Marvel’s “Age of Ultron” tie-in issues have been independently branded from the regular series of similar titles and also feature a variance in creative teams. Most of those one-shots have been fairly enjoyable, yet somewhat ancillary to both “Age of Ultron” and the normal title. “Fearless Defenders” #4AU is a bit different in that regard.
Cullen Bunn, writer of the regular series, also writes this issue, but it is set in the time after Ultron’s victory. The only character he brings with him from the regular series to this issue is Hippolyta — Warrior Woman — who is an ally of the Defenders of that era: Hulk, Wolverine and Colonel America. Accompanying Warrior Woman is Caroline Le Fay and Bunn reveals secrets about both of these ladies, adding complexity to this issue’s tale while also populating backstory and connections to the regular series. In doing so, Bunn makes “Fearless Defenders” #4AU one of the only “Age of Ultron” tie-ins to enhance ongoing stories as well as the Ultron narrative proper. Bunn uses Warrior Woman as the focal point for this issue and magnificently separates her from any comparisons to an equally alliterative Amazon from Marvel’s distinguished competition.
Bunn’s work on “Fearless Defenders” has been enjoyable enough, but this issue really caught my eye with the wonderful cover by Phil Jimenez. No stranger to Amazons and their battles, Phil Jimenez layers the detail in so thickly that inking legend Karl Kesel can’t cover it all by himself. Aided by Aaron McConnell on background inking (which is akin to painting the lead matrix on stained glass windows), Kesel handles the characters in action and at ease, adding shadow and clarity to Jimenez’s fabulously detailed drawings. Jimenez has recently tweeted a shot of the characters assembled within in this book, which includes a more mechanical Misty Knight, Lady Deathstrike, Callisto and even Delphyne Gorgon (from “Incredible Hercules”)! Add in Emperor Doom, a fallen Destroyer, rising spires and buttresses on the cobblestone streets of Latveria and a battle between gods and Jimenez packs this comic book full of detail equal to twice the cover price. Kudos to Antonio Fabela for coloring it all with exceptional detail and texture. The letters by Clayton Cowles are masterfully placed and spot on, adding tenor and pitch to the characters in “Fearless Defenders” #4AU.
As sometimes happens with crossover comics, I was expecting a letdown or complete failure to capitalize on the talent assembled for this book. What I received is quite the contrary. Bunn’s story is enticing and engaging, adding layers to the adventures of the “Age of Ultron” Defenders while setting the stage for the modern-day “Fearless Defenders.” Phil Jimenez delivers fantastic art that quickly reminds me how much I’ve missed his work. The story itself is independent enough to be enjoyable, but connected enough to add value to “Age of Ultron.” In short, this is what an event tie-in comic book should be like. I just hope Jimenez comes back for more soon.