Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Not-So-Essential Defenders

I've been on a positive kick lately, praising the hell out of ClanDestine #1, talking up my crush on Brand New Day, listing the great, canonical works of American Comics and playfully defending it, learning that Matt Fraction's going to be writing Iron Man--just feeling good about comics in general.

Then, I decided to fill one of the gaps in my mainstream comic book knowledge by taking Essential Defenders Vol. 1 off the shelf. It's one of the few major Marvel series that I have never read, save for about five random issues near the end of the run.

Well, I'm halfway through the first volume, and it's just complete shit. Extended plots involving the Nameless One. Histrionics over nothing. The Hulk just wanting to smash while Dr. Strange shifts into astral form while Namor shouts indignantly while the Silver Surfer just kind of zooms around zapping stuff. I didn't expect genius, but I expected solid Marvel super-heroics. It's just not good.

Does anyone have any strong feelings about The Defenders one way or another? Should I give up on it entirely, or should I stick it out and watch it become something actually worth reading? Should I just skip right to the Steve Gerber stuff or what?


nadir said...

i remember liking it way back when, but i have never been tempted to reread any of the issues. I also liked it far better when it became the new defenders, but i think it might have been me just liking 3rd tier characters.

as an aside, i think the premise of these essential collections is dead. i mean i understand reprinting true essential story lines, early spider-man and such, but when some of the worst 70s comics are getting collected - i am looking at you shang chi or better yet marvel saga, the concept has multiple forks in it already.

nadir said...

i should have also said i never read the real early issues. i must have started reading somewhere in the 70s/80s issues range.

Timothy Callahan said...

I love that the more obscure stuff gets reprinted though--and the Essential Iron Fist really is essential.

Marvel Saga, though? wtf?

nadir said...

i do like that the format allows for things to be collected that would simply vanish from earth, but i find the essential name an utter misnomer.

the more i think of the marvel saga collection, the more i wonder why they do not offer it for free online. They should also update it to cover the rest of their history.

it just sounds like a great gimmie to the fans who want to know more. i would also think it would spur more collection buying.

but then i have not really understood much of anything marvel has done since they started the new universe, so....

Marc Caputo said...

I love the concept of the Essentials and I'm finding that while I enjoy the stuff from the 60s, which is pretty much uniformly good as well as respected, I LOVE the living crap out of the 70s stuff. It's the stuff I started and grew up with; I find that it's practically critic-proof. I know that the stuff is fair to middling; it's comfort food, Mom's mac and cheese. I love how it stands up against the revisionism of the 1980s, defiantly saying, "It's OK - you go on to college; we'll stay on the farm."

Essential Iron Fist is good, especially when it slips into that 1-15 Claremont/Byrne groove. Frank Chiaramonte really inks the hell out of Byrne - as good as Austin and better in some spots.

I'm looking forward to picking up the Defenders when they get to 40-50 with the Scorpio arc - Gerber, right? BTW, RIP, Steve. Hope the HTD omnibus FLIES off the shelves and Marvel starts treating some other 70s stuff with similar respect. I'm getting it to replace my crappy Essentials collection - the stuff was reprinted at like 80% the size. Can you see the Warlock/Captain Marvel Starlin stuff done up that way? I do - in my dreams.

Timothy Callahan said...

It looks like the Starlin Captain Marvel is coming out in the Masterworks, and the Warlock will surely follow.

Seth said...

Those Essential and Showcase editions are perfect for skipping around and reading bits here and there. Plus, most of the art from the 70's guys look better in B&W.

Nadir- Unfortunately, Shang-Chi is not out as an Essential due to rights issues with Fu Manchu and other Sax Rohmer characters. Doug Moench & Paul Gulacy's 20 or so issue run would look great in black and white. Out of the 125 issues, their's are the essential ones.

Marc- I have a feeling that Starlin's epic "Magus Saga" is going to make up the bulk of the next Warlock Marvel Masterworks.

Marc Caputo said...

Seth: When's the next Palooka-Ville coming out?

(Internal monologue: See how clever I am, not geekily asking, 'Are you THE Seth? OMG, you're one of my biggest fans, I mean...'
Like I said, clever me.)

Elliott said...

my favorite essentials are the Marvel Two-In-Ones. They are absolutely fantastic fun. I also like the Spectacular Spider-Man ones. Anything that can go from a Morbius story to a White Tiger story to a friggin Razorback story is brilliance.

I've got a huge soft spot for Marvel Saga, probably because reading the issue that explained Namor's origin is one of my earliest comic memories. I might have to pick up the Essential, but not at full price.

I can't wait for the Howard the Duck Omnibus, even though I think the Gene Colan art looks better in black and white. I'm looking forward to seeing the art full sized though, that's for sure.

Elliott said...

Also: Elf with a gun!