First Published: December 2006
Contents: The Defenders #15 (September 1974) to #30 (December 1975); Giant-Size Defenders #1 (July 1974) to #5 (August 1975); Marvel Two-in-One #6 (November 1974) and #7 (January 1975); Marvel Team-Up #33 (May 1975) to #35 (July 1975); and Marvel Treasury Edition #12 (1976)
Key Creator Credits: Len Wein, Steve Gerber, Tony Isabella, Gerry Conway, Jim Starlin, Sal Buscema, Don Heck, and others
Key First Appearances: Supreme Serpent, Wrecking Crew (Bulldozer, Piledriver, Thunderball), Elf with a Gun, Starhawk, Aleta, Michael Korvac
Story Continues From: Essential Defenders Vol. 1
Story Continues In: Essential Defenders Vol. 3
Overview: Welcome back to the ongoing adventures of Marvel’s non-team of heroes, the Defenders! The team with no rules, no charter, no membership cards, and no matching uniforms.
Core founding members Sub-Mariner and the Silver Surfer have moved on in this volume to other adventures, but will return in later Essential Defenders volumes. In their place, Valkyrie and Nighthawk team up with Doctor Strange and the Hulk to form the core members of the team in this volume. Other heroes hang out with the Defenders for a few issues in this volume, such as Power Man, Son of Satan, the Thing, and Yellowjacket.
Two story arcs in particular stand out in this issue. For issues #15 and #16, the Defenders face off against Magneto and his Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, a group of characters that had not been seen much with the X-Men title on hiatus. This is followed up in #17 and #18 with the debut of Wrecking Crew – three super-powered construction working villains that work with the Wrecker. The Wrecking Crew have been mainstays in the Marvel Universe since then, fighting everyone from the Avengers to Spider-Man to Wolverine, among others.
The volume concludes with a long story arc featuring the return of the Guardians of the Galaxy. The Guardians made their debut in the late 1960s, but were unused for many years until Steve Gerber brought them back to the forefront in Marvel Two-in-One #5, The story arc in Defenders introduced Starhawk to the team.
What makes this Essential?: While there are still moments where the title feels like an extension of the Doctor Strange book, the Defenders start to come into their own as an individual title, albeit an unofficial team. Steve Gerber begins his long run with the team, and we start to see Gerber’s familiar story-telling techniques which will be more prominently seen in the pages of Howard the Duck. This is an interesting read, but I just don’t know if it’s essential to read.
Footnotes: Marvel Two-in-One #6 and #7 are also reprinted in Essential Marvel Two-in-One Vol. 1.
Marvel Team-Up #33-#35 are also reprinted in Essential Marvel Team-Up Vol. 2.
Marvel Treasury Edition #12 is also reprinted in Essential Howard the Duck Vol. 1.
If you like this volume, try: the Guardians of the Galaxy: Tomorrow’s Avengers trade paperbacks from 2013. We are given a taste of the Guardians of the Galaxy in this Essential Defenders volume. But to find the origins of the original Guardians, check out these collections. Originally created by Arnold Drake and Gene Colan, but fully developed later by Steve Gerber and Al Milgrom, the Guardians come together to help save the 31st Century. Vance Astro, Martinex, Charlie-27, and Yondu form the original core, and we see Starhawk join during the appearance in Defenders. Whether you view this as Marvel’s version of the Legion of Super-Heroes, or as a future version of the Avengers, the Guardians are a fun look at one possible future for the Marvel Universe. Given the success of the summer blockbuster of the same name (but different character line-up), fans should check out these volumes to see the roots of the original Guardians of the Galaxy.