New Reviews of Old Comics
My first experience with The Defenders was under the title of The New Defenders about 3 issues before the title was canceled. There was Gargoyle, Angel, Valkyrie, a bald chick, Moondragon, I think and maybe a couple others I don’t remember. The writing, art and overall concept were good enough that I stayed with it until the end (a whole three months), got a few back issues around that one and over the years I’ve picked up a few older Defenders issues and even the more “recent” Secret Defenders.
This issue’s story is “Defender of the Realm!” written by David Kraft with art by Keith Giffen and Chic Stone. It opens with Namor the Sub-Mariner walking down Park Avenue (New York for you non-East Coasters) getting his usual harassment from the air breathers. A well timed plot device has the Hulk sitting on a nearby roof top and he recognizes his “friend” from a previous issue. Namor has no time for the green behemoth, giving him a rude brush off. A fight scene ensues. Elsewhere in Russia there is a secret project underway involving radiation and the Red Guardian, a female Russian super powered person (not sure I should describe her as a super-hero during the Cold War setting). Back in New York, the Hulk/Namor fight scene continues for a few more pages with Defenders Hellcat and Nighthawk (I don’t remember seeing them before) getting involved. Meanwhile Valkyrie is annoyed by a pipe smoker while watching a movie; hey, this is some seriously engaging storyline. Finally the pages long fight scene wraps up when Hellcat reminds Namor he is also a Defender. Oh, yeah, nevermind. Apparently Namor needed Reed Richards to help him solve a radiation problem in Atlantis. Maybe the Hulk can help. If you have #53 you’d know what happens next. Sadly, I don’t.
This is very much a what-you-see-is-what-you-get comic. The cover has Hulk and Namor slugging it out among the ruins of buildings, and that’s pretty much all that happened in this issue. Actually, that’s pretty much all that happened in nearly every Marvel title during the 1970s, just the heroes/villains were interchangeable. Within that perspective, this was an enjoyable read for what it was. There are panels were Giffen’s artwork is clearly trying to imitate Kirby and sometimes he succeeds nicely. In other panels his style is a pre-cursor to his late 80s and 90s style, and that’s not a bad thing either. I’ll definitely continue picking up Defenders issues as I find them.