Matt Fraction completed his run on The Defenders this week, and while I enjoyed the heck out of these twelve issues, I can’t help but feel the series wasn’t done justice. Don’t get me wrong – I recommend this series strongly and the issue itself is not especially bad, it’s just that it has the task of concluding a lot of big ideas in a satisfactory way. The score I put at the end of this review is a reflection of how the series worked as a whole instead of just this issue on it’s own.
Looking back, this series has just done a spectacular job of assembling the weird and wonderful parts of Marvel. There are precious few other books with ensemble casts as diverse as Defenders, but it’s not quite enough to just throw together a bunch of characters. Fraction knows how to truly capitalize on the characters by accentuating their colourful differences. The Defenders consist of an ex-Sorcerer Supreme, a she-hulk, a thief, a super-spy, the king of the seas, a master of mystical kung fu, a cosmic space angel and a man who can talk to ants. The book takes every opportunity to remind you of the sheer variety of characters and their backgrounds. The gruff Nick Fury, the Noble Silver Surfer and the Arrogant Namor – everyone shines here, making up for the somewhat awkward balancing that we saw in the early issues.
The Defenders have long since been one of my favourite superhero teams, because their purpose is to unite and explore all of the weirdest corners of the Marvel Universe. It’s not easy to balance elements of a story that are related to cosmic energies, mysticism, intrigue and super-science, but issue 12 delivers. The story doesn’t try to force an explosive boss battle that would be oh-so-terribly out of place in a comic like this. Instead, we get a resolution that is subtle, personal and meaningful, if just a little lacking in substance. I don’t know if Fraction had intended further issues for this arc, but it all feels a bit rushed. An awful lot is left up to off-panel events and it would have been nice to have more light shed on them. Overall though, the ending will leave you mostly satisfied. However, some characters feel like they should have had a slightly bigger role in the final issue. Usually this comic juggles the team well, but I wish I could have heard more from Black Cat in these last few issues since she has been so exceptionally fun and well-written in this series. I would have like Scott Lang to have played a larger part in general, but at least we’ll see plenty of him in Fraction’s upcoming FF.
The art has stepped up in gravitas this issue, with a lot of intense lighting and heavy shadows. Though Mirco Pierfederici’s style lends itself quite nicely to the grand, sweeping set-pieces and wide-screen paneling, it doesn’t suit close-ups well and expressions in conversation sometimes fall flat. This is nothing that really holds the comic back however, as the art grants the sense of urgency and enormity required to support the big ideas that Fraction plays with.
At the end of the day, “The Defenders” is weird and wonderful in a way that we may not see again for a long time. 9/10