Thu
Aug 17 2017 4:00pm

Marvel’s The Defenders Primer: Catch Up On Their Solo and Group Comic Exploits

In 2015, with the launch of the first season of Daredevil, Marvel television and Netflix began building their own corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Since then, they’ve delivered a steady bit of payout as fans got to meet compelling characters like the title character of Daredevil, blind lawyer turned costumed vigilante Matt Murdock; superpowered P.I. Jessica Jones; and the bulletproof hero of Harlem, Luke Cage. (They also met the fairly underwhelming Danny Rand, aka Iron Fist, but the less said about his show, the better, in my opinion.)

Now, they’re set to deliver the ultimate fan payoff with the release of The Defenders—an eight-episode Netflix series that brings together the title characters and supporting casts from the previous Marvel Netflix shows for an Avengers-style team up. Early buzz is saying The Defenders series is as good as—and perhaps even better—than Netflix’s previous Marvel endeavors (and in the case of Iron Fist ... way, way better). So it’s a good chance these episodes will go quickly and leave viewers wanting more.

But you won't have to wait for Netflix to release Season 2. Marvel Comics has plenty of fascinating titles featuring the group as well as several individual stories of each of the Defenders. In this article, we’ll take a look at those books and tell you how to get caught up on them.

The Defenders

Like the Avengers, the Defenders is a team name with a lot of history behind it. The group moniker was first used back in 1971 for a team that consisted of three of Marvel Comics most powerful heroes: Doctor Strange, the Incredible Hulk, and the Atlantean King known as Namor, the Sub-Mariner. Since then, the Defenders have undergone a number of different permutations and lineup changes.

The current Defenders series by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist David Marquez features a lineup identical to what we’ll see in the Netflix show. It’s also bound to capture the imagination of many crime fiction fans since it’s explicitly about the street-level corner of the Marvel Universe where organized crime and the fantastic elements of the Marvel U collide. The first few issues have featured guest-star appearances and cameos by a number of characters, including future Netflix star the Punisher. Plus, it features some amazing art by David Marquez and colorist Justin Ponsor, inspired by the look and color palette of noir and crime/action films like Drive and John Wick.

In the series’ initial storyline, Daredevil, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, and Iron Fist have to band together to stop Luke’s oldest foe, Diamondback, who has somehow returned from the dead and is more cunning and powerful than ever. (Diamondback, played by Erik LaRay Harvey, was the main villain in the Netflix series Luke Cage.) They also have to contend with the machinations of the villainous crime lord known the Black Cat, who is battling Diamondback to claim the vacant underworld throne of Kingpin of New York Crime.

Four issues of the series are currently available via your local comic book store or digitally via ComiXology. A graphic novel edition that collects the series’ initial six issues and includes a short prologue—which was given away with Marvel’s 2017 Free Comic Book Day offerings—titled, Defenders Volume 1: Diamonds Are Forever, will be available later this year.

Check back on Wednesday for Dave Richards's review of Episodes 1-3 of The Defenders!

Daredevil

In 2015, writer Charles Soule kicked off his run on Daredevil, which brought the title character back to his classic stomping grounds of New York City but with a few new interesting wrinkles. Chief among them is the fact that when he's not patrolling the streets in his new black-hued Daredevil costume, Matt Murdock is practicing law from the other side of the aisle as an assistant district attorney. The other new development is that he has a crime-fighting partner and protege, Samuel Chung, aka Blindspot, a Chinese immigrant who built a suit that allows him to become invisible.

There are currently four graphic novels collecting the Daredevil work of Soule and his artistic collaborators: Daredevil: Back In Black Vol.1: Chinatown; Daredevil: Back In Black Vol 2: Supersonic; Daredevil: Back In Black Vol. 3: Dark Art; and Daredevil: Back in Black Vol. 4: Identity.

Volume 5: Supreme will be out in the fall and collects Daredevil #21-25. In this currently unfolding storyline, Matt Murdock’s attempt to redefine the roles of superheroes in criminal trials reunites him with an estranged friend and makes him the target of an old and very powerful enemy.

See also: Marvel's Daredevil Season 2 Review: Episodes 1-4

Jessica Jones

If you only know Jessica Jones from her Netflix series and were a fan of the relationship between her and Luke Cage, I have some good news for you! In the Marvel Comics Universe, Jessica is married to Luke, and they have a baby daughter named Danielle, named after Luke's best friend Danny Rand.

After spending some time with her family and the Avengers, Jessica recently got back into the P.I. business with the launch of the new Jessica Jones series by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Michael Gaydos, the creators of the original Jessica Jones comics that inspired her Netflix series.

Jessica Jones Vol 1: Uncaged! collects Issues #1-6 of the new series and is available now. As of this writing, Issues #7-11 are available in print or digitally. The current storyline, which began in Issue #7, delves into the clandestine, labyrinthine world of espionage in the Marvel Universe as Jess tries to discover who marked her latest client, former S.H.I.E.L.D. director Maria Hill, for death. The graphic novel collection of that storyline will be available later this year.

See also: Jessica Jones Review: Season 1, Episodes 1-4

Luke Cage

In his Netflix show, Luke Cage had a very different relationship with Dr. Noah Burstein, the scientist responsible for his transformation into the super-strong, bulletproof hero of Harlem. But the comic version of Burstein is just as shady, if not more so. That's because, over the years, Burstein has popped up a number of times in Luke Cage comics, and when he does, he often refers to Luke as the son he never had. He is often enlisting Luke's help in battling the disastrous results of his other experiments, like Burstein's other “son,” the violent superhuman assassin known as Warhawk.

In the recently launched Luke Cage series, writer David Walker and artist Nelson Blake II kicked off a storyline that sends Luke to New Orleans to investigate the death of Burstein and the doctor's legacy of creating homicidal superhumans. It's an adventure that's forced Cage into a reluctant partnership with Warhawk and made him a target of organized crime and a rich and powerful family.

As of this writing, Issues #1-4 of the series are available now in print and digitally, with Issue #4 released on August 16. The storyline wraps up in September's Issue #5, and a graphic novel collection will follow later. In the October issue of Luke Cage (which will pick up the numbering of all the other previous Cage comics and become #166), Walker and Blake begin a new story that opens with their title character back behind bars.

See also: Marvel's Luke Cage Season 1 Review: Episodes 1-4

Iron Fist

The latest Iron Fist series from Marvel Comics launched in March, the same month as the titular Netflix show, which was so bad it actually hurt my enthusiasm for the character. Thankfully, the creators of the new comic series, writer Ed Brisson and artist Mike Perkins, have been up for the task of showing why Danny Rand is a fun and incredibly cool comic character. Their stories have been exciting, their characters have been interesting, and Perkins’s action scenes (colored by Andy Troy) are breathtakingly beautiful.

In the series’ initial story line, which ran through Issues #1-5, Iron Fist travels to a mysterious island to compete in a kung fu tournament and possibly restore his failing chi powers. That story will be collected in the graphic novel Iron Fist: Vol 1: The Trial of the Seven Masters, available in September. Issue #6, available now digitally and in print, begins a two-part story where Danny Rand teams with the Marvel Universe's other famous martial artist, Shang-Chi, the Master of Kung-Fu. Then, in October's Iron Fist #73 (which, like Luke Cage, picks up the legacy numbering of the series), Brisson and Perkins force their title character into an uneasy partnership with his old foe, the X-Men villain known as Sabretooth.

See also: Marvel's Iron Fist Season 1 Review: Episodes 1-4

 


Dave Richards covers all things Marvel Comics for the Eisner Award-winning website Comic Book Resources and his book reviews and other musings can be found at his blog Pop Culture Vulture.

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