Review: The Defenders #1

Matt Fraction reunites Marvel's B-team and puts them on the trail of an Evil Ghost Hulk.  No, sir, Iann doesn't like it.

Iann Robinsonby Iann Robinson

The Defenders #1

As we roll into the New Year please allow me to congratulate Matt Fraction on this hat trick. First, he totally screwed up Thor, then he made Fear Itself one of the most unbearable reads of the summer and now, now he’s lent his unique ability to ruin things to The Defenders.  I love The Defenders, I always have. I love the group so much that I was willing to let my guard down when it came to Fraction. Dumb move. In the course of one issue, Matt Fraction has rendered The Defenders a joke by writing one of the worst scripts I’ve ever read in my thirty-three years of comic collecting.

So why does it suck so badly? Well, let’s start, I don’t know….the first page. Matt Fraction opens the debacle with Dr. Strange regretting a one-night stand. Yep, Dr. Strange, master of the mystic arts, a man who lives to defend evil on multiple planes of existence, has just shacked up with some random college girl. Nicely done, Fraction, way to re-write the entire history of one of the greatest heroes in the Marvel Universe. Is Fraction so incredibly arrogant that he thinks it’s okay to do this just to tell his story?

The horrors don’t stop there. The Hulk, one of the founding members of The Defenders, is nicely cut out of the group so that Fraction can bring in the Red She-Hulk. Hulk shows up and says, “You have to stop the rage side of me that I was separated from” and then leaves. Oh wait, he does go to the top of a mountain to talk to the Silver Surfer. Did I mention that Surfer appears to Hulk, Strange and Namor (who tagged along instead of killing dolphin poachers) as falling snow?  

I shall repeat that.

The herald of Galactus, the wielder of the power cosmic, falls around the heroes as snow. When did the Silver Surfer turn into a Christmas miracle? We’re almost halfway through this story and I felt like I was on bad drugs. Particularly when Dr. Strange decides to levitate in the middle of a commuter train through Europe. Did I mention Danny Rand? Ironfist is brought into The Defenders #1 as little more than comic relief. Essentially Iron Fist gets to be part of the fun because he has a plane. I keep picturing Matt Fraction reading all the history on The Defenders and saying “Ah, fuck it, I’m gonna do it my way”. 

The problem with The Defenders issue #1 is that it’s completely uninteresting. Forget that Fraction has just side-stepped who and what The Defenders are about so he can make his book “edgy”, forget that the dialog is insipid and incredibly dull, let’s even forget that he calls the bad guy the Black Hulk or that this entire book is predicated on a villain you’d only know if you read one of the multiple side issues of Fear Itself. Wait, no, don’t forget those things because that’s why The Defenders doesn’t work. Fraction had an opportunity to reinvigorate one of the best and most unsung hero teams ever and instead he just tossed a lot of garbage into a blender and hit puree.

Not helping matters is the art from Terry Dodson, which comes across like bad animation cells from some eighties Saturday morning cartoon. There’s zero depth to anything that Dodson does and his panel placement keeps the excitement at zero. For some reason he draws the Hulk like a big green baby and Iron Fist looks like he’s either always going fast or constantly surprised. Perhaps Dodson read the script and decided to phone in his art the way Fraction did the story. Whatever the reasoning, The Defenders #1 is an embarrassment and Marvel should be ashamed of themselves.