Thursday, 8 December 2011

New Beginnings - The Defenders #1

1971 saw a few things in the word happening. Qatar and Sierra Leone gained their independence from Great Britain, Nasdaq opened and the United Kingdom and Ireland changed to decimalisation.

Amongst these events, in December, Marvel launched a new almost ad hoc team built of outsiders known as The Defenders.

Now 40 years on, Matt Fraction has revived the team once more.

The original line up was Dr Strange, Hulk, Namor and Silver Surfer (although the Surfer was added slightly after its inception) and has also had a variety of additional members to the squad and this new issues mirrors that. Fraction’s line up takes a lot from this but also adds a couple of twists such as Red She-Hulk (Betty Ross) - instead of Hulk - and Iron Fist.

The story opens in a promising way, picking up on a piece of the recent Fear Itself arc. Nul, the Breaker of Worlds had been released upon the world and is going to create havoc as the embodiment of rage. After an image of destruction it then randomly changes to an irrelevant page of a postcoital Stephen Strange. I’m sure this must have some impact later down the line but until then I remain wondering. For me, this is how the rest of the issue then went.

If it were not for reading the epilogues in Fear Itself #7 then I wouldn’t have really understood the arrival of the Hulk, except for another random occurrence. Even so the appearance also felt out of sorts as the depiction and demeanour of Hulk, in comparison to the recent new beginning; it's so different that given the dialogue alone you’d be hard to not think of a number of other heroes that it could have been.

The remainder of the issue is then dedicated mainly to the recruitment of the team by Strange alongside a snippet of storyline which tries to develop towards the end. After such a loose build up the final scenes and cliffhanger ending just didn’t have much impact.

Normally I’m a big fan of Matt Fraction and his writing but on this occasion I really think that the mark has been missed. I didn’t feel that engaged and at some points confused. Terry Dodson’s artwork can be quite heavy without too much detail which gives it a similar look in parts to cartoons you’d find on a kids' channel, contradictory to some sexually based scenes giving yet another conflicted feel to it.

On a positive note, the colour work by Rachel Dodson, is full of energy and lifts the frames keeping them feeling open.

I try to be open to most things, especially first issues, but I’m afraid that this hasn’t hit a chord with me. I have come to expect more from Fraction but I’m also saying this from a point of view that doesn’t really know these characters in depth. There could be more to this that I’m missing but I haven’t yet found the hook I need to keep me looking for more.

Matt Puddy gives this one Nul points.

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