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‘The Defenders’: Cinematic Episode 1 Premieres at Comic-Con in Marvel Panel Full of Surprises

Fans were treated to an early look at the upcoming Netflix comic book drama, which unifies the four previous Marvel series.

Marvel's The Defenders

Sarah Shatz/Netflix

Marvel likes to catch people off guard, which it more than did today at Comic-Con with its highly anticipated event series “The Defenders.” After a short panel moderated by executive producer Jeph Loeb, featuring the massive cast of the Marvel crossover event, the actors “goaded” him into screening the first full episode of the series, which premieres August 18 on Netflix.

Before the screening, Loeb announced that “Iron Fist” was renewed for Season 2, and brought out “The Punisher” star Jon Bernthal to preview a clip from the upcoming “Daredevil” spinoff, one which featured Frank Castle in full-on vengeance mode, with no shortage of blood spilt.

“Frank’s very much in my heart,” Bernthal said. “I’m eternally grateful to get another crack at him.

Then, it was “Defenders” time. Developed by Douglas Petrie and Marco Ramirez (Ramirez is the head writer and showrunner), “The Defenders” is the culmination of 65 previous episodes of television across four different series. Those four series — “Daredevil,” “Jessica Jones,” “Luke Cage,” and “Iron Fist” — helped establish the slightly darker tone of the Netflix/Marvel universe in comparison to, let’s say, more family-friendly offerings like “Agents of SHIELD.”

We won’t reveal any spoilers here, but the first episode (one-eighth of the full season, which will be five episodes shorter than the standard Netflix/Marvel series) offered dedicated fans lots of face-to-face encounters between their favorite characters from across all four shows. (Plenty of cheering for each appearance, even for the more minor characters, echoed in Hall H.) Ending with a moment big enough to make binge-viewers hit “next” on their remotes automatically, there’s an awful lot packed into a relatively short amount of time, given how many characters need servicing.

The first episode was directed by SJ Clarkson, who also directed the first two episodes of “Jessica Jones,” the opening of the Marvel TV universe. But Clarkson did more than recreate her signature “Jones” style for Jessica’s scenes in the premiere; the look and feel of the other three series can be felt in the scenes focusing on those individual characters.

Ramirez, in previewing the series, noted that Matt, Jessica, Luke, and Danny aren’t a typical superhero team. “They’re never going to have a clubhouse,” he said. It’s part of what makes the Netflix/Marvel collaboration distinctive, the fact that Ramirez “knew we had to come in on a grounded level.”

“The big superhero movies are happening the skies,” he added. “These people are fighting in the back alleys and the bars.”

Loeb began and ended the panel in a emotional state, in part due to his wonder at presenting in Hall H for the first time (“I am so grateful to all of you” he said to the assembled fans), and from being presented with Comic-Con International’s Inkpot Award for his contributions to both comic books and television.

Certainly with “The Defenders,” Marvel has built something unprecedented. The full first season premieres August 18 on Netflix.

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