In DEFENDERS #1, Matt Fraction shows that he's an efficient writer, laying out the main plot and putting together a new superhero team in a quick series of interlocking scenes. There are no knock-out moments here, no points that readers will remember even next week, but there are no boring or overly ridiculous pages either. Things flow in this book. And they flow fast.
The basic story is that a black ghost Hulk, known as the destroyer of worlds, has made an appearance in Budapest, and the always loveable green Hulk seeks out his old pals, Strange and Namor, to destroy this entity before it can fulfill its apocalyptic mission. There's just one hitch: Hulk himself can't join the mission because there's a risk he will fuse with his black counterpart. So, to boost the team's muscle, Surfer, Iron Fist, and She-Hulk join the ranks of the Defenders and quickly find themselves in the heat of world-saving combat.
But while Fraction shows he's an efficient writer, he also demonstrates that he's rather cliched in his approaches. The story is standard and the characters are a collection of odd couples destined for predictable disputes. Strange is the unrivaled genius; Iron Fist is the comics-reading simpleton. Namor is angry and cynical; Surfer is a hippie-dippie in love with the beauty of nature. And She-Hulk is the hard-drinking, straight-talking rebel, who'll stir things up when necessary. I suppose this mix of characters has potential, but the contrasts between them seem rather forced.
The art by the Dodsons is strong, but it isn't as dazzling as some of their previous work. Their version of the Hulk is rather bland, for example. I'm glad to see them on this book, and I look forward to seeing their illustrations in subsequent issues. But I hope they take greater risks with character designs. Right now, the book looks good but also rather ordinary.
DEFENDERS #1 is a fun but mostly mindless action book. It isn't a waste of money, but it also isn't worth a trip to your local comic book shop. And if this series doesn't seriously improve, this book won't last more than a few arcs. It just isn't interesting enough to sustain a loyal and strong following.