(This review was originally published at Comic Book Galaxy in 2001, and is posted here for safekeeping)
THE DEFENDERS #10
By Erik Larsen, Kurt Busiek, Eric Stephenson, and Sal Buscema
Published by Marvel Comics
The "Big Four" return from their brief space quest in order to free the Earth from Orrgo and the Headmen in "Head To Head."
This review is going to be tough to write. Since the first issue of the new series, I've been a hardcore Defenders, well...defender. I've raised my voice against the hordes of Defenders-haters in so many online scuffles, they'll probably be printing pictures of me in Wizard for Defenders non-fans to pin to their dart-boards. That's why it hurts so much to say "Head To Head" is, to date, my least favorite installment of the series.
In the beginning of the story, we find out how the Headmen happened to become allies with the beloved "Timmay!" of Marvel Comics: Modok (in the previous issue it was revealed that Modok and A.I.M. have been secret partners with the Headmen since their re-emergence in The Defenders #5). The Flying Brain-Chair of Evil designates himself and his A.I.M. cronies as a neutral third party once the hostilities break out between the Defenders and Orrgo, which leads us to an interesting question.
What is he doing in the story? He's the issue's narrator, but any one of the Defenders--or even the Headmen--could have acted as narrator. Maybe I'm forgetting some continuity point, but for the life of me, unless Busiek and Larsen are using him to plant a seed for a future story, I can't think of one practical or aesthetic reason for Big Head and his Magical Barcolounger to have showed up anywhere in the Headmen/Orrgo storyline.
It's a shame, too, because time wasted on Modok could have been put to better use elsewhere, namely in developing more of the trademark aspects of The Defenders that make the series so great, as well some of the things that have needed work from the beginning.
For example, there's a brief, hilarious scene in the beginning of the issue in which Headmen member Morgan exacts a unique kind of revenge on the classmates who tortured him in junior high. Unfortunately, this is the only scene in the book where there seems to be any real attempt at humor. Even the Hulk, who has been the enduring home of humor since the first issue, is strangely left with nothing funny to say. There's a bit of an attempt for some Hulk-funny in the beginning, but it falls flat. The Hulk asks Doctor Strange, "Now we smash argyle-monster?" You don't laugh, though. You just think, "What? How would he even know what argyle...oh! Irony. Heh."
Then there's the Silver Surfer. The poor guy never gets a chance to shine. Which is silly, really. He's silver. He's naked. Shining is pretty much what he's best at.
Seriously though, hardcore Silver Surfer fans have been clammering for a stronger presence for their favorite ex-herald in The Defenders, and while in the past I've been unwilling to agree with any negative statements about what is currently one of my favorite monthly reads, I'm finally forced to agree with them. This guy is a marquee Marvel character and he's getting less front-row panel time than the "Little Three." I had hoped this would change, especially considering the fact that the reason Hulk, Namor, and Strange left Earth in the first place was to find the Surfer and bring him back. But the only time he's really in the spotlight this issue is when he's being batted around like a cat-toy. I admit, in the beginning I thought the Surfer fans were just being whiny. At this point, though, it's near impossible to not empathize.
The one positive thing I can say about this issue is how the team dynamic is evolving. The gap between the Big Four and the Little Three is growing larger and larger. As time goes on, it's becoming more apparent that the Curse is doing something to the mental stability of the Big Four. From the evil, sideways grin Strange gives the team at the end of the issue, to the revelry the Hulk takes in attacking frozen and helpless opponents, the reader is watching the Big Four turn into what, I'm assuming, will be a much darker team in the upcoming The Order.
Overall, I would suggest you to spend your money on something else, but come back next issue. Hopefully things will be back to "normal" when the team fights to liberate Fish-Man's home from Bunny-Head and Tooth-Face.
-- Mick Martin