Heroes of Hell’s Kitchen

The comics behind the Marvel/Netfix announcement

I think it is well established I am a comic book geek who also loves his ‘genre’ television shows so it probably comes as no surprise that I let out a little squeal of delight when I read the recent Marvel/Netflix announcement.

I have never really had the connection with Marvel that I have with DC but there has always been one little corner of the Marvel universe that has always held a special place in my heart.

The so-called ‘street level’ heroes of the Marvel universe mainly operate in a stuck-in time version of New York’s Hell’s Kitchen. A version where Starbucks didn’t move into every corner and dive bars didn’t become craft beer emporiums.

Daredevil is far and away the best known of these characters. A Marvel stalwart since the 60’s and the recipient of *that* movie it is a character that has attracted some of the great comic book story tellers over the years. My favourite Daredevil stories are;

Born Again — by Frank Miller and David Mazzuchelli. I actually believe that after Batman: Year One (with the same artist) this is the best work Miller has ever done. A truly piece of intelligent story telling which also stays true to the history of the characters.

The Bendis/Maleev run — Brian Bendis basically rescued Daredevil from the C-list in the 90’s and made his own reputation in the process. With Alex Maleev on art he wrote 50ish issues of an interlocking storyline that is a must read for even the slightest fan. The art was also stunning and really matched the ‘noir’ take that Bendis brought to things.

  • Guardian Devil — by Kevin Smith and Joe Quesada. Kevin Smith makes fun movies and has a great podcast but is mainly known by comic fans for his inability to ever deliver scripts on time or finish stories. This collection is the main reason people keep giving him more chances though. Coupled with beautiful art from Quesada (who was about to become Marvel Editor-in-Chief) this is a fun read with some nice twists which plays up some of the religious undertones always running through the character.

Iron Fist is a character that so clearly spun out of the 70’s kung-fu craze it is a little bit amazing that the character managed to keep appearing over the years (although rarely in his own book.) The character was a regular part of the Daredevil supporting cast throughout the run on the title by Ed Brubaker (who followed Bendis). This led to the definitive take on the character;

  • Immortal Iron Fist — Ed Brubaker & Matt Fraction and Travel Foreman. This run manages to take the, even by comic book standards, nonsensical origin and history of the Iron Fist character and turn it into a riveting tale spread over decades with a mix of mystical and pulp science stylings.

Iron Fist was almost always seen in the comics next to his partner, and fellow 70’s pop-culture spin off, Luke Cage: Power Man. Probably still best known as being where Nic Cage got his name from when he decided he didn’t want to be a Coppola on screen Luke Cage has taken decades to escape the characters ‘blaxploitation’ roots. Bendis, though, clearly has affection for the character and dragged the character in to the A-list with him (albeit an A-lister still unable to sustain his own book — race remains a real issue in comic sales 😦 ).

New Avengers — Brian Bendis and David Finch. When Bendis took over the Marvel flagship team book, the Avengers, he brought Cage with him and made him a leader amongst the traditional A-listers. This is far from the Avengers now made famous by the Marvel movie but was an interesting take on things and gave Cage a chance to shine (he is currently leading the Mighty Avengers book though that is a bit ‘meh’)

Of all the characters mentioned in the press release the most exciting for me is Jessica Jones. The least well known of all the characters and the one with the shortest history. Bendis created the character in 2001 as part of the ‘adult’ Marvel MAX line. The series was called Alias (nothing to do with the JJ Abrams TV show starring Jennifer Garner, who was in *that* Daredevil movie!) and was a genuine attempt to do a noir style detective comic slap in the middle of the Marvel universe. I firmly believe it remains the best work Bendis has done (and I love a lot of his stuff) and given it was essentially written like a TV show from the start I have high hopes (I think it has been through a few development options already.) Luke Cage was a supporting character in this series (the characters went on to have a child and marry in the books) and has never been portrayed better.

As the appeal of the character widened there was an initial attempt to move the character into the mainstream Marvel universe with the series ‘The Pulse’ which lasted 14 issues. I actually think this was pretty underrated and continued the Jones/Cage relationship that continues to underpin the portrayals of the characters wherever they turn up.

I am planning on rereading all these books in the weeks ahead and highly recommend them to anyone.

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