Unfortunately, things take a rather quick nose dive with issue #2. Writing duties hasve switched to Michael Higgins exclusively and it seems that Higgins struggles to find his feet here, or it might be that there is so much going on. The issue deals with the construct of Monitor, the Defenders headquarters built inside a volcano, but we also have the introduction of alien race the Cryl, secret passages within the volcano and the obligatory attack by Ming. The issue ends up being something of an unenjoyable mess which is a shame as Saviuk’s art is still top notch and a joy to look at. However, it’s just not fun to read and there really isn’t anything much else one can say about the issue rather than it’s the weakest link in the DotE chain.
However, moving onto issue #3, Higgins has found his stride. This – and later issue #4 – will be of the most interest to ChronicleChamber visitors. Issue #3, entitled Family Honour, deals with the Phantom’s estranged brother, Kurt Walker, returning to Bengali to try and take the absent Phantom’s place. Betrayed by one of the thugs with him, Kurt is thrown off a bridge into a rushing river. However, the flow of the river carries him to a secret cave in which he discovers the helm of the once-powerful god, N’dama. Drawn to the helm Kurt puts it on, and is granted the power to control the weather. Using this power Kurt takes his revenge on the country that dismissed him, as well as the Bandar and the Phantom himself.
This issue is an adaptation of one of the better DotE episodes and is an interesting look into what might happen if one of the Walker sons was not of a high moral ground. Of course if the story were written by Lee Falk it probably would not contain all the super powers, but this is Defenders of the Earth after all. Still, the characterisation of the Phantom is again spot-on with Jedda reflecting on how “grim” the Phantom seems and that “he blames himself” for what is happening. The Phantom’s inner turmoil in regards to leaving the Bandar to fend for themselves – even though they are competent warriors – to fight alongside the Defenders in defence of the world as a whole is something that is glimpsed in earlier issues and it comes to a head here. While some phans do not enjoy this inner-monologuing Phantom – they feel it makes him too ‘dark’ for some reason – personally I feel it is completely right for the character.
Again Alex Saviuk’s art is lovely to behold, some extremely fine panels appearing throughout the book. The final confrontation between the Phantom and Kurt, while short, is made all the more enjoyable due to Saviuk’s art. Indeed, it seems to be with this issue that Saviuk really finds his artistic voice on the series, which is a shame as there is only one issue left…
In the previous article I credited Stan Lee as the writer of DotE #1. However, at that time in Marvel Comics it was common for comics to be written using the ‘Marvel Method’ which basically meant that artist, in this case Alex Saviuk, would plot and draw the comic and Lee would come back later and add the dialog. So, in reality, the writing of the comic is equally (or, arguably, 60/ 40) split between Saviuk and Lee. While I was aware of the Marvel Method of comics writing I had not heard of it being used for DotE and while it would have been a safe assumption to say it was, I try not to assume when writing these articles. However, thanks to Jermayn Parker I’ve been informed the Marvel Method was indeed used for the Defenders of the Earth series. You can read more about it at the Phantom Phorums.