* "CANDACE (Candy) SOUTHERN" Joins Defenders this Issue
As the Defenders return to headquarters with a wounded Gargoyle, Beast confronts Moondragon about Gargoyle’s warning that they should “beware” her, but she feigns ignorance. Cloud stands up for Moondragon, believing she is not evil, but Beast remains suspicious. When the Defenders arrive home, they are confronted by a hologram of the Hulk with a gun, warning them that they are on the Defenders’ private property and to identify themselves within 30 seconds or be blown away. It turns out that the hologram is part of a new security system that Angel’s girlfriend, Candy Southern had installed while they were gone. The hologram can also be programmed to assume different forms, including Sub-Mariner, Silver Surfer, Captain America, the Thing, and even Galactus riding a giant image of Beast’s dog, Sassafrass. Fortunately for Gargoyle, Southern has also installed a medical facility with a camera hook-up to one of the hospitals Angel owns. When Beast asks Gargoyle what he meant when he said to “beware Moondragon,” Gargoyle claims that he doesn’t remember. Later, Beast and Angel discuss the team’s performance, noting that each Defender seems capable of taking the initiative when necessary and that there may be no need for a leader in the field, but they definitely still need someone to manage their operations. Meanwhile, Iceman is surprised and somewhat relived to find that Cloud has returned to being a girl, but she suddenly becomes a boy again and doesn’t know how to control it. Iceman finds that he cannot offer Cloud any comfort. Later in the evening, a recovering Gargoyle goes to see Cloud, who is now a girl again. He confides in her that he did see something when his mind was linked to Moondragon’s, but he felt he could not tell the other Defenders because they might jump to the wrong conclusion. Gargoyle says that he saw young Heather Douglas training to perfect her mind and body with the priests of Shao-Lom on the Titan moon. While meditating, she encountered the malevolent presence of an ancient being called the Dragon of the Moon, which existed on Titan long before the Eternals and was responsible for killing Titan’s previous inhabitants. The Dragon sought to possess Heather, but she was able to fight it off and close her mind to it. Defeating such an entity made Heather prideful, so she never told any of the priests about the encounter and chose to call herself Moondragon in commemoration of her victory. Over the years, the Dragon has still attempted to possess her and she has continually fought it off, but it has slowly been corrupting her. If she should lose control and release the Dragon, the consequences could be terrible. Moondragon continues to fight off the Dragon, lamenting the fact that her fellow Defenders do not realize that she is fighting to protect them and that the evil they sense in her is actually the Dragon’s presence. While Moondragon continues to meditate, the team has a meeting where Beast and Angel announce Candy Southern as the new leader of the Defenders. As the team celebrates this news, Moondragon is suddenly sent flying through the doorway by former Avenger and Celestial Madonna, Mantis.