“Defenders” #12 from Matt Fraction and Mirco Pierfederici is a fitting finale — it’s as ambitious and skewed as the book was when it launched. There’s a sense Fraction enjoyed writing this book and the characters, because this farewell is bittersweet and will never really be enough. This tale, and its resolution, is both what the characters deserve and all they could wish for. For a book that never conformed or went with the obvious, this final issue keeps the original mandate intact to the very last page.
Hidden within this narrative is a great theory from Fraction that the Marvel Universe is no accident. It’s not even a series of accidents. Where many modern books from other companies have played up the inherent danger in playing with gamma rays and radioactive material, so as to make the superhero concept more real, Fraction layers an even more fantastical element over an already fantastic universe. What if these string of accidents that created all the heroes — which should seem insanely improbable when all listed together — was actually a plan? What if the Marvel U was actually assembled for a purpose, a string of improbable miracles lined up to fight a war? This concept is larger than “Defenders” #12 and it will be incredibly interesting to see if it is continued and addressed further in wider titles.
The execution of the finale is mildly muddled and simplified, despite all the elements being presented clearly. While it could be a result of the title being cut short, this story was set so wide that tying it back together was always going to require long stitches. The resolution isn’t unsuccessful or disappointing, but it doesn’t quite match the high benchmark the book set in the past. In fact, the conclusion makes it seem as though the team never really solved the problem — rather, they solved it, but created a whole new problem for someone else to deal with. It isn’t the most heroic action, but it’s fitting for comics, which never completely fix a problem. Usually, books create a patch that leaves holes for others to fill.
Mirco Pierfederici’s art has an uphill battle to fight. It’s different from the style established for the title from the outset by Terry Dodson, Michael Lark and Jamie McKelvie. Pierfederici is vastly different from these artists and sadly just below their level of craft. He does a good job with the character designs and his Death Celestial looks dominating. It is his motion between panels that feels static at times. It isn’t always helped by the colors from Veronica Gandini who gives waxy skin tones. Her mystical work is much more effective.
“Defenders” #12 brings Fraction’s wacky run on these disparate characters to an end. He draws his large story to a close the way it started, just slightly left of the middle. This isn’t an instant classic, but there will be merit in revisiting this story as a whole in a few years after letting the initial read settle in. This issue provides some poignant moments and does cap the series quite nicely.