Defenders #1 Review
Everyone you love dies.
Writer: Matt Fraction
Penciler: Terry Dodson
Inker: Rachel Dodson
Colourist: Sonia Oback
Published by Marvel
With all the success that the Avengers have had in recent years it’s surprising it’s took this long for a big relaunch of the Defenders, but it’s finally here with top stars Matt Fraction and Terry Dodson at the reigns, can they revive the team for a new generation?
What separated The Defenders from the Avengers in the past was the idea that it’s members were individuals forced together through circumstance rather than a fully functioning team. So it’s interesting to see in the Hulk reach out to Doctor Strange, and then quickly convene with the reaming two of the team’s big four; Namor and Silver Surfer. There’s not as much tension as I would of expected between them all but I appreciate the fact that it allows Fraction to have the team assembled within the first issue, including it’s newest members Red She-Hulk and Iron Fist.
Due to the events of his own series the Hulk doesn’t stay around for long, however he recommends his ex-wife and current Hulk, Betty Ross to take his spot on the team. Betty is an interesting choice as she’s mostly been portrayed as a villain since she became Red She-Hulk and the only interactions she’s tended to have are with fellow Hulk characters, so to see her off on her own should be a great chance to explore her character. What Fraction gives us so far is that she’s trying to have fun and to find a challenge for her powers and gets more than she’s bargained for when she’s asked to join the Defenders.
Iron Fist’s inclusion in the team was one of the key selling points for myself as I revelled at the opportunity for Matt Fraction to get his hands on the character again after his amazing Immortal Iron Fist run with Ed Brubaker. Danny is portrayed under the simple premise Fraction used in that series; a Kung Fu Billionaire, which we get to see in action as he fights a would be assassin in zero gravity. Like She-Hulk, Iron Fist is having fun with his life but is shown to be more comfortable in it, as he gladly accepts the invite to join the team, despite all the problems it would and does bring to him, just so he can avoid waking up with his on-again, off-again girlfriend Misty Knight.
What stood out for me in this issue was the humour. From Strange’s tea time fortune telling, Namor’s reaction to Surfer, She-Hulk’s running of the bulls, to Iron Fist reading a comic before the mission. It really makes the issue fun and serves as a contrast to the darker points of the issue. The opening two pages, showing suffering and calamity in the world and the arrival of Nul, Breaker of Worlds. We’re not given much info on him yet, but the threat is summed up as “What if the Hulk… had a Hulk” and that his coming has been foretold and welcomed by some shows he’s bound to be a more than just a big, dumb monster, but future issues will tell if this is the case.
The contrast between the light and dark elements of the story are highlighted by the lines of text that appear at the bottom of most pages. Similar to those in old Marvel comics from the 70s, they act as mini advertisements, with things such as “Who loves Doctor Strange? Defenders #4!” but some have weird, vague messages such as “The Universe will break” and “Everyone you love dies.” I found these fun too and am intrigued by the inexplicable hints Fraction is giving us.
If you’ve ever read a comic with the Dodson’s work then you’ll know what to expect here. They manage to hit every beat, from the quieter moments with good expression and body language, both big and smaller action scenes as well as the creepiness of things like Nul’s arrival on Earth to Surfer’s body forming itself. What I was pleasantly surprised at was the fact that despite them being known for their attractive depictions of women, Red She-Hulk appears more human and sympathetic than I’ve seen her, and she could of easily been a reduced to achance for the art team to add some eye candy. The little touches they include in the backgrounds that really helps build the scenes was also impressive. Things like a woman praying when the Defenders are on a plane, to Surfer often being more physically distanced from the team than the others really helped to make the story come alive and ground all the absurdity in a believable world.
It’s only the first issue, but Defenders is set be one of Marvel’s best books.