys right, Doc?’ Spider-Man calls out. ‘I said - right, Doc?’ Spider-Man asks when he gets no response.

On Earth, Detective Simons asks Cap who the lady is who dropped in. Hazarding a guess, Cap supposes that she is Melinda Morrison. ‘And you’d be right, Captain’ Melinda announces, explaining that Dr Strange propelled her here from the Death Dimension. ‘Doctor who?’ the detective enquires. ‘Uh - she said some strange doctor - sent her - with help from Spider-Man and the Scarlet Witch, right Ms Morrison?’ Cap calls out. ‘Yes - to get me away from Xandu - for reasons I suspect I know’ Detective Simons points out that they have to get out of this area before the walking dead are climbing all over them again. Melinda turns to the zombies, and raising a hand, exclaims ‘You who are my natural subjects in this world as in the other - halt!’, and the zombies obey her, coming to a halt. ‘She stopped them - dead in their tracks!’ the surprised Detective Simons gasps.

Suddenly, ‘But I, my good man, shall get them moving again!’ Xandu exclaims as he materializes over the zombies. Xandu tells Melinda that she can hardly elude him, for he has used the wand to forge a mystic connection between them. He adds that when the merger of death and life is complete, that connection will be total perfection. ‘You’re not merging anything, magician!’ Cap calls out as he moves towards the man wizard, but Xandu casts the wand towards him, and knocks Cap backwards. ‘If your powerful friends could not defeat me, Avenger - what chance do you think you have?’ Xandu asks him.

The police officers begin firing at Xandu, but he spins the wand, and a wind shield appears, which when the bullets strike, are blown back towards the officers, who run in fear. Melinda calls out to Xandu, telling him mo stop this madness. ‘You’ll think differently when everyone who ever died has come back ot life - an army of the dead, to conquer this living world!’ Xandu declares, while Melinda tells him that she will not be a queen of such a place. ‘He’s just one of the loonies escaped from the asylum! Surely we can -’ one of the officers begins, while Captain America runs towards Melinda and grabs her away from Xandu. ‘You persist in the futility of resisting me?’ Xandu exclaims, to which Cap tells him that he would find that annoying.

As he carries Melinda and runs away from Xandu, Cap asks her if she is really a queen of the dead, why she can’t just stop Xandu. Melinda explains that whatever powers she has, she has never been able to utilize without Dr Strange’s help, and points out that for all she knows, Dr Strange may have killed Stephen before he came back to Earth. ‘Then we’ve got to keep you out of his clutches until we find -’ Cap tells her, but a zombie hand bursts up through the ground and grabs Cap by his ankle. Captain America falls flat on his face, and drops Melinda, who calls out to him - but as Xandu points out, Cap struck his noble chin too hard upon a fragment of gravestone.

Cap doesn’t get up, he just lies motionless on the ground, while Xandu declares that he will be of no trouble to them now, and grabs Melinda by her wrist. ‘Don’t kill him, Xandu! If you do - I’ll never forgive you!’ Melinda warns, but Xandu replies that he has no need to kill Captain America just now, but hopes she will understand that he does have to allow the new core of his walking dead legion to slay a few of the living. The zombies begin to close in on Detective Simons and the other officers, with Xandu stating that this will set an example to the rest - when suddenly, sudden pain washes over both he and Melinda. They clutch themselves, and Melinda tells Xandu that he knows what it is - this world trying to cast them both out. ‘Me because I’m really dead - you, because the wand has forged a mystic connection between us!’ Melinda explains.

‘Then, at least for the moment, we shall bestride both worlds, my dear - like twin colossi - each of us with one foot in the grave, as they say - the other, in the land of the living!’ Xandu declares, adding that when the two are one, the Earth will no longer try to cast them out like disagreeable peach pits. ‘Or like two poisons!’ Melinda points out, while Captain America, who has woken, calls out to Melinda and exclaims ‘Don’t you see it’s hopeless to resist?’ and suggests she return to the Dimension of Death with Xandu. Melinda turns to Cap, ‘You ask me to do such a thing? You wouldn’t - not if you knew it as I -’ she begins, but Cap tells her that she must return there and be a queen, a true queen at last. ‘Do you understand?’ he calls out. ‘Yes - perhaps I -’ Melinda begins.

Melinda turns to Xandu and tells him that until the merger is completed, her place is in the Death Dimension, not here, and begs him to take her back there. ‘But Strange hurled you out -’ Xandu points out, however Melinda, touching Xandu, assures him that he won’t do so again. ‘Very well, my dear’ Xandu replies, and opens a portal, which he and Melinda step into, he decides that it is best, ‘What better place, very soon, to make a triumphal entrance onto the Earth plane?’ he remarks, while Detective Simons is surprised at Captain America and exclaims ‘You’re just standing there - and letting them go?’

‘That Star Spangled buffoon knew he couldn’t stop me, if he tried!’ Xandu declares as he and Melinda materialize in the throne room. The demons have surrounded Dr Strange, Wanda and Spider-Man, and Xandu declares that they shall finish of Earth’s final defenders. ‘So, you couldn’t elude Xandu as I hoped, Melinda!?’ Dr Strange exclaims, to which Xandu boasts that like their worlds, he and Melinda are destined to be one, and nothing anyone can do will prevent hat. ‘Strange! Make me queen of this sphere!’ Melinda exclaims ‘Captain America said that only you can do it!’ Melinda shouts. ‘Cap wants me to -?’ Strange remarks, while Xandu is surprised, ‘Melinda? WHAT?’ he calls out, before Strange, Wanda and Spider-Man get to their feet, and the demons move away from them as Strange casts energies forward.

‘You got any idea what Cap meant?’ Spider-Man enquires, and Strange replies that he does, remarking that his own sorcery won’t defeated the demon under lords, and their powers won’t release them from the thraldom to Xandu, while even Melinda is under his sway. ‘But if I can pull all three of those forces together…’ Dr Strange declares, before casting a spell. ‘Hey! That mumbo-jumbo’s actually doing something to the demons! They -’ Spider-Man exclaims, as the demons are drawn into Melinda, her eyes burn white, and she declares’ No, Spider-Man. They are already merged into the very core of my being - along with the residual magic of Dr Strange’s spell!’ while Xandu turns to her, and calling Strange a fool, states that he has done him a favor. ‘He’s made you the perfect mate for Xandu!’ the mad wizard boasts.

However, Melinda tells Xandu that she does not wish to be his mate, his queen, or anything else. ‘You’ve no choice! The wand’s power is vast-overwhelming!’ Xandu replies, adding that Strange cannot bring any more sorcery into this plane than already existed here. ‘He did not bring more in, Xandu. He merely combined the three sources of magic that were already present - to make me far more powerful than even you are!’ Melinda announces, as she casts her energies at Xandu, who writhes in pain and drops the wand, unable to hold onto it. ‘No problem, Xandu. I’ll take care of it for you! Spider-Man calls out as he fires some webbing around the wand, collecting it.

‘Melinda - beloved - I wanted to make you Empress of the Quick and the Dead!’ Xandu proclaims, asking her how she could turn on him, betray him. Wanda, Spider-Man and Strange gather beside Melinda, and Wanda remarks that Xandu still doesn’t understand. ‘I loved you, Xandu. And I’d have loved you across two worlds, or in some third on we might have found together. But you had to have it your way - conquering instead of caressing me - and killing the love I once felt for you!’ Melinda exclaims as she fires more energy at Xandu, who screams in agony. ‘Yes, Xandu. By melding the death-demons into my person, Dr Strange made me truly this sphere’s queen, in a way I had never been’ Melinda explains. ‘And as its supreme ruler - I hereby exile you for all time from this Death Dimension!’ Melinda declares as Xandu is engulfed in energy. ‘Where’s she sending him?’ Spider-Man enquires. ‘If I had to guess, I’d say - back where he’s always belonged’ Strange responds.

‘Dead New Yorkers shambling around - people popping in and out of thin air - when’s it all going to end, Captain America?’ Detective Simons calls out as the zombies continue to close in. ‘Offhand - I’d say right about now!’ Cap replies as Xandu falls from the air, and the zombies move towards him. ‘No! Get away from me! I command you!’ Xandu tells them, but they don’t respond. ‘Why aren’t you stopping? I’m the king of the dead!’ Xandu declares. Suddenly, the undead begin to crumble away. ‘That’s more like it!’ Xandu exclaims, deciding that even if he is down to one world, even deprived of the Wand of Watoomb, he has still “got it”, as they say.

But as all the zombies begin to crumble, Cap tells the mad wizard that it is not his supposed powers that are disposing of the animated corpses, pointing out that they started turning to dust before Xandu ordered them to stop, adding that someone else is in charge. ‘Is it her, Avenger?’ Detective Simons enquires as a projection of Melinda Morrison appears before them. ‘As a matter of fact, Detective, I’m sure it is!’ Cap replies, as Melinda’s projection bids Xandu farewell - forever. ‘Melinda? You can’t leave me here - without you - without the wand - without any real power - without…anything’ Xandu calls out, before he collapses to the ground. And, in that same moment, two worlds that were dangerously near to becoming one begin to drift apart once more.

Back in the Death Dimension, ‘You separated the two dimensions, didn’t you, Melinda?’ Strange enquires. Melinda replies that she did, but not without Spider-Man and the Scarlet Witch helping by keeping the demons at bay. ‘If you hadn’t magically integrated those demons into my being - and if Captain America hadn’t instinctively sensed that I could save both worlds by truly becoming this one’s ruler’ she adds, asking the heroes to thank Captain America for her when they return to Earth. ‘We’ll put a gold star by his name’ Spider-Man replies, while holding up the Wand of Watoomb with some webbing, and tells Dr Strange that he can put it back on its shield. Wanda asks Strange what he thinks now about whether he was right or wrong to stop Cap from accompanying them to the Death Dimension.

‘Hey, that’s right!’ Spider-Man exclaims, ‘Either your tarot card being upside down meant a foolish choice if you picked Cap for your team - in which case you made the right choice by leaving him on Earth, or else you did make a wrong choice because he might’ve helped us even more being by here with us!’ ‘Which is it?’ Melinda advises Spider-Man not to think too deeply about the occult, as it will only make his head hurt. ‘Tell me about it’ Spider-Man mutters, to which the Scarlet Witch suggests they say that everything worked out for the best and let it go. She tells Melinda that they are sorry Xandu’s ambition blinded him to the love he could have had instead. ‘It will be lonely here for a time - perhaps for all time - but I shall persevere, because I must’ Melinda responds, as she casts energies around the three heroes. ‘Be seeing you, Queenie, uh - but not too soon, I hope’ Spider-Man tells her. ‘Don’t ask her’ Strange tells companion. ‘Right. She might just tell you - what you don’t really want to know!’ the Scarlet Witch points out.

An instant later, Dr Strange, the Scarlet Witch and Spider-Man materialize in Manhattan, and drop from the air where Captain America stands with Detective Simons, and the officers have placed Xandu in handcuffs. Spider-Man is confused as to why they are in Manhattan, but Captain America “reminds him”: ‘This is the borough from which Xandu accidentally pulled Dr Strange into that other world from which you rescued him’. ‘Oh, yeah, right! He, uh, was at the asylum, as a consulting physician when the storm broke’ Spider-Man mutters. Dr Strange’s costume is replaced by a suit, and Cap asks if he will be happy to get back to Greenwich Village, to which Strange tells him that he is correct. ‘Thanks for not rubbing it in’ Dr Strange tells Cap.

One of the police officers announces that they can question the wizard later. ‘Let’s go, Sandy, or whatever your name is, we - huh? What’re you crying for?’ the officer asks. ‘He tried to take over New York, maybe the world, with a bunch of graveyard stiffs - and he totally blew it’ Detective Simons explains. ‘Why do you think he’s crying? Because some girlfriend broke up with him?’ Detective Simons mutters.

And in a domain separated from our reality by quite literally the merest heartbeat, silence lies like a heavy shoulder upon a realm with a population of one. For, though Melinda Morrison is at last queen of the Death Dimension, she knows that this day she has lost the only man she will ever love. She sits motionless upon her throne, knowing that she will never find Xandu again, among wither the quick…or the dead. And with that, a tear falls from her eye.

Characters Involved: 

Captain America, Dr Strange, Scarlet Witch, Spider-Man (all Secret Defenders)


Melinda Morrison

Detective Simons

Police officers

Various demons


Story Notes: 

The title of this issue is taken from Act V, Scene V of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth”, as was the title to the previous issue. However, the blurb for this issue that featured in issue #7 said the title would to issue #8 would be Death & Taxis.

Melinda Morrison has not appeared since this issue and presumably remains in the Death Dimension, however Xandu was killed by the Punisher in Punisher War Journal II #4.

Issue Information: 
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