Monday, August 21, 2017
Since it was first reported - before even the release of Netflix's Daredevil - that the different Marvel Netflix shows would culminate in Defenders, a pure fanboy piece of me groaned. I'm a fan of the original Defenders comic book series, and that team was nothing like the Bendis-wet-dream this version was. But as time passed and the first two Marvel Netflix shows - Daredevil and Jessica Jones - proved their worth, I could begrudgingly admit something cool might be in store at the end of all this and even the disappointing first season of Iron Fist didn't spoil my hopes.
After watching the first season of Defenders, I am unpleasantly surprised to say my inner fan boy has been vindicated.
Defenders isn't bad. It has great acting talent and some fun, gripping action scenes. But it's a square peg in a round hole. It just doesn't work.
What resonates about the best of the Marvel Netflix seasons is that they are far more than super-hero stories, or far less depending on how you look at it. Strip away all the super crap and there's still powerful stories there. Daredevil is about a man fighting his inner demons. Jessica Jones is the story of a woman surviving horrific trauma. Luke Cage is about redemption and investing in your community. Iron Fist may even be about something worthwhile, but it was too much of a ball of crap to make the effort thinking about.
But Defenders...Defenders is about Defenders. Defenders is about hey-they're-all-together-now! Defenders is Avengers without all the fun. Defenders is just another f---ing super-hero story. It doesn't have the disarming believability or raw emotional power of Daredevil and Jessica Jones. Just super people doing super shit in a super way.
And, you know, I can't help but wonder if it isn't because unlike most of the Marvel properties that have been adapted, Defenders just comes from vapor. It has no foundation in the comics. There is no source material. Yes, all four characters exist in the comics, and yes there has - on and off - been a super-hero team called The Defenders. But these four characters have never existed in this way, and the Defenders of the comics were never anything like this.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying if Marvel Studios had given us a TV series that featured the Hulk, Doctor Strange, and the Sub-Mariner fighting a techno-wizard named Yandroth (the origin of the team), that this would have given us a powerful yet fun super-hero thrill ride.
I'm saying that the best of Marvel's adaptations are rooted in the source material. Sure, there are many differences, but there's always something, some connective tissue between what's in the comics and what's on the screen.
This Defenders had no source material. Sure, there's a comic out NOW with this team, but that only happened because the series was already planned. This team has no soul. No foundation. This team is the outcome of someone asking Brian Michael Bendis "Who would your Fantastic Four be?" And they slapped the Defenders name on it because it wasn't being used anywhere else yet.
I am looking forward to the third season of Daredevil and the second season of Jessica Jones. I am cautiously optimistic about Punisher since Jon Bernthal was one of the best things about Daredevil's second season. But if Defenders or Iron Fist have second seasons, well. That's what owning books is for.
P.S. I cannot stand Netflix's Danny Rand. And I mean it how I say it. I have no issues with Finn Jones. I just find the version of Danny Rand they've chosen for the Netflix shows - the no-sense-of-humor Captain Destiny Danny Rand - annoying as hell. Ironically - despite all my talk of being faithful to source material - this Iron Fist is quite accurate in regards to his earlier stories, whereas the hero I grew to enjoy was the much later and much less ass-clenched version written by Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction in Immortal Iron Fist.