I love Brian Michael Bendis’ work. There I said it.
This guy gets a lot of hate. It’s somewhat understandable. He has a very distinct Whedon-esque writing style. He relies a lot on humor and one-liners, most of his characters are smartasses, and he has been writing big established comics like The Avengers, Invincible Iron Man, and Spider-Man for over a decade now. He’s far removed from his pseudo-indie darling days when he wrote Alias.
His work has always appealed to me though. I like the humor, because he can balance it out with an apt level of seriousness. It’s nice to keep things from getting too grim, and the one-liners are a good remedy for that.
I’m going to show my youth here, but I grew up with Bendis’ Avengers. I started reading mainstream “adult” comics around the first Civil War, and I’ve been following the Avengers’ exploits ever since. A lot of my favorite characters, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, Spider Woman, Ms. Marvel (Carol Danvers), Hawkeye, Jessica Jones, and Mockingbird were first introduced to me in Bendis’ post-Civil War Avengers comic. The humor, the camaraderie, and the dedication of that team really attracted me to them.
The obvious similarities to Whedon’s movies and television have always struck me has funny. Joss Whedon gets a lot of deserved praise for his talents as a director. Meanwhile, that same audience will turn and condemn Bendis for being the death of the comics industry or some such like that. I get that he has a cocky persona when dealing with the public, but is that worthy of the hate he has received? I don’t think so.
With the new iteration of the Defenders, Bendis return to a lot of his favorite characters, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, and Daredevil. The obvious marketing ploy in putting this team together in comics in time for the Netflix series does put a slightly sour taste in my mouth. However, these are four of Marvel’s greatest heroes as far as I’m concerned, so I can’t complain too much.
The first issue gets straight to the conflict, with a returned Diamondback laying siege to our four main heroes. He is setting up a new criminal venture and begins it with shooting Jessica Jones, attacking Daredevil in his Matt Murdock identity, trying to blow up Luke Cage, and trying to put Iron Fist six feet under. The four heroes unite to meet this threat and begin searching for Diamonback.
The Luke Cage love shown by using one of his classic rogues is not lost on me, and it’s appreciated. Cutting to the chase by starting the book with its first conflict as opposed to a lengthy setup is also clever tactic that I’m surprised more comic writers don’t use.
Uniting the heroes through the exploits of the antagonist is a nice callback to the origins of both the original Defenders as well as the Avengers themselves. While Diamondback isn’t exactly Loki or the Undying Ones, he is an appropriate foe for this street-level asskicker lineup. It’s a little surprising that they didn’t go with Wilson Fisk (other than not wanting to include Spider-Man), but Diamondback is still an excellent choice.
David Marquez is an excellent artist, balancing a classic superhero style and a noir look for this comic. This is aided by Justin Ponsor using colors that circulate around purple, making things dark but not Batman dark (thank goodness).
A nice touch is the entry scenes for each of the four characters. Each gets a big title card and a background showing the pivotal moments of their history. It looks really cool, and it gives each of the four heroes some nice fan-fare.
There are plenty of the trademark Bendis one-liners and humor, the best scene being Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, and Daredevil carrying on a conversation while Daredevil beats the tar out of some schmucks in a bar with Danny saying, “I think this is more for him at this point.” They work really well, and I got a good laugh out of it.
The main caveat, which I’m not sure whether or not it will be fixed by the final version, is the omission of the attacks on the four Defenders themselves. The comic opens up on the missile being shot at Luke Cage, and the attacks on the other three, including the dramatic shooting of Jessica Jones, are not included. This will be confusing for those who haven’t gotten the preview of this story, and it’s not really fair to leave them in the dark on this even if the preview is free, especially since they paid for your five-dollar book.
If that is fixed, this will be just about a perfect first issue. The action is non-stop but paced well. The characters are lovable, and the art is fantastic. Pick this one up when it comes out.
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