A guide to Netflix’s newest group of Marvel superheroes: The Defenders. Iron Fist, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Daredevil are teaming up to fight crime in New York City.
Since its inception, Marvel has been a vanguard of the entertainment industry and churned out innovative superheroes, diverse teams and brilliant villains. Many of these superheroes have gained a cult following, and their appeal has built a feverish demand for these characters to be brought to life on the big screen.
Blockbusting movies such as The Avengers (2012) and Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) have brought together many of the world’s greatest superpowers and forces to fight a common threat, and fans wanted to see their favorite superheroes on the small screen as well. In April of 2013, ABC premiered Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD. In 2014, a hurricane of rumors hit the internet about the development of several new Marvel series as well as the expansion of current shows.
Now four superheroes star in their own Netflix series as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and their bingeworthy shows opened the door for more ambitious properties to come to the forefront. This superhero team is comprised of outsiders who come together to face an unlikely threat: the Hand.
Iron Fist (aka Danny Rand) heads up the core cast of members of the Defenders. Rand is one of the younger members of the supergroup, but he’s gone through a lot in his own right and has become a leader of sorts. Iron Fist is a martial arts expert, a Buddhist monk as well as the co-CEO of Rand Enterprises. He struggles to wield the strange power of the Iron Fist and his own temper, but he strongly believes in the power of change and is willing to put in the work to make it happen.
Though Iron Fist is the freshest character, his show is probably the rockiest of the Netflix superhero shows in terms of reception and pacing. Iron Fist is still worth a watch even if it’s only to become familiar with his backstory and get a better feel for the Hand, which plays a prominent role in the Defenders.
Powers and abilities: Iron Fist gained his mystical powers and devastating skill set under the tutelage of Lei Kung the Thunderer after surviving a fatal plane crash in the Himalayas. Grieving the loss of his parents, Danny Rand was able to build inner strength and master the art of kung fu as well as other forms of martial arts in the mystical city of K’un L’un. At the age of 19, Rand fought and defeated the dragon Shou-Lou the Undying. Consequently, he was branded with the signature dragon symbol on his chest and gained the power of the Iron Fist — the ability to focus his chi and harden his fist like iron. This also gives him increased speed, stamina and endurance. Though this power is incredibly strong, it takes a lot of energy to harness and leaves Rand drained for days. Along with being an acrobat and having telepathic powers yet to be seen in the show, Iron Fist is an essential component of the Defenders.
Another integral character is Jessica Jones. Probably the most unassuming member of the team and the most reluctant, Jones is a private investigator who owns and runs her own agency, Alias Investigations. Having survived a harrowing past and battling post-traumatic stress disorder, Jones finds it hard to trust anyone, let alone the three men who join the Defenders.
Jones’ Netflix show has only one season, but it’s a powerful one in which she takes on a case that brings her skeletons out the closet and forces her to face her jaded past. The well-received series has a much darker edge than other superhero shows and deals with topics of rape, sexual assault and mental anguish. Grab some popcorn and your blanket as you watch this fantastic show.
Powers and abilities: In the Netflix show, Jessica Jones’ true origins aren’t explained very thoroughly. She grows up in NYC attending the same school as Peter Parker. On the way to Disney World with her family, their car crashes into a military convoy carrying radioactive material that gives her superpowers. She gains superstrength, limited invulnerability and flight. After a short-lived superhero career derailed by Zebediah Killgrave, Jones goes through a traumatic recovery and hangs up the suit to pursue more of a low-key life. Superstrength is her only power displayed in the show, but Jones is someone you shouldn’t underestimate, especially with her intelligence, hand-to-hand combat skills and long history of dealing with superhumans.
Born Carl Lucas, Luke Cage is the oldest member of the team and lends his essential wisdom, staunch moral code and tough exterior that could withstand the sharpest of bullets. Having first appeared in 1972 in Hero for Hire #1, he’s a prominent hero in Harlem who hides his powers, but this struggle becomes less of a fight once a past threat comes to light. With his strength and resiliency, this old head has the ability to create change in his community, but he’s underestimating the reach and potential that could be unlocked only through his relationship with the Defenders.
With just one season under its belt, Luke Cage received a great reception. Infused with a gritty atmosphere, this Netflix show is well worth your time.
Powers and abilities: Luke Cage is locked up for a crime he never committed and subjected to a cellular regeneration experiment that nearly kills him. Surviving the experiment that created characters such as Captain America and Warhawk, Cage wakes up with superhuman strength, bulletproof skin and increased durability. Cage is a powerhouse who can break through walls and demolish his opponents. This juggernaut of a character is grounded by his morals and true desire to help NYC become a better place for the next generation.
The fourth pillar of the Defenders is Hell’s Kitchen’s Daredevil. The red-suited Matt Murdock, lawyer by day and devil vigilante by night, brings a keen awareness that’s only hampered by his blindness and constant battle with his moral compass and religious upbringing. With a commitment to helping his community and the people around him, it’s no wonder he’d join the team, especially considering all he’s been through, including the loss of someone very close to his heart.
Daredevil has run for two seasons that have left fans pleading for more and it is arguably one of the most dynamic superhero properties on Netflix. In the first season, Daredevil faces his own demons as well as the formidable Kingpin. In the second, he teams up with other heroes Elektra and the Punisher to take on more enemies including the dangerous criminal element the Hand.
Powers and abilities: Matt Murdock saves a man in his youth and is blinded by a radioactive substance that spills out of a vehicle. This enhances Murdock’s senses and expands them beyond human limits, making him a valuable asset. He’s able to detect the shape and location of objects and senses his opponent’s moves before they’re even thrown. He also garners a diverse range of fighting styles taught to him by his blind sensei, Stick.
Versus The Hand
The enemy of the Defenders for the new Netflix show has been kept under wraps, but one thing is certain: the group will be facing the supervillain organization comprised of mystical ninjas and occult magic practitioners referred to as the Hand. Particularly a nuisance to Daredevil and a major threat to Iron Fist in their respective television series, they’ve stepped up their game and become one of the premier villains within Hell’s Kitchen, the setting for The Defenders.
The Original Defenders
Well before this present-day incarnation of the Defenders existed, they began as a completely different group of superheroes in their formative years at Marvel Comics. In 1971, Doctor Strange, the Incredible Hulk and Namor the Sub-Mariner (and later Silver Surfer) joined forces to become the original Defenders. Over time the group went through drastic changes in terms of tone and members. They later became the New Defenders and eventually turned into the Secret Defenders before fading in and out of popularity in their comic book incarnations. Despite the rocky popularity in the comic book world, the Defenders continued to pop up time and again, and Luke Cage became a staple member of the group.
While the Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy are facing worldwide threats, the Defenders are simply trying to keep their city free of calamity and chaos. Four different characters with unique backgrounds come together on Netflix August 18.