If you’re an observer of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, then I likely don’t need to tell you that Marvel Studios is going to be significantly ratcheting up their series offerings on the Netflix streaming service through 2017, and likely beyond. With Daredevil hitting it big earlier this year and the highly anticipated Jessica Jones right around the corner, this week we thought it might be prudent to offer up some comics to read ahead of both the impending releases, as well as the series that are coming later down the road.

So far, Marvel and Netflix have five different series at varying stages of production, with many of them slated to bring some of the comic book publisher’s most well-loved characters into the realm of live-action for the very first time. We of course got to know Matt Murdock and his supporting cast very well over the first season of Daredevil, but starting with that show’s second season, the ranks of the MCU are going to be opened up to both old favorites and new ones filled with potential.

 

Jessica Jones

With the latest series arriving late next month, some fans may be left scratching their heads as to who Jessica Jones is and what her significance is to the Marvel Universe at-large. The character, played in the forthcoming show by Krysten Ritter (Breaking Bad), first appeared with the release of 2001’s Alias #1 by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Michael Gaydos.

In the comics, Jessica was present for some pretty monumental events in the Marvel Universe. In fact, she was established as having been a classmate of Peter Parker’s, and went on the same field trip to a radiology lab that he did, which resulted in his gaining the powers of Spider-Man.

She herself is also a superhuman, having gained her powers after a traffic accident with a military convoy that happened to be transferring radioactive chemicals. Her family was killed, and when she awoke from a coma several weeks later in the hospital, she was terrified to find Galactus outside of her hospital room window during his first invasion of Earth. That invasion was thankfully repelled by her teenage crush Johnny Storm and the rest of the Fantastic Four.

After a short-lived stint as a superhero, Jones retired from costumed crime fighting and became a private detective instead, specializing in cases involving superhuman connections.

Recommended Reading: Alias #1

Why not start with the very first issue that brought her into the lore of Marvel Comics? Beyond that, the award-winning series is one of the best featuring a new character in either big publisher from the early 2000’s, and it’d definitely give you a reason to engage with Jessica on a deeper level.

 

Daredevil

Perhaps the biggest story surrounding the return of Daredevil to Netflix next spring is the fact that he won’t be returning alone: he’ll be bringing Marvel Comics’ most notorious vigilante with him, as played by actor Jon Bernthal (The Walking DeadFury).

Military veteran Frank Castle had just returned home from an overseas tour of duty, and on a bright sunny afternoon ventured with his family into New York City’s Central Park. Unfortunately for the Castles, the park was also the location of a mob meeting gone bad, and it didn’t take long before guns started blazing. Caught in the crossfire, Frank, his wife, and two children were hit, and the only survivor was Frank himself.

Frank died inside after the horrific event, and completely dedicated himself to the annihilation of the mob. His intentions were made clear: there would be no arrest for them. No trials, no bureaucratic proceedings, and no slow-turning wheels of justice. Frank Castle became a one-man arsenal, killing as many mobsters and criminals as he could find. That’s when he became the Punisher.

In the comics, the Punisher has been portrayed in a number of different ways: he’s been written in a way that makes him seem almost psychotic, but most meritorious explorations of his character paint him as single-minded and fiercely determined. The Punisher doesn’t smile, and he doesn’t even speak all that often. He primarily expresses himself through violence.

Recommended Reading: Punisher (vol. 5) #6

We wanted to choose an issue that could really help a neophyte get to know who Frank is and this one’s a doozy. Perhaps one of the best single Punisher issues ever written, this is a done-in-one tale that ominously tells the reader, “Do Not Fall in New York City.”

Written by Garth Ennis and drawn by Steve Dillon during the pair’s seminal Marvel Knights run with the character, this issue is a tragic tale that helps to show that the Punisher is not completely devoid of at least a form of compassion. The caveat with that, though, is that even his mercy can be a form of punishment.

 

Luke Cage

While we’ll first be meeting Luke Cage as played by actor Mike Colter (Halo 5: Guardian) in episodes of Jessica Jones, the character will be getting his own series in the near future.

Born Carl Lucas, the young man grew up on the streets of New York, ran with a rough crowd and ultimately got himself into a lot of dangerous situations. As an adult he sought to reform himself into a responsible adult, but still managed to have trouble find him somehow. Recruited into an experimental research project, Lucas’ cells were transformed and even though the intent of the scientist was to actually tokill his test subject, the unattended controls resulted in some unforeseen consequences: Carl Lucas became super strong and physically invulnerable.

Adopting the moniker “Luke Cage,” he establishes himself as a “hero for hire,” saving anyone who’s able to pay what he asks for. While he often finds himself perfectly fine with taking on conventional criminals, Luke quickly learns that New York City is anything but conventional.

Recommended Reading: New Avengers (vol. 1) #22

In the middle of a massive comic book crossover, it can be very difficult at times to lower the noise level surrounding all of the massive and cataclysmic goings-on to find the effective voice of a single character. While tie-in issues can sometimes be little more than poorly-written cashgrabs, New Avengers #22 — released during the monumental Civil War — is an excellent example of a comic book event tie-in done the right way.

Focusing on the tough choice Cage must make between siding with the pro-registration forces of Iron Man or the anti-reg forces of Captain America, we go on a surprisingly intimate and emotional character journey that ultimately leads Cage to choose one side over the other. Excellently crafted by Bendis and artist Leinil Yu, New Avengers #22 will likely be a pleasant and informative experience if you want to get to know who Luke Cage is, and what he’s about.

 

Iron Fist

As he was growing up with a privileged lifestyle, Danny Rand didn’t know that his family had a strong connection with the mystical city of K’un L’un. After happening upon the city as a boy and being taken in by a martial arts master, he learned to channel the powers of his heritage: the Iron Fist. After Danny fought alongside Luke Cage against a common enemy, the two go into business together as heroes for hire, and operate for a number of years until its discovered that Danny has cancer. He’s dying.

Spending a significant amount of time in the mystical source of his powers, K’un L’un, Iron Fist focuses his chi and manages to cure his body of cancer, before returning to the world as a hero of the Marvel Universe. After Matt Murdock’s identity is apparently outed to the public, Danny helps his friend by posing as Daredevil to try and add some lost credence to the crimefighter’s secret identity.

This happened just at the onset of Civil War, where Danny fought as Daredevil alongside the anti-registration forces of Captain America. After Cap’s arrest, he joined the New Avengers as a fugitive superhero on the run from Iron Man’s registered Avengers, making clear that just like his friend Luke Cage, he’s ready to fight for what he believes in.

Recommended Reading: Immortal Iron Fist #1

The series co-written by current comic book superstars Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction with artwork by the equally talented duo of David Aja and Travel Foreman, Immortal Iron Fist dusted the character off and introduced him to an entirely new segment of eager fans. Encountering his direct predecessor as the Iron Fist, Danny is given a book that contains all of the kung-fu secrets of the previous Iron Fists, and he’ll need to use that knowledge in order to compete in a high-stakes martial arts tournament.

One of the things that makes Feaction and Brubaker’s work so engaging is their abilities to ground even the most bombastic situations in the truth of human emotions. It’s a wild journey that the duo takes us on with Danny Rand, but it’s easy to grasp because they do such a good job of exploring what motivates him into doing the things he does, and why we, as outside readers, should care. David Aja and Travel Foreman do some of the best work of their respective careers over the course of this title, and we’d heartily encourage anyone to give this first issue a try.

 

Then of course, all of these series will lead to a big team-up when Netflix and Marvel present the event series The Defenders, which will team all of these characters up together. Hopefully well before that show premieres, you’ll have jumped into a lot of other stories featuring these heroes after dipping your toe in the water with these choices. In the meantime, we’ll see you right back here next week with a brand new edition of Comics on Film.


Chris Clow is a geek. He is a gamer, a comic book expert and former retailer, as well as a freelance contributor to GeekNation.com, The Huffington Post, and Batman-On-Film.com, as well as host of the Comics on Consoles podcast. You can find his weekly piece Comics on Film right here at Movies.com. Check out his blog, and follow along on Twitter @ChrisClow.

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