So far, “Fearless Defenders” is filled with potential that can’t quite realize itself and while this second issue by Cullen Bunn and Will Sliney is better than the first, it still feels like it needed more time in the oven to cook.
In this issue, readers are introduced to Dani Moonstar, who handles herself nicely before getting captured, and a larger plot is put in place. Meanwhile, Valkyrie, Misty Knight and Dr. Annabelle Riggs head to Asgardia to find out what might be behind the return of the Doom Maidens. The plot and writing are not bad, but some of the jokes don’t land and the chemistry between Valkyrie and Misty Knight is not nearly as compelling as it feels like it should be. Additionally, Dr. Riggs feels like an unnecessary third wheel — at least at this point.
However, Bunn’s tonal approach to “The Fearless Defenders” is generally right on the money — not taking itself too seriously, and not being afraid of a certain amount of camp — but the art style doesn’t gel well with what Bunn is going for. As a result, none of it works nearly as well as it should with such a great cast in place. It feels like epic potential, unfulfilled. There’s time of course for it come together, and this second issue was certainly superior to the first, but it’s just disappointing that it’s not better. The best, most in sync page of the entire book is the opening credits page, which breaks the fourth wall expertly and shows off the strengths and personalities of both the series’ stars.
Lack of consistency causes all sorts of problems for this issue. Sliney is an odd choice for this book, but style preferences aside, these first two issues have shown that he’s just not ready for this high profile (and important) assignment. Sometimes Valkyrie looks like she might be a warrior, but mostly she looks like a petite cheerleader dressed up for Halloween. In fact, there’s very little difference between any of the leads body types when it should be easy to distinguish between characters as distinct as Valkyrie, Misty Knight and Dr. Annabelle Riggs.
At first I felt Sliney was doing better with the distinct faces of the leads, but on closer examination, they’re really similar and are saved only by significant coloring and hairstyle differences. Facial expressions are also lacking, and may be part of the reason that Bunn’s jokes aren’t landing as well as they should. The chemistry in general, both between characters and creators, feels off and lacks in execution. The storytelling works well enough from a clarity standpoint, but there’s nothing particularly interesting about it. Moreover, every once in a while a panel will stand out with utter ridiculousness (see: a panel of Valkyrie in which she looks like she literally has two giant odd-shaped metal bullets strapped awkwardly to her chest). Backgrounds alternate between adequate and far too thin and some angles are very poorly chosen and only highlight weaknesses in the art.
I’m hard pressed to think of two characters I’m more interested in reading about for a team-up book, but so far I’m not seeing nearly enough to draw me back for a third issue. In time Cullen and Sliney might find their own chemistry and thus find it for Val and Misty, but at this point I’m not optimistic.