In Al Ewing and Javier Rodríguez’s Defenders, the whole of reality is threatened, leading to Doctor Strange and the Masked Raider reforming one of Marvel’s strangest teams in a desperate attempt to save time as we know it!
Fans of previous Defenders volumes will likely love how this issue pulls ideas and characters from other iterations of the team. The way this is done is also surprising, as it more or less takes the usual tactic of meticulous planning away from Strange. The narration introducing each member is poetic and dramatic, going a long way towards selling this as the most important mission they’ve ever had.
To put it lightly, Javier Rodríguez draws the hell out of every inch of this book, imbuing every image with a sense of cosmic importance. Rodríguez also is clearly having a lot of fun with page layouts here. One particular highlight is the sequence in which the Masked Raider’s origin story is recounted as a series of billowing clouds that form the major players, all superimposed over Doctor Strange’s face.
The color choices throughout are striking as well. A fight in the Astral Plane is rendered with stark grays and blues, making the characters into ghostly outlines that still seem to hit like a ton of bricks. The “recruitment” scene is full of vibrant color choices, particularly in the moment when Silver Surfer makes his first appearance, tearing through reality on his board.
Much like a lot of Ewing’s other work, there is an attention to detail when it come to the continuity and this story’s place in the wider Marvel multiverse. That makes sense, considering the fact that time itself is at stake here. Stephen Strange and the Masked Raider are already running out of it by the time they begin pulling teammates from the ether, and where they end up at the close of this issue will have fans of cosmic Marvel very intrigued.
However, that means that this is A LOT of comic. Just about every page is packed with dense references and exposition regarding previous storylines and intricate lore dating back to the birth of time in the Marvel Universe, as well as a few lines that seem to reference other touchstones in fantasy storytelling (did I catch a Last Unicorn reference?). There are also a few moments that feel like you’re reading a Marvel sourcebook, rather than seeing Stephen confirming to another character a bit of information they’re both already privy to. This first issue can be pretty difficult to follow at points, even for fans who eat up this kind of love for continuity. Even so, I get the feeling that this will be an issue that rewards those who read it more than once.
With all of the setup and heavy lifting of this first issue out of the way, the stage is set for a miniseries in which the possibilities are endless. Even though this debut issue left me feeling like I had missed something a few times, I’m very excited to see what’s next.
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