The Al Ewing train never stops rolling! Last week, it was his Guardians of the Galaxy annual. This week, it’s his long-awaited (by me, at least) Defenders mini, picking up on the thread laid out by his contributions to the milestone (cough) Marvel Comics #1000. What’s the Masked Raider’s deal? What does any of it have to do with Doctor Strange! Pick the issue up and find out!
You’ll get all this and more in the Rapid Rundown section, all ahead on this week’s edition of the Marvel Rundown!
Storytelling by Al Ewing and Javier Rodriguez
Inks by Alvaro Lopez with Javier Rodriguez
Letters by Joe Caramagna
Remember all that well-deserved criticism towards Marvel’s frankly kinda pathetic attempt at getting in on the big anniversary action with Marvel Comics #1000? Well, the other big takeaway from that comic was the Masked Raider, a character I forgot existed until I saw the cover to this issue. I think all the controversy coloured my perception of that original issue because the Masked Raider seems… kind of interesting? At least in a dumb, pulpy way. I’m just in no mood to read all two-thousand pages of MC #1000 to confirm that. In any case, this is more of a Doctor Strange story than anything else which should get any Al Ewing fan excited.
Ewing brings such a confidence and gravitas to Strange, and makes him out to be a much more mystical and supernatural person than recent appearances would suggest. All of this is brought to life by the always amazing Javier Rodriguez, one of the best artists working in comics today, who populates his pages with immense detail, fun and diverse panel arrangements and layouts, and — that word again — confident storytelling.
So much of this issue involves gathering the various members of the team, which Strange does using these awesome magical tarot cards that have a very heavy cost when used. It’s an unlikely and curious team, which under Ewing’s pen will do no less than completely rock for the rest of this series.
Interestingly, this is Ewing’s second go-around with the Defenders, though the line-ups are a little different. The first version was a series of one-shots featuring members of the team with another issue teaming them up together to fight the big bad. It was a bit diminished by most of the one-shots setting up future stories (Donny Cates’ Guardians of the Galaxy, Chip Zdarsky’s Invaders), but what this incarnation of Defenders has going for it is Ewing’s bombastic storytelling sensibilities now that he’s in the lead, and of course Rodriguez’s artwork. It also feels, despite how grand the threat seems, relatively standalone — exasperated by the fact that I’m pretty sure the Masked Raider is Ewing’s story and Ewing’s story alone. I haven’t seen any reference to him in any comic since that anniversary issue. The history of Marvel in particular plays a key role in the overall Raider story and, without spoiling anything, so does this issue.
Final Verdict: BUY. With confidence. This issue is gorgeous and has some stunning writing, with an exciting concept that’s only going to get crazier as the series moves along.
- Avengers Tech-On #1
- After jumping in mid-stream to the surprise joy that was the Avengers Mech Strike miniseries, I thought I’d get on the Avengers: Tech-On train from the start. I generally like Jim Zub‘s writing, and he’s got a lot of heavy lifting to do in this issue to set up the premise of why the Avengers all need Iron Man armor, which he pulls off well despite a few bits of clunky dialogue. Artist Jeffrey “Chamba” Cruz‘s work is heavily manga-inspired, and brings a nice energy to the issue’s action sequences. This comic won’t change your life, but it’s an entertaining, continuity-free diversion, and sometimes that’s all I really want. —JG
- Captain Marvel #31
- In today’s collected trades market it’s rare that you get a standalone issue that gives you all of the things you look for in a comic, a mysterious objective, fast paced action and witty banter. After the events of the last few issues Captain Marvel and War Machine are romantically back together and looking to go on a much-needed vacation, but this being the Marvel universe their trip is cut short by Carol’s sister, the new Accuser Lauri. This issue makes a nice transition from the last storyline, teasing us just enough to want to know what happens next. —GC3
- Spider-Man: Spider’s Shadow #5
- In the conclusive issue to Spider’s Shadow, Chip Zdarsky, Pasqual Ferry, & Matt Hollingsworth bring the story to a close with a clever twist ending that would make O. Henry proud. While this miniseries was initially only announced as four issues in length, the story uses the additional real estate to make sure we get to check in with several members of the supporting cast in the wake of this horrifying What If…?, with perennial Zdarsky favorites J. Jonah Jameson and Johnny Storm both getting their moment to shine. Also in this issue: Reed Richards lookin’ real weird when he’s all symbiote’d out! Spider’s Shadow is a promising start for Marvel’s longer What If…? stories. —AJK
Next week, the trial of Magneto begins, and Kang!