On August 18th, Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist are playing defense for New York City. That’s right, in a just few short weeks, all 8 episodes of Marvel’s The Defenders comes to Netflix to bring the pain to The Hand (and possibly some other baddies as well). Each of these vigilantes had their series on the subscription service. It’s time for them to team up. But there’s still a little wait time until they do. So why not get ready by learning more about your favourite street-level heroes’ comic book origins? I’ll be giving you some insight on their first meet ups and team ups, their enemies and even their current comic! Come with me and find out more about New York’s last defense.
A t.v. show about this team means there’s bound to be a comic of this team, right? Well, before The Defenders was announced, that was not the case. There were many incarnations of groups called Defenders in the Marvel universe but none of them looked like this one. In fact, the only member of this group who could call himself a Defender was Iron Fist who was on the team during Matt Fraction’s brief run. So it was up to Marvel to correct this situation before the show started streaming. And correct it they did.
Announced earlier this year, a new Defenders comic launched in June (with a short prologue released on Free Comic Book Day) written by Brian Michael Bendis with artwork by David Marquez. The series has had four issues so far and it’s been a helluva lot of fun to read. There’s a lot of reasons why that is. Let’s take a look at them right now.
This Is Bendis’ Crew
You may remember during my Countdown to Luke Cage that I talked about the Bendis Connection. These characters are Brian’s babies. Jessica Jones was his creation with Alias (Jones’ first series) launching as the flagship title of the Marvel MAX mature reader line. While Ultimate Spider-Man brought him to the Marvel dance, it was his four year run on Daredevil where he cemented his legacy as their top guy. If you’ve read any of Alias or The Pulse or New Avengers, you already know how much of a man-crush Bendis has for Luke Cage. The only character on this team he hasn’t written a solo book for is Iron Fist. While he did feature Danny Rand in New Avengers, he hasn’t shown him the love like he has for the others in the past. He’s making up for that now by giving him some very cool moments in this series.
Ben Urich’s Recaps
It’s common place for a Bendis book to begin with a recap page. It’s also common for there to be panel of a character explaining past events as opposed to just a text page. But there’s something about the use of reporter Ben Urich that draws you in. He looks exhausted, depressed, overwhelmed and fed up all at once. His exasperation about the past events of issues gets the reader excited to turn that page and see what the hell would put him in the state he’s in. That’s a pretty powerful recap page, if you ask me.
The Punisher is ALL OVER This Book
Frank Castle is a major player in the new Defenders title. You could almost call him the 5th Defender….except for the fact he’s trying to take them down. The Punisher shows up guns blazing in issue 3 and gives the Defenders a run for their money. He basically bests them and rolls on his merry way. It isn’t until later, when he gets choked out by Luke Cage that he gets taken off the board. Based on the end of issue 4, we haven’t seen the last of Frank in this title.
Marvel’s New York Underworld takes Center Stage
When you’re telling a street level hero story, it’s important to keep the action on the street. You don’t want any villains set on world domination or clandestine terrorist organizations stealing the team’s thunder. You want your team taking on an immediate threat to the community: organized crime. The Marvel universe is rife mobsters and career criminals and Bendis has been taking advantage of that in a few of the books he’s currently writing.
There’s a power vacuum in the mob scene as Wilson Fisk, a.k.a. The Kingpin, has retired from the business and is trying to go legit. Lotta folks want to step up, including Willis Stryker (Diamondback). Back from the dead with super powers, he’s making a play for the top spot. So is The Black Cat. Throw in Hammerhead looking for his piece of the action and you’ve got a pretty cool base of villains to work with here.
Don’t Call It A “Guest Appearance”
When it comes to other superheros or big name supporting characters of one book appearing in another, it’s usually done as a cheap gimmick to try and grab readers. That’s not the case here. Marvel’s New York feels like a living, breathing character in this title, so it makes perfect sense for Blade or The Punisher or Night Nurse to pop up. Having Wilson Fisk show up to chat for a few pages also feels very natural. These don’t feel like guest appearances as much as they do “ships in the night”. Characters show up, hit their marks, and move on without disrupting the flow of the book and that’s what’s important. It feels special without feeling out of place.
Oh that’s right, he’s a Millionaire
Over the past few years, we’ve gotten used to seeing Danny Rand doing his Iron Fist thing. He’s fighting ninjas here. He’s tussling with Hydra there. It’s easy to forget that he’s also a millionaire playboy who owns one of the biggest companies in the Marvel U. In a simple scene showing Danny using that part of his life to meet up with the former Kingpin, Bendis reminds us all of this. This little conversation between business owners also showed off a side we don’t usually see from him. He suave as James Bond here, standing toe to toe with arguably the most dangerous villain in the New York crime world. It’s a cool little scene that shows off Danny’s non-punching and kicking skills.
Diamondback’s a bit of a Bad-Ass!
Right from the start of this series, Diamondback is a threat. Hell, even before the series officially starts, he was a threat in the Free Comic Book Day story. The character’s reintroduction has been seemless. He’s taken it to Luke Cage, made his dominance in the New York Underworld felt and has even slapped around an immortal weapon. Not bad for a guy that used to be known for being an idiot who died by dropping his own exploding knife.
Iron Fist is Pretty Bad-Ass Himself
The latest issue of Defenders clearly demonstrates why you don’t fuck with the Iron Fist. At the end of issue 3, it looks like things have gone horribly wrong for Danny. He’s gotten his ass kicked (and possibly his back broken) by Diamondback. When this issue begins, it doesn’t look like he’ll play much into the rest of this fight. But then Iron Fist has the comeback of all comebacks, complete with bad-ass exchanges compliments of Bendis and fantastic visuals provided by David Marquez (who’s killing it on this book). Anybody who thinks that Danny’s losing his touch should check out issue 4 and prepare to be amazed.
You Gotta Love Gary!
So, if you’ve been reading Daredevil, you already know that Matt Murdock has found a way to make the world forget that he and DD are the same person. This includes his fellow heroes. That comes into play in this book as The Punisher brings up this fact, questing why anyone should trust him since they don’t know who he is. Luke and Daredevil have a chat about this and the Devil says he’ll think about revealing his identity to them. Then Luke guesses that his name is Gary. It’s a funny line made even funnier when you turn the page and see the conversation Jessica and Danny are having. Apparently, Luke has a long running theory that Daredevil’s name is Gary. This prompts Iron Fist to ask, “Do we even know a Gary?” I’m hoping “The Gary Without Fear” becomes a thing that fans latch onto.
That brings us to the end of the third and final installment of our countdown. If you get the chance, go check these comics out for yourself. Thanks for reading and always #DEFEND.
Marvel’s the Defenders debuts on Netflix on August 18th.
If you’re gonna geek out, GEEK HARD!