REVIEW: ‘Defenders,’ Issue #1

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Defenders #1 - But Why Tho

Defenders #1 is a comic published by Marvel. Written by Al Ewing with art by Javier Rodríguez. The colourist is Álvaro López and the letters are by Joe Caramagna.

Meditating in his Sanctum Sanctorum, Doctor Strange finds an unwanted visitor entering his headquarters. This is a new Masked Raider, wielding the mask containing remnants of Eternity. After a quick bout, the Raider requests the help of the Sorceror Supreme in hunting a man who understands both science and magic across time and dimensions. With little time to prepare, Strange hastily throws a group of allies together and brings them on a dangerous temporal adventure.

This comic sets up the concept brilliantly. It expands the scale of the story slowly, starting with a confrontation between two people before leading into the universe-crossing, time-traveling danger that they must prevent. This allows the readers to settle and understand the tone of the book before their minds are blown. The pace suddenly speeds up towards the end of the comic and the sheer chaos that unfolds may cause confusion. Part of this appears to be intentional by Ewing, as many of the characters themselves have no idea what is happening either. The magic in Defenders #1 is extravagant and the rules within this universe are made clear. The first destination on this journey is very unexpected and suggests that this series will be mindblowing in its scale.

As a team, it is difficult to see how this group will function yet. This is due to many of the members not appearing until late in the issue. But the different characters involved creates a fascinating mixture of both the magical aspects of the Marvel Universe and the cosmic abstract entities that have unfathomable power. Having Doctor Strange, this new Masked Raider, Silver Surfer, and more involved is a brilliant group with huge potential. A great factor of the Defenders as a team is that they are regularly hastily brought together, not really a coherent team. The start of this series seems reminiscent of that classic concept.

The dialogue is very well written. The narration is from the viewpoint of Doctor Strange, and Ewing captures his voice brilliantly. There is a poetic, grandiose nature to the captions, but a fantastic element of the script is that everything is explained as it happens. As spells are cast and magical items are introduced, Strange reveals their power.

The art is superb and pivotal to the storytelling within Defenders #1. Rodríguez’s art style when depicting the sci-fi and magical aspects inside this comic seems to pay tribute to the masters that came before him. The flowing lines during the sorcery seem to pay homage to Steve Ditko’s wonderful craftsmanship, whilst the cosmic elements instantly create flashbacks of Kirby’s creations. But it is important to state that the artist’s work is individual and iconic within itself. The rounded design of the characters, notably visible with Silver Surfer and Cloud, are key techniques of this creator. 

There is so much narrative detail presented by Rodríguez, pieces that can tell the story without any text to explain. The history of the Masked Raider’s mask is unveiled in the steam from a cup of tea. It is moments like this that demonstrate that this comic will be a visual delight.

The colours are just as crucial to the identity of this comic as the line art. This is a book filled with chaotic visuals, either by magic or cosmic design. López adapts and alters the palette for each of these, making each spell unique. Not only that, but the textures appear to shift as spells are conjured and planes of existence are altered. Each page seems to have a new and fascinating set of shades and tones for the reader to explore.

The lettering is very good. The yellow background with red text for the caption boxes is striking and easy to read against the busy panels. Italics are used often for spell and item names, but their legibility isn’t affected.

Defenders #1 is a great start to an epic adventure. Ewing is the best writer around in regards to crafting a tale with the scale that this one has. There are a lot of factors at play. And the small cast allows the comic to be swamped by the magnitude of its settings. This is a book that revels in both magical grandiosity and universal majesty, and Rodríguez makes both look absolutely stunning.

Defenders #1 is available where comics are sold.

Defenders #1
4.5

TL;DR

Defenders #1 is a great start to an epic adventure. Ewing is the best writer around in regards to crafting a tale with the scale that this one has. There are a lot of factors at play. And the small cast allows the comic to be swamped by the magnitude of its settings. This is a book that revels in both magical grandiosity and universal majesty, and Rodríguez makes both look absolutely stunning.