Tony Black argues that Marvel should keep The Defenders out of Avengers: Infinity War…
Beware spoilers for Captain America: Civil War…
Unless you’ve been living under a very cosy rock these last couple of years, you’ll be aware that Marvel haven’t just given us a hugely successful cinematic universe based on their comic book legends, but they’ve been doing pretty well establishing a television universe as well (the MTU, though it’s probably just me who’s ever referred to it as that). Captain America: Civil War may be blazing a trail across cinemas this week but just over a month ago, Daredevil season two aired on Netflix to quite some expectation and fanfare, all part of the Marvel-Defenders master plan; an interconnected web of series including the man without fear, Jessica Jones, and the upcoming Luke Cage & Iron Fist, all of whom will come together in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen for The Defenders TV series likely in late 2017. You most likely know all of this. You’re probably also wondering if, given the third Avengers movie Infinity War – Part 1 will debut six months later, if the newly-united Defenders will show up in the Avengers’ assumed battle with Thanos, the Mad Titan. It would seem increasingly unlikely, if directors Joe & Anthony Russo are to be taken at face value, after addressing the issue during press for Civil War. Cue a groan of disappointment from legions of Marvel fans across the land, but my question is this – why do the Defenders and the Avengers ever need to meet?
Before we answer that, let’s look at the two universes side by side. The first point to make is that they are very much *one* universe. The Netflix TV universe steadily being created is part of the MCU, though it never feels quite right calling it that (for reasons I’ll get to); we saw in Daredevil‘s first episode and in subsequent others visual and even script references to The Avengers, “the battle of New York”. There have also been allusions to the other side of the television coin connected to the MCU living not on Netflix but rather ABC, in the divisive Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., a show with much stronger inter-connectivity with the movies than the guys in Hell’s Kitchen. Indeed Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (and in all likelihood its own spin-off, the incoming Marvel’s Most Wanted) are not just narratively closer to the MCU, but tonally they are much more in that cinematic wheelhouse. For the most part, the MCU has a certain wit, a certain bounce and a level of fun–even when it occasionally darkens–which retains its place as big, blockbuster family entertainment. SHIELD’s inconsistency means it has the tendency to flirt with numerous tones but on the whole, with major characters like Nick Fury or Maria Hill cropping up from the films to nudge along the plot, it lines up next to the movies relatively easily. Can you say the same for Daredevil or Jessica Jones? Will you be able to for Luke Cage, Iron Fist or the recently announced The Punisher? Given the tone of what we’ve seen so far, the Defenders master plan may as well be an alternate Marvel universe given its much much darker themes, styles and storylines. I mean could you really see Jon Bernthal’s Punisher in Civil War? He’d have killed them all before they even said one word, or at least tried to.
We therefore get to the central point: why do the Defenders need to play a part in Avengers: Infinity War? Presumably by the end of 2017, we will have seen quite how The Defenders has played out, but the chances are the alliance between Daredevil and the other Netflix heroes in Hell’s Kitchen will be a lot more raw and form a much less easy alliance with one another than the Avengers ever have, even after the complete collapse of the Avengers unit in the wake of Civil War. Chances are they won’t even be a traditional superhero unit by the end and much like by the conclusion of The Avengers, go their own ways with the promise they’ll reform if needed. Now considering just how gargantuan Infinity War stands to be and the scope of the MCU, would you really want to see the Defenders literally and tonally ripped out of Hell’s Kitchen? Think about their name for a second; the whole idea is that they’re *defending* their home, a joined vanguard against your Hand’s and Kilgrave’s and Kingpin’s. When you consider Infinity War looks more and more like it’ll see whatever makes up the Avengers by 2018 going into space and hooking up with the Guardians of the Galaxy crew, can you really see Daredevil’s earnest brutality or Jessica’s harsh, trauma-tinged wisecracks playing alongside Cap or Iron Man or Thor on the other side of the galaxy? Doesn’t work, does it? First you take the Defenders out of their setting, the whole purpose of them being the twisted heroes they are, and then you make them play third or fourth or fifty-seventh wheel to the MCU boys & girls, because that’s another thing – by Infinity War you can be sure Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, Black Panther, maybe even Captain Marvel & the Wasp will be in the mix at least as relative newcomers to the battle against Thanos. That puts the Defenders even lower down the pecking order when the Russo’s have to service half a million other characters a lot more people will have seen in action than the Netflix group.
My final point is a practical one – would the Defenders be of any real use? If you consider the powers floating about in the MCU now, we’re a long way from a cocky billionaire building a rocket powered suit. Scarlet Witch can basically control matter & stop even The Vision, who is essentially a Superman or Dr. Manhattan-esque God-like being given the Mind Stone lodged in his forehead. Thor *is* a God. They have a Hulk. And when Doctor Strange folds, presumably, into proceedings they’ll have a sorcerer capable of goodness knows what. Now taking nothing away from Daredevil and co, but what chance would they have against Thanos & legions of alien armies? They know some serious kung fu, can beat legions of men to a punch, and Luke Cage is pretty much anything-proof, but in terms of powers they’re on the whole but a footnote. Personally I would rather they not be involved in such a battle at all, not simply wedged in to satiate the pathological comic-book obsession right now that everything everywhere must overlap, than they show up and stand around in the background for ten minutes, get a line each, and watch while Spider-Man gets to be way cooler than they are. It just feels disingenuous to some wonderfully crafted characters in a rich, dark corner of the Marvel universe that, a few nods and winks aside, feels better left alone to do its thing, at least for now.
My message, therefore: trust the Russos. They’ve got us this far. And let’s allow the Avengers and the Defenders to be equally as kickass without one undercutting the other.
Tony Black is a freelance film/TV writer & podcaster & would love you to follow him on Twitter.