DEFENDERS #9 by Brian Michael Bendis, David Marquez, and Justin Ponsor
DEFENDERS #9 may be the best of the series so far. With incredible characterization of fan-favorite Jessica Jones and some of the best art in the series, this is a must have for any fan of these street-level heroes.
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The newest DEFENDERS series has shone a new light on our favorite Netflix heroes. Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and Daredevil have battled New York’s biggest crime bosses, with some of the most intense fights in modern comics. However, I have yet to feel any cohesion with the rest of the Marvel universe. Like the Netflix series that inspired it, the comics have felt separate. Intense and incredible, but separate. With DEFENDERS #9 by Brian Michael Bendis, David Marquez, and Justin Ponsor, this all changes. Our heroes are thrust into a conflict spanning a much wider expanse of their universe, and it is done in spectacular style.

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DEFENDERS #9 opens with Jessica Jones begging in a police office. After the Defenders failed to capture Diamondback, his designer drug has flooded the New York streets, killing every user. With the war to become the new Kingpin in full swing, the team turns to Misty Knight and the Punisher for new info. After discovering Diamondback’s location, the Defenders ambush the villain and his entourage. However, when Black Cat, the Daughters of the Dragon, White Tiger, Echo, and Spider-Woman make an appearance, can the Defenders keep the fight from spiraling into chaos?

Warriors Aplenty

defenders #9
Courtesy of Marvel Comics

DEFENDERS #9 might just be the best in the series so far. In terms of plot, the story zooms by in a way that still manages to highlight its most important elements. Much of this stems largely from the fact that this issue is mostly one big fight scene. After page 5, the Defenders go to war with Diamondback, the Fixer, Moonstone, and Titania. However, unlike most battle-heavy comics, Bendis doesn’t do away with a compelling plot. He plays into the hero-villain dialogue in a way that feels far from cliche. The plot is still pressing on even while the fight takes place. That just shows the level of attention Bendis brings to this story. Every single detail purposefully moves the story forward.

If I have any complaint about the plot of DEFENDERS #9, it’s that I wanted more of the largely female cast. With the above-mentioned superheroines filling the front cover, I expected to see them filling the plot from page 1. However, they only get a brief cliffhanger cameo near the end. To be fair, it has me incredibly excited for the upcoming issue, but I wanted to see where they brought the story. DEFENDERS has largely been a male hero enterprise, with Jessica Jones, Black Cat, and Night Nurse being the only true female representation. To be teased with these other incredible superheroines just before the issue ends is almost cruel.

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A Roster of Personalities

Defenders #9
Courtesy of Marvel Comics

Despite my disappointment over the superheroine tease in DEFENDERS #9, the issue does showcase some of the series’ best characterization. This is largely a spotlight issue on Jessica Jones. While always a decent addition to the team, the series thus far hasn’t gone far enough in her portrayal. The focus has fallen on Daredevil, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist, and while this is appreciated, it’s great to see Jones get her due. Bendis manages to play heavily into the noir aspect of the character. This is a woman who can stare down and reason with the Punisher of all people. This issue shows just how badass Jones can be, while still giving the other characters a voice.

The characterization does falter a bit in terms of the villains, however. Diamondback has never struck me as that strong of a character. Despite running an empire, he never feels like much more than a cliche. He seemingly has no motivations outside of money, and his character’s dialogue is largely focused on taunts. He has shown a ton of creepy charisma in the past that has allowed me to look past this void of motivation. DEFENDERS #9 made me realize that in a sea of fantastic characters, Diamondback is at the back of the line.

A Sordid Canvas

Defenders #9
Courtesy of Marvel Comics

David Marquez represents one of the strongest artistic talents at Marvel Comics right now. His focus on gritty realism in his style gives every single line a great deal of weight. In DEFENDERS #9, his task is that much more monumental. We’ve seen him do large scale battles before, but this issue manages to stretch Marquez’s abilities to the max. Every character is detailed with stunning anatomy. For a team full of dextrous martial artists, this cannot be easy. However, he manages to pull it off with style. The fight visuals in DEFENDERS #9 represent some of Marquez’s best work in the series so far.

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Much of this visual strength can also be attributed to color artist Justin Ponsor. Ponsor infuses every page with a pop of color. Flashes of red and yellow fly across the page with Iron Fist and Daredevil, all atop a background of solemn purples and greys. While this world looks dark and gritty, our heroes give a deeply saturated appeal to the proceedings. It is a purposeful dichotomy, where the light of heroes disperses the dark of the villains.

Final Thoughts: DEFENDERS #9

I’ve used the words “the best” a lot in this review. In so many ways, they fit. DEFENDERS #9 is one of the best issues in the series so far, and for a series that has been consistently great, that is saying something. The flow of events and the large-scale fight scene make this issue deeply memorable. The newfound focus on some of Marvel’s best superheroines also gives this issue potent staying power. The story does have its issues, but the positives far outweigh the negatives. In short, buy this comic. You will not regret it.

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