Writer: Al Ewing
Artist: Javier Rodriguez
Cover Artist: Javier Rodriguez
Publisher: Marvel Comics
The new Defenders continue on their cosmic trek through the literal Marvel Cosmos. They just survived their encounter with the Phoenix Force itself, pulling together to move on. But now they face a different challenge, one that touches their hearts’ desires in the form of the exiled Glorian. See how the cosmic Defenders handle the temptations of Glorian in Defenders: Beyond #4.
Sorry to disappoint, but this issue has got to be the weakest and most uninteresting in the entire Defenders: Beyond series. Essentially, the Defenders have fallen into the realm of Couldn’t-Be-Shouldn’t-Be (I don’t make up these names), trapped with the cosmic exile Glorian. For those who don’t know Glorian, he’s a lesser-known character with some connections to the Marvel cosmic side of things who’s got an interesting history but wasn’t always a villain until the last decade. Now, what does Glorian want from them? Most likely a way out, but in truth he wants the Eternity Mask. To get it, he will give them whatever their hearts truly desire.
Now, for readers like me, once you’ve seen one “False Paradise” story, then you’ve pretty much seen 95% of them. I won’t spoil much in this part, I’ll save the juicier criticisms in the SPOILERS section. What I will say is that this issue is without a doubt the most painfully predictable story in the series and is bereft of any sense of challenge or tension for the Defenders. While one or two characters’ fantasies in Glorian’s false paradise feel interesting, the others feel tacked on in what appears to be a hodgepodge of Al Ewing’s ideas that were abandoned by Marvel Comics, some good and some not-so-much.
Aside from one character in particular, most of the temptations don’t feel believable or interesting and there’s no sense that most of the characters might give into Glorian. The comic will say they’re tempted, but you won’t really believe it. What’s worse is that one character’s internal conflict feels too big for this comic or series to deal with, and their denial of Glorian’s illusion feels too quick and half-baked even with in-universe explanations. I’ll go into more details on this specific character in the SPOILERS section.
Ultimately, the comic is deflated of conflict and feels more like a boring waiting game. It’s not terrible by any stretch, but it’s not good either. On top of that, the big “lesson or moral” in the story about “possibility” and “freedom” isn’t that well thought out considering it conveniently ignores the obvious downsides. This comic is sadly mediocre, even the dialogue is fairly predictable and so is the main outcome of events. Not to mention, Glorian isn’t really that menacing or compelling of a villain. He’s the star of this comic but the story doesn’t really do much with him other than make him a by-the-numbers tempter who wants to make all the Defenders’ dreams come true – for a price.
Like I’ve said, if you’ve seen this type of story before, then you’ve seen this one. Granted, the only saving grace of this comic is Javier Rodriguez’s art, especially when it comes to Glorian and the illusions he creates. Rodriguez really brings out the colors for this one especially near the end and helps make Glorian at least an eerie character from start to finish with his facial expressions and body language. Other than the art, there’s not much going for this comic other than the lead up to the finale which may or may not live up to expectations.
I mentioned earlier that the core story was incredibly predictable and that one character suffers for it given the context. That character is Taaia, a wide-eyed idealist & super scientist created by Al Ewing to be the mother of Galactus. She finally learns the truth of what her son becomes in the main universe, and is devastated by it. For a few panels. See, the gravity of this revelation is too big for this comic to cover along with everything else so we never see it truly sink in. I mean, it’s not everyday you learn that your little bundle of joy is going to turn into a giant purple terror of the stars routinely killing trillions of lives in the Universe and becomes the only legacy of your people and universe.
Plus, her reasoning for why she denies Glorian’s illusion is diminished by Marvel Comics itself. Her reasoning boils down to, “If my son ends up being the Devourer of Worlds, it means he has a major role to play in the universe to come. And changing things would damage that history.” The problem is Marvel Comics has been wildly inconsistent on what his “role” is for years, and they recently allowed a more popular series to undermine Galactus’ importance in the cosmos. E.g., they let Galactus get killed by Thor in Donny Cates’ Thor run and have no ramifications for this action for a year and a half. It was never brought up in any other comic until Galactus was brought back to life in Dan Slott’s Reckoning War of all things. Either way, Taaia’s denial of Glorian wasn’t really explored, shown, or earned just like with the other Defenders, and it all felt like a quick wrap up to get to the finish line.
Defenders: Beyond #4 is the penultimate issue of the miniseries. However, this issue is the most predictable and underwhelming when it comes to the Defenders’ encounter with Glorian. While one or two temptations are interesting, the rest feel silly and easy to reject, so it’s had to believe that any of them are really tempted by Glorian. The main standout in this issue is Javier Rodriguez’s art and colors with the latter half of the comic setting things up for the final issue.