After Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist were all brought to live-action television on Netflix, the four superheroes starred together in ensemble show The Defenders, as was planned from the start. The name was borrowed from the comics, originally belonging to a super-team primarily comprised of Namor, the Hulk and Doctor Strange. As a loose tie-in to the Netflix series, Marvel released a new The Defenders comic book series written by Brian Michael Bendis and illustrated by David Marquez. Set firmly in Marvel’s comic continuity, the new comic series would position the Netflix cast as the new iteration of the Defenders, a perfect jumping-on point for anyone looking to see their four favorite superheroes band together.
But what no one saw coming was just how amazing the Defenders comic book actually is. The first few issues of the title were released before the Netflix series would start, and the show had difficulty living up to the precedent set by the comic. It’s easy to make a comic that ties into a new show, but it’s another thing to have it surpass the show altogether. Under the guidance of Bendis and Marquez, Defenders took us on a tour of the mean streets of New York to deliver a grounded superhero story that was exciting, hard-hitting and epic.
Right off the bat, the first issue showed that this comic would be different. From a rapid and foreboding buildup to the use of splash panels and titles, there was a true sense of purpose at work here. The story was fast-paced, and the intrigue compelling. With a crime story about kingpins, drugs and turf wars at its center, Defenders instantly launched into the action.
Street-level superhero stories are where Bendis shines the most, and this comic once again proved that. As the creator of Jessica Jones and a writer who has proven his stripes writing Daredevil, the creator is right at home with Defenders. He has the voice of each character pinned, and the famous “Bendis-speak” dialogue is one that fits right in with a dynamic of four superheroes sharing the page. It also helps that the book is quite clever in its storytelling format, and laugh-out-loud funny at times.
When it comes to visuals, Defenders shines — in more ways than one. Marquez’s pencils are heroic, clear and crisp. His action scenes are hard-hitting, and his fight choreography impeccable. Thanks to him, never has Iron Fist been such a skilled fighter, and never has his glowing fist seemed so powerful. Marquez’s characters leap from the page in striking poses that are energetic and iconic. His facial expressions are so on point, he can make you laugh without even a hint of dialogue in the panel. With Justin Ponsor on colors, the series has a striking visual style of its own, a true cinematic feel that can’t be found anywhere else.
Although the series is focused on Jess, Luke, Matt and Danny, it also brought in The Punisher and Elektra, and, on top of that, appearances from Night Nurse, Deadpool, Blade and Black Cat. With a recap page that is both unique and ingenious, along with shocking twists and turns, every chapter of Defenders keeps you on your toes. It showcases defining character moments. It strengthens the bond between all four superheroes, and it always takes the time to make you laugh. Bendis may be leaving Marvel soon, but he has gifted fans with one of his best series ever.