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Defenders: Beyond
Marvel Comics

Comic Books

‘Defenders: Beyond’ TPB review

The latest entry in Ewing and Rodriguez’s Defenders saga is just as weird, fascinating, and fun as the first volume.

Al Ewing and cosmic Marvel, name a more interesting combo. 

Springing from the minds of Al Ewing and Javier Rodriguez, and following up on threads and themes from the Defenders: There Are No Rules miniseries, Defenders: Beyond picks up with a different but similarly colorful cast of costumed heroes on a mission of cosmic proportions. Combining Ewing’s love for deep-cut lore with Rodriguez’s strikingly stylized graphics, the five-issue miniseries is a delight from start to finish, despite the ending feeling more like the prelude to the next chapter in Ewing’s Defenders run of stories.

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Mild SPOILERS AHEAD for Defenders: Beyond!

The Writing

Unshackled by the status quo and constraints of more popular characters, Ewing is able to spin a most entertaining yarn involving characters that are either of tangential importance to the larger Marvel universe, or whose entire deal is at least somewhat connected to the cosmic landscape (if not both). Hence, the series sees Blue Marvel, America Chavez, Taaia, Loki (taking form most fluidly), Tigra, and the Beyonder (!) tumbling through the many cosmoses in search of an enemy to Eternity, i.e. all of reality.

As many of these are characters that Ewing has written before, the voices and roles are clearly defined, fitting easily into comparative pairs. Adam and America can be seen as a seasoned, level-headed leader and his also-seasoned-but-headstrong-and-impulsive teammate/mentee. Taaia seeks to change a past that is seemingly set in stone, while Loki dodges a future that cannot be escaped. The Beyonder is a godlike entity saddled with a childlike understanding of the universe it inhabits, an ultimately impotent combination outside of extreme cases. Tigra is a literal cat person, but she doesn’t let that stop her from being not only an Avenger, but a mother to her child. These contrasting lives play off of one another in interesting ways throughout the pages.

Defenders: Beyond
Marvel Comics

Ewing’s artful weaving and referencing of previous bits of continuity, whether directly connected or disparately scattered, is in full effect here. This is all the more apparent due to the scale of the series, which sees our group facing down conceptual entities from across the universes; without giving the bigger reveals away, the likes of Galactus makes a brief appearance, though his presence is far from the most exciting scene (though it is exciting, more on that later).

Outside of telling its own story, however, issue #4 in particular stands out as a meta-commentary, both on Marvel Comics as a whole and the in-universe histories that inform our heroes. By both exploring the perils of wish-fulfillment in alternate lives and reinforcing the value of exploring “the mystery”, Ewing allows (some of) the characters to experience a little cathartic growth. In the same pen or keystroke, he derides that anyone could “fix” a character’s story with their specific vision of what a character should be, and that constant attempts to do so only further erode what the essence of the character is. Or perhaps I’m reading into it too much, and Ewing just happened to write a pretty stellar “tempt-the-heroes” story. You’ll have to read to find out.

The only negative I can think of for the whole package was already mentioned in my review of issue #5, that being the transitory nature of the ending. Where the first Defenders mini ended in a satisfying way that tied it up as a self-contained adventure, the big reveal of this volume’s final chapter feels more like the groundwork being laid for the next Defenders outing. While I don’t blame Ewing for teeing up the next threat, I am anxious to see if it will be realized, as a third Defenders series has yet to be announced. Ultimately, my enjoyment of this volume may retroactively change should there be a proper conclusion.

The Art

Truly, I have very few notes for this portion. Javier Rodriguez excels across all five issues of this book. Every panel is bursting with definition and color, using the lack of space as much as he fills it, particularly how the panels themselves are framed within the pages. From start to finish, Rodriguez renders the disorientation of being flung across dimensions, the wonder and horror of gazing on places outside Eternity, the clashing of primordial forces, and all manner of weirdness.

Oh, and that panel of Galactus I mentioned earlier?

Defenders: Beyond
Courtesy of Marvel Comics. Art by Javier Rodriguez

Nasty work. I love it. 

If the consistency of this artwork is the price that has to be paid for not having a Defenders ongoing with this creative team, then I can’t even be mad. Every panel is brimming with details; every ink dot shadow, every rippling muscle, every flash of energy, all look incredible in Rodriguez’s own stylized fashion.

The Verdict

Though the ending leaves something to be desired, I still recommend this for those in the market for a Marvel book that’s a little out there (there are more than enough easter eggs to make the whole thing worth it). In-universe, if you’re looking for something that might scratch the same itch as Ewing’s runs on Guardians or Ultimates, Defenders: Beyond may be your speed. In real life, if you are a fan of stories building on the groundwork laid by the distant and recent past, and stories that will directly reference that expansion as part of the plot, knowing that it’s meta-commentary and having it play out anyway, then you will probably enjoy it as well. Perhaps it might even go…beyond your expectations. Ha. 

Defenders: Beyond
‘Defenders: Beyond’ TPB review
Defenders: Beyond
The latest entry in Ewing and Rodriguez's Defenders saga is just as weird, fascinating, and fun as the first volume.
Reader Rating1 Votes
Ewing is in his element with these characters
Awesome illustrations from Rodriguez
Deftly utilized elements of continuity and lore
A fun time throughout...
...despite having to set up the *next* big thing for the series
Buy Now

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