No time to binge on the preceding solo series? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Find out everything you need to know as Marvel’s Defenders hits Netflix…

Ever since Matt Murdock donned his iconic dark red suit for the first time in Netflix’s Daredevil, we’ve been waiting for the day four street-savvy heroes would unite.

But before you tune in this Friday 18 August to see the “devil of Hell’s Kitchen”, “smartass detective”, “righteous ex-con” and “kid with the glowing fist” assemble, there are some things you need to know. Read on for our top insights into the Defenders – Netflix’s motley Marvel crew…

1. It’s the mother of all crossovers

Showrunner Marco Ramirez summed it up nicely in an interview with Forbes: if the Avengers are the Beatles, prepare for the Ramones.

Since 2015 we’ve watched the development of Daredevil’s Matt Murdock, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist’s Danny Rand in their individual shows. And we know they’re all gritty outsiders with day jobs who prefer to work alone. Netflix’s Defenders draws all four street-level superheroes together to save a city torn apart. But will they drop their egos? We’re picking yes, or the premise fails to fly… That said, there’s always tension as solo artists form a band. So, don’t expect best buddies – according to the recent Netflix promos, “there is no ‘us’ in team”.

2. It’s not bound by the comics

Netflix’s version of the Defenders foursome was never evident in print. The first incarnation of Marvel’s Defenders in 1971 actually consisted of Doctor Strange, Namor the Sub-Mariner and The Hulk. They were later joined by Silver Surfer, Valkyrie, Hellcat and Nighthawk, as well as several others in rotation.

But while the four never fought together as Defenders, they did cross over in their own ways – Jessica Jones and Luke Cage were romantically intertwined, while Luke Cage teamed up with Danny Rand in Power Man and Iron Fist. Now the Netflix franchise is the influencer, however, with a recent relaunch of Marvel’s the Defenders comics featuring the televised foursome. This is said to follow on from the final pages of New Avengers!, which saw them combine in 2012.

3. It will clarify some plot points

Netflix and Marvel have been carving out some excellent character development since 2015, with two series of Daredevil and one each of Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist providing a solid knowledge base. You don’t have to have watched all five for the Defenders to entertain, but if you do have time, we recommend dipping your toes in Daredevil at least. This will lead to more ‘aha’ moments as future plot points come together.

Short on time? You can always check out our quick-fire guides for Daredevil, Luke Cage and Iron Fist. And, of course, the below trailer provides a general overview of the series.

4. It’s about more than just four heroes

While our stars will reprise their roles – Charlie Cox as Matt Murdock/Daredevil, Krysten Ritter as Jessica Jones, Mike Colter as Luke Cage, and Finn Jones as Danny Rand/Iron Fist – they won’t be the only familiar faces to grace your Netflix screen. Scott Glenn will also be back as Matt Murdock’s blind mentor Stick, and Elodie Yung as Elektra – that’s right, the femme fatale’s not quite dead.

Rosario Dawson will resurface as Claire Temple (the only character to appear in all four individual shows), Eka Darville will be back as Malcolm Ducasse, Simon Missick will return as Misty Knight, Deborah Ann Woll as Karen Page, Rachael Taylor as Trish Walker and Jessica Henwick as Colleen Wing.

5. Sigourney Weaver plays the villain

Speaking of familiar faces, say hello to one of sci-fi’s most iconic; Sigourney Weaver will play main antagonist Alexandra. The adjectives about her character abound – described by showrunner Ramirez as “sophisticated, intellectual and dangerous” in this interview with Entertainment Weekly, Alexandra is apparently a complex character with ties to mysterious organization, The Hand. And she’s got a pocket ace in assassin Elektra, who’s been resurrected for this show as ‘The Dark Sky’.

Brought back to life by The Hand, Elektra has no knowledge of her past. But will her memory return as time goes on? We’ll have to watch and see.

6. It’s all set in New York City

What unites our team of misfits? The City of New York. It seems Stick’s long-prophesied war is finally here, and Alexandra is poised to bring The Five Boroughs to its knees. She intones in the trailer below that the city will fall, but “in the end, it’s just a city”, as she tells prodigy Elektra she’ll soon get used to seeing them go down.

7. The showrunners have earned their stripes

Having worked on Orange is the New Black season one and Daredevil seasons one and two previously, showrunner Ramirez is no stranger to Netflix or to Marvel. In an interview with Forbes he says when he and fellow creative team lead Douglas Petrie (Daredevil season two) started on Defenders production, neither Luke Cage nor Iron Fist had aired. However, with all writers working from the same building, any creative challenge was easily overcome. Individual fighting styles and music quickly became a major focus in tying four solo series into one.

8. The solo shows will go on

Our heroes may now bear some semblance to a crime-busting super team but they’re not giving up their independence just yet. Season 2 of Jessica Jones and season two of Luke Cage are both ‘coming soon’, while Marvel confirmed a third season of Daredevil at Comic-Con in San Diego, last year.

Also gearing up for his highly-anticipated Netflix debut is Frank Castle (Jon Bernthal) as The Punisher. No official release date has been set just yet, but it could just be this year.

9. It’s a miniseries

With eight episodes each an hour long, the Defenders is shorter than the standard 13-episode Netflix/Marvel order. And, though technically a one-off, there could well be further episodes down the line.

The Defenders is set a few months after the events of Daredevil season two, and we come back to a defeated Murdock ready to hang up his suit for good. But with another Daredevil season in the pipeline, we don’t expect that decision to stick. And it could be a pretty rapid turnaround, with all eight episodes of the Defenders occurring over just a couple of days.

10. It premieres today (18 August)

Possibly the most important thing you need to know is the date you can tune in. All eight episodes will be available to view on Netflix from today, 18 August – just in time for the weekend. Roll on an epic, super powered streaming binge.

Find out more… Here’s everything you need to know about the latest addition to Netflix’s Marvel franchise, Danny Rand as Iron Fist.