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The Defenders Reading Order (Marvel Comics)

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The Defenders Reading Order

When the Dr. Strange series was canceled in the middle of a story arc in 1970, Roy Thomas searched for a way to tell the end of his crossover storyline. This led to  Marvel Feature #1 (December 1971) in which Doctor Strange, Namor, and The Incredible Hulk formed a team named The Defenders to battle the alien techno-wizard Yandroth. The Silver Surfer soon joined them, as well as Valkyrie.

Steve Englehart, Len Wein, Steve Gerber, Gerry Conway, David Anthony Kraft, J. M. DeMatteis, and more wrote The Defenders series for a long time and, after 124 issues, the title was renamed The New Defenders – a roaster that didn’t include the Strange, Namor, Hulk and the Surfer. The first three will later reunite in pages of The Incredible Hulk, then again a bit later with Silver Surfer in a crossover storyline.

It was nevertheless necessary to wait a bit longer to see The Defenders come back, in 1993, but with a new formula and a different roaster – Wolverine, Darkhawk, Spider-Woman, Spider-Man, Hulk, Ghost Rider, and others. At that time, even the name was not the same as they were called The Secret Defenders.

During the 2000s and 2010s, there were multiple attempts at launching a new Defenders series, even one that was an echo of the TV series – that was The Defenders only by name.

The Defenders Reading Order

Defenders Vol. 1 (1972-1985)

Doctor Strange, the Hulk, the Sub-Mariner, the Silver Surfer, and Valkyrie. They are the Defenders, and they join together in moments of utmost crisis to face incomprehensible enemies like Dormammu, the Nameless One, and the Enchantress. And they even fight the Avengers!

This first series of the Defenders, also known as the Volume 1 is composed of 152 issues + Annual + Giant-Size. There is not a complete run in one edition, but in multiples.

The Omnibus Edition (Huge Hardcover)

The Defenders Omnibus Vol. 1 - The Defenders Reading Order

  • Defenders Omnibus Vol. 1
    Collects Sub-Mariner (1968) #34-35; Marvel Feature (1971) #1-3; Defenders (1972) #1-19; Giant-Size Defenders (1974) #1-2; Avengers (1963) #116-118; material from Avengers (1963) #115.
  • The Defenders Omnibus Vol. 2
    Collects Defenders (1972) #20-41 And Annual #1, Giant-Size Defenders #3-5, Marvel Two-In-One (1974) #6-7 And Marvel Treasury Edition #12 – Plus Material From Mystery Tales #21, World Of Fantasy #11 And Tales Of Suspense (1959) #9.

Marvel Masterworks: The Defenders (Hardcover)

For now, the rest of volume one is available in the Marvel Epic collections.

The Defenders Epic collections

The Epic Collection line is a numbered collection of sequential issues of one title, sometimes including crossovers from related titles, starting from the beginning of a character. This collection is not released sequentially, as the priority is to fill in periods not covered by previous collections.

Defenders Epic Collection The Six-Fingered Hand Saga - The Defenders Reading Order

The Defenders Logo - The Defenders Reading Order

Return of the Defenders (1990)

In 1990, the original trio reunited in The Incredible Hulk #370-371 (collected in Hulk Visionaries: Peter David, vol. 5) in a story proving that the reason used to separate them previously was bogus. This led to a real reunion that included the Silver Surfer in a crossover story entitled “The Return of the Defenders” running in the “Annual” issues of The Incredible Hulk, Namor the Sub-Mariner, Silver Surfer, and of course Dr. Strange, Sorcerer Supreme.

This storyline was collected in

The Defenders Logo - The Defenders Reading Order

The Secret Defenders (1993-1994)

In 1993, Marvel Comics bring back the “Defenders” under the name “The Secret Defenders.” This new team was first introduced in Dr. Strange #50 and Fantastic Four #374, before the official launch of the Secret Defenders series. The Master of the Mystic Arts revives the “non-team” to save the world from the threats they’ll never know existed, Doctor Strange uses magical tarot cards to select the perfect team for every mission — from Wolverine to Spider-Man, Captain America, Hulk, Scarlet Witch, Silver Surfer, Punisher, War Machine, Darkhawk, or Sleepwalker.

Doctor Strange and the Secret Defenders - The Defenders Reading Order

The Defenders Logo - The Defenders Reading Order

Defenders Vol. 2 (2001-2002)

Created by Kurt Busiek and Erik Larsen, the second Volume of The Defenders was launched in 2001 and reunited once more Doctor Strange, Namor the Sub-Mariner, the Hulk, and the Silver Surfer.

The Defenders series was canceled after 12 issues, but it was followed by the 6-issue miniseries The Order. For now, none of these stories have been collected.

The Defenders Logo - The Defenders Reading Order

Defenders (2005)

In 2005, it was with a comedic tone that The Defenders came back for a five-issue miniseries from the JLI team: Keith Giffen, J. M. DeMatteis, and Kevin Maguire. Here is the official synopsis: Wong possessed by Nightmare! Dormammu and Umar in unholy alliance! The Hulk and the Sub-Mariner at each other’s throats! The Silver Surfer… uh… surfing. Can Doctor Strange reunite the Defenders and save “Reality As We Know It?” Only the Ancient One knows for sure! 

Defenders Indefensible - The Defenders Reading Order

The Defenders Logo - The Defenders Reading Order

The Last Defenders (2008)

The Last Defenders - The Defenders Reading OrderAs a result of the Super-Human Registration Act and the events of the massive Civil War Crossover, a new Defenders team was created in 2008, coming this time from Joe Casey and Jim Muniz. The mutant Colossus, The sensational She-Hulk, and The unpredictable Blazing Skull are led by the enigmatic Nighthawk and have been reformed to serve a specific political purpose – but is there a greater destiny in store for this crew? Also, the team reappeared after that in the mini-series Vengeance (2011).

The Defenders Logo - The Defenders Reading Order

Defenders vs. Offenders

In 2009, The classic Defenders teamed up once more in the ongoing Hulk series (#10–12) when Red Hulk assembled a counter team of supervillains called the Offenders (including Baron Mordo, Terrax the Tamer, and Tiger Shark). The storyline is collected in

The Defenders Logo - The Defenders Reading Order

Defenders By Matt Fraction aka Vol. 4 (2012)

With the 2011 event Fear Itself (see reading order), Doctor Strange forms a new version of the Defenders. This led to a new ongoing series written by Matt Fraction and drawn by Terry Dodson with Doctor Strange, Red She-Hulk, Namor, the Silver Surfer, and Iron Fist.

 The last line of defense against the forces of the unknown! Marvel misfits must band together to solve a mysterious conspiracy deep in the heart of the Marvel Universe! What is the secret of Wundagore Mountain?

Defenders by Matt Fraction - Volume 1 - The Defenders Reading Order

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Fearless Defenders (2013)

Even if Marvel branded it “Defenders”, The Fearless Defenders series written by Cullen Bunn with artwork by Will Sliney was not like the previous iterations of the team: Valkyrie and Misty Knight are the Fearless Defenders, and not since Power Man and Iron Fist has an unlikely duo kicked this much – well, you know. 

In truth, it’s not a Defenders series.

The Defenders Logo - The Defenders Reading Order

The Defenders by Brian Michael Bendis

Once again, The Defenders are not what they used to be. This time, the series written by Brian Michael Bendis with art by David Marquez is based on the Netflix incarnation of the team: Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist. Also, this is a storyline launched during the “Secret Empire” event (see reading order).

Here is the story: As chaos threatens to engulf New York, can this group of socially maladjusted heroes trust each other enough to function as a team? Or will the power vacuum caused by the Kingpin’s absence lead to all-out gang war? Only one thing could make life worse for the Defenders: Deadpool!

The Defenders by Brian Michael Bendis Vol 1 - The Defenders Reading Order

The Defenders Logo - The Defenders Reading Order

The Best Defense (2018)

Immortal Hulk, Namor, Doctor Strange, and Silver Surfer are back in a little series called The Best Defense. Here is the synopsis: An unsolvable murder. An aquatic doorway to nothingness. A wanderer at the end of time. And a cosmic train of planetary proportions. Four seemingly-unrelated events that will require the powers and insights of the members of the greatest Non-Team of them all, the original DEFENDERS, to connect the dots and challenge the strange power behind these disconnected happenings-before all of reality pays the price!

  • Defenders: The Best Defense
    Collects The Immortal Hulk The Best Defense #1, Namor The Best Defense #1, The Silver Surfer The Best Defense #1, Doctor Strange The Best Defense #1, The Defenders The Best Defense #1

The Defenders Logo - The Defenders Reading Order

Defenders Vol. 6 (2021)

Defenders 2022 - Defenders Reading OrderRecently, a new Defenders series written by Al Ewing with art by Javier Rodriguez was launched by Marvel. This time, the team features Doctor Strange, Silver Surfer, Masked Raider, Red Harpy, and Cloud. It was short, only 5 issues, but it was not the end for the Defenders as a team was assembled Blue Marvel, America Chavez, Taaia (the mother of Galactus), Tigra, and Loki (a variant of the God of Mischief) to tackle a new cosmic threat in Defenders: Beyond.

Last Updated on June 13, 2023.

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