Or – “In Which I Discuss The Changing Role Of The Limited Series…”

It’s difficult to remember that, in comics terms, the Limited Series has only been around for a few short years.  (Well, I should probably amend that statement to say the INTENTIONALLY Limited Series.  A lot of books ran 4, 5, or 6 issues and got cancelled due to sales, editorial caveat, or general sucktitude.)  Used to be that the point of the Limited Series was to showcase characters who hadn’t been seen in a while, or to finish off story points that didn’t have another venue.  These days it seems like the Limited Series is nothing but a backdoor pilot, a way of saying “we’re just not sure this concept has legs.”  And unfortunately, many of the current crop of limiteds suffers because of this mentality…  Is Last Defenders one of them?  Clickety click click click, dangolinternet!

Previously, on The Last Defenders:  Kyle Richmond, the Defender known as Nighthawk, switched sides in the middle of the Civil War, changing his stance from Captain America’s truth and justice cadre to Iron Man’s law and order battalion.  This has caused him much dismay, especially with Cap’s death, and he’s learned that Iron Man has just about as much respect for him as he does for anyone that’s not a computer, a hot chick or a bottle of gin.  Which is to say, not so very much.  After an attempt to relaunch the Defenders with a former X-Man, a former Invader, and a former Avenger went awry, I.M. shut the whole project down with a quickness.  This didn’t stop Kyle from trying again, this time footing the bill himself, and hiring “heroes” for hire Paladin, Junta, (from the The Crew limited series) and former Thunderbolt Atlas.  This grouping was roughly as successful as the first, as the mystic Yandroth might have told you.  He’s been hanging around the periphery, loudly proclaiming how the Defenders needs a force of pure power, a mystic, a water elemental, and a strong leader to survive.  Speaking of water elementals, Kyle’s second team has run afoul of none other than Warlord Krang, a former enemy of Namor himself, having recently undergone a procedure to make him, like Namor, an amphibian…

Krang has tracked down Merranno of Atlantis, the artist formerly known as U-Man, and beaten the snot out of him, leading Nighthawk to realize that their mysterious attack on Atlantic City is more than just corporate backstabbing.  Nighthawk takes his own like in his hands by stopping Krang from murdering U-Man, while the cobbled together Defenders team causes mass destruction (WOO WOO! MAAASSS DESTRUCTIOOOON!) above their heads.  SHIELD arrives first, followed closely by The Mighty Avengers (also known as a half a dozen strong jerks and The Wasp) to ruin ‘Hawks fun.  The Wasp tells Nighthawk to stand down, chiding him for no longer being a team player.  “I guess it depends on the team, Jan,” he replies with no lack of venom.  “Gets tough to tell which one I’m on sometimes.”  Ouch.  Wasp actually shows what a classy lady she is, by letting them all go, and assuring Kyle that she trusts him to report it all back to Iron Man afterwards.

Of course, Iron Man is hardly as forgiving.  Nighthawk returns to the helicarrier (or at least one of them, as they’ve crashed no fewer than five in the last few months) to get a dressing down by Anthony Stark and Henry Peter Gyrich.  Tony plays the good cop, emphasizing his disappointment whilst H.P. gets up in Nighthawk’s face.  In a moment I dearly love, the old Kyle Richmond pops up for a moment, and the winged wonder gets right back in Gyrich’s face.  “You people sit up here, thinking you’re solving society’s problems?  What, you want to check me for Skrull DNA, Tony?  GO AHEAD!  You’re so busy making rules for the rest of us to follow…  I KNOW why I’m doing this… It’s the same reason I’ve ALWAYS done this!”  Stark lets the other shoe drop, telling Nighthawk that he has to turn in his cape and cowl, effective immediately.  Nighthawk is crushed, and resignedly tells Stark that it’s over.  “You’ve managed to legislate something that used to be so pure…  You’ve let yourself be threated by idealism…  Some of us don’t wear masks to hide.  Some of us wear them to be free. Captain America knew that.”  A defeated Nighthawk drops his wings and mask, and walks away…

Meanwhile, in Chinatown, Patsy Walker gets a surprise visit from her ex.  Daimon Hellstrom, the Son of Santa (because we don’t want people to think we support the dark arts here at Stately Spoilers Manor) has come to apologize.  Patsy doesn’t buy his spiel about “healing,” “and “redemption,” instead snarling in a fasion that reminds us of her superhero nom de guerre, “Whatever you’re searching for, it’s NOT ME.”  Daimon tries to deny her claims, but the once and future Hellcat has been to Hell and back (and this is not, by the way, a metaphor) due to his actions, and Patsy ain’t buying.  “Redemption won’t come easy.  Not for you.”  Meanwhile, the now costumeless Kyle Richmond visits Joaquin Pennysworth in the hospital, asking why he would specifically ask for the duty of breaking up the Sons of the Serpent (in issue #1.)  Pennysworth angrily snarls that not everybody has the benefits of Kyle’s fortune and powers, and that they just get by however they can…

Speaking of Yandroth, as I was a few paragraphs ago, the Big Y is now in Manhattan, invading the headquarters of the Brand corporation, finding out who is really behind the attacks and strange drilling that Nighthawk has been investigating.  Yandroth has manipulated the Brand board of directors into upping a timetable for a mysterious project that will bring Yandroth closer to a mysterious goal.  Seriously, it’s issue #4, maybe we could start wrapping up the mysterious island of mysterious mystery subplot?  Anybody?  Anybody?  Bueller?  Across town, Kyle Richmond arrives home after leaving the hospital, and ruminates on what the Defenders meant…  “Our entire history is discounted because of someone’s political agenda.”  Welcome to the Marvel Universe, Mr. Richmond…  If you’re not Iron Man, your life sucks.  He smashes up his posh living room in a fit of rage, only to have his destruction pale in contrast to that caused when a chariot pulled by fire-breathing horses smashes through the wall.  “Kyle Richmond!” intones the Son of Santa.  “You and I have much to discuss… about your DEFENDERS!”

Joe Casey has written a decent yarn this issue, but once again, there seems to be a lot of mysterious agendas, ominous notes, and general whinyness.  Too much, actually, for my tastes.  I’ve grown very tired of “Iron Man, Director of Every-#@&!(!$&-thing In The Frickin’ Marvel Universe,” I’m waiting for Nighthawk to remember that he’s Marvel’s version of the Goddamn Batman, and a little bit frustrated with how long it’s taking for the balls that started rolling in issue one to make their way down the hill, already.  Hopefully, the arrival of a mystic to join him will finally get Kyle out of his funk and on the way to actually, y’know… DEFENDING something.  The art, by Jim Muniz (and who knew Malcolm In The Middle could draw?) is still stylized as hell, with square jaws abounding and Wayne Boring ‘carved-out-of-granite’ barrel-chested heroes, but it’s not bad.  If anything, it really helps to underline the stories good points, outlining the struggle of a man to work within a system he doesn’t understand or really support.  Overall, this issue is pretty average, with some good character interplay, but it’s taking an awful long time to get to where we know it has to be, and I’m afraid that by the time this Last Defenders team is introduced, the shine’ll be off the apple, and we’ll have to sit through another relaunch a year or two hence…  It’s still a 2.5 out of 5 star book, though, and much like pizza, any Defenders is good Defenders.

 25stars.jpg


The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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2 Comments

  1. Carswell
    June 22, 2008 at 12:14 pm — Reply

    Good review.
    I want this book to succeed.

  2. KpC
    June 23, 2008 at 9:24 am — Reply

    Did they explain how Atlas got better, after how he was left in Thunderbolts #109? Or did they just lazily handwave it?

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