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Fearless Defenders writer Cullen Bunn confirmed on Tumblr what many fans of the series feared when the book didn’t show up in Marvel’s January solicitations — December’s #12 is indeed the final issue of the series.
“I can’t really describe how much this book… and these characters… meant to me,” Bunn said in his post. “THE DEFENDERS have always been special for me. I just connected with the non-team and I’ve always wanted to write them. (In fact, I think it is common knowledge that one of my first Marvel minis, FEAR ITSELF: THE DEEP was originally titled FEAR ITSELF: THE DEFENDERS.) Over the past couple of years, I’ve come to love Valkyrie as more than just a really bad ass girl with a sword. And this book was the first concept I brought to Marvel… or at least the first concept I brought to them that they jumped on.”
The book spun out of another Valkyrie-starring and Bunn-written miniseries: Fear Itself: The Fearless, which ended with Valkyrie deciding to recruit a new group of Valkyrior on Earth. Her first recruit was Misty Knight, formerly of Heroes for Hire, who knows a thing or two about recruiting heroes herself. Featuring art by Will Sliney, the comic kept the Defenders “non-team” concept and featured a ton of guest stars from around the Marvel Universe, with New Mutant Dani Moonstar, Elsa Bloodstone, Hippolyta and a new character, Annabelle Riggs, serving as series regulars. Bunn and Sliney really hit home with a lot of fans when Riggs was supposedly killed off at the end of the first storyline. It also featured some pretty awesome covers.
Death really seems like the end, doesn’t it? Aside from the very literal definition, fiction tends to end when your protagonist completes his journey. What bigger way can you end the “ultimate journey” than by dying? Sure, another character can pick up the plot and the story can continue, but where our dead character coughs his last breath is where that story ends. Characters die when their story purpose is served and there is simply nothing else to say about them.
Or at least that’s what you’d assume. Comic books, however, have a really odd relationship with death. It’s an eye-rolling trope that no one really stays dead anymore; in fact, I’m hard-pressed to think of something that can really and truly end a comic book character’s life. At best, death temporarily shelves the character in question, pulling them out of the game to grab some Gatorade and cool off on the bench before the coach sends them back in. At worst, it’s a cheap marketing trick to garner rubber necking sales and speculation. Death can be a change in status or design for a long-running character gone stale, or the cliched motivation for all the other characters around them to grieve or avenge their death. No matter what shape death takes in comics, it’s pretty much a given that death is nothing more than a transitional state and that the character never really leaves us for very long.
So why do we fall for it every time? When a character dies in a comic, there’s this big collective gasp from the readers as if someone actually died despite our cynical nature and regular readership. It’s no surprise that eventually Peter Parker will return to the pages of a Spider-Man comic when the current status quo has run its purpose, but there is still an angry undercurrent from the Spidey fanbase about his demise. On one hand, I feel like we’re the hapless victim of a playground gag, forever interested in a Hertz Donut or a nice Hawaiian Punch and falling for a gag that most of us should be calloused toward by now. On the other hand, isn’t that just a sign of great writing? To take a well-worn trope and achieve fan outrage by using it constructively should be a heralded accomplishment, a difficult trick that puts us in the story despite knowing better.
Fearless Defenders pulled this trick on us with a one-two punch that must have been so hard to keep under wraps. The shock and drama from one issue was fed into the next for a unique solution, but it took 21 days for that plot point to resolve itself, long enough for a fan reaction, proclaiming to cancel their subscriptions and write angry letters online. It’s hard to know what to do when you fall for the ol’ Death trick one more time, especially with such a short turnaround. Let’s talk abut Fearless Defenders #6 and #7 this week, and figure out if Cullen Bunn is a genius or just a jerk for pulling Death’s wool over our eyes one more time.
WARNING: Yep, spoilers for Fearless Defenders #6 and #7, but since the issues have been out for at least a week, I hope they’re not too spoilery. In any case, grab your copies and read along!
Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy at our local comic shop based on certain spending limits — $15 and $30 — as well as what we’d get if we had extra money or a gift card to spend on a splurge item.
It’s a busy week at the store for me, it seems. If I had $15 this week, I’d pick up Harbinger #0 (Valiant, $3.99), the one-shot revealing the backstory of the surprisingly compelling relaunch/reboot of the 1990s series, as well as the first issues of Fearless Defenders (Marvel, $2.99) and Snapshot (Image, $2.99). The latter, I’ve already read in its Judge Dredd Megazine serialization, but I’m really curious to see if it reads differently in longer chapters; the former, I’m just hopeful for, given the high concept and involvement of Cullen Bunn.
If I had $30, I’d add the reissued 7 Miles A Second HC (Fantagraphics, $19.99) to my pile. I remember reading the original Vertigo version of this in the 1990s, and am definitely curious to see what this recolored edition, with pages restored after being cut from the Vertigo edition, is like.
Splurging, I find myself drawn to IDW’s Doctor Who Omnibus, Vol. 1 ($29.99). I blame the lack of new Doctor Who on the television right now. That month-and-a-bit is far too long to wait …!
It’s time once again for our monthly trip through Previews looking for cool, new comics. We’ve each picked the five comics we’re most anticipating in order to create a list of the best new stuff coming out two months from now.
As usual, please feel free to play along in the comments. Tell us what we missed that you’re looking forward to or – if you’re a comics creator – mention your own stuff.
G.I. Joe #1: As if G.I. Joe wasn’t entirely in my guilty pleasure wheelhouse already, IDW Publishing relaunches the title with Fred Van Lente as writer and the tease of social and media commentary as the team is forced to go public in its fight against Cobra. Seriously, that’s just unfair, people. (IDW, $3.99)
Hawkeye, Vol. 1: My Life As A Weapon TP: One of the best-looking comics around, thanks to David Aja (and Javier Pulido, on a couple of the issues contained herein), and something that I suspect I’m going to want in a collected edition to give to friends wanting some fun, fast-moving action stuff to read. Best thing Matt Fraction’s done in a long time, too. (Marvel, $16.99)
New Tales of Old Palomar HC: Continuing my Love and Rockets education, a chance for me to pick up Gilbert Hernandez’ return to Palomar in this new collected edition of his Ignatz series. This is definitely my favorite of Beto’s work, so I’m happy to see more. (Fantagraphics, $22.99).
The Sixth Gun: Sons of The Gun #1: A new spin-off series from Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt’s spectacular horror western? Why, I really don’t mind if I do, thanks very much. For added benefit, having Brian Churilla show up for art duties is pretty sweet, as well. (Oni Press, $3.99)
Young Romance: A New 52 Valentine’s Day Special #1: Even if I’m feeling less than enthused about the majority of DC’s superhero line lately, I have to admit, the idea of a Valentine’s Day special one-off is just far too tempting for me to ignore. (DC Comics, $7.99).
Comics | DC Comics’ Senior Vice President of Sales Bob Wayne and Vice President of Marketing John Cunningham discuss October sales, the date change for Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and variant covers. Although the company is releasing 52 variants for Justice League of America #1, DC plans to cut back on variants in its other lines. “We’re going to pull back and drop variants from a handful of titles in the next solicitation cycle to pull back that number ourselves, where it didn’t seem the variant was making a substantial difference in the buy-in for the book or the perception of books,” Wayne said. “We’ll be looking at the remaining titles that have variants the following month.” [ICv2]
Comics | Speaking of variant covers, Tim Beyers of The Motley Fool discusses the dos and don’ts of buying variant covers as an investment. [Daily Finance]
I’ll be honest, part of me really wants to curl up in a blanket with a pint of ice cream and bemoan the loss of Avengers Academy, whose final issue came out this week. That Avengers Arena ad in the back the book was a kick in the pants, wasn’t it? It’s sad to think the little book that could, one of the best all-ages titles on the stands, has ended and we may not see its like again in the foreseeable future. It’s wasn’t a top-selling title but what it lacked in sales it made up for in heartening and brilliant content. Again, I could foist my woes upon you, Dear Reader, but we are trying to live in the NOW (which is a little like the present but just a scooch toward the future), so let’s set aside our sadness and look at a new development this week.
Cullen Bunn will be bringing us the Fearless Defenders in 2013, a team book centered around Valkyrie creating a new team of eight Valkyrior (a cooler way of saying Valkyries) out of existing (and possibly new) Marvel heroines. It’s been a fantastic concept for a team book since Mr. Bunn previewed it in Fear Itself: The Fearless, and I’m happy to see that there was enough interest (from we, the fans) and support (from they, the editorial staff) to see this idea hit print. It’s a cool premise, we’ll see a lot of characters we honestly don’t normally get to and there’s a great overarching purpose to the book to keep it from getting stale.
However, especially in today’s Avengers-rich environment, why would they call it the Fearless Defenders? Just because Valkyrie leads a team? Why not call it the Fearless Avengers and loop it all together? I can’t be the only one who likes the name Lady Liberators, right? What will make this team a Defenders title? I have a few ideas.
WARNING: I’ll be talking about the end of Matt Fraction’s Defenders #12 in vague terms, but there might be a spoiler or two dropped without warning. Be prepared!