Before I start this review, I feel the need to let you, the wonderful AiPT! reader know that I’m not a huge fan of Marvel’s Netflix series. Well, actually, I don’t really love any of the live-action TV shows. But of the Netflix series, I felt Jessica Jones was the strongest, with Daredevil close behind. Iron Fist? I couldn’t get through it all. And The Defenders? Well, The Defenders–which should have been the streets’ answer to Avengers–really let me down on multiple fronts.
However, my feelings toward Netflix’s Marvel offerings didn’t deter me from checking out the relaunched Defenders comic from superstars Brian Michael Bendis and David Marquez. I very much enjoyed the creative team’s first story arc and couldn’t wait to crack open The Defenders Vol. 2: Kingpins of New York to see how Bendis (who had booked a one-way ticket to Metropolis) would wrap up his way-too-short run.
So at this point, you, the marvelous AiPT! reader is wondering why I can be so gaga over a comic that stars Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist, but not care for these same heroes’ live-action adventures. The answer is simple: Because comics.
While it’s very exciting to watch a realistic Thanos tangle with the likes of Iron Man and Spider-Man on the big screen, nothing Marvel puts on film can ever compare to what artists can dream up in a comic book. A penciler doesn’t have to worry about Netflix’s budget, or how a superhero’s costume will come across to your average TV binger. They just draw the coolest images they can dream up!And man oh man does Marquez kill it in this trade paperback, which collects Defenders #6-10. I’ve been a fan of the artist’s pencils for some time now, but his work in Defenders is on a whole other level. If Marquez wasn’t considered an A-list artist before he took this gig, he better be one in the post-Bendis era at Marvel.
The art, and the action, in particular, is what helps elevate this series’ closing story arc above anything on the Netflix series. What we see in these pages is the Defenders movie we’ll never see in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (because Kevin Feige clearly wants to pretend the Netflix characters don’t exist). Luke and Jessica driving an SUV into Diamondback, Iron Fist and Elektra duking it out for several pages and Deadpool pumping lead into Luke are among this trade’s many memorable–and outstanding–visuals.
Now, I’m almost 500 words into this review and haven’t even mentioned what the story’s about. Crazy, I know, but you, the understanding AiPT! readers are patient and I appreciate that. So, Diamondback is… back, and battling Black Cat and Hammerhead for control of New York City’s underworld. Oh yeah, and Bendis-favorite the Hood also shows up to try and take control, because that’s pretty much what Parker Robbins has been trying to do since the writer started using him way back when. Somewhere along the way, Deadpool also gets thrown into the mix (because why not?) and Bendis gets to sprinkle in all kinds of fourth-wall-breaking jokes (including a few jabs at Marvel).
Despite the grounded nature of the story and its focus on Marvel’s street-level characters (who Bendis excels at writing), there’s a whole lot of humor on display here. I mean, it’s Bendis, so I guess it’s to be expected. But all of the very Bendis zingers the Defenders lob back and forth make this a very fun trade to breeze through. And while I’m not usually a Deadpool fan, Bendis arms him with some very strong material (the three-page recap is especially fun). Daredevil’s reveal of his secret identity to his teammates, and Iron Fist’s multiple reactions to it, are also hilarious.So far I’ve pretty much just been gushing over Kingpins of New York, and you, the trusting AiPT! readers expect me to be fair and balanced. As a result, I need to point out what isn’t so great about this collection. I guess that would be the need to tie this comic into what we’ve seen on Netflix, from Jessica’s “costume” to the reintroduction of Diamondback. I’ve never been a fan of Marvel’s eagerness to make its comics more like its live-action properties. I get it–I just don’t like it.
Also, as someone who read Bendis’s other concluding arcs, I’m not crazy about how you had to read them all to get the “full story.” I just read Iron Man #600, which featured the Hood, and had no idea part of his story began at the end of Bendis’s Defenders run. A big appeal of the Marvel Universe and MCU is how everything is connected, but this mini Bendis universe kind of frustrated me as it made his final individual stories feel incomplete.
Still, what we get here in this final Defenders collection is complete enough to make me highly recommend it to fans of these characters and great comics, in general. Oh, and I specifically recommend this trade to fans of Marvel’s Netflix shows, because this is an example of how great these new Defenders could be. Forget Madame Gao and whatever the Hell the Hand was up to (see how forgettable those shows are?) and crack open some comics for true Marvel storytelling. At $15.99, sure, it’s a little more expensive than what you pay for your monthly Netflix subscription, but it’s worth it for those gorgeous Marquez visuals and Bendis quips.