The Defenders, "The Non-Team," was always one of my favorite Marvel titles. I loved the incongruity of the team: Dr. Strange, Namor, Hulk, the Silver Surfer, (and during my time period of readership) Nighthawk and the Valkyrie. Outsiders all, but for various reasons, they decide to put their personal problems aside and unite for the greater good.
The stories included in this volume are revelatory for all those interested in the history of the Defenders. Included are the "proto-Defenders" stories from the Sub-Mariner's title (#'s 34 & 35) and the first appearance of the Defenders proper in Marvel Feature #1. Interestingly, there was a second new story in Marvel Feature #1 entitled, "The Return of Dr. Strange" which tied up some loose ends from the abrupt cancellation of Dr. Strange's own title (ended with issue 183 in 1969). In Roy Thomas' introduction to this volume, he explains that this story will be included in a future Dr. Strange Marvel Masterworks. If, that is, the volume ever comes out. I happen to have a copy of Marvel Feature #1 and the 10-page story in question is quite good. With art by Heck and Giacoia, it features an appearance by Baron Mordo and certainly serves as a satisfying coda to Dr. Strange's "man in tights" days and is worth tracking down.
Moving through the remainder of the Thomas-scribed stories, Marvel Feature 2 is an excellent Halloween story and is another Marvel appearance of Rutland, Vermont and another 4 color appearance of Roy Thomas and his then spouse Jeanie. Some would say it's an example of self-indulgence run amuck, but give "Roy the Boy" a break: where would Silver and Bronze age Marvel have been without the Missourian? Marvel Feature 3 has excellent art, but the story is not very compelling to those of us who didn't grow up with Howdy Doody. The Thomas stories are well-done, but lack a certain coherence and pacing. Still, they are musts for Defenders fans.
Steve Engleheart takes over the writing chores for Roy in The Defenders #1, and the pacing of the stories certainly picks up as well. Defenders 1-5 deal with elements scattered throughout the early Defenders stories (such as Yandroth) and unanswered questions left from Dr. Strange's appearances in Hulk 126 and Sub-Mariner 22, namely Barbara Norris and the Nameless Ones. The Silver Surfer guest stars and joins the team in Defenders #2, and in Defenders 4 the Valkyrie appears and joins up. As an added bonus, one of my favorite Marvel heroes, the Black Knight, guest stars in #s 4 & 5. All-in-all, the Engleheart stories are excellent and are probably the reason the title continued to be published. These are definite must-reads.
There were some problems with the color reproduction of Marvel Feature #1; Dr. Strange's gloves are colored orange in the original comic, something that did not translate well into the reproduction. There are some other little color mistakes here and there that I noticed (the Black Knight wearing a yellow helmet?), but nothing major.
I gave this volume five stars and would recommend it to all interested in the Defenders or any of the heroes associated with the "Non-Team." Excellent reading and very well-done reproduction of some very valuable (monetarily AND historically!) comic books.