Today, Patrick and Taylor are discussing Fearless Defenders 5AU, originally released May 22nd 2013. This issue is part of the Age of Ultron crossover event. Click here for complete AU coverage.
Patrick: I make up our posting schedules around here, so any time you see two of our writers fighting about something, I’m partially to blame to for that. Also when someone is like “I don’t normally read this title, so I don’t know what’s going on or who any of these people are” – that’s my fault too. Our writers are always good sports, though, and I think they all sort of relish the opportunity to say “I don’t have all the information, but here’s what I do know.” And isn’t that the experience of reading superhero comics? It almost doesn’t matter what you’re reading – you’re in the deep end. Throw this whole alternate-alternate timeline from Age of Ultron into the mix and you’ve got yourself a perfect recipe for misunderstanding. Oddly, Fearless Defender’s contribution to this event offers context to both the event and the main series by making explicit connections between the characters that transcend conflicting timelines.
This issue centers on Warrior Woman taking revenge on her father, Ares – the God of War. Ares had previously wiped out all the Amazons, which he evidently did to avenge his daughter’s death at their hands. It’s kind of a circular mess, but, well, you know what they say about revenge. Turns out that Ares has aligned himself with the Latervians, and serves Doctor Doom. As long as we’re using “it turns out that…”, here’s another one: it turns out that that’s not really Doctor Doom, but a Doombot. Warrior Woman gets access to both Ares and Doom / Not-Doom by turning herself to the Latverians and being made to fight in the coliseum, Gladiator-style. Naturally, that’s exactly what she wanted and she’s able to simply muscle her way out of the problem, killing Ares, claiming Mjonir for herself and rescuing an army of Fearless Defenders (including Misty Knight!), which she renamed “The Amazons.”
I don’t know if I’ve finally reached a point where I’ve taken in enough of this Without-Pym Timeline, but my ability to invest in this world might have turned a corner with this issue. This is partially because all the characters in this issue seem to be as confused about what is and is not real as I am. Did you see how many reversals and revelations I mentioned in my recap? Even the people who live in this universe full-time don’t seem to have a fucking clue about what’s going on.
There are really only two characters in this issue that seem to have clear goals: Caroline Le Fay and Warrior Woman. WW wants some good old fashioned revenge, and Caroline wants to get WW in her debt. Easy enough, right? There are so many layers of deception and intrigue surrounding what is a very simple quid pro quo arrangement.
I’m also looking forward to learning how this fits into the greater Ultron story. Last we checked in with that title, Morgana Le Fey was invading New York City and the Defenders were fighting them off. It all rang a little hollow, because we don’t really know these versions of these characters, and it felt a bit like a bait and switch (I was reading about ROBOTS, dammit, not dragons!), but this issue attempts to bring some context to that fight. I don’t know who Caroline Le Fey is (even though I’ve seen her in Fearless Defenders), but I sure can make the assumption that she has a vested, personal interest in Morgana’s conquest. Y’know – because she’s her daughter from Morgana’s love affair with Doom. I wish I had a firmer grasp on Marvel mythology to say, but this is an alternate-reality truth, correct? And yet, we have this character stomping around the pages of Fearless Defenders, in the regular timeline. Add to that: Caroline mentions that she was sent forward through time to the present. There’s something wonky going on here, and it’s possible that we’ve already seen the affects of this alternate timeline on our own main Marvel Universe.
But this also gets me excited about the 11th hour back-up that will come to the Defender’s aide in the next issue. And at the very least, the idea of Warrior Woman as this rampaging ball of divine revenge striking back against the forces of Le Fey is more interesting that alternate-Tony Stark leading his army, motivated by the basest “just survive this fight” mantra.
Plus, the issue has enough fun little moments to keep the whole thing afloat – occasionally tapping into a sense of humor which was sorely lacking from the Uncanny Avengers AU issue. I love Hyppolyta declaring that Odysseus would be proud of her plan (even though her plan is simply “get captured, fight your way out”). Not exactly sneaking out under sheep. Or how about some good ol’ fashion Hulk humor?
Taylor, how’d this thing hold together for you? This is the last official tie-in we’re getting for this event, are you happy to see them go, or could stand to see a little more of this version of reality? And don’t you think Hyppolyta should just pull in the cast of Brian Azzarello’s Wonder Woman to help the Defenders? I’d like to see a Lennox vs. Hulk fight.
Taylor: By gods, a crossover event featuring the Age of Ultron and Wonder Woman would be amazing. I have to admit that Warrior Woman reminds me of Wonder Woman in so many ways that it was impossible for me not to draw that comparison. Throw in the appearance of Ares and the deal is practically sealed. Yet, even though such a crossover would never happen, there are things in this issue that remind me of Wonder Woman, in a good way.
Patrick, you mentioned that you were relieved to see a little humor injected into an Ultron event and I couldn’t agree more. Like Wonder Woman, I feel like this issue creates a tone that is both serious and playful at the same time. Sure, there are the fun little items like the Hulk being the Hulk and some jokes based on the Classics, but in general the events just don’t have that overbearing heaviness that has come to be the calling card of every Ultron issue up to this point. Sure, there’s some weird continuity stuff going on but it never bogs the reader down in the way other Ultron crossover issues have. Instead, the action is fairly light and even though the beginning of the issue is a little heavy on exposition it never threatens to disengage the reader.
I think the relative lightness of this issue is achieved by the straight forward plot, as you were talking about Patrick, and also by the delightful conceit of gladiatorial combat. We’re dealing with a main character whose name is Warrior Woman, so it only seems natural that she would solve her problems by meeting them in the ring and punching their lights out. Even though the father daughter relationship between Ares and Warrior Woman could have been belabored (since parent-child relationships are always a little messy), Cullen Bunn takes the route of least resistance and the issue is all the better for it. Also keeping the issue on the lighter end is the reveal that Dr. Doom is actually just your average Doombot.
Again, the “shocking” reveal that someone isn’t what they appear to be borders on shtick, but it’s a welcome respite from your normal Ultron buffet of death and destruction. A similar calling card of the Ultron crossovers up to this point has been the relative obscurity of many of the events referenced in previous issues. These references require an almost encyclopedic knowledge of the Marvel universe which is fun and entertaining, but runs the risk of alienating some. While we have some of that going in this issue it never gets to the point where things get confusing or frustrating. Not knowing a whole lot about the Marvel universe I know I was happy to see Warrior Woman get in a dig about Ares using Thor’s hammer.
Not only do I recognize Thor, but it’s fun to see his hammer being used as a way to legitimize someone’s nefarious rule over a populace. It reminds me of the way relics are used in the Catholic church; sure they aren’t super effective and sure, they’re probably fake, but they still carry an aura of power. Additionally, it’s fun to see a god use the tools that belong to their equal. It’s like watching Wolverine put on Spidey’s pajamas.
Patrick, you ask me if I’m happy to see these tie-in events end. If you had asked me a week ago I almost certainly would have said yes, since none of them had really impressed me all that much. However, with this issue my tone has shifted from being entirely negative to perhaps neutral. If tomorrow more surprise tie-ins were announced by Marvel, I would give them shot. However, I feel no sadness at their conclusion. This issue has shows how good they could of been and has to make us question why the others were so lackluster. Maybe this speaks to level of coordination that is required to pull off an event as big as Ultron. Perhaps there has been a misunderstanding along the way and the only way, and like those who read the comics, maybe the creatives at Marvel all have different opinions about the series.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?