Defenders by Ewing and Rodriguez is a fantastical, thrilling and visually stunning rollercoaster ride into the past of the Marvel universe that had me gripped from the first page to the last.
Genuinely one of my favourite, and best, Marvel comics, superhero comics, and mini-series in general I've ever read.
Mini-series, like all comics, vary in how they're written and paced. I always think that any single issue should be satisfying and read well on its own, as well as part of an overall narrative, whether that's ongoing or limited. Sometimes series read better in a collected format, but what's interesting and special is when a series reads well both like that, and month to month.
Now I didn't read this series like that, so I can't say personally how it read monthly. But it reminds me structurally of Human Target at DC, which I am reading monthly, where every issue in this trade feels notable and distinct. It feels like the issue to issue release has been particularly thought out, where often with comics, especially ongoings of course, you're reading a longer story that's been (sometimes unevenly, overall pacing wise, not referring to the actual issue length, since generally the issue length is consistent) serialised into monthly parts. Of course that's not necessarily a bad thing, if it's done well. With many series I love it can be great, but this was just something different and special I really appreciated.
I hope that all made sense, I know it might have sounded a bit general and abstract, but I didn't want to spoil anything about the plot of the series. I will say though, I loved how every issue is narrated by a different character. No matter how fantastical the story gets, it's always emotionally grounded and centred through each of the characters, focusing in particular on a different one each issue. Also I didn't have any experience with the characters apart from Doctor Strange and Silver Surfer, so it was fun to find out more about them, getting into their heads as it were through their narration.
In a moment I'll conclude this review gushing about the artwork and overall design of this comic, but before then I need to say I loved how satisfying it was, from the beginning to the ending. It's clear throughout this whole story the passion Ewing has for Marvel and it's history (with the pages he wrote, drawn by some great artists from Marvel Comics #1000/#1001 included in this trade as well), so everything from the Masked Raider, their identity, how that ties back into the story, and just the whole story in general. So fun, so exciting and just so creative and unique.
So, speaking of those things, the art is in comic is absolutely phenomenal. The characters are so expressive, the layouts always feel so expansive and impressive, and the colors are bursting with life. They're so rich and vibrant and just an absolute delight. On every page I have to stop and soak in the wonder of what's conveyed, it's just something so special. It has this wonderful, very dynamic and animated quality that feels perfect for a superhero comic.
I love how in the penultimate issue the art style even changes to properly reflect what happens there, this whole book is filled with details small and more noticeable that means you could probably read it again and again and keep picking up new things. No page in this book is boring, or goes on too long, the pacing was always perfect to me, and it has such a nice balance of action and character work.
I thought the overall design of the book was really fun. The covers all stand out with that rich vibrant intensity that the interior art has, and at the start of each issue I loved how there was a title incorporated into the art. The lettering itself by Joe Caramagna was just in general so great, especially when it adapted itself to suit the story like the art did.
If you're looking for a wild new read, with absolutely gorgeous art, and you haven't read this already I would definitely recommend it!
You can also find his podcast on Twitter @JoeTalksComics, which you can listen to through Anchor, where you can find links to the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and Spotify, or you can click those hyperlinks directly.