REVIEW: The Defenders #2

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Or – “One Of Marvel’s Many Neglected Properties…”

DEFENDERS!  The Defenders are back!  I haven’t been this excited since I heard the new phonebooks were here!  WOO!

THE DEFENDERS #2
Writer: Matt Fraction
Penciler: Terry Dodson
Inker: Rachel Dodson
Colorist: Sonia Oback
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Editor(s): Tom Brevoort w/ Mark Paniccia
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $2.99

Previously, in The Defenders:  When The Serpent sent his avatars to possess denizens of the Marvel Universe, no one expected that they would actually stick around.  Nul, the Breaker of Worlds, has escaped from the mind of The Hulk and is running rampant through the Marvel Universe, leading the Hulk to call on a few old friends for assistance.  His fellow founding Defenders (Doctor Strange, The Silver Surfer and Namor the Sub-Mariner) have been joined by Red She-Hulk (for brawn) and Iron Fist (for transportation reasons), and all five heroes have ventured into the wilds of Wundagore mountain, where they were shot out of the sky.  Soon after, Iron Fist was shot in the heart, and Prester John’s to blame, as he gives villains a bad name (baaad naame!)

EVERYTHING YOU LOVE DIES…

This issue picks up seconds after the last one ended, with Iron Fist on the ground after a bullet to the chest, and the rest of the Defenders about to be attacked by Prester John and what seem to be humanoid tigers.  Things look dark for the non-team, but they suddenly leap into action with the power cosmic, mystic force, the channeled energy of the chi, and smashy-smashy, turning the tide in their favor!  Fraction does a wonderful job with the pacing in this early sequence, as the give-and-take of battle between Defenders and non-men flips back and forth several times, and the menace of the villain is clearly set forth in the issue.  (This is good, as I don’t think Prester John has appeared anywhere since the mid-90s or so.)  The amusing lower gutter boxes from last issue return, emulating the Marvel Comics of the 70s (including one that reads “Story interrupted previous page”) while adding another level to the storytelling here.  To the story’s credit, Fraction and the Dodsons make it credible that a team of this powers is taken down and imprisoned by Prester John.

…FIGHT TO SAVE EVERYTHING!

There’s a wonderful scene in the middle of this issue wherein Betty Ross-Banner comes up with the plan to escape their capture, using her particular weird powerset (she turns human when frightened), but when Doctor Strange whispers something mysterious in her ear, she dubs him “The Creep” and refuses to let him near her anymore.  (We don’t actually hear what it is, which makes it doubly entertaining.)  There are some clever character bits throughout this middle portions of the issue, as Namor continues to snark, while Iron Fist gets in the funniest bits, and these new Defenders quickly get back to the business at hand with more of the fighty-fighty.  Doctor Strange even gets a bad-@$$ moment when he smashes a lion-man in the face, reminding us that he’s a master of martial as well as of mystic arts.  We end with the revelation of both the mysterious proverbial engine of the title and Prester John’s real motives, and it makes the entire thing that much more complicated.  As we fade to black, the Defenders are trapped between a rock and giant hideous monster of the id, and certain doom awaits everyone…

THE VERDICT: ENJOYABLE + RETRO = ENJETROBLE!

This issue is a bit more plot-driven then last, where the character bits took center stage, but the explanation of what the Concordance Engine is is well tied into Marvel history, playing with both story elements and Jack Kirby’s legendary designs.  There’s still a clear indication that these characters don’t belong in ANY team, much less together (which is even funnier when you remember that everyone but the Surfer is part of another team in the Marvel U.)  The ending comes a bit suddenly for me, but the overall issue is a winner.  Defenders #2 is well-drawn, well-crafted and overall entertaining, earning 4 out of 5 stars overall.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day: How long do you think it will be before they add new members to this team?