As the titles for Marvel NOW! were announced, there were very few shockers. The roster for Thunderbolts was a big surprise, as well as a solo Morbius series, but the one that stood out the most from all the others was The Fearless Defenders. Now, "The Defenders" moniker has been in Marvel comics for some time, but where this differs from previous entries is both the added adjective and the roster: it's all women.
To uninitiated readers, there are no familiar faces in this comic. Its sole focus is on characters that don't get to be in the spotlight a lot and after you read this you wonder why, but don't worry, you don't need to know anything about the Marvel universe to be able to follow along. Misty Knight and Valkyrie take center stage in the series and their polar opposite dynamic is what makes this such a unique team. Bunn establishes the characters with ease and lets us see all we need to know about them without bogging down on excessive prose. He also introduces the plot in a manner that doesn't seem far-fetched (as far as comics go) and is very easy to follow.
I've complained many times about comics being written 'for the trade' wherein the single issues feel incomplete, because they're all being written so you should read it all in one sitting. While the serialized nature of comics would lead you to believe the single issue format is the best way to read them, graphic novels and trade paperbacks have effectively killed that, and Fearless Defenders does comic book storytelling right. While the threads of the series' plot begin here, it also has a story that is quite self-contained. Based on the vibe I get from this series, you won't have to read every issue to be fully aware of the plot, but it won't hurt to have it all. The 'big story' for this arc seems like it will be getting bigger and bigger with each issue with shorter character building stories leading up to the climax. I wish more comics were written like this.
The artwork in this comic is very interesting. More often than not each panel is pretty stellar, especially the action sequences, but a handful of the panels feature some really distorted figure pieces that make you do a double take. Other than the occasional 'Her leg can do that?' there's nothing short of good here. The style that artist Will Sliney has is really unlike anything else I've seen in a Marvel book lately. There's a better emphasis on the environment the characters are in here and it really helps in the various transitions from place to place. Some scenes take place on the ocean in the rain and some in the forest and the the artwork coupled with the coloring (done by Veronica Gandini) does a fantastic job of capturing the mood of those environments.
I remember when I saw the roster for The Fearless Defenders I thought, 'I bet it'll be great, but I think it will be the first one to get cancelled.' I really want to be wrong, because it's a good series that offers a look at corners of the Marvel Universe that you're not going to get in the other comics. If you want to be up on the really obscure things happening in mainstream comics, this is for you.
Rating: 8 / 10
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