When I finished writing my initial thoughts on all of DC’s new number ones (that I bought), I didn’t think I’d be right back at it a month later. But time makes fools of us all, and really, did you think after all the press and phat loot DC was getting on its renumbering, Marvel wouldn’t try to get in on that action?
In the past six months or so, we’ve seen a new Punisher series, a new Daredevil series, two new X-men series, and now a new Defenders series (not to mention Avengers: Sanctum with also began recently). Now, I haven’t been the biggest buyer of Marvel comics, having only the aforementioned Punisher series on my current pull list. So in the interest of not being unfair to Marvel, I decided to pick up The Defenders #1.
That, and it just happened to be on sale for launch day only at my comic shop.
For those even less in the know about Marvel lore than I, the Defenders is a group of heroes that, while having little in common, frequently team up to fight evil. It’s traditionally been more for pragmatic reasons, and at the beginning they’d just split up again when their combined might was no longer needed. However, from what little I’ve read they’ve evolved at least into friends and grown in number, though still a group composed of whoever happens to be on call at the time.
The premise of this issue is that the Hulk comes to Doctor Strange and basically says this: “Hey Doc, all my rage and hate has taken physical form and is on a rampage. If you’re going to fight him, you also can’t let the Avengers know about it. He’s also to me what I am to you squishy humans, and I can’t risk fighting him myself because I might join back with him and become an even bigger monster than normal. So yeah, good luck with that! K thx bye!”
The creature in question is Nul, Breaker of Worlds, and the Hulk gets Strange to form a team to take him down. A team that consists of Defenders mainstays: Namor, King of the Sea and Marvel’s answer to Aquaman; the Silver Surfer, who can also turn into snow now…
Don’t ask me, I have no idea. In a word, I don’t even.
…She-Hulk, who serves the purpose of being the muscle, token female, and audience surrogate of the team; and Iron Fist, avid comic reader and inventor of zero-g kung fu. Also, he owns a jet.
I have to say, while I have very little experience with these Marvel characters in general, this book really brings them to life. I actually care about what happens to these people, and find them entertaining just on their own. Doc Strange is eccentric; Namor is arrogant and serious; Silver Surfer seems happy to be experiencing new things (like a jet crashing with them in it); She-hulk is endlessly happy for action; and Iron Fist is competent while having realistic anxieties.
It also helps that She-hulk’s first scene is her in the running of the bulls, running after the bulls and demanding they run after her. That made my day.
So do I have any criticism for this first issue? Not really, at least none I can pin down. The only thing I can complain about is the cover. Don’t get me wrong, it has a decent cover, though it seems intent on just having the team pose haphazardly over a white background. Nothing I’d be able to put on a poster. But the real problem comes with the variant cover.
With some books, especially landmark ones, you’ll have an issue that has multiple alternate covers. Frankly I consider a gimmick, but I do appreciate an option if one version is a bit lackluster. In this case though, the variant cover is a pure white cover with a Marvel logo in the corner and the issue number. Literally a pure white cover with nothing on it.
I’m sorry, but where does Marvel get off doing this kind of thing? They do a lot of stuff I like too, a bunch of little publishing practices that I wish DC would adopt. But I’ve seen them do this a couple other times before, and this is just lazy. We don’t even get a logo for the book in question, just a symbol indicating the issue number (for whatever series it might be; without looking inside, it could be anything) and the fact that Marvel made it. What if I was in a comic shop and they had this in a poly-bag where I couldn’t read it until I bought it?
At least when DC did those white background covers earlier this year, they had the book’s symbol and the principle character on the front. They weren’t completely blank, and it was a line-wide thing for that month. At least I knew what I was buying, at what little made it on each cover had work put into them. And here Marvel is, putting out blank covers at random. What the hell, Marvel?
Regardless of this admittedly minor qualm, I really enjoyed this start. The book introduced me the characters I wouldn’t necessarily know, gave me a rundown of their personalities, made me laugh, and set up a threat that’s both formidable and disturbing. There’s something about the Hulk saying, “What if Hulk…had a Hulk?” that does more than a long-winded narrative box to underscore a menace by shear dread. Add to it subtle moments where Strange hints at the very wall between the possible and the impossible tearing, and we have a definite sense of disquiet.
And you have no idea how gratifying being able to wheel out “disquiet” in a sentence is.