The Fearless Defenders #7: The New Status Quo

FD1After the somewhat controversial end of this title’s inaugural arc, many readers were disappointed to see Annabelle Riggs die so soon. The character’s surprising death abruptly ended her role as a powerless but capable (and certainly fearless) Defender, as the team’s resident expert on Asgardian artifacts. Her sacrifice to stop Valkyrie’s killing spree (as Val’s alternate persona, the Doom Maiden Rage) caused serious rifts in this relatively new team, as Misty Knight lashed out at Valkyrie and their fellow Shield Maidens abandoned her as their leader. However, with the recent release of the much-anticipated #7, this title has lived up to its promise to begin an all-new arc, with some surprising plans for its principal characters.

Stephanie Hans takes up the artistic reins in this issue, stepping in for regular artist Will Sliney, as Annabelle deals with her new status as a member of the celebrated dead in Valhalla. Her particular station is at an old inn and tavern, filled with many great and boisterous warriors, all of whom Annabelle feels little kinship with. She doesn’t belong here but she’s resigned to her fate, content to have sacrificed herself to help Val return to her senses. Meanwhile, Val mounts a rescue effort and travels to Valhalla to resurrect Annabelle, making amends for stranding her there undeservedly. Her quest reunites her with Clea, the exiled sorceress Val helped hide from otherworldly threats, whose skills Val requires for this spell. Although Clea is pleased to see Val, she hesitant to use her magic to revive Annabelle, warning that the ritual comes at a great cost.

Determined, Val convinces Clea and brings her to see Annabelle at the inn. There Val and Annabelle try to FD2reconcile their thorny recent past, and Clea brings Annabelle back, but at a price: Val must sacrifice her life to restore Annabelle’s, and Annabelle is her new host. Their spirits tangled in the same body, Annabelle is the vehicle through which Val must navigate the mortal realm, switching back and forth between forms whenever the need arises for Val’s brute warrior strength. Changing things up for the team, this decision helps to mend the rift between Val and Misty, and allows Annabelle to fulfill her new role as Val’s earthly vessel. Val sacrificing herself for Annabelle, and Annabelle’s upgraded status as Val’s host, adds another layer of humor and interest to the team dynamics. While things seemed to be smoothed over between them, and Misty is likely on her way to forgiving Val for killing Annabelle in the first place, this opens the doors to new intrigue as the Defenders gear up to tackle Le Fay’s new team of Doom Maidens. New status quo, indeed.

A striking departure from Sliney’s regular pencils, Hans’ artwork steers this book in a gorgeous new direction in tone and presentation. Her vision of Valhalla is lush and fertile, with an ethereal quality that feels dreamy and fantastic but appropriately so, offset by the ugliness of the trolls Val and Clea face. The principle characters are gorgeously rendered with the help of strong panel compositions and soft, otherworldly color palettes. Her females are strong but still feminine, sacrificing little of their quirks or flaws to embody the strength and power that warriors like Val FD3represent. Gone is the serviceable but at times bland artwork we’ve seen from Sliney, upgraded to Hans’ decisive action sequences and evocative interior spaces, which keep the story balanced and well-paced. Overall, Hans strikes a good equilibrium of emotional weight and action-adventure, making for a highly engaging visual reading experience.

As for the writing, Bunn’s script this issue is straightforward but intriguing. The surprising reveal of Val’s updated backstory could have cheapened the character, but it continues to work here, especially in the face of recent developments. Although it was somewhat surprising to see Annabelle come back so quickly, after the pomp and circumstance surrounding her death, the decision for Val to immediately look for Annabelle is true to her character. Val’s resolve to make amends speaks to her need for redemption; not just for Annabelle’s death, but for the sense of loss and ineffectiveness she’s felt since the beginning of the series. She’s looking to restore her own honor by living up to Odin’s expectations, which she has previously failed to do. All of this feels very natural for her characterization, and further humanizes her, despite the many twists and turns she’s taken as of late.

Bunn also does something very interesting with Val and Annabelle’s relationship in this issue. While far more FD4complicated than before, their dynamic remains refreshingly downplayed, and very much based on the mutual respect of comrades. Just what comes of their uncertain friendship, however, remains to be seen. Annabelle’s romantic interest in Val, as seen since the first issue, has not yet been fully addressed, and is likely to be further confused by recent events. It does say a lot about Val’s feelings for Annabelle in that she was so willing to sacrifice herself for her, which does open the door to some exploration on Val’s side of the relationship. As Val’s new host Annabelle has a lot to ponder, but her feelings for Val have been given the opportunity to further develop her character. All of this will be interesting to see in the future.

Overall this is a successful issue with some solid writing and stunning artwork. Big on promises, it lives up to nearly all of them, offering an intriguing new opportunity for this team to grow. Where this title goes from here is uncertain, but the foundations put in place make for some interesting possibilities.

Magen Cubed

Comic List Last Week -May.19.13- Preview

My weekly list of my favorite comics which I’ve been reading has been delayed a bit but its back again with 7 comics, no new number one issues but still great comics, with even better art and stories which are beginning to flesh out and with intriguing twists….

So here we go first up are two which have stunned me with their art

Uncanny Avengers 005-000Uncanny Avengers #8 by Rick Remender and Daniel Acuna: The art is brilliant each issue it’s even better and Daniel Acuna is pushing it to its extreme with his wonderful coloring. Each page is unique and different with different colors and tones appropriate though to give you the feeling of where the story is taking place either it’s in the North Pole or outer space. The story continues to focus around the Apocalypse twins as Remender weaves and spins plot lines from his Uncanny X-Force days into this comic. I’m starting to appreciate this comic even more story wise especially now that all characters are falling into their natural roles especially Sunfire, his interaction with Thor is just great! This issue finishes with a big cliffhanger and a mysterious ally that comes to help Captain America in the most unexpected way. A good read.

Constantine #3 by Jay Fawks, Jeff Lemire & Renato Guedes:  as Constantine 003 (2013) (Digital) (Darkness-Empire) 001“The Smoke & The Flame” arc comes to its end we see some great art by Renato Cuedes in the concepts he creates especially the pocket dimension which Constantine ends up in while arriving in London. It’s creepy but not grotesque and to this helps even more the amazing colors that Marcelo Maiolo uses. The colors are perfect and showing the degeneration both of Constantine and of London. Fawkes and Lemire have succeeded in bringing Constantine in the mainstream DC universe with is arc, reintroducing  him to us but with not spoiling the essence of the character which so many have come to like from its Vertigo version. Read the whole three issue arc and enjoy both story and art.

Next are two warriors the best in martial arts and with a brutal persistence in how they achieve their goals…

Wolverine-v5-003-(2013)-(Digital)-(Nahga-Empire)-01Wolverine #3 by Paul Cornell and Alan Davis: This comic is becoming one of my favorites its story is fast paced with interesting quest stars and Wolverine is being the best in what he does in a whole new way. He is articulate, has conversations with a sense of humor and in this issue we see a side of him more exploited, the investigator one and he has a whole new team to back him up. In this issue we are introducing to Wolverines new cast, some we have already seen both in this comic and in another Marvel title and they are good ones especially the role they play in general in the Marvel Universe. The art doesn’t need any reviewing Davis and Farmer are legendary on how good they are and on this title they are once again top-notch. This new core Wolverine title is a must read for me.

Katana #4 by Ann Nocenti and Alex Sanchez: After the previous Katana-004-(2013)-(Digital)-(Nahga-Empire)-01issue revelations Katana is left devastated and with no will to fight back. But soon she sees that there is no other way to go than move on and fight all the new menaces that have arisen from the broken Soultaker Sword! We are reintroduced to a character which I do not know a lot previous to the whole New 52 era but it seems he has resurfaced with a new twist in his origins and he will definitely play a bigger role in the DC U from now on. What is interesting in this issue is that we see a broken down Katana in need to find a new purpose in her life which by the end of the story she seems to finally get one. This way I believe we will see the formation of an all new Katana as she searches her place in the world although she seems unwilling to do so. The art is good Sanchez is becoming more detailed with each issue and  uses great perspectives in his panel sequences. Give it a chance you won’t be disappointed.

The next are two team books both are spin offs of great core titles but each have double if not a convert reason for their existence….

Secret Avengers 04-000Secret Avengers #4 by Nick Spencer and Luke Ross: I’m not sure if this title should continue to be named as the Secret Avengers and not the Invaders, the second one is more appropriate I think. Although the team doesn’t remember any of its missions once they have accomplished them they are the best in espionage, infiltration and convert operations and invasion of territories. This issue we see a possible new addition to the roster and a good perfect choice this character will be and I’m not talking about the Hulk. The Hulk does appear in this issue as we see on the cover but although he’s called in to help he is actually being manipulated in becoming a cover up! I really like how Spencer is spinning his story and each issue it’s even better if only he could get rid of Daisy, at least he makes Maria Hill superior to her with her decisions and actions. A very good book which is features the best convert/espionage team of Marvel heroes.

Justice League of America #3 by Geoff Johns and David JLA_3_TheGroup-000Finch: This is an amazing comic and specifically a filled issue from cover to cover with intriguing plot lines, character interaction and action both in its main story and its smaller backup one by Matt Kindt and Manuel Garica. I could not get enough of this issue, each “hero” is fleshed out just perfectly and in character and you get to see each one play a role. None is featured less than the other, and if this happens the few panels they are appeared in it is done in the most significant way that reveals more than you expect, like  in the interaction between Amanda Waller and Star Girl. David Finch also does an outstanding job on this comic too like he always does. If you haven’t read JLA yet I strongly suggest you do its mind-blowing and it will become even better, if possible that is.

Fearless Defenders 04-000Last but not least is yet again a team book consisting only by women at least for now…

Fearless Defenders #4 by Cullen Bunn and Will Sliney: I love this comic book mostly for the characters it features but in this issue the story and art win you over too. Finally Bunn has achieved in making Valkyrie a an interesting character in this issue we see her progress even more and becoming more of a leader type and not a female Thor rip off, as he adds more and more to her background history and origin  which up to now has been hidden from her. Sliney’s art continues to impress me and in this issue he creatures a gross but cool monster. And to top it all is the unique covers Mark Brooks provides in every month and for this issue he does yet a remarkable one.

So that’s all folks I hope you enjoy or will enjoy these comics too…until next time, which will be sooner than you expect have a blast by reading comics!

Con Barbatsis for eCharta

Comic Last Week Preview

Wolverine-02Wolverine #2 by Paul Cornel and Alan Davies… in the plot thickens of this issue we see an interesting aspect of the new villain as it analyzes and finds Wolverines behavior in a way amusing and appealing! Cornell once again climaxes the story and gives us witty dialogues, Davies art is expressive with fluid storytelling. In a word it’s brilliant! By the end of the issue one brand new guest star arrives which is nice to see how Wolverine interacts with him and an old one giving a cliffhanger cause his presence foreshadows huge danger and changes…in a sum it was a cool comic which becomes more interesting as the story unfolds giving a much-needed freshens to Wolverine! Highlight Paul Cornell gives us an insight of why and how he took over Wolverine in the letters page!!! He’s a cool bloke!

Constantine #2 by Ray Fawkes, Jeff Lemire and Renato Guedes…..Constantine Constantine 02continues his quest in finding all parts of the Croydon Compass as he goes to Myanmar to find the Dial! He fights another villainous mage escapes in the last-minute only to deal with Specters wraith…he escapes that too! We continue in this issue to get a lot of insight of how Constantine thinks and behaves showing how much a deep multi-faceted personality he is that you still cannot trust! Guedes art is even better in this issue with more detail and even better storytelling!!! Yes Vertigo fans of Hellbazer you should read it and you will enjoy it…especially the cliffhanger!!! Danger waits in London!!!!

Secret_Avengers_03Secret Avengers #3 by Nick Spencer and Luke Ross….this is the book of black ops I always wanted in Marvel and we getting it by an Avengers title! It’s not there yet but it shows promise that it will be a great comic…it’s still in the introduction of the team on how it works and building up the threats they will be facing! I like the addition of Mockingbird; she seems a lot cooler; still not liking Daisy Johnson as director of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Theremin #1 by Curt Pires and Dalton Rose….this is a comic book that you love Theremin 01for its spirit…you like it because it’s not mainstream…and hope it lasts for a long time! What is it about? Well a scientist who looks like he has escaped from the forties makes a new invention that takes him through time, space and dimension…and now starts his adventures!!! Have to say though that Dalton Rose does some magnificent coloring!!!

The Shadow 11The Shadow #11 by Victor Gischler and Aaron Campbell…this is the first time I read the Shadow in his own series (I read Masks excellent comic). The narration of story and art was so nicely done and interlocking that left me surprised…a very noir forties style comic that I’ll definitely be reading!!!

Fearless Defenders #3 by Cullen Bunn and Will Sliney…two reasons I started Fearless_Defenders_03reading this book: one is Dani Moonstar and the other is Hippolyta!!! This issue felt a little bigger than the previous ones… Hippolyta adds a lot more to the whole team; she is a bragging demigod, Misty’s comments  are becoming all the more wittier and Annabelle seems to be a new hero in making! Still seems weak… not story wise but it doesn’t feel like a team yet… I hope it’s established by the end of this arc cause it’s a really cool roster and I like so much Bunn’s and Sliney’s work!

Enjoy guys and girls!

Con Barbatsis for eCharta