Playing Defense

The Defenders #1

“The Defenders” has always seemed like a weird series — never a sales leader, never remarked upon much within the Marvel Universe itself, mainly kept going as a tribute to fan nostalgia. Don’t know if that’ll change this time, but Marvel has resurrected the title again, this time with Matt Fraction as the writer and Terry Dodson handling the art chores.

We start out with a vast number of bad omens and badly-timed coincidences plaguing the planet, while Dr. Strange wraps up a quickly regretted one-night-stand with a coed. He divines some vague sense of bad things on the horizon just before he gets a visit from the Hulk — not a raging monster this time, the Hulk is fairly calm and intelligent these days. They quickly assemble the classic Defenders team — Dr. Strange, the Hulk, Namor, and the Silver Surfer — and the Hulk tells them he wants the hammer that turned him into Nul, Breaker of Worlds during the “Fear Itself” crossover destroyed. Only problem is that Hulk refuses to come along to help — he doesn’t want it taking him over again. So the rest of the Defenders go recruiting…

After adding Betty Ross, the Hulk’s ex-wife and current Red She-Hulk, and Iron Fist to their roster, the team tracks Nul to Wundagore Mountain, home of the High Evolutionary. About the time they make it to Wundagore, something blows their plane out of the sky, and Iron Fist gets shot in the chest. This is not an auspicious beginning for the group, is it?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Nice characterization and dialogue for everyone, though I deeply dislike the Silver Surfer’s extremely pale word balloons. I love the art, but that’s to be expected for anything done by Terry Dodson. Looking forward to future issues of this one.

Justice League International #4

The JLI has been subdued by underground gremlins underneath the giant robot Sentrymen, and Guy Gardner stumbles onto the mastermind behind all the chaos, an interstellar despot called Peraxxus. He reveals to the team that he intends to use the Sentrymen to smash the Earth into bits so he can harvest the mineral wealth of the planet. The team manages to escape confinement, but will they be able to stop Peraxxus or keep him from destroying the world?

Verdict: I believe I’ll thumbs this one down. The thing that bugged me all the way through this issue is that everyone worries over and over that if the JLI fails, there’s no one to stop the end of the world. But gee, shouldn’t the regular Justice League, the one with Superman and Wonder Woman and the Flash and Green Lantern, have stepped in and wrapped this all up by now?

Static Shock #4

Okay, I said I was done with this one, but I keep seeing preview covers that make me want to read it, and I keep feeling like there are some very interesting things going on here, so I guess I’m sticking with it for a while longer.

Static gets stuck fighting someone called Guillotina who works for the mob boss Piranha. He wants a mad scientist called Doctor Nemo to create an army of metahumans to fight Static. Meanwhile, we learn some of the secrets of Piranha’s lieutenant, a Joker lookalike called the Pale Man, and we get a few more insights into the problem of Virgil Hawkins’ sister, Sharon, whose clone is so similar to her that no one is able to tell them apart.

Verdict: Thumbs down. Mainly because there’s so much superhero stuff going on — and not nearly enough focus on the stuff that’s really interesting: Sharon and her clone, the Pale Man’s background, and the mystery of who Guillotina is. The subplots here are vastly more interesting than the main plot.

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