I think the only preface I really need for this is Giffen, DeMatteis and Maguire.
Okay, for those of you not in the know, Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis and Kevin Maguire are a creative team that has worked together in the past. While each has done stuff without the others, what I know each one best for is a little comic called Justice League. Well, to be more specific, the Justice League series post-Crisis which became Justice League International after a short while. The series was hilarious and really well done, with Giffen and DeMatteis writing great stories and Maguire having an art style that works well with serious issues and can be serious, but also has facial expressions that really express such that funny moments can be made all the better by his art. They were the ones who had Batman fight Guy Gardner. Well, I say fight. It wasn’t much of a fight. They took a bunch of characters who, other than Batman, weren’t really the best DC had to offer for a premier superhero team, and made them great. While each went on to do other things, they also came back together to do “Formerly Known as the Justice League” which was getting the old team back together in the more modern age (with Batman and Martian Manhunter looking at them from their actual JL headquarters and remembering the past) and following that up with “I Can’t Believe it’s Not the Justice League” in the pages of Justice League: Classified. Both were looking back at their work on JLI and remembering it fondly.
Marvel then decided that they wanted that team to do one book for them. While Marvel had hired them for things before, they wanted the whole team behind some of the best superhero comics that have been done (Formerly Known won an Eisner). But while they had made a team of underdogs and losers in the DC universe, building a team like that in Marvel wouldn’t be impossible, but forging new bonds in a short mini-series isn’t really that great a plan. Instead, they decided to pick one of the silliest teams Marvel has ever had. The Defenders are one of the most powerful teams in Marvel looking at their lineup, but one of the worst held-together teams. All four of the main characters are loners by nature and don’t really like each other all that much (maybe with the exception of the Surfer who might like people, but still is mainly a loner). Dr. Strange is the Sorcerer Supreme and one of the most powerful mages in the Marvel universe (if not the most). The Incredible Hulk is one of the strongest characters in Marvel (and can become even stronger over time and rage). Namor, the Sub-Mariner is incredibly strong and fast, as well as the king of the largest kingdom on Earth (the entire ocean). The Silver Surfer’s control over the Power Cosmic gives him extraordinary abilities in many areas, including great strength, speed, agility, and is able to fire powerful blasts of energy. Each is a threat on their own, so together, they must be amazing, right? Well, not really. Considering none of them are team players (why do you think none are really on any other superhero team for extended periods of time), they each have their own way of doing things and at their best (comic reading-wise), they lose battles because of in-fighting. The perfect team for Giffen, DeMatteis and Maguire, who again, are known for their infighting.
Indefensible is a story arguably out of continuity that has The Dread Dormammu threatening Earth. Again. Dr. Strange must reunite the anti-team that is the Defenders to stop him, as he has joined forces with his sister, the powerful Umar the Unrelenting. The plot though is only a minor detail in the mini-series. There are stories that are very plot-driven, where everything happens to advance the plot and finishing the plot is of the utmost importance. There are also stories where the plot is a minor point that only leads to everything else. One of my favorite examples of this is the movie “Crank,” starring Jason Statham. While there is a plot, it really isn’t important to much of the movie as the movie is mainly about Jason Statham doing crazy things to keep his adrenaline up. Similarly, the plot in the comic is really only there to show the relationships between characters (which involves mostly with arguing) where Dr. Strange argues with Namor almost the entire time, Dormammu plots while Umar undermines their relationship, etc.
Giffen and DeMatteis have a great style in their work, which you can tell in what they do, but I want to focus on Kevin Maguire. He’s not often brought up in lists of favorite artists. A lot of people go for the realism of Alex Ross or the big, muscly cartoony style of Ed McGuinness or somewhere along those lines. Maguire had more realism in the JLI issues, but is leaning to more cartoony in this series. Maybe he doesn’t do enough that people give him recognition for his work, but it really is some of the best work I’ve seen in comics. With an Alex Ross or a Bryan Hitch, you can get good emotions and good visuals, but if the emotions are too big, it takes away from the realism and so while the art is good, it actually becomes a disadvantage in that situation. With more cartoony styles, you can often get some emotion, but less effort is often put into faces, so while you can see emotions some of the time, and some artists can do well, most cartoony emotions lead to being too over-the-top in a way that also detracts from the emotion itself.
With Maguire, though, he has enough realism to make the characters not over-the-top silly, but enough cartoon so that big emotions can really show up and faces are a great canvas. Look at the image on the top of the article. Namor looks incredibly arrogant, like he wants to shove Dr. Strange aside because he should be the one in the middle. Dr. Strange looks somewhat pompous, but also a little confused or dismayed. Silver Surfer looks completely out of it. Hulk just looks bored. When reading, you can see the impatience on Strange’s face when dealing with Nightmare, the smug look of superiority and anger when Namor deals with Banner, the confusion and disappointment in the Surfer’s face when trying to understand surfer dudes or the look that Dormammu has in trying to gain approval from Umar in every scene they are in together. With Dormammu, it is all the more impressive, considering his face is constantly on fire and only his eyes and mouth appear (no eyebrows, no pupils, no nose, nothing other than fire outlines of eyes and a mouth). Kevin Maguire is the perfect artist for this book and to work with Giffen and DeMatteis because he is able to capture emotion so well and lend that emotion to great humorous effect.
As for the comic itself, well, it does exactly what it is supposed to do. It has the Defenders fighting Dormammu, it has the humor that Giffen and DeMatteis bring to a project they work on together and it has great art by Maguire. While the plot isn’t the main selling point of the comic, if you just look at the plot itself, it still holds up as a story. While outright crazy at times, the plot makes sense, the things that happen make sense. From what I know of the Defenders, this makes sense. All of the interactions between characters work, with them going how I would think they would go. While not the most complicated plot, it suffices for the task. Dormammu and Umar, by teaming up, confront Strange to take the Amulet of Agamotto, using its power to confront Eternity and in the superpowered state Dormammu is in, he is able to take out Eternity and use Eternity’s body to create the universe anew in his own image. This is the plot Dormammu would try to pull off, with the actions he takes making sense. The characters’ reactions to events are what they should be. Again, the plot isn’t the most important part of the comic, but it is still pulled off well and better than some stories who are all about plot (Ultimates 3, I’m looking at you).
Maybe I am just too big a fan of comedy. I love comedy, and this certainly fits the bill. Still though, this is one of my favorite volumes for the great job it does at making the Defenders an awesome team (well, anti-team, but you get the point) and fun to read about. Indefensible is so well crafted with a good story, great character interactions and dialogue and the perfect art to make it an amazing comic. I highly recommend getting the trade.