Defenders #4 from Brian Michael Bendis, David Marquez, and Justin Ponsor wraps up the opening arc for this brand-new run of the series, focusing on the street level heroes of New York's Hell's Kitchen and Harlem. It continues to be one of the most fun comics coming out from Marvel, with some top-notch banter. However, this issue is a bit of a damp squib of an ending.
Starting off flashing back away from where we left off, we see more about the new designer drug that Diamondback is pushing, and how the Daily Bugle staff including Ben Urich and Robbie Robertson have come to know so much about things going on on the street. Then we return to the fight we left off, with Danny Rand being broken by Diamondback.
Sadly, it's this fight where things fall apart a bit and wind up causing a bit of an anti-climax.
Now don't get me wrong, it looks stunning. Marquez and Ponsor do amazing work here, and the fight choreography is some of the best I've seen in comics. The fight looks at times awesome, at times brutal, and entirely beautiful. And one of the other awesome elements of the art in this issue is the wonderful choice of perspective in some of the panels.
The problem comes from the fact that Diamondback was set up as a surprisingly dangerous villain for the group, taking them all out with smarts or physical brutality. And yet, here in this climatic fight, he is defeated by half the team, one of whom is still recovering from a gunshot wound, and one who has literally just suffered a broken back.
While normally it would have caused the reaction of "Hot damn, that's cool!", it actually took me out of the book a bit with a reaction of "How the hell?"
Adding to this, the mystery of Diamondback's return from the dead is kind of glossed over, as a throwaway line simply reads along the lines of "He faked his death." The mystery of how is (hopefully, I guess) being dragged out, or this is really all we're getting. If the latter, then again, it's kind of a letdown.
That being said, the banter as I mentioned earlier is fun and witty, and the focus on the street level aspects feels more real than has been managed at Marvel for a while. And again, this comic is beautiful.
There's setup for this series to keep being interesting and keep being fun for a while, and let's face it — with the Netflix show set to launch next week, this comic could sure as hell give a good taster in preparation, or be a good entry point for fans of the show wanting to come into the comics.
In short, Bendis has done a great job with Defenders, but he wobbled a bit on the landing. Still, the potential in this series is a lot higher than most, and this is definitely a series to keep your eye on.