Tuesday afternoon it occurred to me that a massive new series is launching the following day and something just had to be done about it! Marvel has been prepping The Defenders Netflix series for years now and couldn’t pass up the shot to take the property over to comics with The Defenders #1. With the huge release flying overhead during one of the busiest times of the year AJ Frost and I were still able to hunker down and give some in-depth thoughts of one of Marvel’s biggest Summer comics releases!
The Defenders #1
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Illustrated by David Marquez
Colors by Justin Ponsor
Letters by VC’s Cory Petit
Reviewed by Alexander Jones and AJ Frost
Alexander Jones: In advance of the popular TV show we have a revitalization of The Defenders for comics. Let’s start with your impressions of the first issue AJ, what did you think?
AJ Frost: I thoroughly enjoyed the book. Even though it’s far from the best comic I’ve ever read, The Defenders #1 had a lot of elements I enjoyed: a little bit of violent explosions here, a couple of giggles there some cinematic team-up work, and a good intro to a story that seems interesting.
Jones: It had a lot of the good ol’ Brian Michael Bendis charm for sure. I have to say that I was a little worried about about the tendency that each character had to repeat things that the other lead was saying. After reading some recent team books by Bendis I did realize that everybody in the comic had the same cookie-cutter personality that series like his Guardians of the Galaxy run suffered from. As an example, Daredevil was saying some quirky lines that seemed like they would have been better suited for Iron Fist. Did you think each character had a distinctive personality?
Frost: I’m with you. I don’t think so. Each was there to serve a purpose for the story, rather than organically create something in the narrative. Maybe it’s a stylistic choice? (Or perhaps, a command from Marvel brass on high?)
As I said, as someone not too familiar with the history of the Defenders, maybe it was better for this issue to use the characters that way was a means of introduction. As with their television counterparts, each Defender has to fit into their expanded multimedia role. So, if there is some rote-ness to the characters, it’s probably just a mechanism to satisfy & familiarize people coming in from Netflix, rather than long-time readers. What do you think?
Jones: I can understand why pairing down the characters and the lore is going to suit newcomers. However, even though the individual characters are really old dating back to the ’60s and ’70s, this is the first time that this exact team is coming together underneath The Defenders moniker. I wanted Bendis to show me why each character is different from one another and also find a way for the four of these heroes to come together in a way that feels organic. It seems like they all just decided off-screen that they were going to team up with each other.
Frost: Do you think the reasoning behind that decision is precisely because: “Oh, they all exist in the same television universe, so obviously they know each other?” Or do you think that’s still off the mark?
Jones: They run in the same circles character-wise. Luke and Danny just had that team-up book as well and Jessica will always be involved with Luke. Maybe what Bendis could have done was anchor the story with Daredevil and show why he came back together with the group. That would have been a better solution than the one we see in this book which seems to be: they are always together exactly when you need them to be unless they are in their solo title. That might be to minor of a critique to throw at the debut issue, but a little more glue to hold the book together would definitely have made this new start for the team leave a better taste in my mouth. I can’t help but feel that my recent experience with the creative team is coloring my perceptions of this title.
Frost: Speaking of coloring… Oh my god! Were the colors in this book on point?! A lot of kudos to Justin Ponsor. The use of neon purples, greens, and yellows is something that I just don’t see a lot of in comics today.
Jones: Justin Ponsor knows how to color David Marquez beautifully. The whole book was fantastically well-drawn but not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. I think Marquez’s faces look a little similar in this comic. Also, the title sequences introducing each character were not quite spaced out enough and ended up looking a little cheesy even though they were filled with really cool easter eggs and shout-outs to continuity. After Civil War II, I just get the feeling that Marquez isn’t challenging himself enough with this material. I wish he was playing with the medium of comics or that Bendis would give him some leverage or room in the story to go wild this issue. The two of them probably have some good chemistry at this point but I just wonder if they are taking enough chances. All that being said, this book is very, very well illustrated and will satisfy fans of the tv show. Am I being too harsh? Do I expect too much AJ?
Frost: I think you are! But, I understand it. In a way, you’ve seen all this stuff before. You’re familiar with the tempo and melody of Marvel, and when you see the same type of story, a similar style of action, the same artistic flourishes that you’ve seen over and over again, you notice where things could be progressing.
As for me, I’m content to read a book like this and be “Oh! That was entertaining! I thought the art was on point, the story simple but serviceable, with some visual panache.” I’m definitely not demanding perfection. And what laziness might be to you is interesting for me, just because I’m a new hand at this book.
Jones: You know this just seemed like business-as-usual for the publisher and I wanted to see something exciting that utilized each character in a creative manner with a villain that really stuck with me. I’ve read a lot of fantastic stories with these characters and lots of them have been written by Bendis at the start of the 2000’s. The original Alias, Daredevil and early New Avengers issues will always be some of my favorite stories with these characters. Back in the day, nobody wrote the slow-burn better than Bendis.
Diamondback has been dead for years and this was supposed to be his big moment back in the spotlight. I really didn’t understand why there was so much focus on the villains towards the end of the book as well. This issue is very oddly paced and kind of feels like a grab bag of disconnected scenes at times. Did you feel the weight of his character without having that context? I’ll be honest and say that I knew next-to-nothing about him until I heard some of the Marvel PR behind this book.
Frost: Yeah, not really. He seemed like another street hustler/pimp stereotype. But they made him out to be the Big Baddie among big baddies….
Jones: Well to me that seems incredibly problematic. I’m also not the biggest fan of the one-and-only female Defender in the book being shot before the first issue is shipped out even if I do think that this book is at least trying to have some good intentions.
Frost: Oh yeah! So Jessica was shot. And her and Luke are married? Is that canon?
Jones: It happened about ten years ago and has been an extremely important plot point ever since, very cool that Bendis and Marvel editorial has committed to that. After this conversation, would you recommend a buy, browse or skip? Tell the millions of Marvel Rundown readers what they’ve been dying to hear!
Frost: Always the trickiest part of the review, because on the one hand, I see your point about it not being not being a perfect comic. On the other hand, I think a lot of people like me who might be approaching it for the first time and might want to check out what’s happening on the scene. So, with all that in mind, this is a strong BROWSE.
Jones: As for me, I’m going to stick to the solo Daredevil series and pop in on this once in awhile. I’m definitely going to be looking at the art in each issue. I’m just bummed that I feel this way about this comic, these are some of my favorite characters in the Marvel Universe period and while I had a strong feeling this wouldn’t live up to my expectations, I didn’t expect to be quite so disappointed. There are so many Marvel ongoings that I would point readers to before this book. If you are just buying it for the David Marquez and Justin Ponsor art, more power to you. Any last words on this AJ?
Props to Marvel for their Jack Kirby variant cover! I thought that was pretty groovy!
And these action figure variant covers need to end!
Jones: No comment on variant covers. I don’t really buy anything physically anymore due to space/financial concerns. Anyways that’s it for The Marvel Rundown this week!
Next week there’s a Hulk/X-Men crossover debut that we’ll cover next to Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man–now if you’ll excuse me, AJ and I are going duke it out over who gets the Spider-Man title to cover next week!