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Marvel’s latest ‘Defenders’ easy to like on Netflix

August 16, 2017

Unless you’re a complete comic-book geek, the whole Marvel Universe thing can be very overwhelming as it continues a march toward total media domination.

Marvel shows can already be found on ABC, NBC, FX, AMC, Hulu, Netflix, Disney XD - I wouldn’t be shocked if the Hallmark Channel gets in on it at some point.

Some of the shows are great, some forgettable, some, like “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D,” have outlived their sell-by date. The fact that it is a “universe” is fine for the aforementioned comic-book geeks, who know the origins of the various superheroes, but it can be confusing to the unenlightened.

Fortunately, you don’t have to do homework to enjoy “Marvel’s The Defenders,” a nicely crafted series premiering Friday on Netflix. The main characters do have origin stories, but you don’t really have to know that Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) killed her nemesis, Kilgrave, at the end of “Marvel’s Jessica Jones.” What you know is that she’s moody, brilliant, not much in the warm and cuddly department, and the source of a steady stream of deadpan humor in “The Defenders.”

Jones is one of a quartet of Marvel characters who eventually team up to save New York City from destruction by an ages-old, worldwide occult network known as The Hand, headed by a very wealthy woman named Alexandra (Sigourney Weaver).

It takes four episodes for the team to come together, but don’t worry: showrunner Marco Ramirez and his writing team build the story with heavy doses of dazzling action and compelling character development. For the cognoscenti, there are gentle reminders of backstories; for newbies, just enough to get a quick take on who’s who and where they came from.

The other “Defenders” are Luke Cage (Mike Colter), newly released from prison and ready to return to being the Hero of Harlem; Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox), who is trying desperately to leave his alter-ego as Daredevil behind him; and Danny Rand (Finn Jones), the boy billionaire known as the Iron Fist. Alexandra has her own superheroine to make sure she achieves her goal of flattening Gotham, someone with personal ties to one of the Defenders.

Weaver is great fun to watch, especially because her acting style is so carefully reserved in comparison to the actors playing “The Defenders.” It has to be said, though, that her character’s taste in couture is really atrocious for someone who is supposed to be filthy rich. Most of her schmatas wouldn’t make the former Home Shopping Network’s 3 a.m. fire sale.

One asset of “Marvel’s The Defenders” is that there’s strength in numbers - not just in battle, but as characters. Iron Fist is the weakest link here, but because he is just a link, there are other characters who can do more of the heavy lifting. Whether you’re a Universe denizen or a newbie, there’s no heavy lifting in “The Defenders” for audience members either.