Sunday 9 May 2010

The Defenders #44. The Red Rajah.

Defenders #44, the Red Rajah
Harmony. It's not just a hairspray. It's a way of life.

Sadly, in the world of comicbookland, it's the worst possible thing that could happen.

Without conflict, there's no action and, without action, there's no story. Take away the story and our heroes would no doubt evaporate, exposed as the figments of our imagination they really are.

Hardly surprising then that when the Red Rajah appears, striving to impose harmony, peace and unity on the human race, the Defenders know exactly what to do; give him a quick punch in the bracket.

With a villain called the Red Rajah, one could be forgiven for thinking Steve Gerber's still with us. As it turns out, Steve's gone and, in his place, we have Gerry Conway, Roger Slifer and David Kraft. Gone too is Sal Buscema, replaced on art duties by Keith Giffen and Klaus Janson. So, without its previous creative team, how does it get on?

It gets on great. The randomness is gone, as is most of the humour but the sense of the Defenders not being like other super teams and, frankly being somewhat inadequate to whatever task they're facing, is still going strong. Issue #44 sees them starting off with a squabble before discovering their de facto leader Dr Strange has been possessed by a gem and is the man behind the Red Rajah's mask.

Needless to say, by the end of the tale, Luke Cage, Nighthawk and the Hulk have been flattened and it's up to the girls to try and stop him.

Defenders #44, Hellcat
Hold on. Where's the punch-up?
But something that leaps out at me about this tale is how much we've been indoctrinated by Marvel Comics. When Hellcat turns up, unannounced at the Defenders HQ, it's a genuine shock to the system when a fight doesn't break out.

We're so used to the idea that, when Marvel heroes meet, they first have to have a punch-up before realising they're on the same side, that the sight of the Valkyrie and Red Guardian actually having a reasonable conversation with a masked woman who's just broken into their HQ really does feel weird. Even more so that Hellcat acts like the Valkyrie's number one groupie.

I like it, it's nice to see costumed adventurers acting like grown-ups for once but it doesn't change the fact that it feels weird. In that instant, we get a little glimpse of how the world would be if only harmony really did break out and it's an oddly unsettling thing.


Darci said...

Who would have imagined Patsy Walker would still be going strong as the Hellcat, all these years after Avengers #144? You bring up a good point, this isn't how we usually see someone new show up in Marvel's books.

dbutler16 said...

Yes, I too get quite tired of Marvel superheroes acting like morons every time they meet and going through the obligitory dust-up. Then there are the Marvel masses, always ready to have our beloved sueprheroes thrown in jail at the drop of a hat. It makes you wonder why anybody's want to be a hero. Anyway, I'm reading through Essential Defenders and looking forward to getting to these issues.

Steve W. said...

Hi, Darci and D. Thanks for your comments. It's only taken my between six and seven years to respond because I'm totally useless.

Anonymous said...

The Defenders and the Red Rajah are the new featured post?
I see what you did there, Steve.
Your careful planning is part of what makes this blog a must-read.


Steve W. said...

I'm proud to say that I put literally seconds of thought every week into how I run this blog.

Anonymous said...

Hi Steve, this is my first time reading this issue.
Can anyone shed any light on the meaning behind the joke regarding the two popes fighting in a room by Lt. Kris Keating?

Steve W. said...

Hi, Anon. Sadly, I can't shed any light on its meaning at all, I'm afraid.