Comics Review: "The Fearless Defenders" #1
- by Señor Editor, 8 February 2013
Lately, after giving the spotlight to some DC titles (and a whole lot of old Batman comics) last year, we've been dipping our toes in the whole Marvel NOW thing, writing about some good books and some bad books the company's been putting out. There's been quite a few new series coming out under the NOW banner, and this week saw the release of a new "ongoing" Defenders title - "The Fearless Defenders" by Cullen Bunn and Will Sliney. There's a reason why "ongoing" was in quotation marks.
First thing you'll notice when picking up "Fearless Defenders" is that there's only one established Defender present, and that's Valkyrie. The first issue is basically a team-up between her and the hero-for-hire Misty Knight. Before I talk some more about that, let's get the plot out of the way.
We start with Valkyrie looking at the sea and witnessing an "ill omen" - it's raining blood on her face! Bad things are about to happen. Meanwhile, somewhere on the Atlantic Ocean, Misty Knight is infiltrating a ship that's carrying some priceless viking artifacts. She also flexes her butt cheeks a whole lot. Look at this pose she does on pages 3 and 4 (she does it 2 or 3 times more later on in the same issue):
Look at that. These are panels that happen pretty much one after another, within 2 pages. And this is pretty much Misty's default pose in this comic. She strikes these poses all the time and it doesn't look hot or anything. Because this is sequential art, it makes it seem like she actually moves in that pose. If I was on a bus and saw somebody getting on and striking these poses I'd give them my seat.
Anyway, she beats these people up, grabs a little statue and a helicopter appears, with a Ms. (Morgana?) LeFay on board. Rockets are launched and Misty jumps ship with the statue and takes it to an archeology dig in White Mountain National Forest. There, her friend Dr. Annabelle Riggs (another snappy little caption appears, with her name and the info that she "grew up watching a lot of Indiana Jones") makes a break in digging up viking stuff to examine the statue Misty brought. The statue starts making weird music, that in turn reanimates all the dead viking corpses. But fear not, cause that's the cue for Misty Knight's bad ass to do it's thing, and her bionic arm to start punching vikings!
Also, this is where Valkyrie comes back, riding into battle on her pegasus, Aragorn. The dead vikings are made dead yet again real quick, when Valkyrie destroys the statue that brought them to life. Also, she saves Annabelle, which prompts a kiss from the geeky archeologist and another caption for her:
Listen, I know this was supposed to be a funny, quirky thing and all, but it falls flat and seems stupid. What doesn't help, is that Mr. Bunn probably doesn't remember when a few years ago, in "Uncanny X-Men" #501 by Ed "I'm a very talented writer given a watered-down franchise and a crappy artist to work with" Brubaker and Greg "I trace everything from porn, probably using my left hand, but people can depend on me doing my job fast, so I'm still around" Land. There, Brubaker used the same "joke" in the same exact introductory type of caption for Karma, and part of the internet objected to it as a bad joke and a case of character being defined solely by her homosexuality. So it's not even original and it just gives me a flashback to that old, equally bad comicbook.
Anyway, the battle is over fast and Valkyrie says she has to go meet the gods that are behind all this crap, and naturaly Misty and her buddy will tag along for the ride. End of plot recap.
I never do this, but before I reviewed this issue, I checked out a random review of it on the internet. It was a positive review, pretty much saying "Good job!" and mentioning that Bunn and Sliney will have some problems with keeping this book on the market. Well, that's putting it lightly. I will be really surprised if this book ever reaches 12 issues. This could just as well be called "The Soon-To-Be-Cancelled Defenders".
Let's forget the fact that there were about 6 attempts at reviving The Defenders as an ongoing series in the last decade and none of them lasted more than a year. Let's even forget that so far there is no Defenders to speak of in this book. After all, Defenders were never an official team and their roster kept changing. Let's talk about the cast we got here.
We've got Valkyrie, who's been around for probably something like 40 years, always being a supporting character or team-filler at best. There were a lot of different people taking up the Valkyrie mantle over the years and I can't remember any of their names. Sure, she probably has some sort of fanbase, but that fanbase is small and always has been. This is a character nobody knows what to do with, pretty much.
Then we have Misty Knight. Don't get me wrong here - I think it's great that Misty Knight exists, because Marvel doesn't have many female superheroes, let alone female African American superheroes, and there were instances where somebody was using her in a good way. That said, Misty Knight as a headliner is something that never works. She's another character that's 40 years old and man, does that show. Luke Cage stopped wearing his disco shirt and tiara and moved on to become one of the popular and cool Marvel characters. Misty Knight still looks like a poor man's Pam Grier, 40 years after "Foxy Brown" came out. She hasn't adapted to the times at all. Take one look at her and you will see how corny and outdated her whole thing is. It's the opposite of cool. Sure, a good writer and a good artist could bring Misty Knight into the 2010s, make her a relevant, cool and badass (not literally this time) character again, but apparently this creative team won't be the one to do that. Also, check out this little nugget of Misty Knight dialogue:
And - SPOILER - you know who will the next Defender to be introduced? Dani Moonstar! A professional secondary (if even that) character, if there ever was one. So yeah, no offense to all the devoted Dani Moonstar fans, but this isn't exactly a spectacular roster. This is "Marvel's Leftovers" team. The "Currently Not Used by Anybody, We Think" team. The "We Had to Do Research for 8 Hours to Check if These Are Currently Alive" team. You get the idea. Apparently there's gonna be a lot of unexpected special guests in the next issues, but I'm not sure it's gonna change anything.
I wanted this book to be good. I have nothing against the creators here, and I know how hard it is for these low-profile books to avoid getting cancelled. I've been a big supporter of many "little comics that could" that ended up getting the axe despite telling some great stories. This book isn't one of them. This wasn't even supposed to be a Defenders book at first, but it ended up being changed to one, for marketing reasons, I guess.
When you get the only team on Marvel that doesn't have Wolverine on it, and your main characters are Misty Knight and Valkyrie, then you damn better put your best foot forward as fast as you can. This is one of the most forgettable new series Marvel ever released. I wish I was wrong, and after a bad start this book will suddenly become everything it could be, but I think it will be too late then. The first impression was already made, nothing new was shown, and something that could be a good book with many female heroes that were just gathering dust before, will ultimately end up cancelled within a year.
It's nice that Marvel tries new things, because they sure as hell need more new things (or just good things, like "Hawkeye" or "Daredevil", for example) but this isn't a new thing. This is a wasted opportunity.
So... Not very good, was it? Did you pick up "Fearless Defenders #1" this week? Would you care to comment on the book or the review? Leave your comments below!