Writer: Mark Millar
Artists: Bryan Hitch (p & i), Paul Neary (i)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Plot: Hank Pym finds himself at the very bottom of his fall from the lofty heights of being a member of the Ultimates. He finds himself keeping company with a group of wannabe costumed heroes who call themselves the Defenders. However when this team of non-powered crime-fighters tries to grab the headlines by letting the press know that they are going to foil a late night robbery, this heroic endeavour quickly goes wrong, and Hank Pym's horrible life becomes even more of a joke.
Comments: Take the concept of the Ultimates, remove the extraordinary abilities and the government backing and what you have left is the Defenders. Needless to say, the Defenders make their debut into the Ultimate Universe and they don't exactly make the splash that they intended, thanks largely to the simple fact that none of them have any superpowers, and the only thing they bring to the table is a willingness to play dress-up. Now Nighthawk's attempt to play the hero was clearly Mark Millar's bid to show readers exactly how such an attempt would go off, and I was actually impressed by how quickly this scene went from downright hilarious to outright nightmarish after the gang came to realize that this goof was a wannabe loser playing dress-up. There's also a very funny little sequence where Hank Pym attempts to use his new gimmick in combat as how can one not love when he recognizes that the ability to control ants is a bit like running into a heated gun battle sporting a water gun? The Defenders is presented as a group of bottom of the barrel rejects who are used to sell how far Hank Pym has fallen since he was ejected from the Ultimates, but from a simple entertainment standpoint this stands up as one of the most engaging issues of this second series, as one can't help but love the sheer incompetence of the Defenders, and Hank Pym's desperation to pull himself back off the mat makes for solid character study material. Plus, this issue also gives us yet another tantalizing look at the traitor within the ranks, and I'm sticking with my initial guess that it's Tony Stark if only for the simple fact that Mark Millar has been trying a little too hard to set up other characters as likely suspects, while Tony has come across as a little too happy to go along with the status quo, which in my book makes him the perfect candidate.
Bryan Hitch is keeping pace with the monthly deadlines, though I guess it's a little early to be saying this second go will be free of the problems that plagued the first series, as the lead time is what allows Bryan Hitch to project the illusion of a monthly artist, and I'd be curious to know what issue he's currently working on if only to see if one has cause to be concerned. In any event, Bryan Hitch does another fine job on this issue, as how can one not love the sheer impact of that opening page where Hank Pym gets a good look at the idea that replacing him was very easy? The art also nicely captures the less than stellar nature of the Defenders, as how can one not love the Son of Satan's expression when Hank asks him if he's really the son of Satan, or the look of utter delight on the team's faces when Hank Pym shows them his power for the first time? The sequence where Nighthawk makes his arrival was also a delightful comedy of errors, though the scene quickly loses its sense of humour when the gang decides to have some fun. Also I did find myself smiling at the Daily Bugle headline, as it perfectly captured the tabloid element of the paper.
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