Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Will Sliney
Colorist: Veronica Gandini
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Cover Artist: Mark Brooks
Review by Eric Owens
If you freaked out over the events of Fearless Defenders #6 and haven’t heard the news yet, it’s safe to come back. Dr. Annabelle Riggs is back among the living, sort of. In an inversion of the Bruce Banner/Hulk dynamic, she swaps places Valkyrie’s place to prevent her from giving in to her Doom Maiden of rage side. Given Annabelle’s feelings for Val, it’s also an interesting twist on the old Thor/Donald Blake/Jane Foster love triangle.
Picking up back on Earth, Annabelle and Elsa Bloodstone help Misty investigate some murders in Chinatown. Well, they stand around and get up to speed while Misty takes care of some thugs. The clues and intel they gather lead them through the subway tunnels and sewers, eventually bringing them to a lab filled with ninjas and Brood. This unlikely pairing is the result of Zheng Bao Yu, who is apparently a daughter of Zheng Yu (otherwise known as Fu Manchu) and who currently leads the Celestial Order of the Hai Dai. Bao Yu is going the Talia al Ghul route, resurrecting her father’s projects and strongly suggesting she plans to resurrect him as well. As Misty, Val, and Elsa work their way through ninjas and bio-engineered aliens, they receive a surprise assist from No-Name, a Brood and former member of Hulk’s Warbound. Once the situation is taken care of, she flies off on her own to track down Bao Yu and anyone else tied to the Brood incubator. Unsurprisingly, there’s a much larger conspiracy behind it all.
Bao Yu only shows up for a few pages, but it’s enough to get her background and personality across. She’s understandably domineering and the interaction between her and Caroline LeFay, another authoritative daughter of a classic Marvel villain, should be entertaining as the scheme moves forward. Along with her mystical powers (including shooting electricity from her hands) Bao Yu in an excellent fighter, and Sliney gets across just how fast and fluid her movements are. Given more time and space, Bunn will be able to better differentiate her from similar characters. The cool outfit and funky purple tattoos(?) certainly help to do that visually.
The fights are action-packed, as they should be, but Sliney really shines in the slower first half of the book. The characters’ movements perfectly complement Bunn’s snappy dialogue. Annabelle and Elsa reacting to the fight and flying weapons adds life to what could be a few dull panels of talking heads. Take away the speech bubble, and Misty’s raised eyebrow and hands on her hips would still get across just how displeased she is to do all the fighting herself.
As the cover shows, Val has a new costume. Gone is the chest armor more fitting for a performer in Die Walküre than for an actual valkyrie. Instead, she has a sleek blue suit with furry boots. Like the other characters’ costumes, it’s nice and bright against the duller environments, keeping focus on the action.
Speaking of which, there eventually needs to be a showdown between the Hai Dai and the Hand. That way they can settle which group of ninjas dresses in red and which group needs to find a different color for doing a terrible job of blending in with the shadows.
Overall, this was a fun issue and the series continues to highlight Marvel’s roster of female characters. Thankfully, Annabelle Riggs is still within those ranks, and hopefully will be for some time to come.