REVIEW: Defenders #8

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Or – “Did They Just Kill T’Challa?”

Can the Defenders stop an international incident, or will the Prince of Orphans go to war with Wakanda?  Your Major Spoilers review awaits!

DEFENDERS #8
Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist(s): Jamie McKelvie w/Mike Norton
Cover Artist(s): Terry & Rachel Dodson
Colorist: Dommo Aymara
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Editor: Mark Paniccia
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $3.99

Previously, in The Defenders:  Doctor Strange, Namor, Iron Fist, The Silver Surfer and the Red She-Hulk were pulled together by fate, and the power of the Concordance Engine, bound by forces they don’t understand (and, if the foreshadowing is to be believed, don’t yet realize.)  The five heroes discovered that a previous band of adventurers also interacted with the Engine, but the lone survivor of that team is John Aman, the Immortal Weapon known as the Prince of Orphans.  Aman has seemingly murdered the other Immortal Weapons (save for Fat Cobra, too awesome to die) and seems intent on killing the Defenders, as well.

Cancel Christmas.

THE UNIVERSE WILL BREAK.

Matt Fraction is a writer that I enjoy, but I am doubly impressed with his work in this issue, as I did not see the swerve that John Aman was the villain of the piece coming.  We are given a few more pieces of the puzzle, finding that Aman stood alongside Namor’s parents (and Captain Nemo, who could possibly be his REAL dad), discovering the story of how the discovered Prester John and the first engine decades ago.  Jamie McKelvie’s art is wonderful throughout the issue, reminding me quite a bit of the work of Terry and Rachel Dodson (who still handle the cover for this issue.)  The story also seems to kill T’Challa, The Black Panther, sending the Defenders into Aman’s stronghold to try and stop war between Wakanda and Z’gambo.  Things get more complicated as the Black Cat arrives with the intent of robbing Aman of his treasures, while he mistakes her for part of the Defenders team.  Their battle is short, as Aman shrugs off attack after attack, turning into the poisonous Green Mist of Death, and choking the life out of every single Defender…

EVERYONE YOU LOVE DIES.

…except for Norrin Radd, who reminds him curtly, “I don’t breathe.”  One blast of power cosmic puts Aman down, and the Defenders are able to escape, avoiding an international incident by a hair’s breadth.  Doctor Strange meets up with the Council of Antiquarians, and things come full circle by referencing a decades-old piece of Jack Kirby madness from the 1970′s, King Solomon’s Frogs.  The secret of the frogs turns out to be the secret of more than just magic, as the Defenders discover to their dismay, with the coming attractions seemingly promising time-travel.  I’m not sure if the absence of Prince Namor this issue is related to Avengers Vs. X-Men or not (given the presence of Iron Fist and Doctor Strange here, I’m not sure how it could be) but the descent of The Prince Of Orphans into madness is very fitting the character’s background and history.  The book plays nice with years of continuity (which is more than you can say for a lot of comics, especially a lot of Marvel books these days) and makes me almost certain that I missed an issue, but still reads clear enough that I’m not lost in convolutions of plot.

THE VERDICT: SHUT THE ENGINES DOWN!

Fraction continues to play with form and function, as the bottom of page messages (designed to reference the 1970′s Marvel comics) interact with the narrative in a very meta way, providing call-backs and answers, while the character balance of our heroes is once again fun, with Strange as leader, Surfer as heavy hitter, Iron Fist as lancer and Red She-Hulk performing the important service of being the cabbage-head, allowing the other heroes to naturally deliver the expository dialogue.  Whether the Black Cat sticks around (I honestly hope she doesn’t, but not because I don’t dig her), Defenders #8 does the trick for me, doing interesting things with some lovely art (Here’s hoping McKelvie is the new regular artist) and earning 4 out of 5 stars overall.  This book is really hitting a nice stride, and I hope that the Next Big Thing doesn’t destroy it’s peculiar charm with too much Marvel NOW!

Rating: ★★★★☆