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Amazing. Fantastic. Uncanny. Marvel’s popularity has grown exponentially in the last two decades, firstly thanks to co-productions like X-Men and Spider-Man, and then, since 2008, with its own movie studio. And the comic company’s success has only increased with the numerous Netflix TV series that are set in the same universe as Marvel’s film epics.

Meet The DefendersDaredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist. Think of them as the street-level, streaming alternative to The Avengers.

But which Defender is best? In true Marvel style, let’s pit these heroes against each other 10 DIY Props to Make You into a Superhero 10 DIY Props to Make You into a Superhero Like many boys and girls, I spent a bit of time -- probably too much! -- wanting to be a superhero, protecting people from the bad guys and generally saving the day with my awesome... Read More and see who comes out on top.

4. Luke Cage

Let’s get this out of the way first: there is no bad Marvel show on Netflix. It’s just that some are stronger than others. It’s ironic, then, that Luke Cage (whose comic alter-ego was, for a while, “Power Man”) should come last in the rankings.

Cage has undeniable style, and is perhaps the most distinctive of these shows. That’s particularly prevalent with the first two episodes, helmed by Paul McGuigan. The director arguably made his name on Sherlock, his visuals influencing the scripts and the series’ very DNA. While his Luke Cage efforts aren’t so twisting, his flair is evident, especially in episode two, Code of the Streets.

Mike Colter debuted as Cage in Jessica Jones, and he plays him brilliantly. He captures the character perfectly, a warmth and heart shining through his powerful exterior. Antagonists, Cottonmouth (Mahershala Ali) and Diamondback (Erik LaRay Harvey) prove especially sinister, and yet are somehow charming — as long as you don’t cross them.

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It certainly has its fair share of moments to make your jaw drop too.

luke cage power man

So why do we think it’s the worst of Marvel’s Netflix shows? Sadly, the first episode drags: as we’re already familiar with the protagonist, this season should hit the ground running, but sadly introduces its themes too slowly. In fact, in Moment of Truth, Luke only notably displays his powers once. This is a shame, as the pace does pick up, but having already left too much of its audience behind.

3. Jessica Jones

Approaching the Marvel canon Discover Marvel Comics & Marvel Characters On The Web Discover Marvel Comics & Marvel Characters On The Web Marvel Comics was founded in 1939 as Timely Comics before becoming Atlas Comics in the 1950s and eventually the company we know and love in the 1960s. This was the era when Jack Kirby, Steve... Read More , Jessica Jones might not immediately stand out for televisual adaption. Yet Netflix proved it could do the acclaimed comic series justice.

Jessica Jones, created by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos, is a relative newcomer, having been introduced in Alias #1 (2001), but has remained a key figure in that universe (perhaps due to Bendis’ esteemed position at the company). It’s a great idea: Jess is a private investigator with superhuman strength. She’s an unwilling superhero.

Krysten Ritter’s Jessica is grumpy, sarcastic, at times pretty horrible, but with a caring nature nestled deep within her. Indeed, she’s moodier than her comics counterpart, though the show’s noir tone is a more accurate reflection of Bendis/Gaydos’ vision. As Luke Cage introduced Misty Knight, Jessica Jones also welcomes another comic heroine: Trish Walker (aka Hellcat), played by Rachael Taylor. Their dynamic works well, but the highlight is her relationship with Kilgrave.

Played by Doctor Who‘s David Tennant, Kilgrave’s power is manipulation. You do as he says — without question. Known in the comics as the Purple Man, his obsession with Jess is surprisingly scary. For them both, this is a power play, physically and mentally. Just because Jones has become immune to his persuasions, that doesn’t mean he can’t manipulate her.

jessica jones

It’s a pretty divisive show, however. Again, it suffers from a slower pace. Jess’ job isn’t properly explored, and Will Simpson’s (Wil Traval) potential is never fully realized. This means there’s lots more to be explored.

Nonetheless, Jessica Jones is worth your time.

2. Iron Fist

Yes, it’s a controversial choice, but I stand by this decision. The worst thing about Iron Fist is the critical mauling it got, with the claims that the series is bad being based solely on misconceptions.

The accusations of “whitewashing” appalled true comics fans. Firstly, the whole point is that Daniel Rand (Finn Jones) is an outsider to the mystical city of K’un-Lun, but he overcomes this. And secondly, it could be argued it’s more racist to suggest only people from Asia can learn martial arts.

Ignore the ill-informed press. Take Iron Fist on its own merits, and these really are numerous.

The story is intriguing, exploring a section of the Marvel Universe few other cinematic instalments do — this is more akin to Doctor Strange than Iron Man, making for a very endearing and enjoyable run. Still, there is a melding of the spiritual and the industrial, as Danny is welcomed back to Rand Enterprises (though definitely not with open arms) after a long absence in which he learnt kung-fu.

Its narrative alters quite considerably across its 13 episodes, so Iron Fist is the series that changes its aesthetics most, giving viewers a lot of interesting visuals. You also warm to characters a lot, Joy and Ward Meachum (Jessica Stroup and Tom Pelphrey respectively) in particular. Finn’s portrayal of Danny exaggerates his serious side, but as the first season sees him still struggling to come to terms with his parents’ death, this seems fitting.

iron fist

The stand-out star is Jessica Henwick as Colleen Wing, who is extremely likeable, very capable, and superb in the various action sequences.

Upon its March 17 debut 15 New Netflix Originals You'll Be Watching in 2017 15 New Netflix Originals You'll Be Watching in 2017 Netflix is now producing its own original content. And some of the new Netflix Originals set to debut in 2017 definitely look like they'll be worth watching. Read More , Iron Fist became Netflix’s most-binged drama of 2017 so far, accounting for 14.6 percent of all streamed shows. This was the highest percentage of any premieres measured, beating Stranger Things, Daredevil, Orange is the New Black… and the critics.

1. Daredevil

A lot was riding on Daredevil. This was the very first Marvel show made as a Netflix original Netflix Removes 50% of its Catalog to Fund Original Content Netflix Removes 50% of its Catalog to Fund Original Content Have you noticed the Netflix catalog getting smaller in recent years? We now know the number of titles available on Netflix has been halved since 2012 to fund original content. Read More . What’s more, Daredevil has a huge following, and many of his fans were left bitterly disappointed with the 2003 film starring Ben Affleck. The weight of expectations was scary big 13 Nightmarish Netflix Movies Full of Jump Scares 13 Nightmarish Netflix Movies Full of Jump Scares Jump scares are those moments in movies which make you jump out of your seat. Literally. So if you enjoy being scared, you'll enjoy this list of jump scare movies on Netflix. Read More .

Fortunately, Daredevil is the Man Without Fear.

Saving a stranger from an oncoming car, Matt Murdock was blinded by radioactive material. But this heightened his other senses, giving him an extra advantage in the form of a radar-like awareness. He can hear liars’ heartbeats increase. He can smell the adrenaline of a would-be attacker. He can “see” in complete blackness. His foes, however, are just as formidable.

Of course, that’s not all Matt is. He’s also a principled man. An attorney. A Catholic. He must stop the evils that are pulling Hell’s Kitchen apart around him, while also questioning how far he goes before he himself turns into a monster.

As Daredevil is one of my favorite heroes, I was anxious about Charlie Cox taking on the part. “That guy from Stardust?!” But he’s incredible. He is Matt Murdock, just as I’ve imagined him since I was three years old.

Similarly, Vincent D’Onofrio is a stunning Wilson Fisk. The Kingpin actually debuted in The Amazing Spider-Man #50 (1967), and has been a big presence in the Marvel Universe ever since. D’Onofrio brings a depth and surprising sadness to the role, and it’s hard not to sympathize with him.

The same can be said of Frank Castle (Jon Bernthal) AKA The Punisher. With his rifle trained on the entire criminal underworld, the Season 2 vigilante punishes those who deserve it. Except he’ll stop at nothing. He doesn’t find anything wrong with torture. After all, criminals deserve it. That, he argues, is the only difference between him and Daredevil: Frank will do what has to be done.

The incredible action sequences aren’t the only things that define this show. It’s also Daredevil’s relationships: with his enemies; with best friend, Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson); and with his loves, Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll) and Elektra (Élodie Yung).

The latter, an iconic Marvel anti-hero, is divisive — her plot strand concerning the Hand becoming a bit messy — but she remains an interesting take on the character.

Daredevil explores the gray line between the good and bad. Watch Season 1 Episode 3, New York’s Finest, as a perfect example of this.

daredevil punisher

While aficionados might be annoyed that Daredevil’s costume takes forever to appear, this is a wonderful show. In fact, if you were trying to select the best individual episode from all of Marvel’s Netflix titles, you’d have to conclude that Season 1 Episode 2, Cut Man, is, more than any other, a masterpiece.

In Iron Fist, Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson) claims the super-power folk she’s met are “dark, haunted people”. Never is that more true than in Daredevil.

What Do You Need to Watch Before The Defenders?

To get a proper appreciation of the seemingly-disparate elements that make up The Defenders, you should of course watch all these shows. It’ll be an enjoyable and thought-provoking ride.

POWER MAN & IRON FIST

A post shared by Chris Samnee (@chrissamnee) on

But if you’re not into binge-watching Why Streaming Movies Is Bad for You Why Streaming Movies Is Bad for You However much we love streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant Video, they're not always a force for good. Here are three reasons why streaming movies can be bad for you. Read More and so don’t have time to catch up with everything, I recommend Daredevil, as an introduction to this corner of the Marvel Universe, and Iron Fist, as a further examination of the Hand, topped off with a cliffhanger that might lead into The Defenders.

This is my ranking, but where fandom is concerned, disagreements are inevitable. So what’s your favorite Marvel show on Netflix? And which one can you happily avoid watching? Please let us know in the comments below!

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  1. Marvel Fan
    May 6, 2017 at 8:23 am

    I totally have to disagree.
    4. Iron Fist
    3. Jessica Jones
    2. Luke Cage
    1. Daredevil

    • Philip Bates
      May 31, 2017 at 11:55 am

      Well, at least we have Daredevil and Jessica Jones in common! :) Don't get me wrong: I enjoyed all these series, so it was a tough article to write - fun though!

  2. Saikat Basu
    May 5, 2017 at 1:30 pm

    I do agree with you on Iron Fist, though I would put it a notch below Jessica Jones. I think it would have been far better if they hadn't done a rush job on it. The martial art moves just didn't feel genuine.

    • Philip Bates
      May 31, 2017 at 11:44 am

      Yeah, I've heard a lot of people criticise the martial arts; I've little authority on the matter whatsoever, but of the folk I know who do practice some martial arts, they found Iron Fist to be pretty on-the-money. If anything, I was probably hoping for some more unrealistic martial arts - he's supposed to have trained at K'un L'un, so why not? Interesting though. I think if they'd adapted Shang-Chi, it would've had to be spot-on, but with Iron Fist, there should be more fluidity and ambiguity.

  3. jellmoo
    May 4, 2017 at 1:01 pm

    I find that the shows wax and wane way too much to have a list done in this fashion. My ranking:

    1. First half of Luke Cage
    2. Jessica Jones
    3. Daredevil (season 1)
    4. First half of Daredevil (season 2)
    5. First half of Iron Fist
    6. Second half of Daredevil (season 2)
    7. Second half of Luke Cage
    8. Second half of Iron Fist

    • Philip Bates
      May 31, 2017 at 12:25 pm

      Yeah, I do like that approach. The shows have to change their directions to sustain 13 episodes in general, but DD Season 1 and Jessica Jones kept the same tone throughout. Luke Cage did too, but the villains shifting makes it easier to divide; with Cage,

      • Philip Bates
        May 31, 2017 at 12:31 pm

        Oops, sorry - that was a mistake!

        As I was saying, with Cage, I thought the first half was better for having Cottonmouth but the narrative and pace of the latter half was stronger. I also thought the second half of Iron Fist was stronger than the first because Harold came into his own, as did (at least I thought) Danny and Colleen. Oh, and Sacha Dhawan's excellent - hoping we get more of him next season.

  4. Joe Joh
    May 4, 2017 at 11:40 am

    I'll disagree with the order. I'd say on season 1 alone, Daredevil is certain #1. If we add season #2 in, though, it grows much weaker. But let's just stick to first seasons. My order is Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist. I think Daredevil Season 1 being #1 is undisputed here (though an argument could be made that it spent way too much time getting him into costume). Jessica Jones was #2 for me based entirely on Krysten Ritter and David Tennant's performances, and for its accurate portrayal of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, a disorder I am uncomfortably familiar with. Krysten Ritter made me laugh so much. She has great delivery and comedic timing. I really think you undervalued that here. I found the pacing just fine.

    Luke Cage comes in at #3 for me, but it's a close #3. I enjoyed it a lot. The very purposeful references to black icons, and on the history of Harlem made it highly enjoyable. My grandfather took me to Harlem a lot when I was growing up in the Catskills. Some of the best diners in Manhattan at the time (late 70's to mid 80's). I really enjoyed the development of Claire in Luke Cage and Rosario Dawson was absolutely wonderful. My problem with the show was how Cottonmouth, who could have been an interesting enemy for the length of the series, was discarded and Diamondback was just kind of thrust into the story. Finally there's Iron Fist. I didn't like it at first. The pacing was off. Like you, I don't buy the white-washing hype here. He's white in the comic books, so I don't see a problem. That's kind of the point of the character: he's a mix of East and West. The fight choreography was problematic for me. It seemed off for a kung-fu show. I hope that improves for The Defenders, because I want to like Iron Fist (and I did enjoy the last few episodes of it). I'd like to see them do a Power Man and Iron Fist mini series, so *fingers crossed*

    • Philip Bates
      May 31, 2017 at 12:13 pm

      I generally agree with all your points, especially the performances. Krysten Ritter is a superb Jessica, and David Tennant was a thoroughly unnerving Purple Man. But yeah, I found Nuke to be really left-field (hoping that'll be developed in Season 2), and not recognisable enough. The pacing was off for me, but that didn't stop it from being enjoyable. I just found Iron Fist and DD to be slightly stronger.

      Cottonmouth was a fascinating villain, beautifully played. He was truly scary. And while I did like Diamondback, I think the series would've been stronger with just Cottonmouth as the main player.

      I think partly because DD took so long to get his costume and truly "arrive", I possibly preferred Season 2 to 1. And I liked the dynamics more, particularly Karen's involvement. But let's just agree it's an incredible show.

      And I'm totally with you: Power Man and Iron Fist would be a dream series!

  5. Pugwash
    May 4, 2017 at 10:51 am

    I'd agree with this ranking, except I wasn't aware of Iron Fist! I'll have to watch this now.

    • Philip Bates
      May 31, 2017 at 11:44 am

      Have you given it a go? What did you think?

      • Pugwash
        May 31, 2017 at 3:12 pm

        Watched it all now. I quite enjoyed it. Enough to see the whole season in a few days.

  6. Todd Bonzalez
    May 4, 2017 at 12:51 am

    Iron Fist was so boring it took me a month and a half to finish. I'd watch Cage twice over again before it. Way to take the premise of magic Kung Fu kingdom and decide we'd rather see more NYC boardroom drama.

    • Philip Bates
      May 31, 2017 at 11:53 am

      That's interesting. Personally, it took me longer to watch Luke Cage than Iron Fist simply because I found the latter more immediately engaging than Cage. Nonetheless, Luke Cage was an excellent show as a whole, so I can see where you're coming from. I've always seen Iron Fist as a mash-up of the magical and the business world, so I liked that about the show.

  7. likefunbutnot
    May 3, 2017 at 8:26 pm

    I'd call Daredevil season 1 a masterpiece. Jessica Jones could have been shorter by four episodes. I loved Luke Cage and Mike Colter is perfect in that role but I really wanted more from it, especially from Cottonmouth, who was beautifully written and portrayed.

    I think Iron Fist was hampered by world building that needed to go somewhere before the Defenders launches but I wish it hadn't been. Matt Fraction's Iron Fist comics are some of my favorites from the last 10 years. The TV show had too much corporate intrigue and not enough Immortal Weapons. Still, this is the series I'm most excited to see more from in the future.

    The bottom of the barrel for me is Daredevil season 2. The Punished would be a strong foil for DD, but I felt he was used in a very ham handed way. I didn't care about the resulting storyline at all. We could've gotten that much more Matt, Elektra and Stick instead of a commercial for another series.

    • Philip Bates
      May 31, 2017 at 12:21 pm

      The Punisher only got promoted to a series of his own because people liked him in DD. I get what you mean, but personally, I loved DD Season 2. Many seemed divided over Elektra, but I thought she was great.

      We should've had more Cottonmouth. He was exceptional. I wish he'd been in it throughout; Diamondback was good, but nothing compared.

      Oh, Fraction's Iron Fist is *wonderful* - absolutely with you there. I liked the mash-up of corporate and mystical, and think it might've excluded some if we'd have gone too much into the Immortal Weapons straight away. Like you though, I'm looking forward to it delving more into that in future!