Review by Ian Keogh
For a very good opening chapter it appears a corner has been turned. Stephanie Hans illustrates this all women strip very well indeed, there’s a quieter and more reflective tone about matters, there’s finally a purpose for Annabel Riggs beyond gratuitous shock, and there’s no sexualising of the cast. Turn the page, however, and it’s chalk and cheese as Will Sliney draws the remainder of the book. See the sample art for contrast. As previously, Sliney’s art is imaginatively designed, detailed, and he simultaneously ensures all the women are posed, assets on display as far as possible, and every teenage boy’s fantasy.
It can be argued that the change to Valkyrie in that first chapter is a method of downgrading one of the most powerful female characters Marvel has, but that would mean considering an unlikely agenda. The fact is that it rids the character of one of the most ridiculous costumes in superhero comics, and it’s both viable and interesting. Those are both terms that apply more frequently to the content of The Most Fabulous Fighting Team of All than to the previous Doom Maidens, yet problems persist. Arch-villain Caroline Le Fey is smug and irritating, her plans not very interesting and a plot where male superheroes decide they need to help out the women is insulting as well as being out of character and contrived. On the positive side, Bunn certainly dredges up some obscurities to fill his cast, there are times when the plot takes a surprising turn, and his characterisation of Valkyrie works.
Yet there’s the elephant in the room: same sex attraction between women in a superhero comic. Is it admirable inclusive representation long absent from Marvel comics? The manner in which it’s drawn, and that it features near perfect specimens of womanhood would suggest instead that it’s just titillation for the lads. Context is all. How disappointing, and so concludes The Fearless Defenders.