During the ReEvolution panel at New York Comic-Con, Marvel editor-in-chief Axel Alonso hinted at plans for a couple of new female-led comics, one of which he promised would be a "kick-ass team book." Today Marvel formally unveiled that book; Fearless Defenders, by Cullen Bunn (Sixth Gun) and Will Sliney (Star Wars: The Clone Wars).
All-female team books have always been a slightly awkward proposition. Putting several female characters together in one book can smack of both tokenism -- "here are those females you wanted" -- and ghettoization -- "we've put them all over here so they won't get in the way." It's a problem DC's Birds of Prey historically addressed by keeping the characters' association loose. But as that book's passionate audience proves, there's something undeniably appealing about a team of powerful independent women coming together to right wrongs in a setting where most teams are dominated by men. Thankfully for his all-female team, Cullen Bunn has come up with a justification that sounds totally organic and rather brilliant.
In an interview with Newsarama, Bunn explained that the new series emerged from his work on the character Valkyrie in the Fear Itself spin-off The Fearless. Valkyrie is the last incarnate member of the Valkyior, the Asgardian warrior goddesses who serve as Odin's shield bearers. As Bunn explained it, "The basic idea of the book is that Valkyrie is choosing a new team of Valkyrior, and she's been asked to choose all these women from the heroes of Midgard, instead of from Asgard." Midgard means earth, which means female superheroes. In essence this is a book about mortal women stepping up to fill a vacuum left by goddesses, and that strikes me as a pretty awesome idea.
Valkyrie's first recruit, and her co-lead in the series, is one of Marvel's most underrated heroes: kung fu cyborg and Blaxploitation detective Misty Knight. Knight is basically the greatest Marvel character to never get her due, so I'm thrilled to see her on this book. The only other member that Bunn has thus far revealed is Danielle Moonstar of the New Mutants. This former mutant is a fan favorite who has similarly struggled to find a place in the Marvel Universe (despite the fact that she should really be the next Captain America), but she's an obvious fit for this book given that she has previously served as a Midgardian Valkyrior, and is basically now a Valkyrior reservist.
The rest of the roster is a mystery that will be revealed as the series progresses, but presumably any female hero who is currently unaccounted for in the Marvel NOW line-up must be a contender, and some characters may pull double-duty on other titles. Bunn has explicitly not ruled out She-Hulk. Fearless Defenders seems to be rooted more in the events of Fear Itself than in any previous incarnation of The Defenders, but Valkyrie was a member of that team so it's plausible we might see a return for former teammates such as Hellcat, Namorita, Moondragon and Wasp.
Fearless Defenders joins a line-up of female-led books at Marvel that also includes Captain Marvel, Red She-Hulk and Journey Into Mystery, plus female-dominated team books FF and Uncanny X-Force. Judging from Alonso's NYCC comments, there is at least one more female-led Marvel NOW book yet to be announced, which would bring their total to seven titles in the main Marvel line. It's a welcome improvement, moving the company closer to catching up with rival DC, which has nine female-led ongoing series in its main line with Wonder Woman, Batwoman, Batgirl, Catwoman, Birds of Prey, Supergirl, World's Finest, Sword of Sorcery and the recently announced Katana.
Fearless Defenders launches in February 2013. You can read more about the series at Marvel.com.