"The Defenders" #8 by Matt Fraction and Jamie McKelvie is a nice entry into the Defenders story arc, with its offbeat style of jumping into the past and introducing readers to a whole crew of characters before going right back into the action. It's not a perfect book, but it's doing some very interesting things.
One of the strengths of this issue is how effortlessly Fraction handles both a complicated plot and a slew of characters. He does it so well that I didn't realize until after I put the book down how many different characters I'd been reading about. Also, I would totally read a book about his nine "explorers" set in the past. Can we have that as a monthly book? All of those characters seemed fascinating in the few pages we were given to explore them.
Jamie McKelvie's art on this book is gorgeous and Mike Norton blends his style with McKelvie's to the best of his ability, but it's still a bit distracting when a face you'd come to expect to look like X, suddenly looks like Y. On the whole, it's a beautiful book -- action packed and full of great character acting, particularly with Black Cat, who must be just as much fun to draw as she seems to be to write.
McKelvie has really grown as an artist over the past few years. He's always had a lovely and very clean style, but there's such density and attention to detail in his work these days. Everything feels appropriately detailed whether it's a character's hairstyle or a massive ossuary. The colors by Dommo Aymara have that perfect superhero pop and are a great fit for McKelvie's crisp uncluttered style.
"Defenders" has not been the most consistent book for these first eight issues, with a variety of different artists piloting in and a sometimes strange take on plotting, but Fraction is a good writer and he's clearly having a fun, which comes across in the pages. The book has also benefited from some really great artists –- if you're going to have rotating artists, these are good ones to have! Still, I hope in upcoming issues Fraction can anchor things a bit more so we have a little more consistency to go with our rollicking good times.