Brainiac On Banjo #010: The Defenders Drop Five

My favorite Marvel characters, thank you for asking, are a bunch of characters that have a tough time holding onto their own titles. They started out their solo adventures in the 1960s split-books Strange Tales, Tales To Astonish, and Tales of Suspense. No, I do not count Journey Into Mystery because when the other titles dropped their mystery stories JIM actually became a Thor title.

So there. I’m a fanboy. I get to be anal retentive. It’s in the job description.

To narrow it down, those favorite characters of mine are, in no particular order, Nick Fury, Sub-Mariner, and Doctor Strange. In other words, two-thirds of the original Defenders, plus Nick Fury – who now disappears from my rant. When Marvel wanted to launch a new super-team book, they reached to the Sub-Mariner and to Doctor Strange, adding the Hulk to the group to provide necessary muscle and humor. 

Marvel added the Silver Surfer to the team shortly thereafter, much to my disappointment. Not that I dislike the guy; I have him over for dinner all the time. In my mind, he really doesn’t work as a team player. The Surfer flies around on his silver surfboard, redundantly enunciating his troubles as this own one-man Greek chorus. After that, the super-team entertained an ever-growing cast of also-rans… and I mean “also-ran” in the nicest possible way.

Not that I stopped reading the book. Despite numerous casting changes, both in the team and with its sundry creators, the basic concept was there. Doctor Strange and the Sub-Mariner were still there (usually), and the Hulk stomped around pissed off and confused as usual.

The Defenders have endured close to a dozen different launches; their initial title ran a very healthy 152 issues plus annuals and specials. In the past 22 years, it seems Marvel schleps out the title when they want to reach a little deeper into the comics dealers’ pockets. You know, like right now.

But, this time there’s a twist. The new series comes out in December and it runs five issues. However, the first four masquerade as solo books in a series overarched as “The Best Defense.” Hulk, Namor, Doctor Strange, Silver Surfer… followed, of course, by the wind-up one-shot The Defenders: The Best Defense. Each has its own creative team.

With the Fantastic Four just now returning from Mighty Marvel Limbo, Prince Namor the Sub-Mariner really hasn’t had as much visibility as he used to. I’m sure he’ll mess with the FF at some point, but for the past couple years he pretty much played the consulting monarch role in his typical imperious fashion. Doctor Strange has had greater visibility since his MCU movie, Silver Surfer has been surfing around denying he ever appeared in any movies, and, well, there are so many different Hulks stomping around I guess that if you’re not one of the horde of Spiders and you don’t have a multi-billion-dollar tin can, you probably are a Hulk. Congratulations.

This seems like a good time to relaunch The Defenders, although timing rarely has been a factor in this decision. They’ve got good people on the books and Marvel seems to be standing behind the stunt with decent promotion. Marvel is dropping all five issues in one month, more-or-less mirroring the Netflix distribution model, and I’m sure that’s just a coincidence. OK. What the hell; Marvel has tried everything else.

And who knows, maybe Nick Fury will show up. At least one of them.