A Noob’s Guide to Netflix’s Superhero Compendium
Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist, all iconic Marvel super heroes but relative nobodies to anyone not well versed in comic book history.
That is until 2015 with the release of Netflix’s critically acclaimed series Daredevil.
Daredevil began an amazing tied mini-verse of back alley superheroes in the world of the Theatrical Marvel Cinematic Universe that (often times) was even better than the fully funded televised programs like Agents of Shield or Agent Carter.
Just like the theatrical releases, Marvel is preparing for a crossover event show just like The Avengers called The Defenders named after the superhero team composed of some of these heroes.
First appearing in his own comic (Daredevil #1) in 1964, Matt Murdock lives in the Manhattan neighborhood of Hell’s Kitchen with his single father, the local boxer “Battling Jack” Murdock.
After a car accident splashes the young Matt’s eyes with radioactive waste, he’s left blind but with the special ability of enhancing his other senses; allowing him to echolocate with his enhanced hearing.
Matt’s father gets murdered, he’s left an orphan, he trains under a blind master in martial arts, and goes to columbia law school, bing bang boom, traumatic event here, heroic event there, and you now have Daredevil with his trusty eyehole-less mask and grappling hook billy club.
Daredevil’s journey is a great story and works even better in the Netflix show. Matt Murdock’s slogan for his law firm of Nelson & Murdock, “Justice is Blind” is so daring to who he actually is. Matt Murdock is blind. Daredevil is blind.
Sure he has superhuman senses, but he is still visually impaired. He can’t see detail, he can’t read, and yet he goes out at night and performs feats able-bodied people can only dream of, even with their full senses.
Daredevil is a beautifully crafted show. Charlie Cox plays the visually impaired Matthew Murdock almost as if he was molded to fit the character.
He portrays the inner struggle of Matt with entrancing accuracy, should he be true to his father’s teachings and be the lawyer he always wanted him to be, or should he take on the cowl, take the direct approach that only he can?
Daredevil was a great introduction to this crossover project, great, yet flawed heroes, amazing side characters and stupendous villains.
Speaking of amazing villains, let’s talk about an alcoholic former superhero. Krysten Ritter plays the namesake Jessica Jones (Her first named appearance was in Alias #1 in 2001).
A Private Detective in New York City that you honestly don’t always root for, she’s kind of a dick. Gifted with superhuman strength and durability from a car crash that killed her parents, Jessica decides to use her powers for good as the clad in white superheroine Jewel.
Jessica has a pretty good career as Jewel up until she meets the super villain Kilgrave.
Kilgrave (known in the comics as “The Purple Man”) takes a liking to miss Jones. Using his mind controlling powers, Kilgrave keeps her as his personal assistant/girlfriend/bodyguard/plaything.
Traumatized by the event, we find Jessica at episode 1, traumatized, alcoholic, self-hating, and lacking confidence.
Jessica Jones is the underdog. She’s always trying to get ahead of a man who in all fairness, can’t really be beat. Kilgrave (played EXPERTLY by the incredibly talented David Tennant) is terrifying.
He’s stayed low key enough in the world of Manhattan to avoid public attention and can make anyone in his presence follow all of his orders without question or regard for well-being.
Jessica very well knows this in the show. She is constantly shown to be terrified of Kilgrave, dealing with Post-traumatic stress from her time with him, and just constantly living in fear that he’ll show up again, and we’re along for the ride.
I hate to admit, I love Kilgrave. He’s such a perfect villain; his power is small-scale, but behind the most terrifying of men can be devastating for a world lacking in WMD class heroes.
Sweet Christmas, you want to talk about WMD class heroes: look no further. Luke Cage is a tank.
A former inmate of Seagate Prison, (first appearing in Hero for Hire #1 in 1972) “Carl Lucas” was subjected to an experimental Cell Regeneration bath.
After a failed murder attempt, the machine overloaded, imbuing him with unbreakable skin and super strength.
Using his newfound powers, Lucas escapes the prison. Now taking on the pseudonym of Luke Cage, Luke tries to live a normal life in his hometown of Harlem.
Being overrun with uncontrolled crime, and corrupt politicians, Luke Cage decides to take matters into his own hand. (With great power yadda yadda), becoming a public hero of the people.
Luke Cage is a love letter to Harlem culture. The lingo, the people, the culture and the world of this show are expertly framed around Luke Cage to understand how his powers are meant to be used.
The struggle of the African american/Hispanic people living in Harlem makes a great comparison to how Luke had the system around him, attacking him, and shaping him but (just like his powers make him invincible), never corrupting him.
Oh Iron Fist, my complicated Iron Fist.
Since his premier in 1974 (in Marvel Premier #15), orphaned billionaire Danny Rand has been criticized for being a cliché and slightly offensive “white savior”.
At the young age of 9 years old, Danny was a survivor of a tragic plane crash over the Himalayan Mountains. The crash killed his father, and his badly injured mother died fending off wolves.
Left for dead as the only survivor, Danny would be saved by the monks of the mysterious village of K’un-Lun. K’un-Lun only appears every 15 years or so and Danny Rand finds himself now trapped in the city.
When the passage reopens, an older, wiser and stronger Danny Rand exits with the power to manipulate his fists density through harnessing his chi (a power he gained through combat with a immortal dragon mind you).
Danny Rand is now the Iron Fist, champion and guardian of K’un-Lun.
This is my main problem with Iron Fist: I love the character of Danny, but his position as this mystical hero of a hidden Asian city leaves a lot to be desired. Not only does it border on offensive, but even done well, it's just cliché.
I'd love to tell you that Marvel's Iron Fist changes that, but it doesn't. In fact, it only worsens Danny Rand’s character.
Danny (played by Finn Jones) is just a badly written character. His journey to being recognized as the long lost heir to this multi-national conglomerate is so bizarre that it left me confused as to what dastardly plan the villains had. I'm still not sure what the dastardly plan is.
Does it lead to the introduction of the defenders? I don't know!
I found myself prematurely thinking the series was over just to have the plot extended for seemingly whatever reason they could come up with.
Some of the side characters were memorable, but they were written so poorly I couldn't care for them. (One of the characters has an admittedly interesting plot point literally cured in under a minute, assumedly for time constraints).
Since Daredevil’s first episode, every Netflix/Marvel project has been leading up to this crossover show.
The Defenders are a ragtag group of mismatched superheroes on a smaller scale than the likes of the Avengers or the X-men.
The Defenders (first appearing in Marvel Feature #1 in 1971) were first led by Doctor Strange and always featured a rotating cast of members; the first being: the Incredible Hulk, Namor (think DC’s aquaman….. But can fly), and Silver Surfer.
The Netflix team will be composed of Daredevil, Jessica Jones (whom has historically never been a part of any Defenders line-up), Luke Cage and Iron Fist.
Even though Hulk and Doctor Strange are currently in the marvel cinematic universe, I highly doubt they will make appearances in the show.
The team usually takes on mystical and supernatural forces bent on taking over the world. In the series, they will be fighting “The Hand”, a group of supernatural ninja assassins whom have been silently working in the shadows for centuries. Seems like a fitting match up.
One can only hope that The Defenders will live up to the hype when it arrives on Netflix’s line up when it releases summer of this year.