SPOILER ALERT: THERE ARE SPOILERS BELOW. SERIOUSLY. TOTALLY GONNA SPOIL SHIT.
You know, I read a lot of Daredevil books in my time as a comic book enthusiast. This new Marvel Cinematic Universe is some type of cool, but what amazes me is the little differences. Examples? Well…
Before we begin…
The Marvel Universe (MU) typically broke down into three major wings. The X-Men wing with all the mutant related titles, the core Marvel wing where The Avengers and Fantastic Four related characters run and finally the Spider-Man wing. As you can imagine, the Spider-Man wing is filled with Marvel’s ‘street level’ heroes like Moon Knight, Heroes For Hire and or course Daredevil.
The most important aspect of this organization shows itself when season 2 examines Daredevil and Punisher. Both characters are deeply ingrained in Spider-Man’s world, to the point that most of their surrounding characters are ‘borrowed’ from Spider-Man. Daredevil’s unique cast of personal characters is quite small. You have Foggy Nelson, Karen Paige, Electra and Bullseye (Colin Farrell, forgettable Ben Affleck vehicle, just breath…) and after that just about everyone you see is 'on loan' from Spider-Man basically. The rest of Daredevils villains, even his archiest of arch villains The Kingpin, are Spider-Man villains originally.
This isn’t done out of laziness, it’s done to flesh out a complex story that has been meticulously put together over decades. The underworld in Marvel Comics is a living and breathing thing that ebbs and flows. The characters that make up the Spider-Man wing all add something that makes places like Hell’s Kitchen universes all by themselves. However, a history that long and intertwined would naturally create quite the pickle for the intrepid young show runner or two. In order to stream line the narrative to fit the show, some of the events surrounding Frank Castle’s origin have been tightened up a bit, to great effect.
Season 2 blends the events of The Punishers comic book origin
Like almost every Marvel Comics character to debut since the late 60’s, Punisher’s first appearance came in an issue of Spider-Man. There was a time when Spider-Man being involved in a characters first appearance or issue was obligatory, especially in his wing of the universe. Frank Castle, a Vietnam Vet back then, was tricked into hunting down Spider-Man by an actual villain named The Jackal. There is an outside chance the MCU might see The Jackal one day in one form or another but the smart money was to leave him out this. If you’d like to know why in greater detail, then hit me up in the comments.
In season 2, Marvel decided to use a more up to date story from comics that features both characters in more familiar modes. The basic story they used comes from an aptly titled limited series called Daredevil vs Punisher: Means and Ends. That story is blended with the aftermath of Frank Miller’s iconic run on Daredevil as well as a number of beats from various Kingpin stories over the years. The beauty is that a few major events that are years apart in the original lore are now beautifully woven together for a narrative that works.
Kingpin assumes The Jackals role of manipulator in a lot of ways, however Punishers debut is far more self-motivated with Fisk getting his hooks into Castle, after he is already in play. The Blacksmith character is new for the show and a great idea. Remember that Daredevil borrows all Spider-Man’s villains save one. Punisher just borrows all of Spider-Man’s villains save none. The Kingpin is, man. So most of the street level heroes/anti-heroes around see him as the biggest fish. The show can’t skip to that point because this is the beginning of heroes running the streets of New York. This new origin, gets Spider-Man out of the way, and sets up a more intentional dynamic of a city run from the shadows by the worst kept secret in the underworld. The way season 2 is put together we get to see everyone earn their place in the lore.
The visual make up of Wilson Fisk in prison is eerily reminiscent of a more up to date stint in the old pokey. In that story it’s not Matt Murdock who comes calling. Daredevil, Moon Knight and half the rest of the heroes running around with Kung Fu and good intentions might consider Fisk their arch enemy. But Wilson Fisk’s arch enemy is Spider-Man. He’s the sheriff. That’s the hierarchy of the story going back. Spider-Man is so mean to Wilson Fisk in that prison… The Netflix series uses the source material like set pieces in a way that preserves the stuff you might need later, for later and stuff. Looking at you Bryan Singer…
Spider-Man 3.5: Electra Boogaloo
What I loved the most about Sam Raimi’s first two Spider-Man films was that they expertly accordion(ed) close to thirty years of lore into roughly five hours of screen time. Daredevil Season 2 pulls off similar magic in an equally tight window. The story of Electra and Matt Murdock was how Frank Miller made his mark on the title and likely the reason this show even exists. The Daredevil film, to its credit, does follow the life and first death of Electra fairly well. The show also hits on most of the same beats. Except there is no Bullseye yet, and the future of the character and her relationship with the Hand is now represented with more deliberate foreshadowing.
Matt’s love life is a far more adult version of Peter Parker’s 'Dobie Gillis' style relationship woes. Not in terms of a graphic nature but more due to complexity. The show doesn’t shy away from this at all, but it also doesn’t have a ton of time to examine every aspect (like Daredevil and Black Widow being a long time item… oooohhh snap!). The use of flashbacks, mixing Electra and The Hand/The Chaste ASAP and finally, shifting focus between her story and Castles allowed them to squeeze a lot of the various aspects of Electra that would develop over years into this new heroine in one season. Due to the history of the Hand in Marvel Comics, I thought it was interesting that Electra is extremely reminiscent of another fem fatale. Psylocke of the X-Men has Japanese features with a European accent, and has The Hand to thank for that make over complete with badass ninja skill. Electra is actually Greek in the comics, and I kinda feel like the change was intentional or an awesome coincidence.
I love the episode count of the seasons, 1 issue a month plus an annual to wrap it all up. The significance of that is something of a curiosity that seems to be resolved. The Netflix series doesn’t anchor itself to the big budget films or even the ABC series, but it is happening in the same place and time. The references were mild in the first season and even rarer in the second. Instead the show focused back on the characters in their wing of the MCU, complete with the obligatory Luke Cage teaser.
With a number of moving parts to rival the most long standing film franchises, Marvel has created a challenge for itself. They don’t want to make films that feature an origin story that dominates the movie. Meaning that most new additions should hit the ground running. There is no rule that states any of these Netflix characters won’t factor into the films at some point in the future. That means they have to be ready. The narrative in the MCU as moving at a high clip, plowing through the core canon in chunks. The characters all have to be moving at that pace, in case Natasha is needed in Hell’s Kitchen.