Partial Retraction – Thoughts on Fearless Defenders #3
Not too long ago, I commented with my thoughts as to why Fearless Defenders #3 would be the final issue of that series that I would read. I commented on a number of reasons, most of which was that I was quite upset that the writer – Cullen Bunn – did not appear to hold true to the stories laid out in Journey Into Mystery which focused on the Disir. My comments caused some people to question whether or not I had read the issue, and several comments pointed out pieces for that book that perhaps held true that maybe I did not read it as well as I could have. The comments pointed out specific references, as well, where the book seemed to not contradict JiM but instead kept that story intact. Although I was fairly sure that I had read the issue correctly (in fact, before I write any review, I read the book 2-3 times to make sure that my initial thoughts were upheld), others were fairly adamant that I did not read it well enough. So, I made a commitment to them in the comments that I would read it again and comment as a follow-up.
But I don’t think that is enough. Instead of re-reading the issue alone, I instead opted to re-read several stories to refresh myself with the continuity that I was complaining about: the entire run of Fear Itself: The Fearless, the JiM/New Mutants trade “Exiled” that contained the original story about the Disir, as well as the first 3 issues of Fearless Defenders to ensure that I saw the pieces as part of the full story instead of the single issue that I stated broke the continuity. And that’s where this article is originating from. Before I go into my thoughts, I have a few things I’d like to comment on.
First, I’m human. I make mistakes. And when characters that I am passionate about are not getting the treatment that I think they deserve or where I think there has been a major blunder with them, I tend to perhaps lose my objectivity and look at it from a personal standpoint. And while all that is well and good, it is not what I should be doing as the EiC of ComicBooked.com. I should be looking at issues objectively and providing feedback as to whether an issue is good or bad from an objective viewpoint, and I failed in that regard when it came to this particular issue. To those readers who looked at my review and thought “What a jerk!” I can only say, again, is that I’m human and I apologize for not being as objective as I could have been.
Second, one of the commenters asked me to remove and/or redo my original review. I am not doing that, but am instead posting this retraction article. Because this article was posted online, it’s going to live forever. Not in terms of printouts that people have, but this is the internet – search spiders will have logged it, the Way Back Machine (seriously, it’s real) will have grabbed an archived version… Nothing ever vanishes completely online. So, instead of trying to fight how the internet works, I will instead use it to point out my error and to drive interested readers here, to this post. The original post has been edited (or will be edited soon after this one goes live) to include a link to this post and I will also be providing the link as responses to the commenters who put me right. I have no problem in keeping my mistakes public; transparency in this day and age is not only a nice-to-have thing but it is more or less required.
And I don’t have anything to hide. I screwed up and I’m saying it publicly.
That said, I firmly believe that certain of my comments on the issue at hand still hold, but perhaps not in the context of the continuity piece. I do feel that Cullen Bunn’s writing was still quite stiff and the dialog forced – it just was not a smooth flow for the characters. With Bunn writing The Fearless and focusing on Valkyrie, I found that book to be much more in touch with the character from both a character development standpoint as well as staying true to the history of Valkyrie. Here, we see the relationship of Val with Hela, but I don’t think Bunn is truly doing the character justice. I think he is focusing too hard on creating an all-female team (as far as I can tell, the first in Marvel to get their own title – I don’t count the old Marvel female super-villain team of the Grapplers as they never had their own book or the upcoming X-Men book as it’s not out yet) without ensuring the characters are well and truly the focus. Val seems less powerful than she did in The Fearless, and it also seems different from her personality within the pages of Secret Avengers but maybe that’s just me again. Misty Knight just seems very 2-dimensional and is almost like she jumped back to the days of Power Man and Iron Fist. We barely saw Dani in this issue, and Hippolyta… not a fan (there are enough strong women in the Marvel Universe that to create one for the sake of this team is, in my opinion, wholly unnecessary). No, I think the focus here has been on creating a team of women rather than telling a truly engaging story that has character development and does justice to existing characters, and maybe that’s what turned me off and made me less objective than I should have been. I just think this is a poor series and doesn’t do the title of “Defenders” justice – and based on some of the previous series to use the name that’s saying a lot! It’s not the worst, but it’s not near the top either.
Specifically, though, where I think the writing messed me up (now, I am talking specifically about me here) was because several times in the first few issues of this series there was talk of shield maidens and doom maidens. In my head, I mixed those up, and that is all on me. As was pointed out, the Disir were the Shield Maidens under Bor (Odin’s father) and the Doom Maidens existed under Odin’s rule, this ensuring that they are not one and the same. The Valkyrie were the Shield Maidens under Odin and Hela as well, and that was where I think I lost my focus. In The Fearless, the Disir members were no longer Valkyrior, thus leaving Val as the sole member. She was charged in rebuilding the Valkyrior using humans from Earth/Midgard. Maybe it’s just me missing the references in comics of the old days – when Val talked about that, the little editor’s note of “* As shown in Fear Itself – The Fearless!” would have been wonderful and perhaps would also have given some context for newer readers. (To be honest, I miss those boxes as it helped me establish both continuity and an understanding that the entire creative team truly did take into account stories that came before. The single page at the front of the book doesn’t do it for me because of the lack of specific reference. But again, that’s just me.) I re-read The Fearless after the other titles, simply because I felt I was missing something – AGAIN – and did not want to have to do a retraction to a retraction. I tried to put everything in context this time round, which is also why this article took a tad longer to write than I originally expected it to.
My comments on the art, I feel, still hold water. Nothing with my comments on the artwork change from the previous comments to this one. Some panels were good, some not so good. The flashbacks (now that I’ve read the issues again) I still feel are some of the best art in this story so far – not just this issue but the entire arc to date in Fearless Defenders. I would like to see Will Sliney’s art mature over time as I think he has a lot of great potential, but he has not reached that peak just yet in my opinion. A little more unique touches to the characters will probably fix that up quite well.
So.. there you have it. I will not retract all of my comments, because I still feel I am justified in stating that there was some confusion as to continuity, but definitely not a total ignorance of continuity as I had originally stated. I had said that I would not read another issue of this series (which I also now retract as I will pick up the AoU tie-in) but as an ongoing I may complete this story arc. I don’t want my confusion to be my bias, and maybe this is one of those stories that needs to be complete in its entirety before I should make such a statement. I hope that’s the case, but my feeling right now is that – irregardless of my confusion and my error – I just cannot justify picking this title up as an ongoing; it’s not up to snuff for what I would expect from Marvel. But I will give it a chance to complete this story. I will also say – right here, right now – that I will do my utmost to not let such items cloud my judgement in future. What I know I can rely on, though, is that our loyal readers had no problem in pointing out the issue to me, and I truly appreciate that. I need to be set right when I am wrong. And you all did that and told me why – and for that, I thank you all.