Writer: Al Ewing
Artist: Javier Rodriguez
Cover Artist: Javier Rodriguez
Publisher: Marvel Comics
The Defenders have been on quite the journey through the cosmic landscape of the Marvel universe. And after facing their last trial, the team finally make it to the House of Ideas. What will they find once they go inside the legendary place? And just what scheme does Loki have going on now? See how the series ends in Defenders: Beyond #5.
If you’re interested in this comic, series, related trades, or any of the others mentioned, then simply click on the title/link to snag a copy through Amazon as you read the Defenders: Beyond #5 Review.
Fair warning: This review will have spoilers about this issue and the rest of the series as a whole. Just wanted to give a heads up because there’s plenty to get into here, but most of it can’t be discussed without going into the full details of this issue and overall series. The first half of the review will focus on this issue in particular then the second half will cover the whole series and what’s to come. As far as this reviewer’s thoughts on this issue, it was not a satisfying story, let alone series finale. But the thing is, the REAL story isn’t really over. I’ll get into that in the second half, but let’s dig into the good elements of the issue.
First, Javier Rodriguez’s art nails it with the vibrant colors, monster designs, paneling, and the abstract characters and cosmic beings. Rodriguez hits it all off without a hitch. Then there’s the good part of the story featuring the Defenders meeting the one and only One Above All, the supreme being of the Marvel Comics universe, and Al Ewing really struts out his writing for this character and their interaction with the Defenders, particularly Adam Brashear, aka Blue Marvel. They have an interesting back and forth, to say the least, and Ewing and Rodriguez really lean into the Kabbalah Sefirot/Tree of Life imagery, something Ewing used in the Immortal Hulk series with the One Below All in its debut “Hulk in Hell” story arc.
However, this is where the good parts of the story end. Ultimately, Blue Marvel asks the One Above All for the identity of the big enemy Eternity sent them to find. They’re given what is essentially a splash-page preview of a giant abstract crown with only the nebulous titles of “The Enigma” and “the Crown Above All Things” to go on. That’s it. The comic also wastes The Beyonder, but I’ll get into more detail on him in the second half. On top of that, Loki’s story isn’t really that deep as Al Ewing wants it to be. See, the issue isn’t Loki being a Defender at all, that lines up with the direction Marvel Comics has taken the character in the last decade. The problem is Ewing’s attempt at elevating Loki’s status as someone who “Fights to save everything from everything, until all are free.”
First off, that’s too broad of a mission statement. Second, what is he attempting to “free” people from? Third, what does being “free” even mean in this cosmic context? Fourth, does “everyone” really mean everyone or just the public masses, because if it’s the former, as implicated with the mention of the Bodhisattva Vow, then that’s not only an endless task but an impossible one considering the many villains and great evils that populate the Marvel universe. Something that no version of Loki would ever be down for and would see as a punishment. It’s incompatible with Loki on a fundamental level who even at his most benign and helpful is a self-serving character as shown in this issue. And there’s no greater selfless, thankless, or self-sacrificing task than trying to rehabilitate and enlighten everyone including those who are evil.
Oh, and Taaia is sticking around for some reason. Yay.
Don’t worry, this part of the review will be short.
This series is written fine, but there’s no real development, no substantial or grand conclusions, no great threats defeated. The series as a whole has just been a lot of cosmic sightseeing with little payoff save for the conclusions with Loki and The Beyonder. Yes, Taaia gets to stick around a little longer, but what good will that do since only Al Ewing will be writing her? None.
She’ll basically be on the shelf until Al Ewing gets another Defenders miniseries or something to continue this cosmic storyline in a year or so. And even if she does encounter Galactus at some point, most readers probably won’t get the significance of this meeting since she’s showed up nowhere else but in Al Ewing’s Defender series, and readers probably won’t know Taaia existed in the first place.
Defenders: Beyond seems to be just one big setup for another abstract, cosmic Marvel story Al Ewing wants to tell. And if you like that, good for you. Honestly, I like the cosmic side of Marvel Comics, and Ewing did a fine enough job trying to streamline the Marvel cosmic landscape in his stories in recent years, including this series. But the cosmic stories he actually tells either attempt to be a little too high-brow for their own good, or are just lackluster stories.
What’s worse, Marvel promoted the return of The Beyonder as a big selling point for this series ever since issue one, but he’s barely in it. He hardly does anything notable or provide a unique perspective on the things the Defenders see and experience. He’s just along for the ride and does nothing interesting until the end just so Marvel can say The Beyonder’s back and will return at some point.
Defenders: Beyond concludes this series but introduces a bigger story that will pick up later in time. However, this issue is a rather unsatisfactory series finale and the big reveals in this comic make the series as a whole feel like one big setup for another story later in the future that might take a while. The saving grace of this issue is Javier Rodriguez’s art which keeps everything vibrant and interesting once the Defenders are inside the House of Ideas.