Friday, December 29, 2017

REVIEW: The Defenders #8 (2017)



THE DEFENDERS #8 (2017) — Cover
by David Marquez. @Marvel Comics

THE DEFENDERS #8
Marvel Comics, $3.99, 28pgs.
On-sale December 20, 2017

“[no title]”
20 pages, Read Time – 11:20

by Brian Michael Bendis (story), David Marquez with Michael Avon Oeming (art), Justin Ponsor (colors), and VC’s Cory Petit (letters). Edited by Tom Brevoort.

 BOTTOM LINE: It’s mostly a Deadpool comic, 'tho that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It's Luke Cage's involvement in the origin of Kingpin that really breaks the suspension of disbelief.


Word on the tweet is that this title will be canceled with #10, once Bendis bolts for DC. That’s to be expected, I guess. By not giving THE DEFENDERS a legacy number of their own, Marvel pretty much telegraphed that this iteration of the team, if not the entire franchise, is more about the creator than the characters. For what it’s worth, by my calculation, this issue would have been DEFENDERS #236. To wit:

• 1-3     — MARVEL FEATURE #1-3 (1971-1972)
• 4-155   — THE DEFENDERS #1-152 (1972-1986)
• 156-180 — SECRET DEFENDERS #1-25 (1993-1995)
• 181-192 — THE DEFENDERS #1-12 (2001-2002)
• 193-197 — THE DEFENDERS #1-5 (2005-2006)
• 198-203 — THE LAST DEFENDERS #1-6 (2008)
• 204-215 — THE DEFENDERS #1-12 (2012-2013)
• 216-228 — FEARLESS DEFENDERS #1-12 (2013-2014)
• 229-236 — THE DEFENDERS #1-8 (2017-now)

But as to this issue: Meh.

I mean, it’s done well enough, but apart from dealing with Deadpool — who is fun without being too annoying, a blessing by itself — the Defenders really don’t make any progress on their investigation into Diamondback. And far from being the trigger that finally convinces Daredevil to reveal his true identity to his teammates, I would think all that unabated anarchy would only embolden Matt’s resolve to keep his own counsel.

But my biggest issue with this issue is the revelation — made for the first time here, so far as I know — that Diamondback and Luke Cage were present when Kingpin made his move to assume control of the Gangs of New York.

Now, first off, the decision to do those scenes in a different, “simpler” art style, and mostly in black & white to boot, was inspired. I just have trouble believing this is how it went down. Kingpin is supposed to be the epitome of criminal finesse. He really just showed up at a meeting and gunned down his rival? The Kingpin I’ve always read about would not have been anywhere near that meeting. Moreover, he have had plausible deniability five times over from having any connection to it at all. But even so, Kingpin would have taken over by backing his rival into a financial corner and forcing fealty to his regime. He would not have shown up to a meeting and been all, “Hi, I’m new; Bang! You’re dead.”

And, sure, we’re told Kingpin researched every person at that meeting, even the muscle, but I find that hard to believe, as well. Luke and Stryker were supposed to be nameless nobody thugs at this point. Would they really have been allowed in this room at all, even as potential muzzle fodder? And if they were, what about them would there have been for Kingpin to research? And come to think of it, wasn’t Luke framed for whatever crimes he was sent to prison for? If he was ever deep enough into actual crime that he could have been present for a high-level meeting like this, then he may have committed too many actual crimes to ever be truly redeemed. I mean, Jim Shooter did not invent the rule that if a super-hero murders a planet full of people, that hero must die. He was just following the model of Victorian, moralistic literature. And that principal carries on. I’m not sure I could remain a fan of Luke Cage knowing he really was a thug, any more than I can stomach the peeps on THE WALKING DEAD ever since the murdered a bunch of Saviors in their sleep.

But then there’s one more thing — and I fully admit this is my own fanboy baggage brought to the comic book table. See, I know full well that Spider-Man and Kingpin were around for more than a decade before Power Man made his debut. And sure, I get that the narrative gets compressed from real time, and ever moreso the further in time we get from original publication. But I just have a real problem accepting that Kingpin was still at this most primordial part of creating his empire when Luke Cage was around to be a factor of any kind. At best, Cage ought to have still been in high school at a time when Fisk was already fully established as the Kingpin of crime.

And also, am I misremembering things? Was Luke Care ever a NYC gang-banger? I always thought his roots ran in a more southerly direction.

Part of me thinks Diamondback was making it all up to make an impression on his criminal compatriots, since the story comes entirely from his POV.

Still, since we’re talking about suspension of disbelief — which is a major requirement (for me, anyway) of accepting this new backstory — I also had to laugh at Hammerhead being brought have to life. After all, not only was he shot though the skull at point blank range, meaning the back half of his head should’ve been blown completely off, a la JFK, but, by the looks of things, his cold, dead corpse has already undergone a full autopsy.

That, my friend, is a LOT of damage for The Hood’s l’il red gem to repair.

Oh, one final aside — I do enjoy how Bendis makes use of the intro page to actually add to the story, while providing additional insight into the characters. The narrative of the off-panel prison guard made what is typically a "dead page" in most Marvel comics, maybe the best one in this entire issue.

And did you get a look at The Punisher's booking number? I can only presume one-time Punisher artist Mike Zeck is a fan of Van Halen. "OU812ZECK"

***DUBIOUSLY RECOMMENDED***

STORY GRADE: B
ISSUE SCORE: 72.50

COVER: 7.50 | PLOT: 7.50 | SCRIPT: 9.25 | LAYOUT: 8.25 | ART: 8.50 | EDITS: 6.00
PRODUCTION: 8.00 | VALUE: 4.50 | COLLECTIBILITY: 6.75 | GOSH-WOW: 6.25

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