Updated on 16 October, 2021
The Defenders are simply a group of fictional comic book teams with recurring ongoing membership appearing in many American comic books written by Marvel Comics. Usually they're presented as a group of individualistic, often self-seeking "outsiders" whose only purpose in the comic is to follow their own personal agendas. In short, they're bad guys with a cause. However, unlike the bad guys in most traditional comic books, the Defenders don't really do any good by themselves. They need the assistance of other people to fight crime.
The comic began life as an unsuccessful series of short comics featuring X-Men that didn't gain popularity until legendary writer Kurt Busiek took the reins and wrote and drew the team-up in a single issue. Once he returned to the book, he added more characters and returned them to their regular roles over time. The result is that the current team-up appears throughout the history of the comic, featuring some of the original X-Men characters such as Cyclops, Jean Grey, and Storm while introducing new, young recruits such as Gambit, Rogue, Dazzler, and Moonstone. The latest team-up features an all-together new superhero called the Defender.
The new team started out as five ordinary guys who were thrown into a top-secret, elite group of superheroes and tasked with protecting the world from supervillains. The group included two teenagers, Cable and Storm, and a childhood friend, Jean Grey. While some members of the team had previous experience with various kinds of heroism, others didn't, including Cyclops and Wolverine, who were considered "the normal humans." The two teens in particular developed an admiration for Cyclops' father, Cyclops had become a founding member of the X-Men and loved him. When he was kidnapped and presumed dead, Storm discovered that she could potentially use her mutant powers to take care of his son, Cable, which led her to join the team.
The new comic started out with Cyclops, Cable, Storm, Rogue, and Wolverine trying to save the world while battling villains like the Leader, The Red Hulk, The Norn, and The Phantom Kid. Eventually, they got lucky and the Leader attacked them, but before any of them could strike The Norn, Cable jumped into the fight using his newly enhanced optic blast. Wolverine, Rogue, and Cyclops were injured during the battle, while The Phantom Kid escaped. The Norn soon caught up with them and started killing off members of the team one at a time, until The Phantom Kid took on Cyclops himself, which made him temporarily lose his powers. He was however saved by Rogue, who used a Lazarus Pit to revive him, allowing him to fight and kill The Norn.
After the events of the first few issues of The Defenders, readers were left curious as to where the story was going. The story focused on Cable's relationship with Jean Grey, since he had been raised with her as his love interest. It also revealed that Cable had gained some skills from The Phantom Kid, which made him capable of defeating villains such as The Norn, but he still needed some help. The main story focus of the series was how Cable changed due to meeting The Phantom Kid, while battling The Leader and winning. The series ended with The Defenders being placed in suspended animation, and was then relaunched as the latest ongoing series.
The second season of The Defenders featured an extended guest appearance by famous X-Men members Cyclops, Jean Grey, and Storm. It also featured an extensive amount of story action, which was fantastic for the television medium. Season three of The Defenders featured an arc where Spider-Man decided to join the team, which was a welcome addition to the already great Spider-Man and Wolverine dynamic. The third season also contained a number of one-shots which gave us an extended look at some of the major characters and their relationships with the other superheroes.
The fourth season of The Defenders featured a story that was significantly different than the previous seasons. The fourth season featured an arc that explained how The Defenders were able to obtain the mysterious box. The story focused on the internal struggles of the team, as well as how they came to be members of The Avengers. The comic also introduced a new supporting character for The Defenders, The Red Skull. The story focused on the skull's motives for joining the team, as well as how he had a difficult time getting along with their fellow Avengers.
In the end, The Defenders was a solid comic. While it had its highs and lows, the story was entertaining throughout. I recommend reading The Defenders, if you are a fan of both the Marvel comics and the television show, and want to see what happens next.