Despatching the warriors is simply the start of the story, though, raising the question: who's behind the raising of the dead, and why does the singing statue point the finger at Val?
I love magical singing statues, have done ever since I first had Jack and the Beanstalk read to me, so as maguffins go, it gets my attention. It's just one of many aspects of Cullen Bunn's script that works. There's a pithy pen portrait of Val, standing, eyes closed, in a shower of blood that she's hoping is only water. There's Misty's tussle with pirates who have made off with relics from an archaeological dig. Two mysterious villains on the high seas. The introduction of archaeologist Annabelle Riggs, who takes to Val with surprising enthusiasm. And dead Vikings, who are right up there with singing statues in my estimation. Events move along at a satisfying pace, with the only negative being Misty's *!&@? cussing, which is a rather lazy way to say 'streetwise'.
Will Sliney's artwork gives us an appealing pair of leads - Val's Nordic cool and Misty's American sass provide an appealing visual contrast, with their fighting styles further differentiating them (click on image to enlarge). There's Misty, right in the fray with her Stark Industries gadget-filled arm, while Val - initially at least - hacks and slashes from winged steed Aragorn. The dead Viking throng members are creepy as heck, while Annabelle fills the 'normal' person slot nicely. And that singing statue is, of course, lovely. In terms of setting, it's rare for a comic to have two fight scenes that are as different as the pair we're given here - modern pirates, ancient warriors. There are a couple of tweaks I'd like to see ... Val really needs her old cape to evoke the regal feel of an Asgardian warrior, while I miss Misty's massive 'fro from her Heroes For Hire days.
The colours of Veronica Gandini light the pages perfectly, bringing the artwork into further focus. Topping off the issue is the splendid cover by Mark Brooks, telling us that as well as the Norsemen, we're due ninja types.
While the Fearless Defenders comprise just two non-members here, a familiar face shows up next issue and we're promised an all-female non-team before long. Unlike the upcoming X-Men book that's full of femmes, there's an in-story reason for the Defenders' make-up. But I can get to that when the time comes. For now, I'm content to welcome another Marvel Now! title that shows a lot of promise.