For eight months and as many issues, Cullen Bunn and Will Sliney have been cutting into a new era of the Marvel super team the Defenders in the pages of Fearless Defenders. This all-female fighting squad led by Valkyrie has been everywhere from Asgard to New York, but in this week’s Fearless Defenders #9 they will have to contend with a new threat: current and former boyfriends.
This Wednesday, Valkyrie’s Secret Avengers-era hookup Venom is stepping in – with some back-up like Dr. Strange, Iron Fist, Hercules and more – as an intervention to get these women to disband the team. And as you can expect, the Shield Maidens have something to say about that.
Newsarama spoke with series writer Cullen Bunn about this new development on this new era of the Defenders, as well as the recent induction of a Nextwave alum and a new member who will make you dance.
Newsarama: A lot has been happening in Fearless Defenders, especially in terms of Valkyrie and Annabelle’s new relationship. Is this roller-coaster ride over, or just beginning?
Cullen Bunn: The rollercoaster ride is just gearing up. The next few issues of the series will be a wild and strange ride. Each issue will be a stand alone story, but there will be a common thread that runs throughout as part of a longer tale. We'll see evil artifacts and alien invasions and sea monsters and cosmic beacons meant to call down creatures that are older than the stars. Amidst all this, though, we'll be learning more about Valkyrie and Annabelle... how their new situation will work... who is adjusting to the predicament... and who is not.
I think it's interesting to see where Val takes issue with the body-sharing... and where Annabelle has problems. It seems that their issues arise in completely different situations. Once you roll their combined issues together, they become very dysfunctional!
Nrama: When we interviewed you a few months back, you promised us Fearless Defenders #9 would feature an injection of some real “superheroic dude brothers” into this female-fronted book. Now that we’re only days away from that issue coming out, what can you say about it and its guest stars?
Bunn: Yes! The League of Super Dude-bros! Issue 9 features (and I might miss someone) Venom, Dr. Strange, Iron Fist, Hercules, Werewolf by Night, Cannonball, and X-Man... all characters who are either in a relationship or have been in a relationship with members of the Defenders. When we first announced this line-up, a lot of people got bent out of shape, thinking we were adding these (gasp!) men to the team. That's not the case, of course, but they are a part of the lives of these women. In this case, they're brought together for a common goal--to convince Valkyries and the others to disband this current iteration of the Defenders.
Nrama: One particular relationship this brings up is Venom’s relationship with Valkyrie from back in Rick Remender’s Secret Avengers run. How would you describe their relationship?
Bunn: Venom cares for Valkyrie, but she confuses the Hell out of him. As far as he's concerned, Valkyrie is the goddess of mixed signals. They're still a couple. That hasn't changed. But Flash has no real idea how serious Valkyrie is about him. She seems hesitant to label their relationship.
And now... Valkyrie's connection to Annabelle is going to complicate things... as we will see in issue 9.
Nrama: In the background of all of this, Caroline le Fey is planning her revenge on the team. What is she up to?
Bunn: Caroline continues to make trouble for the Defenders. She is assembling a new group of Doom Maidens to serve her cause. We saw the first of these in issue 8, and we'll see several more in the issues to come. There will be some new characters as well as some unexpected existing characters on this team of hers. By issue 12, we'll see the entire group of bad girls come together. As for Caroline's plans, she's working toward something big and apocalyptic. She's built herself a fearsome little empire, all so she can watch the world burn.
Nrama: The last issue looped in Elsa Bloodstone – will we be seeing more of her in future issues of Fearless Defenders?
Bunn: While it wasn't my original intent, Elsa is definitely joining the permanent team roster. I've always loved her, and I just can't stand to see her go.
Nrama: After this week’s #9, October’s #10 will go head-first into the Infinity event. How do these Shield Maidens get involved in this brouhaha?
Bunn: During Infinity, the Defenders will hit the streets to do their thing... defend. They'll be protecting those who can't protect themselves. Of course, Caroline is at work at the same time, so they're bound to collide during all the chaos.
Nrama: The solicits for #10 also promise a new hero with amazing but “terrifying” powers. What can you tell us about her?
Bunn: The character in question is Ren. I can't say much about her right now, but she'll become a fearsome member of the team. Her powers are both beautiful and devastating. A lot of our readers really love Annabelle, and I think they'll like Ren just as much.
Nrama: If that weren’t enough, I hear talk of dancing. I can’t wait for this explanation, Cullen.
Bunn: Beyond my love of dance dramas like Step Up 2, what explanation is needed!?
Or maybe I just thought that the power of dance is what has been missing from every major Marvel crossover in recent years.
But, yes, there is a dance element in issue 10. It makes sense, of course, given Ren's backstory.
Nrama: Last question, Cullen -- After the initial quartet was assembled in the first issues, you quickly brought in Hippolyta – Warrior Woman. We’ve seen Valkyrie’s Asgard and Misty Knight’s New York – any chance for a visit to Hippolyta’s New Amazonia?
Bunn: Absolutely! New Amazonia becomes our stage for issue 11. We'll see what Hippolyta has been up to in her quest to rebuild the Amazon nation. We'll also be learning a little more about why Hippolyta was brought back from the dead... and what the future might hold for her,