WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Immortal Hulk: The Best Defense #1 by Al Ewing, Simone Di Meo, Dono Sanchez-Almara, and Cory Petit, and Namor: The Best Defense #1 by Chip Zdarsky, Carlos Magno, Ian Herring, and Travis Lanham, both on sale now!
The OG Defenders are back, baby! Well… almost. The founding members of the team do make appearances in Immortal Hulk: The Best Defense #1 and Namor: The Best Defense #1, just not all at once, or even on the same plane of existence. In fact, the former title is the only one in this mini-event so far where multiple Defenders are seen in the same room.
Of course, one of them is dead, so does that really count as a reunion? And in the former release, which stars everyone's favorite shirtless aquatic superperson (sorry, Jason Momoa), there seems to be a pretty strange symbiotic relationship going on between the third founding member and arguably the most popular addition in the team's early history, the Silver Surfer.
The Defenders first appeared as a trio (Doctor Strange, The Incredible Hulk, and Namor The Sub-Mariner) in Marvel Feature #1 back in 1971. Shortly thereafter, other members jumped on board, most notably Norrin Radd, The Silver Surfer (heavy hitters don't get much heavier than that), who became an anchor for the team. Marvel's new series of one-shots look to get the band back together, but things are not starting off on an auspicious foot.
Immortal Hulk: The Best Defense #1 quickly reveals that Doctor Strange is dead, which certainly puts a hamper on any sort of happy reunion. But not all is lost since it appears Strange has a trick up his sleeve (this is the Master of the Mystic Arts, we're dealing with here) and presents himself to his old friend Bruce Banner as an astral projection...we think. The circumstances of Strange's "death" are foggy, but they probably have a lot to do with the one link between this comic and Namor: The Best Defense #1.
In both books we get brief interludes featuring a crudely disguised specter stabbing seemingly unrelated victims to death. What this has to do with the Defenders is anybody's guess, but whoever is under the sheet (yes, the attacker is dressed up like Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis in Beetlejuice) holds the key to getting these disparate comics to connect. However, the murders might have been done by two entirely different people. It looks like the knife-wielding ghost killer was wearing Bullseye's gloves in Immortal Hulk: The Best Defense #1, while in the Namor issue, they might as well be naked under that sheet.
Doctor Strange being introduced as a mummified skeleton in a dusty old town and a couple bizarre interludes focusing on a string of murders are, oddly enough, not the most insane moments that occur in the Best Defense titles thus far. That superlative goes to the Namor one-shot, in which the Sub-Mariner battles a group of Vodans and eventually takes the fight out of his comfort zone (i.e. the ocean) and into the last place the royal Atlantean would ever want to be: the vacuum of space (sort of).
In a moment where it would seem Namor had his last watery breath, he is rescued by Silver Surfer's surfboard and becomes encased in cosmic metallic flesh, essentially making him the new Silver Surfer. Introducing the other Defenders in these one-shots through unorthodox means is certainly a bold storytelling choice, but giving such a volatile character like Namor, the Sub-Mariner this level of power is something no one in the Marvel Universe would probably be cool with. This dude is known for waging war against land, but if he can now traverse the indeterminable limits of space as well as the seven seas, boy howdy, humanity is in trouble. Hopefully his old buddies can chill him out, which, of course, we know they will -- but we'll have fun learning how they get there.