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9 team-up comics to read before Defenders

Ahead of Marvel’s The Defenders arriving on Netflix, here are some comics you may want to check out…

This August, Marvel will finally deliver the team-up its TV fans have been waiting for when Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist come together to battle The Hand in the Marvel/Netflix co-production The Defenders.

But what if you can’t wait that long? Well, good news: these characters have been teaming up in the comics for years. And whether you want to get a fix ahead of watching the Netflix show or familiarise yourself with who these characters are and what they do, this list of comics should help you…

Shadowland

This street-level crossover event marks the culmination of a long-running storyline in which Daredevil takes control of The Hand after defeating its masters. After initially trying to keep them on the right side of the law, Shadowland sees him using the ninja death squad as his personal army in New York, to the obvious chagrin of his costumed pals. As you can imagine, this behaviour isn’t completely on the level and it soon brings him into conflict with the likes of Spider-Man, Luke Cage & Iron Fist, and even Ghost Rider as they battle to save not just the city, but the soul of their friend.

Of course, in addition to the team-up action, this story famously features The Beast of the Hand, who we’re fairly sure will be a part – at least in some capacity – of The Defenders. So as well as being a good story in its own right, it’ll allow you to get some extra fanboy/fangirl thrills out of the TV show too!

Marvel Knights #1-15

This 15-issue ongoing series featured a ‘non-team’ comprising Daredevil, Shang-Chi, the Black Widow and Cloak & Dagger as they attempt to track down and capture The Punisher. Throughout its run it guest-starred Doctor Strange, Moon Knight, Luke Cage and more besides. Not only will it give you a chance to see some great Daredevil/Punisher scenes and a closer look at the comics versions of some MCU characters you might not have encountered before, it’ll ALSO give you a chance to get familiar with Cloak and Dagger ahead of their forthcoming series, which debuts on Freeform next year.

Immortal Iron Fist #7-13

It’s no secret that the Iron Fist Netflix series wasn’t as well received as the others, but don’t let that sour you on the character. This arc from Immortal Iron Fist, titled The Seven Capital Cities Of Heaven, shows Danny Rand exploring the ongoing legacy of the Iron Fist as he’s summoned to K’un L’un to fight in a tournament against a group of Immortal Weapons, each representing their own mystical city. There are a few appearances by the likes of Luke Cage, Colleen Wing and Misty Knight, but it’s mostly a great Danny solo story that illustrates just how cool the character can be – and given that Iron Fist and K’un L’un are reportedly quite prominent in The Defenders (or at least in the opening episode) it’s worth catching up on who and what they are.

Alias (Vol. 1) #1-9

The first volume of Jessica Jones’ solo title sees her caught up in a conspiracy surrounding Captain America and his former sidekick, Rick Jones. This is the way she was introduced to the Marvel Universe, and you’ll see the likes of Luke Cage and Carol Danvers (aka Captain Marvel) as well as (of course) Captain America. It’s worth pointing out that like the Netflix shows, this is aimed at adults (perhaps even more so than the Netflix shows) so there are instances of swearing and graphic scenes that would make it unsuitable for younger readers. Luckily, if you’re old enough to watch The Defenders you’re old enough to enjoy superheroes occasionally saying the word fuck, so y’know, have at it.

Daredevil #190-191

The trailer for The Defenders has already made it clear that Elektra will be rejoining the land of the living, so why not read how that went down the very first time it happened? Daredevil #190 is titled Resurrection and shows how the Hand attempt to bring Elektra back to life. With flashbacks to Elektra’s past, training with Stick, the story shows DD teaming up with the Black Widow and Stone (also a member of Stick’s ninja order, The Chaste) to prevent her resurrection. The following issue shows Daredevil engaged in a game of Russian Roulette with Bullseye, and we’re throwing that in for good measure because it’s easily one of the best Daredevil comics ever.

Power Man And Iron Fist #50-#54

After headlining his own book for 49 issues, Iron Fist became a co-headliner with issue #50, which was written and drawn by famed X-Men creators Chris Claremont and John Byrne, no less. Four issues later they formally incorporate as the Heroes for Hire, bringing into existence a brand and partnership that continues to this day. If you want to know what’s getting people so excited about Danny and Luke teaming up on screen, this is the place you need to look.

Defenders (2017)

This series deliberately took the line-up of the forthcoming TV show – Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist – and folded them into a story that features other MCU mainstays like The Punisher and Black Cat. The first arc is still ongoing at this point, and that makes it a great time to hop on board and catch up with the story, which sees them facing off against Diamondback, who was the villain in the latter half of Luke Cage’s Netflix series. It’s hard to say just how good it’ll be once it all pans out, but in terms of getting you up to date with the characters as they stand, there’s no better place to look.

Daredevil: Dark Nights #6-8

This three-part story from a Daredevil anthology series features Matt Murdock teaming up with Misty Knight in the unlikely setting of the Caribbean as the pair take down a crime boss together. Written by Jimmy Palmiotti, it’s a small but perfectly-formed team-up between two long-standing Marvel characters who are both big parts of the Netflix MCU. Naturally, you’ll also be able to catch some cameos by Iron Fist’s Colleen Wing who, along with Knight, forms the other half of the Daughters of the Dragon. Misty Knight is one of those characters who seems likely to hop between Netflix series – indeed, she’s announced for the cast of Iron Fist’s second season – so it’s worth checking out her adventures on the page.

Power Man And Iron Fist (2016) #1-5

Collected as The Boys Are Back, this Power Man/Iron Fist team-up puts the characters back where they belong: together. In an attempt to stop the city of New York being poisoned by magic, the heroes team up to punch their way through the underworld and stop the villains behind it. Expect cameos from Jessica Jones (naturally) and plenty of absurdist exploitation-style comedy the likes of which the Netflix shows are a little too serious to adapt. It’s great fun, and if the original team-up comics are too retro for you, this is about as modern as it gets!

The Marvel/Netflix miniseries The Defenders will be available to viewers on 18 August.

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