I’m a sucker for a good action comic and Fearless Defenders hits the ground running, punching and kicking. Misty Knight, long-term Marvel supporting cast badass, is on a ship in the North Atlantic, fighting mercenaries trying to steal Asgardian artefacts. She’s only partially successful and so returns to old friend Doctor Annabelle Riggs. Riggs is in the middle of excavating a very odd Viking artefact and mass grave and Misty soon finds trouble – and Asgard’s last shield maiden – have followed her home…
“She’s a street level ass-kicking detective with a Stark Industries-designed right hand! Her partner’s the last Asgardian Shield Maiden! They fight crime!” sounds frivolous but it’s really the best way to describe the book. Bunn, best known for his excellent supernatural western series The Sixth Gun, hits exactly the right sort of light, fast on its feet, action tempo a book like this needs.
Misty’s opening fight on the ship is equal parts graceful, brutal martial arts and frantic scramble and there are some nice hints of character through the action. Bunn writes Misty as far less overtly street than previous writers but with a centred, flexed confidence that’s a lot of fun to read. This is a woman who is pretty confident she’s walking out of any situation she walks into, and while she isn’t bullet proof by any means, Bunn clearly writes her as enjoying her work.
By contrast, if this was a cop movie, Valkyrie would clearly be the strait-laced, by-the-book one. The constant rise to prominence of Asgard’s last Shield Maiden over the last few years has been a pleasure to watch and Bunn continues that trend here. His take on Valkyrie is both more hands on and more serious than previous ones, taking very seriously what Misty makes light of. This has already led to a couple of nicely realized comedy beats in the first issue, and this looks like a banter-tastic partnership, a female equivalent to Hawaii Five-O ’s bromance just with less bickering. Which, let’s face it, isn’t that hard.
What really marks this out as something special is the interplay between the two women and Dr Riggs who, in a neat echo of Dredd recently, is revealed to be gay in such a throwaway manner that the book’s practically daring the audience to have a problem with it. It’s classic action movie territory; the funny asskicker, the serious asskicker and their enthusiastic and less dangerous partner. Bunn serves up the central dynamic so effortlessly you don’t even notice it happening. There’s also a very interesting repositioning of Asgard here, with Asgardian technology (Including a very creepy singing statue) at the centre of a plot that takes pits our heroines against a villainess with the surname Le Fay (and yes, it is apparently Morgana) and viking zombies. There’s at least as much technology as there is magic in how it’s approached, putting the book solidly in line with how the movies have presented Asgard so far. There’s also a neat shout out to Thor, and a chilling, and logical, dark version of the Shield Maidens that looks set to be this first arc’s villain.
The book’s art, by Will Sliney is expressive, loose and kinetic. It’s a perfect fit for the story and for the most part, with a couple of early exceptions, the leads aren’t just in proportion they’re moving like normal humans do. Veronica Gandini’s colours are subtle, restrained and evocative, really helping in the final pages especially and Clayton Cowes’ lettering does a great job of differentiating between the two heroines’ distinctive speech patterns and the very funny asides that Bunn scatters throughout the script.
Fearless Defenders # is great fun. The female cast is a very welcome change; they’re huge fun to see in action and the plot balances viking zombies, technology, international crime, Arthurian myth and archaeological science fiction with a healthy dose of asskicking to create one of the most entertaining action comics I’ve read in months. Give it a try, because let’s face it, if you don’t, they’ll FIND you.
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