Defenders Beyond #1 is the start of a new series published by Marvel Comics, written by Al Ewing, art and colours by Javier Rodríguez and letters by Joe Caramagna. A Loki from the past, Blue Marvel America Chavez, Tigra, and Taaia are all pieced together and flung into a mission that seeks to try and save reality as rogue magic begins interfering with their lives.
The best word to describe this opening issue is chaotic. This series appears to blend two of the most lore-heavy and complicated genres of the Marvel Universe: reality-bending cosmic stories and magic. Both of these are Ewing specialties, and the plot threads that make up the spine of this story come from his previous stories. Loki: Agent of Asgard, Ultimates, and Death of Doctor Strange.
The story is actually quite slow to start before a sudden acceleration activates the aforementioned chaos. Like previous Defenders series, the characters are suddenly thrown together and then launched forwards. It is energetic and exciting, but hard to fully understand what is going on. The exposition isn’t brilliant at describing. The concepts involved are very high, and the transition between them is very awkward to follow. But once the action sets off it is clear that the book will be full of fun and surprises, with an unexpected reveal by the final page.
The group of characters collected for this team is the ultimate Al Ewing cast. They are remnants and stars from other comics, but they do fit the concept of the Defenders. It’s a team that revolves around extremely powerful or wacky ideas and personalities meshing together. Blue Marvel is initially introduced as the leader, serving as the Reed Richards or Doctor Strange of the team.
But Loki is the one that seems to march through doors first and actually gathers the group. This is a fascinating dynamic as the battle for who is in control may lead to conflict. There is little trust between the whole team as most of them barely know one another. As the writer understands many of these heroes so well, their personalities are clear right from the start.
It might be difficult for someone to jump into the comic cold with Ewing’s earlier books as some of the characters talk about events that have already happened. But the narration does a decent job of providing context. The dialogue is thick but once all of the players are together it begins to flow nicely.
The art is brilliant. The character entrances are extremely energetic, some of the figures literally leaping into the panel. All of the designs are great, with clean lines allowing for crisp details on the costumes. The majority of Defenders Beyond #1 takes place in Kadesh, Blue Marvel’s base. That sense of location isn’t always present with Rodriquez relying on darkness and shadows. The drama of the book stems from the facial expressions which are excellently specific.
Small things like Loki’s missing tooth or the sea creatures that make random appearances draw the eye Perhaps my favourite aspect of the art is the way Rodriguez implements the portals. There is the empty space of the opening in reality as the character steps through, but then a lovely outline of the place they just came from. They look like sketched versions of the city, but it’s such a nice inclusion.
The colours are fantastic. Due to the base being at the bottom of the ocean, there is a heavy blue filter over every page until the end of the adventure. But when a portal opens there are glances of other colours, such as the green of Loki. Those hints of tones are seen throughout the issue and add more life beyond the overpowering blue. By the end of the issue, the colours become much more rich and vibrant as the chaos begins.
The only negative to the lettering may be Loki’s word balloons. Their font is very thin and small, forcing me to quint to make out some of the words.
Defenders Beyond #1 is an awkward start. It is a comic with a lot of history and a lot of exposition for the future of the series. It is a lot of baggage for Ewing to move, and it isn’t all dealt with easily. With the addition of the characters, the energy is ignited and that fuels the pace with nitrous. The art is great for bringing the wackiness that this corner of the Marvel Universe has to offer. For fans of Ewing’s writing, this may be seen as an excellent continuation. But for anyone new, it would be a definite struggle to jump into.
Defenders Beyond #1 is available where comics are sold.
Defenders Beyond #1
Defenders Beyond #1 is an awkward start. It is a comic with a lot of history and a lot of exposition for the future of the series. It is a lot of baggage for Ewing to move, and it isn’t all dealt with easily.