Grim_Noir Eulogizes The Defenders and
Avengers Academy

Marvel Tragedy

Dearly Beloved, we are gathered here today, not only to mourn the passing of two titles that were taken from us far too soon, but to honor the stories they told:

The Defenders (2012)

Defenders #12 cover

Title: The Defenders #12

Writer: Matt Fraction

Cover Art: Terry & Rachel Dodson

Penciller: Mirco Pierfederici

Colorist: Veronica Gandini

Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles

Reviewed by Grim_Noir

The young upstart, The Defenders, with its ooky artwork and off-kilter panel design by Terry and Rachel Dodson complimented the audacious plotting of Matt Fraction. I would have thought that a story about Dr. Strange, Iron Fist, Silver Surfer, Namor, Black Cat, Red She-Hulk and alt-reality Nick Fury trying to stop the end of the world by supernatural machines would have been a fun ride for a larger audience. It was Buffy The Vampire Slayer meets the Chthulhu mythos and it was a helluva ride. Everyone who misses the Marvel of the 70s and 80s really should’ve been reading Defenders. It was a book that spoke to people; literally, if you read the between-panel notes. (These notes are missing from the trades. Shame on you Marvel Collected Editions Department! Perhaps you could put out “Director’s Cut” hardbacks with the notations restored? Please?)

Avengers Academy

Avengers Academy #39 Cover

Title: Avengers Academy #39

Writer: Christos Gage

Penciler: Tom Grummett

Inker: Cory Hamscher

Colorist: Chris Sotomayor

Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna

Reviewed by Grim_Noir

Then, there was The Initiative‘s cleverer progeny, Avengers Academy. I have written about Christos Gage’s Academy before and I have simply run out of superlatives for the wonderfulness of this title. Its iconoclastic refusal to take the plot in expected directions made me look forward to everyone of its biweekly releases. Gage steadfastly succeeded in writing a character-driven series at an event-driven company. The entire first year of Avengers Academy‘s run made me feel the same way about this team that I felt reading the first trade of Chris Claremont’s and John Byrne’s Uncanny X-Men run. The defiance and energy of puberty were captured perfectly, allowing these characters to make mistakes and grow from them. WHY WASN’T THIS BOOK EMBRACED AS THE NEXT TEEN TITANS OR X-MEN?!?! (Hell, it even had AVENGERS in its title!) I was especially impressed with how the symmetry in the finale of Veil’s storyline harkened back to the very first issue of the book.

Marvel logo

There have been some reports of grave robbing and desecration of the corpses of these two titles: A new Defenders-For-Hire-style book and Avengers Arena. We can only hope the creative teams for the new books understand the legacies that have been entrusted to them. Avengers Arena appears (at first blush) to be the more egregious offender: The Avengers Academians have already faced and defeated Arcade once already. They should not be easily swayed or defeated by this villain. In fact, they should be treated like Spider-Man-level heroes facing Arcade for the second time and not like complete n00bs, or, worse yet, casual victims in a Friday The 13th movie.

It is always in the odd corners of the Marvel universe that I have found the best storytelling. Unfortunately, it appears that the Marvel NOW imperative is determined to sand down all that edginess. And we are all a little diminished for it.

We can take some comfort in the fact that nothing truly stays dead in comics. Spread the word about these two terrific comic books and give the collected editions as Holiday gifts. We look forward to the day when younger readers rediscover these gems and revive them in the future. Until then, we have our memories (and our trade paperbacks).


Ol' Grim Hisself* GRIM_NOIR is convinced that the internet a figment of his imagination. Please comment below and/or follow @Grim_Noir on Twitter to end his self-delusions.

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4 Comments to “Grim_Noir Eulogizes The Defenders and
Avengers Academy

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  1. Irate Sasquatch says:

    Why does every book I enjoy end up getting shit canned?
    Defenders was fucking rad and it had the potential to go to some really cool places but I guess now we will never know since it has gone the way of the fucking dodo.
    Also I was digging Blue Beetle and Frankenstein and the same thing happened.
    It seems that unless I’m reading something with Spidey, Wolverine or Batman that I have to worry about the axe falling.

  2. kcviking says:

    Defenders really did remind me of 70’s era comics. It was one of the few books by Marvel that I thoroughly enjoyed every month.And for those of us old enough to remember,those in-between panel brought a smile!

    I saw that they are starting a new Defenders title next year with Valkyrie and Misty Knight? Sorry Marvel, but I’ll be skipping that.

  3. JayDee says:

    I’m with you @Irate..I feel like the same goes with a lot of TV shows as well. But at least some of them get second lives (ie: Family Guy, Futurama, Arrested Development.)

    Though I can’t say that any of the DC books that have been cancelled have surprised me or upset me really…just Marvel cancellations!

    I dug the first story of Defenders, but I’m way behind on the series. I did my due diligence and bought the issues as they came out, but they are in my TO READ box of books I need to get to

  4. Grim_Noir says:

    Sadly, the ugly truth of Captalism is that every book dances on that razor’s edge between good storytelling and being commercial “enough.” I’ve personally sufered through the cancellations of some of my favorite books at BOTH Marvel and DC over the years (MANY involving the storytelling of Doug Moench or Dan Jurgens). The editors might love these characters, but the Board of Directors would just as easily be making decisions about widgets.

    The only thing I can say is, in the future, if you love a book tell EVERYONE you know about the book. Tweet about it. Mention it in internet forums. Bring it up in convention panels. Talk about it to random people on the bus. If you have a few spare dukats, buy a second copy and donate it to the children’s ward of your local hospital (not only will you make a kid’s day, but you might create another rabid fan!)

    For anyone who misses the Dr. Strange portrayed in “The Defenders,” may I recommend Greg Pak and Emma Rios’ “Doctor Strange: Season One” GN? The story is a little short, but the characterizations are great and Rios’ artwork is GORGEOUS!

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