17th Aug2021

‘Defenders #1’ Review

by Dean Fuller

Written by Al Ewing | Art by Javier Rodriguez, Alvaro Lopez | Published by Marvel Comics

Who doesn’t love The Defenders? Everyone loves an underdog, and the Defenders were the little team that could. Sure, they had heavy hitters as members. Hulk, Silver Surfer, Dr. Strange among many others, but it was the revolving door of B-listers that gave the book its magic. I fell in love with Valkyrie and Nighthawk because of this book. For some reason it was always the book that Marvel let writers like Gerber, DeMatteis and Gillis have free reign with, leading to some interesting stories in such a mainstream Marvel Universe book. The original run is still looked back on with real fondness, and not just by me. Revival efforts since have been mixed, often because they strayed from the original concept that set the book apart. Knowing Al Ewing’s writing, I’m willing to bet he won’t make that mistake this time.

Let’s take a look.

No Defenders book should start with anything other than a Sanctum Sanctorum splash page, so we’re off to a good start. It’s a pretty gorgeous one too, followed by an equally gorgeous two page spread of Stephen Strange meditating. Upside down, as you do. Stephen has an unexpected guest, unexpected in the sense he both didn’t sense him in advance and the Sanctum’s defences didn’t stop him. He calls himself the Masked Raider, and Strange straight away recognises the mask he is wearing. It is the Eternity Mask, created by rebel magicians in Camelot and used throughout history by numerous heroes including the original Masked Raider. The Raider isn’t here as an enemy, but is seeking the urgent help of the Sorceror Supreme.

It seems the Raider’s enemy, Carlo Zota, has been causing all sorts of trouble. Firstly, his Adam-IV experiment has unleashed a new Korvac. Yikes. Secondly, he’s been messing with time-magic, which is the most powerful and most open to abuse that there is. Scientific time-travel can’t change the past, magical time travel can. Strange agrees this needs urgent action, as Zota can go back to the dawn of time itself and recreate everything in his image. More heroes are needed, fast. Time to break open that magical tarot card pack. The cards shall choose.

First up, Judgement chooses Silver Surfer. The High Priestess chooses Red Harpy, formerly the Red She-Hulk Betty Banner. The Lovers choose Cloud, former New Defender and sentient nebula. Strange would like more, but he’s straining the limits of what magic will allow him, as he’s interfering with huge forces that can and will bend reality. He has to make a big moral choice, and only time will tell if it’s the right one. It may be a case of the lesser evil, or may be a case of making a fatal error. Regardless, the team is set. The time and place however was not. Which is why they have woken up on the alien planet of Taa, currently about to be destroyed by the giant Omnimax. Why is this important? Well, Taa is the home planet of none other than Galactus himself, and Omnimax is his, er, mum. Mommy Galactus. So THAT’S where he gets it from.

Now, THAT’S a Defenders book. Yes, there was a hell of a lot of exposition, but then again there was a lot to get through. Al Ewing kept the outsiders vibe, he kept the non-team feel, and the fact that the individual characters would rather be anywhere else than doing what they are. It felt exactly like a Defenders book, and I liked the fact that Dr. Strange’s magic was a central part of everything. It reminded me a little, in a good way, of an old Zatanna Special DC put out, partly because of the gorgeous art. The art is so lush and beautifully rendered it almost distracts from the text itself. Almost. Every page is a thing of beauty. Great story, great art, great team, even great covers of which there are a shed load of alternates.

As fun as this was, I genuinely get the impression Ewing was holding back his best stuff for the next issue or two. Any book going forward with Galactus’s Mum is a must buy for me.

A book to be followed and read, no doubt about it.

****½  4.5/5

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