The stories of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe have been well documented. We’ve been seeing Iron Man fly around since 2008, while Thor and Captain America got their first films three years later, in 2011. Then along came the The Avengers, and we had our first protracted look at the whole team operating as a single unit. Meanwhile, Marvel had a plan to launch a secondary level of characters on Netflix, showing us heroes that we likely never would have seen in theaters.
So why choose these particular heroes? The reasoning seems simple enough, in lending the MCU some much-needed depth outside of its yearly film releases. While we wait around for the next Marvel movie, it helps to have a 13-episode single-season run appear on Netflix in a single weekend. It serves to keep fans satiated but not overwhelmed while still creating an environment in which people are always talking about Marvel.
1. Daredevil (available now)
There’s been a lot of talk already about Daredevil, so we’ll try not to beat a dead horse here. That said, the 13-run first season did a spectacular job of bringing Marvel’s world of superheroes down to an all-too-human level (albeit with a disappointing follow-up effort). We see Matt Murdock, a lawyer blinded as a child but given superhuman senses, constantly get his teeth kicked in by bad guys. Fight scenes draw out because it takes a lot of punches to render a man unconscious (despite whatever action movies have told us). Charlie Cox brings a gravitas to the role that has him dominating every room he walks into, even in his weakest, most vulnerable moments.
The comic book hero himself has a long history within the Marvel Universe, dating back to 1964. He later became “The Man Without Fear,” popularized largely by (surprise) Frank Miller’s portrayal. He’s always been an intriguing character, if not simply for being a differently abled superhero functioning as a coldhearted ninja. The Netflix series has already wrapped up its second season, and we can only hope that soon, the Marvel higher-ups begin inserting Daredevil into other aspects of their films.
2. Jessica Jones (available now)
Jessica Jones may have one of the most interesting superhero backstories we’ve never seen told on screen. As a child, she attended the same high school as Peter Parker, was present when he was bitten by a radioactive spider, and soon after acquired superpowers of her own after a car accident with a vehicle transporting radioactive chemicals. After a period of being ostracized by her classmates, she was inspired by Spider-Man to assume her own hero identity of Jewel.
After a traumatizing experience under the mind control of the villain Zebediah Killgrave (played by David Tennant), she found herself broken mentally as she battled a bout of PTSD. This led her to leave the superhero life and become a private detective, which is right about where the Netflix series picks up. Jessica Jones also ties in nicely with Daredevil, given that in the comics, she spends time as Matt Murdock’s bodyguard. More important, though, is that Jessica Jones is the first property in the new age of Marvel and DC that will feature a woman as the lead character.
In July, Marvel confirmed that a second season of Jessica Jones isn’t likely to arrive until at least 2018, in order to make room for Iron Fist, The Defenders, and The Punisher.
3. Luke Cage (available now)
Luke Cage makes for yet another perfect tie-in to the existing universe of Netflix shows. He, too, operates as something of an independent contractor, as a Hero for Hire helping anyone who can meet his price. He first gained superpowers as part of an experimental procedure based on the Super Soldier serum, giving him enhanced strength and durability. In the comics, he’s married to Jessica Jones and mentored by Iron Fist (more on him later), and is an active participant in the Civil War storyline as a supporter of Captain America in opposition to the Superhuman Registration Act.
Luke Cage released on September 30, and was met with great reviews by critics and fans. The show even garnered a score of 79/100 on Metacritic. Netflix hasn’t announced a season 2 of the show yet, but that hasn’t stopped fans from eagerly awaiting the return of Harlem’s Hero.
4. Iron Fist (March 17, 2017)
The comic history of Iron Fist may be the one that aligns most with Daredevil for a whole host of reasons. Our titular hero (known by his alter ego Daniel Rand) spends his childhood learning to fight from the mysterious K’un L’un, eventually gaining the power of the Iron Fist after plunging his hands into the heart of a dragon. In addition to this, he’s a master of martial arts, making his tie-in to Daredevil strong, given the heavy presence of mysterious, unseen ninja forces for both good and evil. Iron Fist also possesses the power to heal himself through centering his chi, something we saw Matt Murdock himself do in Daredevil.
Rand even poses as Daredevil during the Civil War story, fighting alongside Captain America. And Iron Fist partners with Luke Cage for a spell as a Hero for Hire, so we may even see him surface before his series debuts. What’s more interesting are the little Easter eggs dropped in Daredevil that reference the Iron Fist mythos:
- One of our main villains, the mysterious Madame Ghou, has her heroin stamped with what appears to be a red serpent. Showrunner Steven DeKnight has confirmed the stamp to be that of the Steel Serpent, an ancient order known for their efforts to try and assassinate Iron Fist.
- Iron Fist often battles the evil order of ninja assassins known as The Hand. There are rumors that Daredevil villain and ninja extraordinaire Nobu’s parallel character in the comics is the one that founded this order.
- Many theorize that Madame Ghou may be Crane Mother, a villain in the comics that puts out a hit on Iron Fist and often joins forces with none other than HYDRA.
Netflix announced at New York Comic Con that March 17, 2017 as the release date for the debut season of Iron Fist alongside the release of a new trailer that showcased Finn Jones in the title role. Jones, known for his role as Ser Loras Tyrell on Game of Thrones, will get a chance to carry his very own series, playing a role that many fans argued should have been Asian-American. All race controversy aside, it’s an interesting choice nonetheless.
5. Punisher (November 2018, Rumored)
This one is fresh off the presses, with Marvel having just green-lit a full series for the Punisher. Jon Bernthal assumed the role in the second season of Daredevil, making for one of the more intriguing story arcs in an otherwise scattered collection of episodes. The comic origin of the character is pretty much in line with what we’ve seen so far: Frank Castle’s family is murdered in a mob shootout in Central Park, and he devotes his life to getting revenge on those responsible. His approach typically involves murder, torture, kidnapping, and any number of other R-Rated activities not typically seen in your classic heroes. His series doesn’t have a premiere date yet, but we imagine it’s not far off.
Jon Bernthal hinted in an interview back in June that “the Frank Castle you see in this story is not the Punisher.” This opens up all sorts of possibilities that could potentially bring us back to the pre-Daredevil days in Castle’s timeline. Which could be a great way to introduce us to the man who would become the popular anti-hero.
5. The Defenders (2017)
2017 is gearing up to be a big year for Marvel. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Spider Man: Homecoming, and, of course, The Defenders. Typically, The Defenders are a more loosely affiliated group than The Avengers with a revolving door of heroes. Normally, the team is led by Doctor Strange, and in the past has included heroes like the Hulk and the Silver Surfer. According to Netflix’s official description, it’ll bring together Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and Jessica Jones for “an epic superhero team-up in New York.”
Given the close tie-ins among Netflix’s four featured heroes, it likely won’t be a stretch to have them come together to fight a big baddie (perhaps the one hinted at in the ending to Daredevil‘s episode featuring his mentor, Stick). Reports say that The Defenders will operate as an 8-episode miniseries rather than its own standalone show. What exactly that will entail plot-wise is unclear, but odds are it’ll reveal itself over the next year.
Follow Nick on Twitter @NickNorthwest