By Al Ewing and Javier Rodriguez
Published by Panini UK
Collecting: Defenders (2021) #1-5
Review by Mark Braithwaite
There’s a mystery to solve and the answers lie in the past.
Defenders – There Are No Rules sees the Marvel Multiverse under threat and requires Doctor Strange to draft one of the most unusual teams yet. A hastily cast recruitment spell brings together Red Harpy (formerly Red She-Hulk, Betty Banner), Cloud (sentient nebula given human form), Taaia (from the Sixth Cosmos) and Silver Surfer (former herald of Galactus).
Under the advisement of The Masked Raider, whose identity is concealed by a piece of Eternity, the team journey back in time to the origin point of the Marvel Multiverse.
To help save reality from destruction, the Defenders are going to discover who might have survived from the previous eight eras of existence.
There’s a distinct Silver Age feel to this arc and Al Ewing tells much of the story through the narration of its characters, yet it never loses its fast pace or sense of urgency to its mission. The chapters are presented almost episodically, with each one examining just why each particular Defender is summoned to the cause.
Javier Rodriguez does a great job channelling the 1960s bold and definitive art style with a few modern elements along the way such as panels subtly disappearing as magic spells are cast, with enchantments and plot twists flowing across the page. The initial spell that brings the Defenders together sees the Tarot Of The Secret Flame cards reveal themselves upside down – images mirrored as the start of each chapter/issue begins with their corresponding character on an upside down splash page, their perspectives skewed until the task at hand becomes clearer.
Each chapter is separated by the regular covers of the collected issues and there’s a Variant Cover Gallery at the back of the book.
Swirly spells, mysteries and a unique team dynamic contribute to a genuinely psychedelic exploration of the Marvel Multiverse.
The founder of downthetubes, which he established in 1998. John works as a comics and magazine editor, writer, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. He is currently editor of Star Trek Explorer, published by Titan – his third tour of duty on the title originally titled Star Trek Magazine.
Working in British comics publishing since the 1980s, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Babylon 5 Magazine, and more. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War” and “Dan Dare”.
He’s the writer of “Pilgrim: Secrets and Lies” for B7 Comics; “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood.