Today’s Super Comics — Defenders #1-5 (2005)

Defenders indefensibleOkay, one more funny book…

The same creative team that brought humor to the Justice League (see yesterday’s review) performed an encore of sorts with Marvel’s Defenders.

The Defenders debuted back in the 1970s, teaming up powerful loners Doctor Strange, Namor the Sub-Mariner, the Hulk, and later the Silver Surfer. It ran for a respectable length but didn’t last. Might have fared better if anyone had realized the group’s tremendous comedic potential.

Doctor Strange is absurdly melodramatic. Namor is impossibly arrogant. The Silver Surfer is ridiculously philosophical. And the Hulk is the Hulk. Why did this take decades to figure out?

Anyway, Giffen, DeMatteis, and Maguire have loads of fun letting these characters be the most cartoonish versions of themselves and letting them bicker accordingly, but they don’t neglect the important rule they followed during their Justice League International tenure—we can have our fun, but the threats still need to be serious. In this case, the dreaded Dormammu and his sister, Umar, attain god-like power and rewrite reality. So just a little something for the fellas to sort out.

Well, not the Silver Surfer. He declines Doctor Strange’s invitation so that he may commune with others who “ride the board.”

The Silver Surfer hangs out with surfer dudes. Defenders nailed it.

Writers: Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis

Penciler: Kevin Maguire

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; collected in Defenders: Indefensible (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 13 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Justice League #1 (1987)

Justice_League_1_DC_1987Let’s continue this streak of comical comic books, shall we? The next obvious place to turn is the “funny” incarnation of the Justice League.

DC Comics rebooted the JLA franchise in the late ‘80s by giving it a more lighthearted, quirkier tone while keeping the threats serious. Comedy sprang from the characters’ colorful personalities, resulting in a frequently amusing, if seldom laugh-out-loud, series. Some storylines were sillier than others. A few were downright farcical. But as written by Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis and drawn by Kevin Maguire, it remained a consistently entertaining book for about five years or so.

Looking back at Justice League #1 (before it rebranded as Justice League International shortly later), the creators seemed to ease into the new tone. Guy Gardner’s immaturity causes squabbling, and Batman gets to be the adult in the room (one who could stand to brush up on his people skills). But the main action of a terrorist siege at the United Nations is played fairly straight, and the book even includes a somber moment as the Martian Manhunter silently reflects on the downfall of the previous Justice League team he was a part of.

Still, it’s a clear shift from the traditional Justice League of America that was often staffed by consummate professionals. Issue #1 introduces us to a team whose individual members are formidable, but they don’t gel as amiably as their predecessors did. And that kind of friction serves the reader well.

It’s a more character-driven Justice League than in the good ol’ days…and yeah, a bit funnier, too.

Writers: Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis

Penciler: Kevin Maguire

Inker: Terry Austin

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; included in Justice League International vol. 1 (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 9 and up