The Defenders #1 - 'Breaker Of Worlds, Part 1: I Hate Myself And Want To Die' - Fraction, Dodson, Dodson and Oback
Story - Marvel have tried to do Doctor Strange ongoings, they've tried Iron Fist ongoings, they've tried Silver Surfer series and Namor too, but it's never really worked, people like these characters, they're awesome, but they don't seem to like them enough to buy their solo adventures.
So why not bung them all into one book? And maybe thrown in Red She-Hulk so the book's not a complete sausage-fest. This is the basic idea behind Marvel's new Defenders series, all your favourite C-Listers, all in one place, with plenty of crazy other stuff too, and for me, it really worked.
I'm a big fan of Matt Fraction, I have been ever since I first read Casanova back when it came out through Image and was only in one colour, and I've read pretty much everything he's done since, and it looks like finally we've got a book that marries the experimental nature of Fraction's indie-work with his more conventional superhero stuff. Fraction packs this issue with as much stuff as he does in Casanova, and tries stuff that most other Marvel comics wouldn't. Pretty much every possible method of narration is used in this issue, and whilst I'm not generally a fan of a comic using more than one narrator, the fact that Fraction uses so many makes it work, it's not that he's just picking and choosing when to dip into someone's head at random (like in the TV show Glee, seriously, the narration in that show is infuriating, it can go for months without any, and then suddenly... boom! Kurt Hummel is telling you his life story!), this OTT approach is planned.
The other piece of experimentation I liked was the little captions/adverts/whatever featured on every page, which is a sort of call-back to the Defenders' roots in the Bronze Age. At times Fraction plays it straight, telling us that the story will continue after an ad, or to buy Avengers Academy or Journey Into Mystery, but sometimes these captions are a part of the story, for example 'The Impossible Isn't Coming... The Impossible Is Already Here'. This is part of the story, and it's cool to see someone attempt something different and try to tell a story outside of the panels. It kind of reminds me of the info-bars in Joe Casey and Guiseppe Camuncoli's cult-classic Wildstorm series [The Intimates]. Not only was that book the inspiration for the Punchy username, but it seems to have been a big influence on Matt Fraction (not just here, but in Casanova, the character of Kaito in that book is based on Kefong from [The Intimates]) among others. Is it the comic book equivalent of the Sex Pistols and Manchester Free Trade Hall? I think so.
But the main appeal of this book is not the experimentation, it's the characters, and man, is it a great bunch of characters that Fraction has got together, I love all of these guys, and it's going to be great to see them interact going forward and get into crazy impossible situations. I'm not too hooked on the main plot of the series so far, but I do like that Fraction managed to condense all of the events of his Fear Itself event into 'There's an evil Black Hulk and also She-Hulk has a sword now', this book may be spinning out of a crossover, but it's not indebted to it.
So basically, this is the kind of Marvel Comic I'm looking for at the moment, it's got cool characters with a lot of depth to be explored, it tries something new and it's not too reliant on continuity. I'm in for the long haul, Fraction, you better give us a wild ride!
Art - Terry Dodson is a great traditional superhero artist. That's something a lot of people forget, because much like Frank Cho, his ability to draw buxom women over-shadows all of his other aspects, which is a shame. I think the man can draw anything and make it look good, whether it be zero-G kung-fu or tiger-men, it all looks like a part of a whole. Another bonus for this book is that Dodson has a pre-existing creative relationship with Matt Fraction, they forged a fruitful partnership on Uncanny X-Men, and that mojo continues here, damn good stuff.
Best Line - I'm a sucker for Fraction's made-up kung-fu moves, so 'Stellar Astro-Fist. Um... Kick Of The Geosynchronous Thunderbird. Something' is the best line for me.