This article contains some spoilers for HAWKEYE and SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME
So where does the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen go next? At this point, there’s no clear word about the new show being a continuation of the Netflix series or a hard reboot. Likely, Marvel will split the difference. If so, the new Daredevil series could retain the cast and continuity, while eschewing its predecessor’s darker tone.
If that’s the case, then comic books may be the best guide for future Daredevil stories…
(Daredevil #1 -6, 2011 – 2012)
When the first episode of Daredevil dropped in 2015, it announced itself as something very different than other superhero shows. Daredevil was violent, willing to show the brutal cost of fighting criminals without powers or superweapons. But to be frank, that’s not the tone that made the MCU such a success. How can viewers transition from the bleakness of the Netflix series to a more optimistic MCU series?
Fiege and his team have something of a roadmap with the third volume of Daredevil, launched in 2011 by writer Mark Waid and artist Chris Samnee. “It has been a miserable last few years. And every time I thought I’d finally hit bottom, God somehow found me a bigger shovel,” Matt tells Foggy in issue #1, declaring that he’s done moping and going to have some fun. Waid and Samnee never ignore Murdock’s past traumas. But they do put them in context, giving Matt the choice to be a fun and charming hero, not defined by his lowest moments. This may be the perfect path to take if Marvel wants to acknowledge the previous series while widening the audience for a new season.
“The Devil in Cell Block D”
(Daredevil #82-87, 2006 – 2007)
Another interesting way for Marvel to reintroduce Daredevil for readers would be starting with him at near rock bottom, adapting the storyline “The Devil in Cell Block D.” Written by Ed Brubaker and penciled by Michael Lark, this storyline puts Matt Murdock in prison for the murder of none other than his best friend, Foggy Nelson. To make matters worse, the only person willing to defend Matt from the criminals who hold a grudge against him is fellow inmate, Frank Castle aka the Punisher.
As you can probably guess, Foggy (played in the show by Elden Henson) isn’t really dead and Matt’s not a murderer. But the delicious hook would immediately grab viewers curious about the lives of our favorite characters since season 3. Furthermore, the tension between Daredevil and the Punisher, played in the Netflix series by Jon Bernthal, makes for great television. Finally, this story reminds viewers that Daredevil, more than any other Marvel hero, is entrenched in the criminal justice system, a heretofore unexplored part of the MCU.
(Daredevil #297-300, 1991)
If Marvel wants to go a little lighter while still retaining some of the tragedy of seasons one through three, they may consider adapting the storyline “Last Rites,” from writer Dan Chichester and penciler Lee Weeks. “Last Rites” revisits Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli’s legendary “Born Again,” which sees Kingpin buying Daredevil’s secret identity from a drug-addled Karen Page (played in the series by Deborah Ann Woll) and destroying Matt Murdock’s life. In “Last Rites,” Daredevil exacts his revenge, slowly taking Kingpin apart, piece by piece.
That sounds like a recipe for a grim story about the worst aspects of Matt Murdock. And to be sure, Daredevil is a little nasty here, unleashing a mirthless smirk as he insults Fisk and emotionally manipulates Typhoid Mary. But Chichester and Weeks use the plot to examine Murdock’s commitment to heroism. The climax builds to one of the most epic moments in all of superhero comics, in which Daredevil stands over Fisk, finally brought low, and, instead of pummelling him, says, “I forgive you.”
(Daredevil #270, 1989)
While the Netflix series certainly developed a shared universe, putting Daredevil in the orbit of the Punisher and the Defenders, all of these characters stayed low to the ground, allowing only a bit of mysticism involving the Hand ninjas. But in the comics, the character has a long history of dealing with monsters from beyond, including Marvel’s devil himself, Mephisto.
The best of these adventures came from writer Ann Nocenti and artist John Romita Jr, who sent Matt Murdock on a sabbatical away from Hell’s Kitchen. But life didn’t get any less weird for him outside of the big city, especially when he visits the cursed town of Christ’s Crown, New York. There, Daredevil encounters Mephisto and his son Blackheart, the former of whom again tempts the Man Without Fear. These supernatural adventures take full advantage of putting a man of faith like Matt Murdock in a world where gods and devils regularly interact with humanity. And with the upcoming Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness putting a new emphasis on the otherworldly, Mephisto may be the perfect nemesis for Daredevil.
“Hardcore” and “The King of Hell’s Kitchen”
(Daredevil #46 – 50 and 56 – 60, 2002 – 2003)
If Marvel wanted to give Daredevil a splashy welcome into the MCU, there’s no better way to do it than borrowing a page from Daredevil #50. A comatose Kingpin comes crashing through the skylight of Josie’s Bar. Standing over his broken body is Daredevil, who has some news for the assembled rabble: Fisk is out, and Daredevil is now the Kingpin. Written by Brian Michael Bendis with art by Alex Maleev, the arcs “Hardcore” and “The King of Hell’s Kitchen” show Daredevil at his most volatile, trying to do the right thing but going about it the wrong way.
These arcs may be the perfect way to bring Daredevil into the MCU, not just because the movie versions of Marvel characters owe a great debt to their Ultimate Marvel Universe interpretations, many of which were written by Bendis. Plus, the two arcs firmly situation Hell’s Kitchen into Marvel’s larger New York landscape and feature cameos by lots of heroes. Not only do Spider-Man and Black Panther arrive to talk Murdock out of his plan, but he receives regular visits from Luke Cage, Danny Rand, and Jessica Jones – otherwise known in the Marvel Netflix world as the Defenders!
“The Stilt-Man Cometh”
(Daredevil #8, 1965)
If you only know Daredevil from the Netflix series or the 2003 movie starring Ben Affleck, then you’d think he’s a dour and conflicted character, like Batman’s emo younger brother. But that was a fairly late revision to the character when Frank Miller started writing him in the mid-1980s. Just as often, Daredevil has been portrayed as a charming swashbuckler who happily leaps into high-flying adventures.
No antagonist offers more potential for light-hearted stories than Wilbur Day aka Stilt-Man. Debuting in 1965’s Daredevil #8, written by Stan Lee and drawn by Wally Wood, Stilt-Man came to be when scientist Day stole hydraulic equipment from his boss Carl Kaxton and embarked on a life of crime. Worse, Day tried to sue Kaxton for the rights to the technology and hired Nelson and Murdock as his lawyers. Even back in 2016, when Daredevil season one premiered, the larger public wasn’t ready for such a goofy concept. But in a world where people get genuinely excited about Moon Knight and She-Hulk, it’s time for Stilt-Man to bring his towering presence to the MCU.
Where Will Daredevil Show Up Next?
Honestly, we don’t know for sure at this point. The Disney+ series She-Hulk is set to release later this year, featuring Tatiana Maslany in the lead role. In her alter-ego, She-Hulk is Jennifer Walters, a respected attorney who may very well give Matt Murdock and Foggy Nelson a run for their money. If Murdock doesn’t show up there, he and D’Onofrio’s Fisk are almost guaranteed to make an appearance in Echo, the currently in-development spin-off of Hawkeye. Not only did Hawkeye make plain Echo’s connection to Fisk, but the character also first appeared in a Daredevil comic. However he turns up, we know that fans are excited for the return of the Man Without Fear.