Marvel’s Defenders have always been a team of misfits tasked with tackling supernatural and otherwordly threats that don’t often come up on the Avengers’ radar. Last year, Marvel relaunched the Defenders series with a new team featuring Doctor Strange, Silver Surfer, Masked Raider, Red Harpy, and Cloud. The same creative team returns to continue the spectacular journey through the cosmos, now with a new ensemble cast in place. Defenders: Beyond #1, written by Al Ewing with artwork from Javier Rodríguez and lettering by VC’s Joe Caramagna, takes the new Defenders beyond infinity.
The Sorcerer Supreme Doctor Stephen Strange is dead, killed by Kaecilius in The Death of Doctor Strange story arc. But the fail-safes he put in place are working perfectly. Defenders: Beyond #1 opens with an apparition of Stephen’s floating head contacting Blue Marvel, aka Adam Brashear in his undersea science fortress, the Kadesh. The head brings the Eternity Mask, which gives its wearer equal powers as their enemy, a headpiece to contact Galactas’ mother Taaia, and a tarot deck to call forth the would-be members of the Defenders. Like clockwork, Blue Marvel meets them in dramatic fashion. America Chavez, Taaia, a Loki from a defunct timeline, and Tigra join him, only to be whisked off on an otherworldly adventure.
It is typical of Doctor Strange to bring ominous tidings at the most unexpected of times. Defenders: Beyond #1 opens as Blue Marvel’s undersea tranquil life is turned upside down in an instant. The story starts slow and follows a linear timeline, one by one introducing the players on the field in sensational style. The opening conversation between Strange’s apparition and Adam tries to iron out the details, with Adam’s expository narration providing introductions to his soon-to-be teammates and his opinions on each of them. As the issue starts to build momentum, Ewing injects an undercurrent of tension between the characters, making each of their enigmatic personalities stand out. Even without a proper antagonistic force, Ewing keeps the suspense building until the very end, catapulting the Defenders to the beyond.
Taking a gander at his colorful work, one can easily surmise that Rodríguez takes definite inspiration from Steve Ditko’s psychedelic work during his Doctor Strange run. But with modern coloring techniques and stylized pencil work, Defenders: Beyond #1 makes the art style its own. From blocks of colors documenting the past and present to an angry floating head spiraling through the corridor, there is a ton of striking imagery scattered throughout the book that evokes a compelling sense of mysticism.
Defenders: Beyond #1 takes time to build the world from the ground up rather than diving headlong into the action. The entire issue is about inducting the members into the team and familiarizing the characters to the audience. Blue Marvel is the point man here, whose perspective plays a role in informing readers about the conundrums and hesitations of having such a diverse cast with varying allegiances. But therein lies the thrill of the ride, as shocking circumstances call for strange solutions.