The Defenders (#20 – 21) – Steve Gerber

3 out of 5

Before launching in to some multi-part storylines on The Defenders, Steve Gerber had to put some pieces in place, wrapping up something he’d started in Marvel Two-in-One – issue #20 is basically the conclusion to that story – and then rejiggering some of the relationships between characters so that Nighthawk and Valkyrie could have compelling arcs of their own, and Dr. Strange seemed a little bit less of a cure-all to any given problem. This does get things off on a rather clumsy foot, and makes the tone a little wonky – issue #21 was noted for being very action-absent, and its Headmen plot is so wayward it pretty much starts and ends without notice – but it also syncs with the ramshackle charm of the title, and sets up how Steve was going to sell the non-team team dynamic, of having these characters have messy personal lives that they willfully put on hold in favor of jumping toward some new threat.

Sal Buscema had put a firm stamp on the book by this point and that doesn’t change: it’s a classic, 70s Marvel look, and Sal keeps Gerb’s narration-heavy stories moving along nicely.