In an unprecedented move, Marvel and Netflix have forged a partnership guaranteeing that Marvel heroes will play a big part in the television landscape well past 2015. Four 13-episode, live-action series starring Daredevil, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones and Iron Fist have been ordered and will culminate in a team-up mini-series that bears the name of a classic Marvel team -– The Defenders.
That’s a big announcement, and with three previously untested characters –- and one former Ben Affleck vehicle -– all at the heart of the deal, it’s possible that this development has blindsided many diehard fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With that in mind, here are the essential comic books guaranteed to get you ready for the big 2015 debut.
The Pulse vol.1: Thin Air
With Jessica Jones’ no-holds-barred debut solo series Alias still out of print, Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley’s Marvel Universe-centric follow-up series The Pulse serves as the best introduction to this mid-grade superhero turned hard-nosed detective and journalist. The first five issues contained within pit Jessica against classic heavies such as J. Jonah Jameson and the Green Goblin, all while further exploring her burgeoning relationship with Luke Cage.
Alternative Reading: If you feel up to the hunt, track down Alias: Ultimate Collection vol. 1 by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos, which contains Jessica’s debut and her first forays into the strange, strange Marvel Universe.
The Immortal Iron Fist: The Complete Collection vol. 1
Before there was Hawkeye, there was Immortal Iron Fist — the series that paired writer Matt Fraction alongside visionary artist David Aja. With writer Ed Brubaker’s mastery of noir thrown in for good measure, this run of Immortal Iron Fist checks off every essential part of Danny Rand’s complicated life -– from his training in the mystical city K’un-Lun to his partnership with Luke Cage and rocky romance with Misty Knight.
Alternative Reading: Before Chris Claremont and John Byrne changed comics for good with their work on Uncanny X-Men, they breathed life into Iron Fist. Their 15-issue run from 1975 can be found in Essential Iron Fist vol. 1.
While one can’t deny the importance of Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli’s work with Matt Murdock in the ’80s, odds are the Netflix series will have a lot in common with Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev’s modern day crime epic. Spanning over 50 issues, this new classic takes Daredevil to new depths of despair as he struggles to keep his exposed secret identity from destroying his life. The run starts with Underboss, collecting Daredevil volume 2 #26-31.
Alternative Reading: Considering the incredible success that Mark Waid’s more light-hearted approach to the character has had recently, it’s entirely possible that the Netflix series will be a bit more sunny before descending into darkness. Daredevil by Mark Waid vol. 1 shows that there’s more than one side to Matt Murdock.
Avengers Origins: Luke Cage, New Avengers #22, New Avengers Annual #1
No, it’s not a trade paperback, but these three issues depict the evolution of the hero formerly known as Power Man. Adam Glass, Mike Benson, and Dalibor Talajic re-examine Cage’s early days in Avengers Origins, New Avengers #22 by Brian Michael Bendis and Leinil Yu showcases the character’s unbreakable conviction in a showdown with the government, and Cage and Jessica Jones’ relationship reaches a new level in New Avengers Annual #1 by Bendis and Olivier Coipel.
Alternative Reading: To see the partnership just begging for a sequel Netflix series, check out Essential Power Man and Iron Fist, vol. 1 to see Marvel’s premier tag team in action.
New Avengers by Brian Michael Bendis vol. 1
The first story arc from 2010’s relaunched New Avengers title could possibly form the backbone of what will become Netflix’s Defenders mini-series. The story -– by Brian Michael Bendis and Stuart Immonen -– brings Luke Cage, Iron Fist and Jessica Jones together alongside the rest of their fellow Avengers as the hunt begins for a new Sorcerer Supreme and Iron Fist’s mystical powers go haywire.
Alternative Reading: While Daredevil usually doesn’t play well with others, he did team up with Earth’s Mightiest Heroes in Avengers: Fear Itself. With the blind crime fighter poised to team-up with his fellow Netflix hero in The Defenders, this is essential reading to see the Man Without Fear in a team setting.