Defenders #5

A wildly old-school looking opening page sets up some of the history that gets excavated in "Defenders" #5. Mystery and adventure waits on the other side of a mysterious vault door bearing a symbol that looks like the Concordance Engine which has been driving the series to this point.

That vault is discovered by Namor's people, led by Nost. Through that relationship, as well as simply by placing Namor in his realm, Matt Fraction is empowered to share Namor's history, attitude and leadership with readers. That's right. Essentially, this issue serves as a Namor spotlight issue.

As one of the oldest Marvel characters, Namor has a great deal of history, which Fraction manipulates into a great deal of story. Twenty pages in length, "The 99 Daughters of Pontus" is thick with character building, mystery and interaction. Fraction not only propels Namor into the spotlight in this issue, he also has Namor narrate the caption boxes, adding further explanation to that which Namor deems not to explain. You get every facet of Namor in this issue: the regal king, the arrogant jerk, the trustworthy teammate and the brash Imperius Rex. All of it makes me want to read more, just like this.

From the old school opening to the frantic final page, Mitch Breitweiser delivers art that is sketchy and raw. Breitweiser's work is raw, like the work of an independent comic book creator determined to pour his heart and soul into his ashcan book for the world to see and revel in. The biggest difference is that Breitweiser's rawness seems tailor-made for the story that is shrouded in the depths of the ocean. Coloring some of the work himself with the more than capable assistance of his wife, Bettie, Breitweiser's art is detailed simplicity at its very best. Breitweiser is worlds apart from Terry Dodson in both style and execution, just as Namor and Stephen Strange are separated, but both have fit the bill nicely on "Defenders."

Breitweiser's art and the undersea mystery combine to make a compelling tale that had me double-check the credits at one point to make sure that Jeff Parker wasn't writing and that I didn't wind up with an "Agents of Atlas" comic. This Defenders story is off the beaten path, but it does loop back around to tie with the series to this point. That said, it feels as though this series has set the foundation it needed to in order to begin truly building. Now, the Defenders are ready to start discovering who and what they really are.

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