Review by Ian Keogh
On paper, importing the creative team of Keith Giffen, J. M. De Matteis and Kevin Maguire from DC and getting them to recreate the comedy of their Justice League material with the Defenders was a good idea. Given their conflicting personalities the Defenders are a bunch who could barely stand to be in each others’ presence, and along with the strength of those personalities that is the starting point. Doctor Strange is warned that Dormammu and his equally objectionable sister Umar have set aside their mutual loathing to plan uniting their mystical forces and invading Earth. As this is a matter of some consequence Strange determines it’s time to get the old gang back together again. Whether they want to or not.
Namor, King of Atlantis has a breathtaking ego, and a snooty put-down for every occasion. Bruce Banner is just sarcastic, and the Hulk smashes. There’s some artistic licence required to push Doctor Strange further toward melodrama before he drops into the role of the long-suffering supervisor of unruly children, and there’s no real attempt to do anything with the Silver Surfer. He monologues interminably on a beach. In addition to the contradictory personalities of the Defenders, the writers spend some time with the villains of the piece, as Umar and Dormmamu snipe at each other, she hoping to provoke him into a mis-step leaving him vulnerable.
Maguire is a meticulous artist known for a concentration on humorous expressions, which makes it strange that among his strongest characters is Dormammu, someone requiring very little expression due to lacking much of a face. Maguire never entirely captures the Silver Surfer or the Hulk, who’s not much of a joke character without extreme exaggeration, but does well with Namor, returning him to the earlier swimming trunks incarnation, but making them smaller and tighter. It accentuates the joke of his being constantly superior.
As noted, on paper this was a promising idea, and it can’t be denied that there are some good jokes, not least how the Hulk spends half the series, and even if they were all removed Giffen provides a solid enough plot, if one that’s oddly rushed at the end. However, the concentration on every single straight line requiring an equal and opposite joke to follow results in an extremely dense read, and the longer it continues the more obvious the reliance on the same standbys becomes. Indefensible doesn’t match the work of the creators on Justice League because there they worked more naturally with existing personalities and traits. The bantering joke personalities applied to the Defenders are more strained and less credible, although the debt some later Deadpool writers owe should be pointed out.