Comic books have a rich history that can be dated back to the simpler, economically tumultuous, era of the 1930’s. This tradition of depicting superhuman beings performing unimaginable feats for good has inspired countless generations of readers around the world; yet one glaring fact of this history remains alive today, women as a whole have been passed up for starring roles in comics for decades.
Though this blemish on comic book history was slightly stirred up in the latter part of the 1960’s in the wake of the modern women's rights movement, moving into the 21st century, Marvel and its competitors have finally decided to address this issue head-on with new titles like “The Fearless Defenders,” which single in on a predominantly female cast. And, after reading “Fearless Defenders #1,” questions of gender in comics should be set aside for the interesting tale brewing in this latest installment of Marvel Now’s growing collection of female led titles.
Much like the other Marvel Now titles, mainly premised on taking older staples of the Marvel-616 Universe and re-energizing them with new writers, “Fearless Defenders #1” sets the bar even higher for newer comics, starring men or women, with solid writing and realistic though slightly cartoony artwork that catches the eye.
In its opening chapter, “Fearless Defenders #1” chiefly focuses on two members of its main cast, Mercedes “Misty” Knight and Valkyrie, with Moonstar and Warrior Woman still waiting on bench to be introduced in later issues. And, as if an ode to longtime collectors, this inaugural issue is full of the typical Marvel ethos: Misty breaking up a heist in progress with karate and cybernetics, Valkyrie laying destruction with her godly prowess and giant sword, and Dr. Riggs, an interesting non-powered co-star, setting the groundwork for what appears to be a journey further into the tales of Asgardian deities.
Like most first issues, Cullen Bunn, the writer, spends much of the book laying out the main characteristics of his moving parts – Misty, Valkyrie, and Dr. Riggs – with loads of delineation spiced up with humor and fun action sequences, all drawn beautifully by Will Sliney. And the banter flying back and forth between Misty and Valkyrie as they fend off reanimated Vikings is precious. Though, it seemed like this book was missing that “pop” of other Marvel Now titles, excluding maybe a lackluster book like Morbius or Thor God of Thunder (in later issues). Bunn does a fantastic job at setting up the framework, yet he excludes the bells and whistles that make a comic appear larger than life; the emotion that makes a reader feel like the protagonist is facing an adversary that, absolutely, needs to be stopped.
The good news is that this is issue number one, so Cullen Bunn and Will Sliney have more than enough time to up the ante and make this book an ongoing series worth keeping up with.
As a whole, this book deserves four out of five stars, with props being paid toward the solid story and great artwork, and the cons leaning toward the overall direction of the story. Hopefully, if this book is a success (or builds a following), mainstream and occasional readers will understand why women superheroes are just as powerful, interesting and varied as any male depicted in the same role.