When Marvel confirmed The Defenders was coming to Netflix, every comic fan rejoiced. Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage had all proved themselves to be smash hits on TV and everyone wanted to see them team up, just like they did in the comics. The comics! It was a foregone conclusion that a comic would come along in parallel with the show; that day has finally arrived. The all-star team of Brian Michael Bendis and David Marquez bring the stars of Marvel’s television universe back to where they all started. Let’s find out if it’s any good.
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: David Marquez
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Daredevil! Luke Cage! Jessica Jones! Iron Fist! Individually, these four heroes have been on the front lines of the battle to keep the streets of the city safe and secure! But now, with a deadly enemy from the dim past making a major move to unite the underworld, they will need to become more — they will need to become DEFENDERS!
What’s the skinny?
There’s no long, drawn out set up process to be found here–the action is quick and fast. Bendis drops Luke Cage, Iron Fist, Jessica Jones and Daredevil into the frying pan right off the bat, with each suffering a brutal attack from a mystery assailant. Jessica Jones is the only one who didn’t walk away from the attack–she was damn near killed. She’s also the only one who can identify her attacker, but if her attacker is who she claims them to be, this means one of Luke Cage’s oldest enemies has somehow returned from the dead.
Luke Cage leads the charge as the four heroes work to uncover their attacker and march slowly towards the superhero teamup that everyone knows is coming. Along the way there’s a villain with a very personal connection to Luke that I never expected to see here. There’s a very low to the ground, classic, New York urban feel to the bad guy and the story that’s beginning to take shape.
What’s the catch?
I was really hoping to see more on what went down with Daredevil, Jessica and Iron Fist when they were attacked. Given the way Bendis constructed the story of the heroes uniting around Jessica’s near death experience, I’ll give him a pass on this one. What I can’t swallow is the lack of love shown to my favorite Immortal Weapon. I’m going to withhold being too critical here, as there’s plenty of time for Danny to get his turn in the spotlight.
Is it good?
David Marquez is known for a pile of Marvel projects and his creator owned graphic novel, The Joyners in 3D. I haven’t been exposed to any of his work up until this comic. It feels like I’m not giving him enough credit by saying I’m impressed, because wow the artwork here is truly fantastic. Luke Cage flips through a rolodex of emotions in this issue and Marquez’s handling of him really stuck out to me. I went over several of Luke’s big panels multiple times because of how much I enjoyed the strength of the emotions I saw. Justin Ponsor deserves high praise as well. I particularly enjoyed his color work on the character introduction panels for each Defender.
As each of the four Defenders make their first appearances, they’re accompanied by a stylish banner displaying their name and a back drop that showcases significant events from their past. This was a small addition to the story and barely took up a third of the page for each character, but I absolutely loved it. Typically the first issue of a new series will handle the main characters in one of two ways: either grind out their origin stories or completely ignore them. This feels like the perfect middle ground and is a wonderful blending of great art and great writing. A win for both Bendis and Marquez.
The Defenders have always struck me as a group of characters with a lot of sarcasm, witty comebacks and quick quips. With four of those personality types together, I was concerned Bendis might lean a little too heavy on the comedy. My concerns were unfounded, as there’s a lot of well done humor here. Jessica sarcastically hits on the well known rule that no one ever stays dead in the comic book world. Iron Fist casually watches Daredevil beat the piss out of bad guys while remarking that the horned hero needs it more than he does. Perhaps my favorite comedy bit is where a civilian tells a group of superheroes to quiet down, only to be countered by the classic deadpan “is this guy serious?” look. I laughed a lot and it only made the characters more endearing.
I always worry that a writer will overcomplicate things in the first issue of a big series such as this one. There are so many expectations from the fanbase and with this book there’s the added pressure of the looming Netflix series and all the media attention that brings. I’m happy to report that Bendis didn’t let any of those pitfalls influence his work here. The story speaks to these characters on a root level. The Defenders aren’t the Avengers. They aren’t fighting Thanos, a Hydra army or some other insanely super powered inter-dimensional villain. They’re crime fighters and this story is about fighting crime on a street level.