Within an evenly-paced Defenders #2, there is a great scene in which Dr. Strange seemingly scares (if this is the correct term?) She-Hulk into transforming into her Betty Ross persona. That has the feel of almost classic Steve Gerber and thus classic Defenders, and it is those small character bits this book needs more of as it chugs its way into the future.
Writer Matt Fraction is a master of mixing the large worlds of mystic imagination that these characters must dwell in with tight characterizations that always ring true. (Look at his work on Thor and early issues of Fear Itself for justification.) While that just started to pop in the first issue – and congrats all around for getting the team together in one issue, a seemingly impossible job on comics team books these days – there seems to be a stall in this second issue, maybe almost a sophomore slump.
To be sure, I am very enthusiastic as the group faces the threat of Wundagore and a lot of nice threads from the past are at least remembered if not utilized. I like the return of such a lesser character as Prester John in a significant role, but still something was off here. Fraction needs to take care of his characters and they almost seem a tad abandoned in this second go-round.
Not all was down in Defenders #2. I love the throw-back of the gutter notices at the bottom of the page, the way the story is unfolding (although the unknown voice of the captions kinda slowed the first part of this issue down a might) and the direction in which it seems to be going.
Oh, and the art by Terry and Rachel Dodson is spot-on. I am loving the feel they are bringing to each and every panel, sometimes with pages just crammed with fun and action just like in the Age of Marvel. Intimate character facial expressions one moment and bad-ass Kirby cool high-tech the next. This is definitely the right art team for this non-team!
I am looking forward to seeing where Fraction is headed and I hope we recapture the magic of Issue #1 that seems to have been slightly missing this time around.
Like Doc Strange once said, “I have faith. And that is half the battle.”