We’re now a few issues into this series which is Marvel NOW!’s first attempt at an all-female team. As a longtime fan of the Defenders concept, I was all for this series! I loved the original Defenders series as them being the first non-team ever. And that original series is where I first became introduced and began to like the character of Valkyrie. Seeing her in action again in the pages of The Fearless was great and I was glad to hear of her pending return to the Defenders franchise. Unfortunately, after 2 issues I was unsure of where the book would be going, but after this issue I have decided to no longer pick it up. I did give this book a rating of 1, and I will explain why: there isn’t enough good stuff going on here to keep me interested. My reasoning and my explanation does include spoilers, though, so if you are not interested in that please stop reading here.
Valkyrie and Misty Knight (a longtime colleague of Iron Fist) are in Asgardia, facing the All-Mother, when Hela appears bringing someone who she intends to hunt down a threat – Hippolyta, daughter of Ares and queen of the Amazons. Who is it that Hela wants Hippolyta to hunt down? The Disir, an ancient group of warrior maidens, are posing a threat and Hela believes that Val is not the right person to take them down. So, in many ways I could get through that and understand what was going on, but because one of my colleagues here at Comic Booked has recommended Journey Into Mystery to me, I have hunted down the trades of that series and read those and I am loving them. The problem, though, is that this story (at least my interpretation of it) contradicts the story told in the Journey Into Mystery / New Mutants crossover, “Exiled”. In that story, the Disir were also a main focus and (and here’s the spoiler of that story) at the end they were freed of the curse laid upon them by Bor (the father of Odin). Once that curse was lifted, they became Hela’s new Valkyrie force. In Fearless Defenders, though, even though we have one of the characters from “Exiled” as part of the story (Dani Moonstar, a former Valkyrie), it’s like that whole episode never happened. The Disir are no longer the Valkyrior, although at the end they do acknowledge Val as one of their own.
The writer of this story is Cullen Bunn and, although I have liked some of his work in the past, I can honestly say that I’m quite disappointed here. There was a lot happening in the realm of Asgardia within the pages of JiM and it almost seems like Bunn has said it was all for naught. In this story there is a continual attempt at humor (at least I think it is) but it falls amazingly short. The ending where the Disir recognize Val is interesting as they call her sister, as Val was not part of the Disir’s rise to being Valkyrie in “Exiled”. Maybe this gets explained in future issues, but unfortunately I won’t be around to find that out. From what it looks to me now, Bunn (and he’s not the only one in the Marvel Universe to do this but is a current example) seems to have discounted “Exiled” altogether. I have no problem with writers putting twists and spins on things, but in a universe as large as the Marvel one there needs to be some level of, even if just the illusion of, continuity. If the JiM story had happened 10 years ago, I could forgive him. As this story happened last year, I cannot. I’m really disappointed and just cannot continue to support a book that doesn’t even make an attempt to try to understand what happened before it. Yes, he has Hela indicating that the Disir belong to her (which did happen), but the curse was lifted and they are no longer the cursed maidens they once were – they are now Valkyrior. Hela refers to Dani as one of her Valkyrie and she could be enough to raise the shield maidens… but Dani was already used as a catalyst in part to raise them in “Exiled” and they are now Hela’s Valkyries. Either that entire story arc got retconned somewhere or… I’ll let you finish that thought with your own. But even though I have an issue with the continuity, the story and the conversation seemed forced. It did not flow easily for me. There have been criticisms that some people cannot write strong women well, and in the case of this book Bunn has shown (to me, anyway) that he may write some stories well but this is not one of them. Even though every character in the issue is female, I don’t think it matters their gender; the story was not done well.
So, a lot of negative on the book, but I did not give this story a rating of 1. What was good about the book at times was the art. The cover by Mark Brooks was gorgeous and I loved it, even though it was kind of cheesy. The interior art by Will Sliney had a lot of potential, but it didn’t do it for me all the way through. Sliney seems to fall into the dilemma of many artists – you can only draw things a certain way. Every woman’s face had almost the same feature set to me – the cheekbones were almost in the same place for everyone, everyone’s lips were identical (just look at the All-Mother)… If it wasn’t for the outfit, I would swear they were all the same character. Now that said, his battle scenes with the flashbacks were done very well and, with the coloring or Veronica Gandini, had a very creepy factor to it that I think raised my impression of the title a little. I would love to see Sliney do a book in that fashion – a Tales of Asgard, if you will – as the battle (even though it was only in a few panels) really worked. Sliney and Gandini would do a great job on a story that takes place in old Asgard, I think, so long as that same style of coloring was used. I would buy that in a heartbeat.
Generally, I dislike doing bad reviews. However, sometimes it needs to be done – certain things need to be called out. There is history here which has been ignored. Bad on Cullen Bunn for writing the story without taking the recently used Disir into account alongside of Dani Moonstar already. Bad on the editors of this book for letting it happen. I’m looking more critically at many of the titles I pick up regularly, and as a long-time reader I’m getting more and more disappointed at what I am seeing at times coming out of the big 2. I think some of the upper people at Marvel (and DC) need to take a good, hard look at what they are putting out and truly think about what they are publishing. But that’s a discussion for another day. Suffice to say, this will be the last issue of Fearless Defenders I will be picking up.
Edit: April 24, 2013 – Based on comments from some people that I had not read this issue properly, I have re-read it. Some comments based on that action can be found in my partial retraction article.