Warning: Possible spoilers
Welp, it’s been a long time coming. Back from when we all were like “Whoa” when the first Daredevil series came out, to when we were like “Ugh” at what went down with Danny Rand, the Defenders is now on Netflix.
Coming down off Iron Fist, I feel like Defenders could only go up. And it did, starting with the open credits, which remind us that the city is actually the main character here. And it’s more than Cap just calling back to being from Brooklyn every chance he gets, the boroughs of NY are more than a setting, they are the uniting factor for the team. As metaphors go it has the subtlety of a jack hammer, but that’s ok, I’m not really watching this for subtlety.
Defenders isn’t perfect, and I did wish there was more, but for the most part what Marvel does well is bringing together the huge cast of characters they have been building towards. It’s not just about the title characters, but also all those supporting folks. Almost all of them are there (though I do wish there was more Marci), even if some character appearances feel like checking a box. That said I’m not going to complain about one moment of Sigourney Weaver’s (and her outfits) screen time, so yes, sacrifices need to be made.
The main storyline focuses on The Hand, immortal clan leaders, and dragon skeletons, so this gives Matt Murdock and Danny Rand an easier entry into the main story line, while Luke and Jessica remain a bit more street level chasing down tendrils that show how larger schemes affect everyday people. This is really the heart of Defenders and having Jessica remain a 5-star general of snark gives you a touchstone back to what the regular folk might be thinking.
Some additional thoughts:
Claire Temple. She is the voice of reason and a pragmatist in a world with super strength, glowing fists, and bullet proof skin. She’s also the catalyst, the center spoke who brings everyone together. While her appearances in earlier episodes start strong, as the series continues she and Colleen are marginalized to emotional back-up for Luke and Danny. NOT COOL.
Luke Cage has the patience of a saint. He finally calls Danny out on his privilege, asking him what he did before he became the Iron Fist, has he really earned what he thinks he’s owed? And maybe that’s what will salvage this version of Iron Fist, giving him counterbalance. And remarkably, Danny seems to welcome this. Sometimes boundaries are good, so let’s hope Luke continues to play that role because when the series starts one of the biggest disappointments is that Danny Rand hasn’t grown at all. He still thinks everything is about him, and for some reason, Colleen is still with him. WHY??? And she even makes excuses for him when he finally does turn inward to examine what Luke says. WHAT???
By episode 3 we see the 4 heroes come together in what is now a ubiquitous hallway fight scene. I love this and I don’t care if they do one in every series. There are also some nice Power Man and Iron Fist feels.
Black Sky (or as I called it, Dark Afternoon) made Elektra more palatable for me. Previously I didn’t find her overly interesting, but this incarnation of her seemed to have more dimension.
Unlike Claire and Colleen, Misty Knight’s story progressed in some really big and important ways. She has a new look and will soon have a new arm. Will we see Control? God, I hope so.
Despite my earlier griping, this story is still about Danny Rand. He’s like the Key Master or something, and while the character is better in this series, he’s still the least compelling. Except for one moment…..that dumpling scene in the restaurant. Danny finally abandons all his super hero drama and just wants to stuff his face the instant some dumplings show up. I have never felt closer to the character than in that moment.
The next Netflix series is The Punisher, and while it’s in this universe, it’s not super closely tied to the Defenders. I think what I am looking the most forward to is right now is the next Jessica Jones season. David Tennant is still involved so what’s not to look forward to?
At a recent Comicazi Book Club meeting we were discussing Superman: Secret Identity. Without getting too deep into this book, it’s about Superman, but also not Superman and explores a different characterization of the character. While I thought the book was fine, I couldn’t connect with this version of Superman. He wasn’t the paragon he is usually portrayed as, nor was he enough of a loser to stir up any strong feelings. He just sort of “was” and I didn’t know what he was reaching for. Which brought me to this conclusion…lovable losers are my character jam.
Heroes and villains are easy enough to get. And there is something delightful about characters who are so black and white. It’s hard to beat a villain you love to hate. But what about those characters who try so hard to head to one end of the spectrum, to be the best hero or villain, but keep falling back thanks to their own failings? They rarely catch a break, but keep grinding, and because of this, I love them the most.
It’s my post, so you are going to get my introspection about this and my thoughts on what’s gone into some of my favorite characters. Feel free to (respectfully) disagree.
The Jessica Jones Netflix series is set to start on November 20. While Daredevil has shown us that you don’t need to be familiar with the source material to enjoy the show, it’s sometimes nice to get some background on a character. I guess it should be said, if you haven’t already read the comics, and you want to go into the show completely fresh, you may want to skip this post. But I am trying to keep things higher level so as not to unwittingly spoil.
Jessica Jones is a Marvel character who appears primarily in 2 comic series, Alias, and The Pulse. I read them both and hooo boy are they different.
Alias was a 28 issue series back in the early 2000’s. Written by Brian Michael Bendis, Alias was the title that launched Marvel’s Max comic line. The Max books are R-rated, darker, rougher, NOT ALL AGES and Alias jumps into that headfirst. Jessica Jones was a new character, created explicitly for this series. When we are introduced to her, right away we realize she’s far step away from other female characters we have seen in the comic world. Jessica is a super-powered human, but she’s is not a superhero. As the owner and only employee of PI firm Alias Investigations, Jessica is a hard drinker, a chain smoker, who curses like a sailor raised by a truck driver. She’s angry, and paranoid, and doesn’t suffer fools for a moment. You want to talk damaged characters? Jessica is a human train wreck. And that’s what’s so great about her. She’s not one of the bright eyed, impossibly coiffed, female characters who were (still are?) prevalent in comics. She’s how you feel on your darkest days when you have completely lost your way so badly that you can’t determine what’s good from what’s not.
So I debated talking about “that scene.” I will, but I am going to keep it very brief. Yes, in the first few pages there is a sex scene that implies Jessica is well, adventurous. Less than being character building, I took it as a way to show “hey, these aren’t comics code comics.” To my read it’s consensual so that’s all I’m going to say about it. We are all grown ups here.
Consent is actually a big theme in Jessica’s story. The big deal is less what she consents to, but rather how she loses free will and the effect it has on her. This is the real crux of her story. When we meet Jessica she is working as a private investigator in the superhero world, have firmly retired from costumed hero-ing. The first 4 story arc in the series have Jessica using what she learned in her hero days to work on cases that don’t necessitate Avengers-level attention, but do take someone with the specific knowledge, skills, and abilities that Jessica has. We don’t learn the specifics of why Jessica has retired until the last story arc where both her origin and why she got out of the superhero game is revealed.
The story line, “Purple,”give us a look at Jessica’s main foe, Zebediah Killgrave, The Purple Man. Admittedly, naming a villain The Purple Man is kinda doofy. But his powers of pheromone-based mind control make him one of the more frightening characters in the Marvel universe. Mind control powers are not new, but there is something particularly insidious about Killgrave, and how his powers work, that make him particularly damaging.
The Pulse is less about Jessica and more about The Daily Bugle newspaper. It’s the shiny, slick, and frankly, antiseptic follow-up to Alias that continues to follow Jessica’s story among other happenings at the Bugle. The Pulse is not a Max series and therefore the tone is completely different from Alias. Or at least that’s what I am going to blame it on since the writer is the same. Jessica is no longer a private eye, she’s sort of a roving lifestyle reporter for “The Pulse,” the superhero section of the Bugle. Also, Jessica is pregnant.
Yup, she’s pregnant. Did I mention she’s pregnant? Don’t worry, she mentions it on almost every page, so you know, you’ll figure it out eventually. Pregnancy has apparently changed Jessica from a well-developed character with nuances, into a woman with super abilities who is pregnant. And that seems to be about it, there is very little left of the Jessica we saw in Alias. I really really like damaged, paranoid, angry Jessica. She was real. This new version is so generic that I swear, when I picked up the book after a week-long reading break, I didn’t even realize the character on the page was supposed to be her (which is commentary on the art and the story)! Yeah, The Pulse is pretty disappointing.
So, if you feel like reading, I recommend you spend some time with Alias, and skip The Pulse. From the previews it looks like the Netflix series is going more along the Alias route anyway. Which is great since my hope for the show is that was get a nuanced female character who tries to battles her demons and maybe finds her way to the other side without losing everything she was.