Cullen Bunn & The Final Chapter of FEARLESS DEFENDERS

cover by Mark Brooks
Credit: Marvel Comics

Earlier this month Newsarama broke the news that Marvel’s series Fearless Defenders was coming to a close with December’s #12, but there are still two issues between now and that fateful end – and creators Cullen Bunn, Will Sliney and the ladies of the book are heading into it just like their name implies: fearless.

Starting in November’s Fearless Defenders #11, Valkyrie and her fellow Defenders prepare to make a final stand against Caroline LeFay and her Doom Maidens, with their lives on the line – including the complicated body-sharing issue Valkyrie has with her teammate Annabelle. Newsarama spoke with Bunn about the penultimate issue on through to the series finale, discussing this rag-tag group of heroes, the final showdown, and some surprise appearances as the series heads towards its conclusion.

cover by Mark Brooks
cover by Mark Brooks
Credit: Marvel Comics

Newsarama: So Cullen, first off – what is coming about in the series finale of Fearless Defenders this December?

Cullen Bunn: I’d love to tell you that we’re going to wrap every single plot thread up in a neat little bow, but that’s probably not the case. We set some plot points into motion in those early issues that need a little more time to mature. I think it would be unfair to try to box them all up by the end of the series. We’re giving the story an end-point, but there are elements that could be picked up in the future… by Will and me or by another creative team… in any number of books.

Two issues remain in the series, though, and we’re packing as much awesome into those issues as possible.

Nrama: What specifically can people look forward to in these final issues?

Bunn: First, in issue 11, we check in on Hippolyta when Annabelle, Ren, Dani, and (special guest star) Magma visit New Amazonia! (And I don’t want to say too much, but love is in the air!)

Then, in issue 12, we have a final showdown between the Defenders and the new Doom Maidens… and we get a visit from some new heroes… and one of Caroline’s estranged parents!

Nrama: Was this your original plans for the end of the second arc, or did it change somewhat with news the series would be ending?

Bunn: I typically plan for a much longer story. I should know better, because there are no guarantees that the story will make it that long. But I just can’t help it when I’m excited about a book. So, I had a much bigger plan for a number of stories featuring different combinations of Defenders teams. At the end of issue 6, we flashed to some possible team-ups, and I would have loved to do all of those stories (and then some)! Issues 7 – 12 were originally going to include 3 short arcs (the 1-issue return of Annabelle, a 2-issue arc, and a 3-issue arc) but when I found out that the series might not continue past issue 12, I decided to change things up and do a series of single issue stories that loosely tie together.

interior art by Will Sliney
interior art by Will Sliney
Credit: Marvel Comics

Nrama: Fearless Defenders seems to be a book about bucking expectations, both seen in the book and on the covers by Mark Brooks. From your perspective, how do you think fans took to the series both before the first issue and then as the series went on?

Bunn: I know that many readers were expecting something very different when they picked up the first issue of the series. Maybe I should have been even more vocal that this book was an unapologetic superhero adventure story, that the yarns we presented would be off-beat and strange and… oddball. Maybe such a leveling statement would have reduced the attrition on the series. I dunno. I know that people who stuck with the book really enjoyed it (even when they hated me for being mean to Annabelle). I heard from a lot of people that said they were planning on returning to the book because they “didn’t get it” at first, but I think the damage (in terms of sales) had already been done. In the end, I think it’s pretty remarkable that Marvel took a chance on a book like this, and to make it 12 issues (13 if you count the Age of Ultron tie-in) is a win in my opinion.

Nrama: You and Will Sliney did almost all the dozen issues of this series together – a rare feat in today’s world of ever-changing creative teams. What’s it like to be able to do that with a major Big Two book and stay on schedule?

cover by Mark Brooks
cover by Mark Brooks
Credit: Marvel Comics

Bunn: It’s great! I do everything in my power to turn scripts in on time no matter what I’m working on. One of my goals as a collaborative partner is to make sure the artist is never waiting on script pages from me. Will certainly put me to the test there, because the guy is a workhorse!

The entire collaborative experience on this book, from working with Ellie Pyle on planning it out… to Mark Brooks on covers… to Will and Phil Jimenez, Karl Kesel, Stephanie Hans and Veronica Gandini on interiors… to Clayton Cowles on letters… was a pure delight.

Nrama: The team has been made up of old favorites like Valkyrie and Misty Knight, as well as lesser-known characters like Hippolyta and Elsa Bloodstone. But recently you introduced an all-new character – Ren Kimura. How’s she taking to this whole superhero thing—and do you think she has a future after Fearless Defenders ends?

Bunn: I really hope Ren has a home after Fearless Defenders. I know Ellie has put the word out that we’ve got this great new character. I’d love to write more about her… and Annabelle… and Caroline LeFay… if I ever had the chance.

That’s one of the toughest things about seeing this series end. I wonder what will happen to these characters… especially the new ones. Will they be forgotten? Will other writers treat them well? It’s the nature of working on a Marvel Universe book… but it’s still worrisome for me. I’m the biggest Annabelle and Ren fan there is (except maybe for Ellie… and Sliney) so I want to see them have a long life on the page.

But the Marvel Universe is a big place, and I think there is a home for all of the Fearless Defenders. I’ve tried to leave enough story breadcrumbs out there that other creators will find their way to these characters.

Nrama: And although the series is ending, you’re promising surprises until the end – namely a character Marvel calls a “new (cosmically awesome) character” that joins the team. Can you tell us, or at least tease us, with who it might be?

Bunn: I’ve seen a lot of speculation on who this character might be. I can tell you that I had originally planned for a different character to take that spot. It was a character I thought no one would see coming, but someone who fit the vibe of the team perfectly. But there were unforeseen complications with that character and we had to make some adjustments. The new cosmic player is someone I’ve always wanted to use in the series but I thought she was off-limits. She’s a strong correlation to a member of the original Defenders team! And I hope she has more page-time elsewhere in the Marvel Universe after she makes her return in Fearless Defenders #12!

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