Comic Review: Make this a Marvel Week with 3 New #1s – The Defenders, Villains for Hire, and X-Club

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Defenders #1, Part 1: I Hate Myself and Want to Die

So, we’ve been waiting for this issue to debut for a while (at least those sucked in by the teasing art, previews, and interviews). It’s certainly composed of a cast of interesting and often under-utilized characters:

 DEFENDERS #1, from the top-selling creative team of Matt Fraction (FEAR ITSELF, INVINCIBLE IRON MAN, MIGHTY THOR) and Terry Dodson (UNCANNY X-MEN), as Doctor Strange assembles a new team of heroes to face a new kind of threat that will leave readers shocked. Doctor Strange, Iron Fist, Namor, Red She-Hulk, Silver Surfer and more of your favorite Marvel heroes will band together exploring corners of the Marvel Universe you never knew existed for missions so deadly they have to be kept secret. Once a Defender, always a Defender – no matter the cost or sacrifice.

This first issue is a collection issue – we go through and watch as the Hulk/Dr. Strange travel to hand-pick their team for the future mission. Each character is going about his/her business, though we get the distinct feeling that none of these characters are particularly satisfied with where there life is settled at this particular moment. The mission? The Hulk has accidentally created another version of himself, but a darker and version filled with hate. He described the creature in the issue: “Imagine all of my rage … and power and strength and hate – imagine it taking shape. What if Hulk  … had a Hulk? It’s called Nul. The Breaker of worlds.” The Defenders must take on this creature, but not with the help of Hulk. He is afraid he will become one with the creature again. (As discussed in The Incredible Hulk Series.)

There is a lot going on in this issue. A lot of playing with character flaws. A lot of poking with the question of reality. A lot of (my favorite) dry humor. The series is playing with characters that don’t get played with often and the result is a feeling of freshness from the big current-running series. I wasn’t on the edge of my seat, but this was a quality first issue that made introductions and established the plot in a succinct, entertaining way – leaving me, as a reader, intrigued for the next issue to see where this plot goes and how these characters will interact as a group.

Villians for Hire #1 of 4

“Determined to build a New York-based criminal empire, the maniacally manipulative Zebedia Killgrave, a.k.a. the Purple Man, has stolen back from Misty Knight his original Heroes For Hire initiative, utilizing his vast super villain network of contacts to build his team of specialized agents.”

 I love the concept of Heroes for Hire. It as a series, in and of itself, I will recommend any day. But even if you haven’t read that series (and you should) I’d still recommend Villains for Hire. There is enough explanation here for a person to enjoy the plot without becoming too confused over past events. It has the feel and the structure of Heroes for Hire, but from the opposite perspective – which is extremely cool and interesting.

The villains composing this first issue that are “for hire” include Avalanche – Mutant with destructive seismic powers, Death Stalker who has the touch of death, Scourge who is a practiced assassin, and Shocker who uses vibro-shock inducing gauntlets, and leading them under the command of Purple Man is Headhunter, who is, according to the issue “The mesmerizing Wall Streeter in charge of recruitment.”

The mission goes terribly wrong as the villains hired are headed off by a completely unexpected group of super beings. We, as an audience, have no idea what their intent really was at this point, but we know they are utterly against the villains for hire – probably for their own gain.

The end is a twist ending that, somehow, I was completely expecting and was happy to see come to fruition. This series is one of the overlooked Marvels that a person who doesn’t want to get sucked into the big main stream of things can really appreciate. It does its own thing, stays away from events for the most part, and rotates a great and interesting cast of characters who otherwise don’t get any time in the lime-light. The Villains for Hire arc of this series is a great point to see how you like the feel of the storytelling. (P.s there was also a Point one issue you might want to check out.)

X-Club #1 of 5

So basically this issue was a dumping ground for every big word that writer Simon Spurrier has ever wanted to use in a sentence by had no occasion to do so. I know that was part of the point and probably necessary to keep these characters, well, “in character”. And I’m not ignorant to the fact that these guys are really really smart and like to sound so. It got rather old, though. Then after a bonanza of big words, there was such an abrupt entry into the “action” portion of this issue that I had lost interest before I had even gotten there – and the action itself was rather contrived. This book doesn’t really show us how the science team is taking “science” and applying it to battle as much as it is showing us that scientists have large vocabularies.

The entire issue takes place at a press-conference hosted by the company Stratocorp in conjunction with the X-Men. This is basically another P.R. ploy by Cyclops. Let me get something out in the open – I want to like Cyclops. I do. But issues like this increasingly shove him into this d-bag role of being the kid who really wants to be popular, but when it comes right down to it he will never be invited to the cool kids’ parties.  He’s constantly simpering to the individuals on his teams to play his game with lines like “Please … we need a P.R. win here…” How many times have we heard him say something similar?

I guess what I really want is for issues like this to stop making me dislike this character. Just stop making him be slimy for a few moments so I can get my pro-Cyclops vibes back.

The other characters are true-enough to form. (Though has anyone noticed that the longer Rao is a consistent character the more attractive she seems to be drawn?) Dr. Nemesis is a “Scientific Bastard,” Madison Jeffries is as creepy as ever, and Kavita Rao is on her game of wit, but basically the men just make her look like a tool. Then a Merperson explodes and no one seems to care that much. The end. 

There are so many X-Men books out right now, this limited series just doesn’t seem necessary. The characters aren’t strong enough or interesting enough to stand on their own. The plot wasn’t thick enough to make me overlook that the characters shouldn’t be standing on their own, either.

Can we cancel this in order to continue X-23? That’s my vote.

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