Netflix’s Comic Book TV Shows Are Better Than The MCU’s

Netflix‘s comic book adaptations are actually better than the MCU‘s. The success of Iron Man in 2008 did not just give birth to the Marvel Cinematic Universe; it also led to a surge of interest in comic book adaptations. The biggest names are undoubtedly Marvel and DC, with an ever-expanding range of superheroes brought to life on both big and small screens. Every studio and streaming service is eager to mine comic books for potential blockbuster hits.

Netflix has been in the game for a long time. Back in 2013, the streaming giant struck a deal with Marvel Television that led to a slate of Netflix Originals – Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, Luke Cage, The Defendersand The Punisher. Even Netflix was relatively new to the “original content“game in 2013, and they needed strong brands like Marvel for name recognition. By 2018 that was no longer the case, and over the next year the relationship between the two companies broke down. It did not take long for Netflix to demonstrate they did not need Marvel, launching their own popular comic book adaptations including The Umbrella Academy.


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Now, Marvel and Netflix are effectively direct competitors via the popular MCU TV shows on Disney + and Netflix’s ongoing stream of Originals. But, although the various MCU Disney + TV shows demand a lot of attention, the reality is that Netflix’s shows are a lot better. That has always been the case – and it still is.

Daredevil Is Still The Best Marvel Television Series

Charlie Cox as Daredevil

Daredevil is still the best Marvel TV series – even in the age of Disney +. When season 1 was released in 2015, it was unlike any other Marvel superhero show that had come before it; dark, edgy, atmospheric, and decidedly R-rated. Charlie Cox’s Daredevil and Vincent D’Onofrio’s Kingpin were essentially co-stars, meaning the Kingpin became an unusually three-dimensional Marvel villain at a time when Marvel Studios was routinely accused of underdeveloping its bad guys. Supporting characters such as Elden Henson’s Foggy Nelson and Deborah Ann Woll’s Karen Page had their own compelling narrative arcs as well. Daredevil was not perfect; it suffered from pacing issues that went on to become typical of the Marvel Netflix shows. But it shines beyond anything Marvel has done since, and the second and third seasons are just as strong – with further compelling casting decisions such as Jon Bernthal’s Punisher, who impressed Netflix so much they signed up for a spin-off.

Other Marvel Netflix shows attempted to follow the Daredevil formula, with varying degrees of success. The shows continued to explore mature themes, but unfortunately the flaws in the Marvel Netflix formula became increasingly evident, particularly in Iron Fist season 1. Third-party analytics revealed viewership of Marvel Netflix declined for years, with only The Punisher spirit Daredevil resisting the downward trend. By 2018, Netflix had learned everything they needed to learn from their partnership with Marvel, and they began winding that relationship down.

Netflix’s Comic Book Adaptations Are Avoiding Disney + MCU Mistakes

Elliot Page, Tom Hopper, David Castaneda, Emmy Raver-Lampman, Aidan Gallagher in Umbrella Academy

The comic book publishing industry is dominated by DC and Marvel, but there are actually a number of other publishers – and Netflix has made the most of this, even acquiring Mark Millar’s Millarworld company in 2017. But it was The Umbrella Academy that proved Netflix does not really need the Marvel brand; it depended not on a shared universe but on a relatively mild marketing campaign followed by strong word-of-mouth. And it’s been followed by a slew of other comic book adaptations that have been just as good, including the likes of Raising Dion spirit Locke & Key. This new wave of superhero shows is tonally different to anything in the MCU, so much so that superhero fans only used to Marvel and DC properties would not necessarily even realize they were based on comics. They give a healthy degree of diversity to the entire genre.

Related: How Umbrella Academy Season 3 Finally Answers A Season 1 Question

What’s more, they’re completely avoiding the mistakes that are beginning to bring the MCU TV shows on Disney + down. The first wave of MCU Disney + TV series have leaned on the shared universe, spinning directly out of Avengers: Endgame; even the best of them do not stand on their own two feet. Worse still, this focus on the shared universe means each series is more about setup than anything else, and they’re in danger of becoming formulaic. So far, every MCU Disney + TV show has had a villain twist at the end; “It Was Agatha All Along“in WandaVisionthe Power Broker in The Falcon & the Winter SoldierKingpin in Hawkeyeand He Who Remains in Loki. The pattern makes sense, because such a villain twist helps ensure the show contributes to the overarching narrative of the MCU, but it’s becoming predictable.

It does not help that, so far, only WandaVision truly felt unique. WandaVision was a superhero sitcom unlike anything seen in the MCU to date, self-consciously drawing on all the best tropes from other sitcoms. It felt like a promise on Marvel’s part, that their shows would be bold and experimental, but sadly that promise has yet to be fulfilled. In contrast, many of Netflix’s comic book adaptations feel bold and innovative – from the unique style and tone of The Umbrella Academy to the creepiness of Locke & Key and the coming-of-age story at the heart of Raising Dion. The lack of a shared universe means Netflix can allow every series to be its own thing.

Moon Knight May Be Marvel’s Opportunity To Catch Up

Moon Knight in the series trailer

At present, then, Netflix’s comic book adaptations are better than the MCU’s Disney + TV shows. But all that may change with Moon Knight, the first of Marvel Studios’ shows to feel as though it could exist on its own terms; the first trailer did not even stress its connection to the shared universe. It makes sense for Moon Knight to be a more experimental show, simply because it’s inspired by comics that have often sat at something of a distance from the rest of Marvel’s books, with unique narrative and stylistic choices. Moon Knight could finally fulfill WandaVision‘s promise, affording the MCU the opportunity to catch up with Netflix – not just in brand recognition, but in quality and diversity. That means the competition is hotting up for Netflix – and viewers will be the winners, because that competition will drive increases in quality.

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  • The Marvels / Captain Marvel 2 (2023)Release date: Feb 17, 2023
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