The “street level” heroes of Marvel’s New York City have been having an interesting year. Luke Cage and Danny Rand’s short term “Power Man & Iron Fist” reunion has come to an abrupt albeit hopeful end, Matt Murdock has been struggling through the complexities of having a completely secret identity once more, and Jessica Jones is fresh from a tense undercover mission from Captain Marvel that’s put a pretty dramatic strain on her marriage. To top it off, the criminal underground is currently in upheaval with Wilson Fisk decidedly preoccupied with his very public new leaf.
All of which is to say, the upcoming Netflix show-aligned “Defenders” book has some ground to cover as it kicks off in terms of bringing these characters together and pitting them against a shared foe.
Well, never fear, because the Free Comic Book Day sneak peak at “Defenders” is ready to start those balls rolling… and maybe pose a few more questions in the process.
A mysterious new client arrives at Alias Investigations with a very specific problem on his hands. He was, as he informs Jess, in attendance at a nightclub very recently where he witnessed an incident.
Obviously, this isn’t terribly out of the ordinary for Marvel’s New York City — but there’s a bit of a twist, here. The client is coming to look for Jess’ help against whatever criminal activity he happened to get in the crossfire of, and is in the Alias offices to explain that the incident he witnessed was entirely the fault of Power Man, Iron Fist and Daredevil.
The trio is introduced on the scene looking, well…a bit less than heroic as they crash into the nightclub oozing braggadocio and spouting off warnings to the establishment to avoid any criminal activities. Apparently, Fisk’s absence has left a sizable vacuum in the world of organized crime and there’s been no shortage of up and comers ready to take a shot at the Kingpin’s former throne. Seems logical enough, right?
Unfortunately, all these warning theatrics come at the cost of a massive amount of property damage. The cost of doing business, right?
Wrong, according to Jessica’s new prospective client, who believe’s this new team was way out of line. So far out of line, he thought it would be best for him to send a series of messages to these would-be heroes.
Meet the New Boss…
As he relates his story, Jessica’s mysterious client has been setting off a series of traps all over the city for Danny, Luke and Matt, all of which involved extremely public, extremely dangerous explosions. And though none of them were immediately hurt, the damage to their surrounding areas is immense. It’s clear that the soon-to-be Defenders are being targeted by someone who is well aware of who they all are, even out of costume.
Of course, as this goes on, the scene back at Alias Investigations takes a turn for the sinister. Jessica’s client reveals himself to be none other than Diamondback, and he intends to take back “what’s his.” To prove it, he shoots Jess in the stomach at point blank range, urging that she convey his warning to Luke — something that might be a problem because, as it’s been established in another one of Bendis’ ongoing books, “Jessica Jones,” have hit a bit of a rough patch in their relationship.
Now, exactly which version of Diamondback we’re dealing with here is a bit up in the air. The most logical answer is Willis Stryker, the half brother of Luke Cage and major player in the Netflix “Luke Cage” TV show. He certainly seems fixated on Luke’s reaction enough to make this the obvious answer.
However, the only civilian name he’s given is “Mr. Sky,” and this comes from Jessica, who doesn’t seem recognize him — not that she should, perhaps. Stryker was killed off in the comics back in the early ’70s and has since been primarily dealt with in flashbacks or origin retellings for Luke, long before Jessica was in the picture. It’s believable that Stryker would have simply never come up between Luke and Jess over the course of their marriage, but if that’s the case, it’s an inevitable discussion that probably won’t make smoothing their relationship problems over any easier.
There’s also the matter of how Diamondback was able to target Matt Murdock while he was out of costume. Matt’s identity has been reverted back to total secrecy (with the exception of Foggy Nelson) since the fallout of “Secret Wars,” meaning that not even his future Defenders teammates are aware of just who the man in the Daredevil suit actually is. Bendis confirmed this fact in a recent press junket, where he explained that Matt’s return to secrecy and the work of current “Daredevil” writer Charles Soule are things he’s taking “very seriously.”
If that’s the case, then, how was Matt bombed at the courthouse by someone specifically waiting for Matt Murdock rather than Daredevil?
If this Diamondback is the same Willis Stryker who was killed off decades ago, the mystery of his return might have something to do with the events of “Secret Wars” — a theme that would certainly be in keeping with the undercurrent of cosmic horror happening over in “Jessica Jones” as she becomes one of the few characters to actually be aware of the universe-merging. It could also, potentially, explain just how Diamondback knows who Matt is — though that might have some pretty ominous implications for Matt’s future across the board.
Of course, there’s also the possibility that “Mr. Sky” isn’t actually Willis, but someone adjacent to him who has decided to take up the mantle. If that’s the case, the Defenders might have even more unanswered questions to juggle as they get their new team off the ground.
Either way, the future of New York’s neighborhood protectors is looking even more ominous than usual.
“Defenders” #1 hits shelves in June, and the eponymous Netflix series is set to launch in August.