REVIEW: Defenders #3 – “Diamond in the Rough”

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Writers: Brian Michael Bendis
Penciller: David Marquez
Colorist: Justin Ponsor

Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
Price: $3.99

Release Date: 7/12/17

Diamondback poisoned Luke Cage and left him to die, but Black Cat took him to the hospital in a surprising move. The Defenders then join forces to teach Diamondback a lesson, but instead the Punisher showed up and shot them all. How will they get out of this one?

Plot: While Diamondback hashes out his issues with Black Cat, the Defenders recuperate from Punisher’s nonlethal shots that were meant to paralyze them. Why would Frank Castle try to step them from going after Diamondback?

Before they can answer that question, though, they need to figure out how Diamondback can even be alive in the first place.

Story: The Defenders #3 makes the choice to skip forward to the after-effects of Punisher’s shot, showing readers the protagonists recovering in the hospital rather than the journey to get there. Normally such a move might feel like a letdown after such a tense cliffhanger, but in this case the more interesting story is the backstory between Diamondback and Luke Cage – not to mention the mystery of the Punisher’s motivations. Brian Michael Bendis takes care of the former in a fun Mean Girls-esque sequence in which various citizens of Harlem, including Misty Knight, seem to be sharing information directly with the audience.

Even before we visit the Defenders in the hospital, we see Black Cat and Diamondback’s confrontation. The scene was a strong start to the issue, allowing her to show off her fighting skills and emphasizing her grey morality and respect for the good guys. However, there wasn’t a payoff for it this issue. Nor was there a payoff for the history between Luke Cage and Diamondback, for that matter. All the building blocks for a cohesive and impacting tale are there, but I’m less clear on whether it’ll come together. For example, there is a terrifying confrontation at the end of the issue, but it’s not between the people you’d expect. At least you can’t say the series is predictable yet.

If anything, it is the character work that shines through in Defenders #3. The little touches Bendis includes regarding Luke and Jessica’s relationship are always a treat, and Daredevil gets a a few pages to work through his trust issues when he goes after Punisher. As a fan of character over plot, the odd pacing can be forgiven when the moments of relationship development and individual introspection are compelling enough.

Art: The majority of Defenders #3 consists of conversations or monologues, and David Marquez’s pencils are suited to both. The facial expressions of every character are fleshed out and realistic, no matter how background they may be. Furthermore, every panel is filled to the brim with details that make the world of the series come to life without feeling overstuffed.

At the same time, there are three major action scenes in the issue – and it’s here that Justin Ponsor’s colors pop. The use of light vs. dark colors in each of them is consistent but does not become repetitive. Instead it highlights the flow of action or, in some cases, the characters’ powers. Coupled with the unique and oftentimes hilarious expressions that Marquez provides, as well as the inventive uses of onomatopoeia from Cory Petit’s lettering, the Defenders art team has some of the best action sequences around.

Verdict: The various plot threads start slow, but there are some great character moments in this issue and the art is stellar. You should pick this up if you are a big fan of the Defenders, otherwise you can wait a few more issues to see how the plot shakes out.

Star Rating: 3 out of 5

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