I’m Phil. I’m seriously into comics. I’ve loved superheroes since I was a kid, I’ve been reading comics since I was about 12, and I’ve been a religious collector since 2009. I’m willing to bet I read more comic books in a month than most people do in a lifetime. My job here is to tell you all which ones I think are good each week. I’m a true believer that there’s something for everybody out there, and I want to help you find it.
By Phil Aitken
Best of the Week
Written by Matt Fraction
Art by Terry Dodson
Full disclosure, Doctor Strange, my favorite superhero ever, is a major player in this book and could even be said to be team leader, and I have been looking forward to the start of this title since its announcement over the summer. That said, Defenders is already off to a good start.
The issue opens in Bucharest, where crazy stuff is going down. Sedated psychics going crazy, people receiving phone calls from dead relatives, that kind of thing. These occurrences are attributed to a large black monster rampaging through the city.
We then see Doctor Strange as he deliberates on the events of his story in “Point One,” which I reviewed a few weeks ago. The Hulk, one of Strange’s teammates on the original Defenders, pays him a visit, asking for his help (Hulk comments in internal monologue on how it’s difficult to ask him, provided he was part of the group who decided to send Hulk into space).
Together, Strange and Hulk find the remaining half of the first Defenders team, the Atlantean King Namor and the Silver Surfer. Hulk tells them that the being that possessed him during the Fear Itself crossover, Nul, Breaker of Worlds, is on the loose and must be stopped – more specifically, killed. Hulk cannot risk it bonding with him again but directs his former comrades to Red She-Hulk for muscle. I don’t know much about Red She-Hulk other than she was once Bruce Banner’s girlfriend, Betty Ross (Bruce Banner is the puny scientist who created the Hulk. You wouldn’t like him when he’s angry). It appears she is still armed with a sword received from Thor’s people, the Asgardians, during Fear Itself to make her one of the Mighty, who turned the tide against the villain of that event.
Meanwhile, Iron Fist stops an assassination attempt on himself during a test flight of one of his company’s new planes. Doctor Strange convinces Iron Fist to let the team use it to track down Nul and lets him tag along. Their plane suddenly stops working near their destination and crash-lands, Namor catching Strange and Surfer catching Iron Fist. She-Hulk survives her fall. The team is then surrounded by an army of armed tiger men led by a man named Prester John who claims to herald the arrival of Nul and the end of the universe.
I love this book so far. The team was introduced and assembled quickly, and the dynamics between them are already starting to develop. I like the idea of them “protecting humanity from the impossible” as it says above the cover. In an interview that came alongside the announcement, Fraction said that this book will really give him a chance to explore the darker, stranger corners of the Marvel Universe, which is what appeals to me so much about old Doctor Strange comics and DC’s new Dark line. In fact, I thought Prester John was a new character, but apparently he was created waaaayyyy back in 1966 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby during their original Fantastic Four run and hasn’t seen much use since. To top it all off, Defenders is funny, and if you’ve been following this column, you know I appreciate that.
The art is smooth and slightly cartoonish, as in Justice League International over at Marvel’s Delightful Competition. The colors are bright and vivid, and I can’t wait to see how they work if things begin to get as surreal as they did during Doctor Strange’s “The Search for Eternity” story arc from not long after he was introduced (and let me tell you, that stuff makes me doubt the veracity of editor Roy Thomas’ claim that none of Marvel’s artists were on psychotropic drugs at the time – masterful, yes, but totally trippy).
So grab Defenders! Doctor Strange deserves better treatment than he’s getting from Brian Michael Bendis over in New Avengers, and Matt Fraction is giving it to him.
Other Notable Titles
Written by Rick Remender
Art by Lan Medina
Venom continues to amaze me, and this issue kicks off the new “Road Trip” story arc in which Venom heads out to Las Vegas and meets female Wolverine clone X-23, the Spirit of Vengeance Ghost Rider, and the Red Hulk.
As Venom, Flash Thompson has made enemies of third-rate Spider-Man baddie Jack O’Lantern and his boss, Crime Master. They know his secret identity and Jack has the audacity to show up to Flash’s father’s funeral to bring him to a talk with Crime Master, who tells Flash that if he doesn’t go to Las Vegas to pick up something for him, Master will kill his girlfriend, family, and friends. Flash will play Crime Master’s game for now, but once he has the symbiote with him again, he plans to kill Crime Master, Jack O’Lantern, and the rest of their chums.
After the meeting, Flash is at Project Rebirth, the base of his operations as Agent Venom. Captain America arrives to shut them down and move the symbiote under the watch of the Avengers. Flash “borrows” the symbiote to deal with the Crime Master situation, which causes Cap to chase him. Why Flash wouldn’t tell Captain America or his superiors about his meeting with Crime Master doesn’t much add up for me, as they could definitely help, but it could be attributed to the symbiote affecting his judgment.
Venom fights Captain America, thinking as he does that he will give up the symbiote after dealing with Crime Master. He knocks Cap out and steals his motorcycle, setting out for fabulous Las Vegas.
Having Flash fight one of his greatest heroes after fighting alongside him during Spider-Island is a good hook for this issue and a fine start for this new story arc. I’m looking forward to the new direction: Flash Thompson, war hero, going AWOL with a dangerous alien parasite? Sign me up. This also marks the first issue for new artist Lan Medina. I’ll miss Tom Fowler’s erratic, stylized pencils, but Medina’s are expressive and fluid, as a comic should be.
Written by Paul Cornell
Art by Miguel Sepulveda
Stormwatch has been pretty solid since the beginning, but in my opinion it didn’t get good until #3, and this issue made it really good.
Stormwatch is a team of superhumans who work in secret to protect humanity from crazy science stuff. They originally existed in the Wildstorm universe, created by Jim Lee but technically owned by DC. Many Wildstorm characters have been incorporated into the rebooted DC universe, and while Stormwatch still has a main cast of Wildstorm characters, it now includes a few new characters and Martian Manhunter, a founding member of the Justice League in the old universe and my favorite DC superhero. However, Stormwatch contends they are not superheroes, and in fact hides all of their activities from the Justice League and the like.
In issue three, the Superman-like Apollo was tasked with fighting off a meteor shower from destroying Earth while a giant alien absorbed the official Stormwatch team while leaving potential recruit Midnighter (who is like Batman) to fight it alone while it possesses all of their powers.
Midnighter does his best to buy time when Apollo falls out of the sky. Using weather-control technology, Midnighter and Stormwatch support member, Projectionist, supercharge Apollo with sunlight to give him enough power to fly through the alien and free everybody. Jack Hawksmoor, the “God of Cities,” raises an ancient alchemical city that once existed at the site, and using its power, they turn the alien into glass. Back at Stormwatch HQ, a representative of their governing body, the Shadow Cabinet, claims their leader, Adam-One, has failed, and must die.
This issue, Stormwatch begins to reall act like a team. For much of the series so far they’ve been rather spread out and poorly led. They finally begin acting like a team when the nanotechnologically-enhanced Engineer takes the lead. Adam-One is an immortal, and his back story seems cool, but he really does suck as a leader. When the guy from the Shadow Cabinet said it was time for him to die, I thought, “Awesome, it’s his fault we haven’t had much action until now.”
The more realistic art style is neat for the tone of the book, but sometimes the expressions can be a bit weird. Regardless, I’m greatly enjoying Stormwatch, and it’s worth checking out.