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Netflix’s Marvel mashup ‘The Defenders’ worth the wait

They say you’ll never forget your first time.

I know I won’t, largely because Sigourney Weaver was in the room.

As a huge nerd, I’d been longing to get inside Hall H during Comic-Con for years. Heck, during my first trip to downtown San Diego, I pressed my nose up against the convention center’s windows under the large “H” sign just to see what I could see. (Not much, it turns out.)

I finally made it into the cavernous exhibition space for last month’s panel for “The Defenders” (Friday, Netflix), the eight-part “Avengers”-style team-up of the casts of “Daredevil,” “Jessica Jones,” “Luke Cage” and “Iron Fist,” all of which Netflix bought sight unseen from Marvel in an unprecedented five-series deal.

Like those shows, with the possible exception of “Iron Fist,” the disorientingly large Hall H did not disappoint.

To put this into proper context, millions of pop-culture freaks from around the world attempt to buy Comic-Con badges. Roughly 130,000 can attend each of the festival’s four days. And Hall H, the largest venue available, holds only 6,500.

Even if you couldn’t make it inside for the panel, it was hard to miss “The Defenders” during Comic-Con. Huge posters for the series covered parts of the Hilton Gaslamp Quarter across the street from the convention center. The hotel hosted The Netflix Experience, which included costumes from the series and plenty of free swag for those who endured the hourslong lines.

I randomly ran into the show’s stars downtown before the panel, but that turned out to be a smaller accomplishment than I’d thought. Fans could stand in another line for a chance at an autograph session, but all they really needed to do to meet the actors was turn up for a Marvel event outside The Netflix Experience dressed as one of the show’s characters. And “The Defenders” just may offer the simplest cosplay of all.

Daredevil costumes can get pretty elaborate, but if you go as his alter ego, blind attorney Matt Murdock, just throw on a suit and some sunglasses; if you really want to splurge, buy a cane. Jessica Jones requires little more than jeans, a leather jacket and a gray infinity scarf. All you really need to be Luke Cage is a hoodie, although it helps to have his bodybuilder’s physique. As for Iron Fist, aka Danny Rand, you could wear literally anything. The man has no discernible look beyond blond curly hair.

That simplicity is a big part of the shows’ appeal. They’re just regular men and a woman working without fanfare to keep New York’s Hell’s Kitchen and Harlem neighborhoods safe. Regular for superheroes, anyway. Matt has extraordinary hearing and touch to compensate for his radioactivity-caused blindness. Luke’s skin is impenetrable. Danny has a powerful glowy hand. And Jessica has super strength and, considering how much she drinks, a liver as invulnerable as Luke.

As for the panel, after a few questions for the returning cast members and the introduction of Weaver as their nemesis, Netflix surprised the audience by showing the first episode of “The Defenders” in its entirety.

When we first see them, Matt (Charlie Cox) has boxed up his Daredevil costume and given up fighting in the streets for fighting for the little guy in the courtroom. Jessica (Krysten Ritter) is still recovering from the effects of her show’s first-season finale and hasn’t returned to her detective work. Luke (Mike Colter) emerges from prison as the Hero of Harlem. And Danny (Finn Jones) is chasing the villainous organization known as The Hand through Cambodia.

Inside Hall H, fans cheered wildly the first time characters, even minor ones, showed up on screen. You probably won’t have that same reaction at home, though, because “The Defenders” is more of a slow build. Unlike “The Avengers,” the series has eight episodes to fill, so it can afford to take its time by having the characters encounter each other sporadically.

Luke and Jessica already know each other — intimately. But it’s a treat seeing the other personalities, and their varying degrees of humor, play off each other. “God, you’re weird,” Jessica tells Matt at one point. (She isn’t wrong.)

By the time all four of them finally assemble in Episode 3, though, it proves more than worth the wait.

Just like Hall H did.

Shows to know for the week ahead:

■ In a near future with a drastic one-child policy, septuplets (Noomi Rapace) outwit the Child Allocation Bureau’s director (Glenn Close) by only going outside one day a week in the movie “What Happened to Monday” (Friday, Netflix).

■ For the debut of its fourth and final season, “Halt and Catch Fire” (9 p.m. Saturday, AMC) enters the early days of the internet and web browsers.

■ Detective Inspector Alec Hardy (David Tennant) and Detective Sergeant Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman) solve their last case in the series finale of “Broadchurch” (7 p.m. Wednesday, BBC America).

■ Spend some time with your kids during “Teen Choice 2017” (8 p.m. Sunday, Fox), but be warned: The leading nominee in the movie category is ”xXx: Return of Xander Cage.”

Contact Christopher Lawrence at clawrence@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4567. Follow @life_onthecouch on Twitter.

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