Last issue introduced an unexpected twist, when Valkyrie ventured into the realm of the dead to rescue Annabelle Riggs who died to save Val from her dark nature. Unfortunately, these sorts of things come with a price and in this case, it was that the two, who were strongly hinted at forming a romantic bond, instead now share the same body!
Rather than taking time to process that, the ladies are back in action, joined this outing by Elsa Bloodstone, monster hunter extraordinaire, as they seek… something… through New York’s Chinatown. (I should point out, that issue features a stripped down team of just Annabelle/Val and Misty along with Elsa.)
A few issues ago, the series’ major baddie Caroline LeFay, the daughter of Dr. Doom and Morgana LeFay, ironically inspired by the Defenders themselves, set about creating her own team of all-female villains to oppose them. Her first recruit debuts here, Zheng Bao Yu. It’s not clear, but it would appear she is the daughter of Zheng Zu, the Marvel version of Fu Manchu, who also happens to be the father of Misty Knight’s former ally Shang Chi the Master of Kung-Fu. Zheng Bao Yu commands the Hai Dai, a pack of ninjas as well as monstrous creatures that should be familiar to Marvel readers, especially fans of the X-Men.
Finally, the team encounter what I assume will be a new teammate and it’s quite a startling choice!
Valkyrie gets a great new costume, as depicted on the cover, which replaces the metal cone bra with more subtle metal disks on her shoulders. Otherwise, Will Sliney’s art hasn’t been my favorite on this series, but this issue is an improvement. One of my biggest gripes was the heavy use of inks, but that seems toned down here. It’s better. It’s a LOT better. The one thing that I found wonky was Zheng Bao Yu’s body movement, but maybe that was just her style of martial arts.
The tone on this book is a lot of fun. The camaraderie flows naturally and the dialogue is a lot of fun. That’s a good thing, but you’d think there’d be a little more drama regarding Annabelle and Val’s new status quo. I liked that they scaled back the cast a bit, though, and focused on Misty, Annabelle and Val. Elsa Bloodstone makes a logical choice for inclusion on this team, as a unique character in the Marvel Universe who currently doesn’t have a home. I’m not as psyched over the other possible new member, but what can I do about that?
Overall, a fun issue that serves as a nice stand-alone issue and jumping-on point, that still ties into the larger storyline without seeming too daunting to a potential new reader.
THE FEARLESS DEFENDERS #8
Written by Cullen Bunn
Art by Will Sliney
Cover by Mark Brooks