Essential Reading to Complement The Defenders

By Tom Pritchard on at

Today is the day that Marvel's street-level team-up finally hits Netflix. All eight episode of The Defenders should be live right now ready for you to watch. As is the case with all these comic adaptations, we've collected some reading material to help you get the most of what you see on screen. Naturally the best way to prepare is to watch Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist, but if you need more here are some books you can buy.

Defenders Vol 5

You may notice that this list is devoid of any Defenders comics. That's because the Defenders in the series weren't actually members of the comic team. Except Luke Cage and Iron Fist for a brief time, but that lasted less than a year of real-world time. But the most recent volume is designed to relate to the TV series, so it does consist of Daredevil, Cage, Fist, and Jones. It's so recent that the first collected volume isn't available until 26th December. You can get digital versions for the Kindle, and on Comixology. Obviously start with issue 1.

The Man Without Fear, £15

Frank Miller might have gone off the rails a bit in recent years, but back in the '80s and '90s he was one of the most revered names in comics. His work on Daredevil was a part of that, reinventing Matt Murdoch in a much darker way - which has stuck in the decades since. The Man Without Fear is a retooling of Daredevil's origin story, much of which was the inspiration for the TV-adaptation. It's widely considered to be one of the best Daredevil stories out there, and with good reason. [Buy it here]

Born Again, £14.88

Another Miller tale, focussing on Daredevil after his former lover Karen Page sells out his secret identity to get a drug fix. Armed with the knowledge that Matt Murdoch is Daredevil, the Kingpin makes it his mission to destroy everything holds dear. Daredevil descends into madness during the story, struggling to hold it together and rebuild his life. It also reveals what happens to Matt's mother. [Buy it here]

Daredevil by Frank Miller Vol 1, £20

Miller spent a good four years working on the ongoing Daredevil series, which reinvented the character and became one of the earliest (and best known) examples of Marvel's comics embracing the darkness in the comics industry. Miller reinvented many of the established characters, and even introduced a few biggies of his own: including Stick, Elektra, and the Hand. All three play a large role in the Daredevil TV series which Marvel has confirmed will continue with The Defenders. This is only book one of the series, so if you like it make sure to buy the rest. [Buy it here]

Daredevil by Bendis and Maleev Vol 1, £26

Miller wasn't the only person to make their mark on Daredevil. Brian Michael Bendis helped to define the character in the modern era, with a pulp-fiction-esque drama that took full advantage of the Man Without Fear's range of characters and fondness for psychological drama. The best of this run, written by Bendis with art by Alex Maleev, has been collected into three volumes, and this is number one. [Buy it here]

Alias, £17.26

Jessica Jones is a fairly new creation in the grand scheme of things, original debuting back in 2001 as the star of Brian Michael Bendis's Alias. Alias covers everything you need to know about who Jones is and where she came from - fighting crime as the hero Jewel, leaving it behind for life as a PI, and her encounters with the Purple Man. It can get pretty dark at times, and while it's not quite as dark as the Netflix show, it's certainly not for the faint of heart. [Buy it here]

Jessica Jones: The Pulse, £20.06

A follow-up to Alias, focussing on characters working on The Pulse a weekly section of the Daily Bugle that covers the life of superheroes. These include Ben Urich, J Jonah Jameson, Kat Farrell, Luke Cage, and Jessica Jones. Jones is the main character, acting as a special consultant to the paper, which helps break some important scoops in the Marvel universe. It also has a focus on Jones's relationship with Cage, and her eventual pregnancy. [Buy it here]

Jessica Jones: Avenger, £14.88

A collection of one-shots that focus on Jones in the context of the wider Marvel universe. These include a Netflix tie-in, What If?: Jessica Jones Joined the Avengers, her appearances in Avengers and Spider-Man comics, and more. [Buy it here]

New Avengers (2005) Vol 1, £11

Back in 2005 Scarlett Witch went completely looopy and killed a bunch of Avengers mainstays, and in the aftermath the indestructible Luke Cage ended up in charge of his own Avengers team. His pseudo-Avengers included most big-name heroes who weren't Avengers at the time, drafted to quell a riot as The Raft prison. That means Cage working alongside The Thing, Carol Danvers (as Ms marvel), Spider-Man, and Wolverine. This probably won't make it to TV or film screens, so enjoy it in lovely paper-picture form. [Buy it here]

If you're made of money, you can also buy the entire run as one 1,208-page hardcover omnibus.

Marvel Masterworks: Luke Cage: Hero for Hire Volume 1, £15/£63

The first season of Luke Cage covered the origin of the Harlem-based hero, but you can read about it for yourself in Luke Cage's earliest books. It's slightly different in that the experiment is a bit different, and he doesn't immediately discard the yellow shirt/tiara comb. But long story short he was experimented on after being unjustly imprisoned, escaped, then set up the 'Hero for Hire' business so he could pay the bills while helping the people of Harlem. Obviously he's still resentful of how he was treated, and isn't above getting some revenge. [Buy it here]

Marvel also released Avengers Origins: Luke Cage back in 2012, which tells most of the same story in a modern setting. It's not expensive, so it might be worth picking up as well.

Power Man & Iron Fist: Epic Collection, £21

Luke Cage and Danny Rand have been very close friend for a long time, sharing more page-time together than some heroes get solo. The Defenders will feature the MCU versions of the characters meeting for the first time, so it's worth reading up on their history.  IT began back in the '70s, when Marvel thrust the kung fu-powered hero into the ongoing Power Man series. The two worked well together as heroes for hire, and they've been teamed up ever since. [Buy it here]

Power Man and Iron Fist: The Boys are Back in Town, £13.50

Luke Cage and Iron Fist abandoned their street-level heroics to join the Avengers, but this ongoing series has seen them going back to the basics as heroes for hire. That's how they are on Netflix, so it's a good place to pick things up if you're a total marvel newbie. It's not all drug dealers and petty thugs, but it's a good read - if you don't mind the 'unique' art style. [Pre-order it here]


Essential Iron Fist Vol 1, £24.50

Comics have a long and complicated history, with a (mostly) uninterrupted continuity, so it can be tough to know where to begin. Thankfully Marvel has these 'essential' collections for the long-lasting heroes, so new readers can get to grips with the history. The first volume of Essential Iron Fist covers Danny Rand's early years, including his debut on the pages of Marvel Premiere, his first solo series, and some of his early adventures with Luke Cage. [Buy it here]

Immortal Iron Fist Complete Collection Vol. 1, £2

One of the best known Iron Fist solo series, and is naturally well-regarded by fans. This series starts off with Danny returning to K'un L'un to fight in a tournament against the other immortal weapons, with each one representing one of the seven capital cities of heaven. Along the way he's forced to come to terms with the legacy of the Iron Fist, which hides more secrets than Danny could have ever imagined. If you only have to pick a single Iron Fist series to read, make sure it's this one. [Buy it here]

Iron Fist: The Living Weapon Vol. 1, £15

One of the most recent Iron Fist solo series, with Danny forced to face his origin and arrival in K'un L'un. It's a tale of betrayal and revenge, forcing 'the kid with the glowing fist' to deal with the consequences of his past and the actions that led to him earning the mantle, and power that came with it, in the first place. [Buy it here]

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