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Essential Defenders Volume 1 TPB (Essential (Marvel Comics)) [Paperback]

Gene Colan , Ross Andru , Sal Buscema , Jack Abel , Marie Severin , Bob Brown , Herb Trimpe , Stan Lee , Roy Thomas , Steve Englehart , Len Wein
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

18 May 2005 Essential (Marvel Comics)
Dr. Strange. Namor. The Hulk. The Silver Surfer. Set apart from others by nature and choice, this team of Marvel's mightiest loners embarked a string of strange adventures rarely equaled since - joined by some of the most off-kilter heroes of their time. Sorcery! Super-science! The war of the super-heroes! Learn how the "non-team" got its non-start in this multi-title compilation! Collects Dr. Strange #183, Sub-Mariner #22 and 34-35, Incredible Hulk #126, Marvel Feature #1-3, Defenders #1-14, and Avengers #115-118.

Product details

  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Marvel Comics; Direct Ed edition (18 May 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0785115471
  • ISBN-13: 978-0785115472
  • Product Dimensions: 25.5 x 17.1 x 3.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 958,380 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Born in Indianapolis, he went to Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. He studied Psychology because people fascinated him, but in getting his B.A. he learned that psychology didn't describe real people, so he became a writer.

Living the Young Creator's life in New York, he got to be drinking buddies with an editorial assistant at Marvel Comics. One night the e.a. called to say he was going on vacation for six weeks; would Steve like to fill in for him on staff? Steve would, and once in the door at what was then a very small operation, he got a shot at writing a comic. It was a failing series called Captain America -- but six months later it had become Marvel's leading seller, and Steve had all the work he could handle. He became Marvel's lead writer, adding The Hulk, The Avengers, Thor, Dr. Strange, and half a dozen other series. Then he was hired away by DC Comics to be their lead writer and revamp their core characters (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, and Green Lantern). He did, but also wrote a solo Batman series that readers dubbed the "definitive" version and broke the long-standing barrier between comics readers and the mass market. All comics films since Batman in 1989 stem from that.

After Batman he traveled around Europe for a year and wrote his first novel, The Point Man. Since then he's designed video games for Atari, Activision, Electronic Arts, and others. He's written animation for Street Fighter and G.I. Joe. He's written mid-grade books for Avon, including the DNAgers series, and Countdown to Flight, a biography of the Wright brothers selected by NASA as the basis for their school programs on the invention of the aeroplane. And he's written more comics, like Fantastic Four and Silver Surfer, which led to the San Diego Comic-Con calling him "comics' most successful writer, having had more hits with more characters at more companies than anyone else in comics history." He created The Night Man, which became a live-action television series.

Most recently, The Point Man has engendered a series of novels from Tor, beginning with The Long Man.

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential Defenders Vol 1 27 Nov 2005
By A Customer
This was one of the most anticipated titles of the Essential collections so far.The Defenders mainly concentrate around the Hulk, Dr Strange and the Sub-Mariner, three vastly different characters who by fate end up frequently fighting on the same side.They are a non-team of heroes,(unlike the Avengers) with kind of a renegade status who have no rules or regulations.
It starts off with linked stories from their individual titles and eventually their own comic book. The main villains are demons and mystical tyrants, who as usual in the Marvel universe are hell bent on world domination. The highlight of the book is the Avengers/Defenders battle which has some great fight scenes between them. The variety of different characters and the interplay between them is fun, especially with the Hulk. Anybody who enjoys superhero team books will love this.This was one of the best comics of the seventies and displayed some of Sal Buscema's best artwork. If you like offbeat superhero stories, give this one a whirl. Roll on volume 2 !.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Starting with a series of connecting tales that old Marvel fans or those who have read the Essential Hulk & Dr. Strange volumes will be well aware of, Doctor Strange, The Sub-Mariner and the Hulk are drawn together to fight the two headed Nameless One and form a loose alliance The Defenders. They are soon joined by the Silver Surfer as they battle the Avengers to stop the Earth being destroyed by a faulty weather controlling device.
With all these factors in place the time was right for the founding 3 members to have a shot at their own title, it started off with a weaker tale in Marvel Feature # 1 with Yandroth, an old foe of Doctor Strange, seeking to destroy the Earth. Strange's old foes were to become a staple for the early Defenders tales.
The next two Marvel Feature tales were far better, a mystical fight against Dormammmu in Rutland (guest-starring writer Roy Thomas and his first wife Jeanie) and then the brilliant alien creature Xemnu the Titan, like a teddy bear with a grudge. Xemnu is out to capture humans to re-populate his dead planet.
Their own title series started with a series of visually stunning mystical tales, with the Surfer returning that led to the re-appearance of the Nameless Ones. Dr. Strange rescues the woman who had volunteered to be their prisoner, not knowing she had allied with the two-headed beast. The Defenders defeat the newly formed three-headed monster, Barbara's is now the third head. Strange rescues the girl Barbara only to find the shock of separation has driven her insane. From hereon in it gets even better.
The Asgardian Executioner under the control of an evil witch captures the Defenders, his old flame The Enchantress is also imprisoned with the Black Knight.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cosmic-scale superheroics 26 Sep 2007
The decision to lump Dr Strange, Namor, Hulk, and the Silver Surfer together to form The Defenders was doubtless taken largely for commercial reasons: none of them were popular enough to consistently support their own titles. They form an odd team, with nothing much in common thematically; but these early Defenders stories manage to turn that very incongruity into a strength, emphasising the group's variety and differences even as they fight together against their common enemies. Unlike the rule-bound Avengers, The Defenders are always on the brink of just throwing up their hands and going their seperate ways.

As a fan of cosmic-level stories, I was intrigued by the idea of combining four of Marvel's most powerful characters; after all, Strange alone can take on gods, so what would it take to threaten him AND Namor AND the Surfer AND Hulk? The answer turns out mostly to be 'recycled Dr Strange villains': Dormammu, the Nameless One, and a criminally misused Yandroth. (Why should The Scientist Supreme, master of techno-magic and one-time ruler of a vast interplanetary empire, spends years travelling to Earth, of all places? Why can't he even manage to build a machine capable of blowing up one measly planet on his own? Why does he then die by FALLING UNDER A BUS?) Battling Dr Strange's otherworldly foes, plus the Asgardian sorceress Casiolena and a few of the mega-aliens who appear to infest the Marvel universe, allow The Defenders to retain a sense of universe-spanning grandeur, a gathering of some of the most powerful heroes in the cosmos. Here, at least, they had not yet dwindled into Just Another Marvel Super-Team.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Caveat emptor! 4 Feb 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Aargh-it's in black and white! Why don't I ever read the small print? I should have known given the price to issues covered ratio that it was too good to be true. Two lessons to be learned. First,buy in haste,etc. Second,Marvel comics are nothing without colour-it's a bit rich calling them Essentials when the essential bit is missing!
Don't waste your money on these.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.8 out of 5 stars  14 reviews
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Finally It All Comes Together! 12 Jun 2005
By Matt Gilbert - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I was a comic collector as a child. My series of choice was the Fantastic Four, but my little brother, for some reason, chose The Defenders. While the FF was quite familial and somewhat ideal, The Defenders seemed a bit more dysfunctional, offbeat and dark.

Back in the 70s, it seemed no matter where we picked up in the series, it always felt like we were walking in to the middle of a story. Even issue number one starts with the group in place, the enemy familiar. Where did Valkyrie come from? How did this group get together? How do you fit the egos of Dr. Strange, Hulk, and Subby in one room? It was a nagging source of annoyance, to be sure, although we still enjoyed the series.

While The Defenders began with Dr. Strange, the Sub-Mariner, and the Hulk, (and, it might be argued, the Silver Surfer) the real core of the group, it would later turn out, would become Dr. Strange, as leader and mentor; Valkyrie, a mythological warrior-woman abruptly imposed on the persona of an insane woman; and Nighthawk, a grown-up bumbling rich kid with perpetual bad luck. The Hulk remained, too, providing muscle, comic relief, and foil where needed.

The Defenders' first act was told slowly. This volume, with its collected 26 comics (of which only 14 were from the actual Defenders' series) is essentially the origin of the Defenders.

For the record, this book compiles the first 14 issues of The Defenders with Marvel Feature 1-3 (the first real Defenders books, prior to getting their own series), Avengers 115-118 (the Avengers/Defenders war), Dr. Strange 183, Sub-Mariner 22, 34-35, and Incredible Hulk 126.

It starts with the issue of Dr. Strange. No one else, no guest stars, but we do meet the primary villains for this volume, who will ultimately bring everyone together and forge the creation of the Valkyrie.

Then we move to an issue of the Sub-Mariner's mag, where we learn more about the mystery villains from the Dr. Strange story. Strange himself meets Subby for the first time.

The story continues in an issue of the Hulk's mag, wherein we meet Barbara and Jack Norris. Barbara will eventually become Valkyrie; Jack will show up at some point in the Defenders series to claim her (look for Jack again in Essential Defenders 2), and remain as a central supporting character for much of the series.

The book is full of interweaving plot lines from various sources, which is really what sets it apart from other Essential Marvel books. For example, in the Avengers/Defenders War cross-over story, they actually interrupt an issue of The Defenders with an excerpt from The Avengers series in a way that is absolutely appropriate. In this format, finally, it is all simple and makes sense.

Whoever put this book together had love in their hearts for this series. It's a lot of fun to read and to see how this dark horse team of dark horse heroes got its start. This team will resonate well with the kids in high school who were the outsiders; those who were not interested in sports, were smart but not dedicated enough to become valedictorian, and hung around in groups no one paid much attention to but which they themselves took much pride in.

I am eagerly awaiting The Essential Defenders Vol. 2, where Steve Gerber takes over as writer of the series, combining his talent for the bizarre and satirical in a super-hero format. It is Gerber who gave the series its unique flavor, which remained after he left it. It will be fun to re-live the scenes of Nighthawk's exposed brain in a cereal bowl on a table, complete with what looks like milk, while Nebulon re-appears to help the world get in touch with its inner bozo. Hopefully, when it is delivered to my door, it won't be handed to me by an elf -- with a gun! (*blam!*)
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Marvel's non-team a non-entity? Nonsense! 9 Jun 2005
By J. A. Hazelwood - Published on
During one of my several friendly conversations with my local comic book store proprietor, I had heard the name of the Defenders mentioned with much reverence, though I was not aware of them at the time. After asking clarification, I learned that the Defenders were the second attempt by Marvel at an amalgamated supergroup (after the Avengers, of course) and their original line-up was: Dr. Strange, the Sub-Mariner, the Silver Surfer, and the Hulk. Whoa! And I thought the original Avengers had a little too much muscle. The owner's opinion on the Defenders' mystique could be summed up with this one sentence: "When the most horrible menace to Earth appeared, you'd want to call the Defenders, and you'd hope that they all showed up". Now that I've read the Essential Defenders #1, I completely understand where he was coming from.

This multi-issue compilation kicks off with a story about the Undying Ones ... the very same sloppily written story that was thrown together to try and justify Dr. Strange's cancellation ... the story which I had just finished reading in the Essential Dr. Strange #2 (it's actually important later on, but still, ick). After being reminded of that travesty, I next came to a two-parter from ol' Subby's mag in which he enlists the help of the Hulk and the Silver Surfer to destroy a human-made weather machine that could destroy the world. It's not a great story, but I guess it made some writers and fans think, "Hey. These three guys make a pretty good team." Thus, our next stop is in Marvel Feature #1 where, along with the deserved return of Dr. Strange, the Defenders are born.

The Defenders face a wide variety of villains from all corners of the Marvel Universe (baddies who normally fought Strange, the Sub-Mariner, Thor, the FF, the Avengers, or the X-Men are all fair game), but this team is defined not by their foes but by their own unique team dynamic (or lack thereof). By this time in Marveldom, there were already 100+ issues of the Avengers, a government-sanctioned team of civic-minded supers who knew the value of teamwork and could compliment the others' strengths (and who also probably weren't popular enough to warrant their own solo series). Not so for the Defenders. These four guys were long-time loners by choice or by fate and they were used to relying on no one but themselves. Most early issues begin with Dr. Strange (who is considered to be the leader if only because he's the most sociable) struggling to find the others and convincing them to join him on a new mission, and not always being successful. Their differences are substantial (they're not a family like the FF or part of a group like the X-Men), their arguments are vitriolic, and just about every story ends with them leaving in a huff. I think the only reason why they kept coming back together at all is because, in the farthest regions of their minds, they do realize that they make a great team. This is why I feel that the Defenders represent one of the bigger successes of the more relatable, non-traditional superheroes that Stan Lee had envisioned in the beginning. They are powerful and interesting individuals, sure, but they are also just as susceptible to their egos and personalities as a regular human being (if not more so) in having ambitions or ideas that clash with those of their friends. While their external conflicts are as interesting as any other teams, their internal conflicts are the most likely reason you will keep reading. Hence, the Defenders clearly earn and take pride in their sobriquet as the "non-team" (plus, since they're usually not together, it's easy for them all to hold on to their own magazines, so that's more money in the bank for Marvel).

As well as the original roster worked, the writers weren't afraid to try adding on to it. The first decision (a good one, in my opinion) was to make the Defenders a home for the Valkyrie (She's a fierce warrior, she can bench-press a car, and she still adds a feminine touch to the Doc's little boy's club). Those who have read the Essentials Avengers #3 and Hulk #3 may remember the Valkyrie as a persona that the evil Enchantress temporarily bestowed on man-hating women. But in this collection she finds a permanent home with the girl who accompanied the Hulk to the realm of the Undying Ones, only to be trapped there when she freed Dr. Strange from bondage (I like the character so much I'm now actually a little happy I read that horrible story). The late, lamented bowman Hawkeye joins for a stint (Update: It seems that Hawkeye has returned to this mortal coil, according to the "House of M" crossover event of last summer. As one of my comic vendors once said, "I hope I die a Marvel death"). Speaking of hawks, repentant former Squadron Sinister mainstay Nighthawk signs on during the last two stories (From what I know about him, he's rich, he's an acrobat, and he has a cape and a beak. Oh well. Welcome to the party, Bird-Nose!).

Last but certainly not least, this book contains in its entirety the eight-issue event known as the Avengers-Defenders War. I've seen a lot of superheroes-fighting-each-other-due-to-a-great-big-misunderstanding tales before, but this is easily the best one that I know about. I really don't want to ruin any of it for the rest of you; you just have to read it for yourself. Nuff said!
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the Best Choices for an Essentials 7 July 2005
By Ricky Hunter - Published on
Marvel could not have gotten it more correct. The Defenders is one of their better choices for an Essentials package. Speaking of one of the eager fans who was around at the time, one was not aware there was this non-team grouping appearing throughout various of magazines until suddenly Marvel Feature #1 appeared. Now the stories can be gathered and enjoyed in a running sequence as originally presented throughout the magazine of the Hulk, Dr. Stranger, and the Sub-Mariner. The added plus is that then one also gets the best of original Defenders comic book series, including the introduction of Valkyrie, Nighthawk becoming a hero, and the justly famous Defenders-Avengers battle. The only thing keeping this volume from being perfect is that it could not have stretched a little farther to include the battle with Magneto and a few of the very good Giant-Size Defenders stories. Nothing's perfect, but this come blissfully close.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars How it all began 27 Jan 2006
By mrliteral - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, in the heyday of my Marvel comics purchasing, there were really four superhero teams: the Avengers (the heavy hitters, organized and government sanctioned); the Fantastic Four (essentially, a family unit), the X-Men (technically, a group of classmates at a special school) and the Defenders, the non-team. I first started my Defenders reading around issue 50, and with Essential Defenders #1, I have at long last seen how they got started.

The Defenders were a group of "loner" heroes who never worked well in a team environment. The Hulk was like a child with a constant temper tantrum who could not play well with others. The Sub-Mariner was torn between the surface world and his ocean empire and generally had no love of humanity. Dr. Strange, haughty but generally good hearted, typically operated in an environment that was radically different from other heroes. Soon joined by the aloof but benevolent alien, the Silver Surfer, this trio united only when the occasions demanded it, typically when there was a threat to the entire planet. Otherwise, they wanted little to do with each other.

To me, the comic book really hit its stride with the introduction of the Valkyrie (in the middle of this volume). While the other characters were more or less standalone, the Valkyrie was not; she was defined by being a Defender and in turn, helped define what the Defenders were all about. Soon enough, there would be others, including - by the time I really started reading these comics - Nighthawk (who joins at the end of this book) and Hellcat. The more well-known characters began to take a back seat and the Defenders developed their own unique identity.

But that is beyond what this volume offers, which ends with issue #14. In this book, the Defenders are more hazily defined as a team (or non-team), but there are still some entertaining stories, especially a crossover with the Avengers, which forces the two teams to clash before dealing with the combined threat of Loki and Dormammu. Overall, this rates a high four stars, and I am looking forward to the eventual release of Essential Defenders #2.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perhaps the most character driven of the Essential volumes 30 Mar 2008
By shaxper - Published on
I approached this volume without any prior knowledge of or interest in the Defenders, so this review won't discuss the monumental events contained within that may or may not have shaped Defenders history. Instead, as a complete novice to this "un-team," what really resonates about this volume is the intense characterization that Steve Englehart brings to the stories. I'm used to tedious early essential volumes that show the history of how it all began, but which are generally limited by dated style and narrative, as well as a less than fleshed out understanding of the character or team. When, for example, you want to read the best Fantastic Four stories ever printed, you don't go back to the very first issues. And yet, only a few stories into this first Defenders volume, the characterization begins to soar in ways that would make modern day writers kneel in awe.

The pre-Defenders stories in this volume fall short in most respects (they are included for historical/continuity reasons), and the first three stories in Marvel Feature are true sleepers. Yet, somehow, these stories left the fans demanding more Defenders stories, and that brings us to Defenders #1, where Steve Englehart takes over as writer, ably backed by artist Sal Buscema. This is the stretch that really makes vol. 1 an absolute delight to experience. I first realize what Englehart is bringing to these characters when I experience passages like "They pass an oddly disturbing painting, and enter a stairwell that seems, to Sub-Mariner, to rise higher than the scope of the house, and it occurs to Namor--as it has occurred to others--how little he truly knows about the mystic called...Dr. Strange." Here, a simple description of Strange's Sanctum Sanctorum, as perceived by Namor, casts a powerful aura about the character of Doctor Strange. He feels real and mysterious instead of colorful and two-dimensional.

This character-intensive treatment continues as we explore the intricate morality of Namor, seeing The Sub-Mariner go off in a blind rage to repay Silver Surfer for attacking him, yet stopping to prevent the Hulk from engaging an army of giant apes affiliated with The Surfer because the apes have not made the first move. Namor in particular, frequently becomes a vehicle through which Englehart is able to explore the differing moralities and codes of ethics belonging to each member of the team. Sure enough, each member has a clear sense of right and wrong, but those senses are not always compatible.

Englehart's mastery also includes the further development of The Silver Surfer, an advanced and generally benign cosmic entity trapped on Earth. Englehart puts the Surfer on a path to make sense of his situation and, more than that, allows the character to become a contradiction. In the past, Norrin Radd had always been the perfect, Christ-like entity who judged and yet forgave the human race for its fear and rashness. Yet, in this volume, though the Surfer still espouses these beliefs, we also see him make rash judgments and even confess to Doctor Strange that he fears him because he does not understand his powers. For someone who has followed The Surfer from the beginning (as I have), these are big steps in the development of his character. After all, it's far easier to identify with a hero who possesses flaws, and it's far easier to admire a hero who is aware of those flaws.

There is, perhaps, less to be done with a simple character like the Hulk, but Englehart still makes him shine, delivering outrageously fun lines like "Shut up, monkey! Hulk does not want to hear you!" while charging into combat with a giant man-ape. The Hulk also explores his own limited sense of ethics/morality as he muses on the value of friendship and his continual irritation at being ordered around and used by the Defenders.

Of course, there's also the fascinating character of Valkyrie, introduced partway through this volume, who must reconcile the fact that she is a singularly strong-willed Nordic goddess sharing a body with an insane woman. If that's not a compelling premise for a character, I'm not sure what is.

Rare is an Essential volume that is truly worth reading from beginning to end. Rarer yet is a volume of stories done so well that their quality easily rivals or surpasses what's being printed today. Essential Defenders vol. 1 features some of the best characterization you'll ever find in a Marvel Essential edition, plus it features the historic beginning of a time-honored comic book team. Whether you approach this volume looking for history, strong art, tight continuity, "Shut up, Monkey!" action, or abundant characterization, this volume will not disappoint.
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