The latest iteration of Marvel’s Defenders is writer Al Ewing’s clearest, most comprehensive love letter yet to classic Kirby comics as well as a masterfully composed culmination and recasting of cosmic Ewing ideas going back to what is still my favorite (non-X-related) Ewing run, Ultimates and Ultimates 2 (specifically drawing most from issues #6 and 100 of the latter title, though we also get a dash of his New Avengers #1-6 with Moridun, Dark Wizard of the Fifth Cosmos). Most immediately, however, the story here spins out of the Al Ewing-written portions of the massively oversized 2019 one-shots Marvel Comics #1000 and 1001, and the reader really should read or reread just those fragments to fully understand what the Masked Raider and Eternity Mask are all about*. (Fortunately, these comics are on Marvel Unlimited!)
Of course, artist extraordinaire Javier Rodriguez has always been riding that Kirby wave, most recently in 2019’s History of the Marvel Universe with Mark Waid and inker Álvaro López, his primary collaborator, when he’s not inking himself as here. He also collaborated once before with Ewing, in 2017’s Royals #8-12, which was definitely Kirby cosmic all the way. As often in the past, he’s also the colorist of Defenders, and color theory plays a surprisingly major role in this pretty darn complex allegory for the evolution of superhero comics.