Lionel's Reviews > Essential Defenders, Vol. 2

Essential Defenders, Vol. 2 by Len Wein
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Nov 05, 11

bookshelves: comic-book-collection, super-hero
Read from October 16 to November 05, 2011

Better than the first volume, but again not recommended for people who are not already fans of the genre.

Most of the stories are by Len Wein or Steve Gerber (who appears to take over when Wein moves up to editorial, but follows through on plots laid out by Wein). Exceptions are a throw away story by Tony Isabella with gorgeous art by Jim Starlin (a framing sequence for several reprints followed by a short conflict derived from those reprints), a few Marvel Team-up stories by Gerry Conway, and a truly weird, awful story by Bill Mantlo (confession--with the exception of Micronauts, I don't much care for Mantlo's stories).

Most of the art is by Sal Buscema, whom I'm not a particular fan of, though a couple of stories feature unusual inks over Buscema by Bill Everett or Klaus Janson, which gives Buscema a bit more interest. Other artists include the aforementioned Jim Starlin, Don Heck, and Gil Kane.

The Silver Surfer and Sub-Mariner are mostly gone by this volume, and the core of the group is established as Dr. Strange, Valkyrie, Nighthawk, and the Hulk. Daredevil, Luke Cage, Yellowjacket, and Damian Hellstrom feature in several stories as accomplices, and the Thing, Spider-Man, and Human Torch each team-up with a solo Defender or two in the Two-In-One and Team-Up stories reprinted herein that lead into stories in the regular title.

While there are several mediocre stories in this volume (and, as noted, the truly awful Mantlo fill in), there are also several bright spots. Wein, Conway, and Gerber weave an odd, complicated back story for Val that provides a nice springboard for future plots and makes her characterization interesting. An extended story pits the Defenders against the Sons of the Serpent, a white supremacy group, which is both an unusual topic to tackle in super-hero comics, and managed to have a double twist ending that actually caught me off-guard. An unusual story has an old Ant-Man villain attacking his niece, who aided Ant-Man against him in the past, injuring her and Nighthawk, whom she was dating. The Defenders misinterpret the attack as being directed at Nighthawk, and immediately head out to confront Nighthawk's previous teammates, the villainous Squadron Supreme. And an extended story near the end of the volume teams the Defenders and the Guardians of the Galaxy, providing several unexpected bonuses for this reader--a nice summary of Marvel's "future history" as laid out in the '70s, showing how the features Deathlok, Killraven, and Guardians of the Galaxy lined up (and probably one or two others I didn't recognize. Also jarring was seeing global warming (though not under that name) play a role in that history, as well as seeing a reference to the planet's population as "three billion". Have we really doubled the Earth's population in just 35 years? One last shining moment--the introduction of the head men. Gerber's Defenders were definitely unlike any other team book around at the time, and were probably unrivaled at strangeness till Grant Morrison got his hands on the Doom Patrol.
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