Soon the Defenders - detective Misty Knight, Asgardian Valkyrie and the Amazon Warrior Woman - arrive, and while they don't know what Le Fay's agenda is, they do know it won't be any good, so battle is joined. Ren is freaked out, but then instinct kicks in, along with her dancer's training - her fingers emit razor-sharp ribbons and the tide of battle turns in the heroes' favour.
A ballerina with razor ribbons? It's a strange concept, whimsical yet terrifying, her twirling claws extending for several yards around her; as teammates go, she's not someone I'd want to be near in a fight. As characters go, I like Ren a lot. Writer Cullen Bunn has her narrate the issue, so we're immediately inside her head, and we stay there. I've always been a sucker for the ordinary person who finds themselves dragged into the world of heroes and villains. I like seeing things from their perspective, and we get a good example of that here (click on image to enlarge).
The main storyline is tied into the Infinity event series, but Bunn grabs the baton and uses it for his own purposes, introducing a new Defender and pushing the existing Le Fay storyline further along. And there's plenty of room for Valkyrie and co to strut their stuff, both in terms of character and prowess. Val's body timeshare pal, Annabelle Riggs, shows up at one point to hold out the hand of friendship towards Ren, winds up with some nasty cuts and grins away anyway; I get that Annabelle's gaydar may be working, but she isn't half creepy.
Bunn's dialogue is for the most part excellent (I love Warrior Woman's phrase 'the hag Le Fay') though he occasionally loses focus ('dibs' is not a word I can imagine Warrior Woman using).
I like Will Sliney's art a lot, there's a vibrancy to the pages, especially those in which Ren dances. The heroes and villains look great, and credit to Sliney for not making Le Fay a typical comic book old lady, with Aunt May's head on a zoftig body; no, she's believable in body and frail of frame, but the steel in her bearing, and eyes, marks her out as a formidable opponent. The melees are well presented, particularly the two pages showing Ren accepting her new abilities and lashing out against the villains. Veronica Gandini's colours evoke the perfect New York sunset, concrete and steel towers against burning skies, and she picks out the characters with skill.
Mark Brooks produces another splendidily imaginitive cover, using Ren's debut to motivate a Street Dance-style poster. Misty, Dani and, especially, Val look hilarious. The concept, the approach, the execution, all superb - Brooks really makes Fearless Defenders stand out from the crown.
Month in, month out, this book delights with an interesting mix of complex characters and surprising storylines - the Defenders membership also includes monster hunter Elsa Bloodstone and extra-dimensional sorceress Clea, who's just told Dr Strange she wants a divorce. In terms of tone, Bunn elegantly walks the tightrope between serious and sheer fun, while Sliney, Gandini and Brooks provide distinctive, attractive artwork. More people should be reading this book - it's stylish, solid superheroics and soap. And that's not an easy trick to pull off.