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Defenders: Beyond #5
Marvel Comics

Comic Books

‘Defenders: Beyond’ #5 is a fittingly weird, contemplative conclusion

It seems like there are no real simple solutions to be found here.

Al Ewing and Javier Rodriguez deliver us the final chapter of their latest journey through Marvel history and cosmology in Defenders: Beyond #5, bringing the adventure of Blue Marvel, Tigra, Loki, Taaia, and Miss America to a close in fittingly weird fashion, while also alluding to a looming future threat.

MILD SPOILERS for Defenders: Beyond #5!

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Fans of Al Ewing’s previous work will be in for a treat from the first page, as references to the likes of Loki: Agent of Asgard, Avengers: No Road Home, and The Immortal Hulk (as well as other titles featuring the involved characters *not* written by Ewing) are peppered throughout the pages; these serve as a testament to Ewing’s attention to detail and reverence for the storied (ha) history of Marvel’s 80+ years of comic publications. In addition, Ewing continues to give each character a distinct voice, drawing on the Miss America/Blue Marvel dynamic originally found in Ultimates, Ewing’s familiarity with Loki through various outings, and the groundwork laid by both the previous Defenders miniseries, which saw the introduction of Taaia, and previous issues of Beyond, which established the presences of the Beyonder and Tigra.

On the other side of that coin, though my enjoyment of this issue was not diminished by not having read Agent of Asgard and some of Ewing’s other works, the references made (and the accompanying esoterica of more “high-concept” Marvel stories) may be disorienting to some readers, if they aren’t outright lost on them.

'Defenders: Beyond' #5 is a fittingly weird, contemplative conclusion
Marvel Comics

What cannot be argued, however, is Javier Rodriguez’s fantastic art, rendering the interiors and inhabitants of the House of Ideas as simultaneously simple and cartoonish, yet colorful and bursting with life and character, keeping with this series’ emulation of old-school comics down to the inclusion of visible ink dots as accents to many characters and panels. This is not to say, however, that the art lacks detail, as Rodriguez’s use of shadows gives the minimally-stylized characters a great deal of definition and depth. In particular, page 20 showcases a creative implementation of panels, as the Beyonder quite literally tears at the pages to escape the constructed narrative for a universe in which he can freely exist, with the tattered pieces floating down as our heroes are returned to their respective places in the Eighth Cosmos.

As perhaps the most introspective and fat-chewing issue of a series that has been positively ponderous, not much in the way of “action” happens in this issue. Rather, both here and considering the series as a whole, Ewing and Rodriguez invite readers to consider questions like:

  • What is above/beyond God?
  • Can we shake free the bonds of our past? Or the fates that may or may not await us?
  • What is the nature of choice? Do our choices matter? Do we even choose or are our choices already made for us?
  • Further, can anyone truly be free? Can all be made free, with enough time?

Perhaps I am reading into the story too much, or perhaps it is better to embrace the absence of final answers. Either way, it seems like there are no real simple solutions to be found here, other than that the story (of the Defenders and, on a meta-textual level, of us) will continue, and the Defenders will be ready and waiting to face the “crown above all things”.

P.S. Ewing mentions in his end letter that he is aware of the impermanent nature of comics books; that is, eventually, just as he has built upon the foundations laid by writers before him, there will be writers that come after him that may or may not disregard his contributions to the greater story of Marvel. I find this both sad and inspiring, as Ewing’s commitment to both swinging for the fences in regards to “out-there” concepts and storytelling, as well as his consideration of the past and future in creating his “present” in a given story is truly remarkable, even if he knows it may not last and may eventually be forgotten.

Defenders: Beyond #5
‘Defenders: Beyond’ #5 is a fittingly weird, contemplative conclusion
Defenders: Beyond #5
Despite feeling somewhat like a step towards a larger story, 'Defenders: Beyond' #5 serves as a fittingly weird and contemplative conclusion to this latest miniseries.
Reader Rating2 Votes
Character voices are on point across the board
Rodriguez's art continues to be a delight
Weirdness abounds
Subtle and blatant references to Ewing's previous work in the dialogue and visuals
Ewing encourages readers to embrace the mystery...
...though more questions are raised than answered
Some references may be lost on readers who have not read Ewing's full catalog
Makes the series feel like more of an incremental entry rather than a true finale (particularly since we don't know if there will be another Defenders miniseries)
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