What classic 'Daredevil' comics may tell us about the second bloody season on Netflix

What classic 'Daredevil' comics may tell us about the second bloody season on Netflix
How will Marvel's 'Daredevil' mine its comic book roots to find superhero salvation in the new season? (Netflix)

If you went into the first season of Netflix's "Daredevil" without knowledge of the Man Without Fear, you probably made it out of Hell's Kitchen just fine. The series retold Matt Murdock's origin story piecemeal without too much over-explanatory hero babble (we're looking at you, Spider-Man films), and spent a healthy amount of time establishing the brutal tutelage that shaped his arch-nemesis, Wilson Fisk.

But the Marvel Universe's version of New York City has expanded plenty since then, with "Jessica Jones' " hard-drinking superhuman P.I. and a certain guy with unbreakable skin putting down roots, and if the trailers for "Daredevil's" second season are any indication, Murdock's about to have even more neighbors.

The cast of characters expected to appear in the second season of Marvel's "Daredevil," which launches Friday on Netflix, represents a swath of vigilantes, murderers and unhinged crusaders from some of the Man Without Fear's most famous comic book story arcs.

I've spent an upsetting amount of time staring at the trailer footage Netflix has released in advance of the new season's release, with an eye out for nods to some of Murdock's most famous adventures on the printed page. Some of these have been all but confirmed panel-for-panel reproductions of some of Daredevil's biggest brawls and worst heartbreaks. Others could be a Stilt-Man-esque stretch, but (billy clubs crossed) we might just get there.

Warning: Possible spoilers for the second season ahead."

"Born Again" -- Prior to the actual trailers, Netflix released a 100-second video that set some of Season 1's most iconic images against stained glass, slipping in just one line of dialogue from an upcoming episode. Religious iconography is far from rare in a Daredevil story: Murdock's faith struggles are so core to the character that they're likely to awaken the Catholic guilt that lives in most New York-born Irishmen (myself included). But the stained glass looks eerily reminiscent to the cover of the first issue of what is widely considered to be the seminal Murdock tale, Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli's "Born Again."

Even though some of the pieces from this story line were placed on the board during the first seasons of both "Daredevil" and "Jessica Jones," this arc would likely require its own season.

"Born Again" marks a dramatic shift in the relationships among Wilson Fisk, Matt Murdock and Karen Page, when the last's drug-induced downfall leads the Kingpin to learn Daredevil's true identity. What follows is a harrowing breakdown for Murdock, as Fisk takes a perverse glee in picking apart the vigilante's personal life long before Matt even realizes he's in a war.

Karen seems poised for a spiral after shooting Fisk's right-hand man, James Wesley, last season. "Born Again's" secondary antagonist, Nuke, showed up in "Jessica Jones" (that would be the pill-popping soldier/police officer Sampson). Fisk's knowledge of Murdock's identity also shapes a lot of their most famous interactions in the comics, so that moment is coming at some point.

But "Born Again" is such a lengthy, misery-laden narrative that it would need room to breathe, and in a season already crowded by the on-screen debuts of Punisher and Elektra (I've decided the movies don't exist -- if we all agree to believe it, then it's true), I doubt the writing team would try to pull off "Born Again," especially with Fisk nowhere to be found in the trailers.

The Punisher's first appearance in "Amazing Spider-Man" (1974), left; "The Punisher" No. 1 (2014) variant cover by Salvador Larroca
The Punisher's first appearance in "Amazing Spider-Man" (1974), left; "The Punisher" No. 1 (2014) variant cover by Salvador Larroca (Marvel Entertainment)

"Welcome Back, Frank" / "The Choice" -- Matt Murdock and Frank Castle agree on a lot of things. They're not happy about criminals killing their loved ones. They despise street thugs. They like hurting them. While Daredevil's not above breaking a punk's ribs or, as we saw last season, introducing a medical scalpel to a kidnapper's retina in order to get information, he generally draws the line at murder.

Frank Castle? He ain't really about lines.

One of the most jarring images that Netflix released ahead of Season 2, which it also snuck into the first part of the trailer, shows a bloodied Daredevil chained to a rooftop while the Punisher looks on. If this seems familiar, that's because it's an almost identical copy of a panel from Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon's "Welcome Back, Frank" arc, a Punisher story line that focuses on Daredevil for an issue or two.

Castle and Murdock often come into conflict when they're pursuing the same bad guy, and usually end up trading punches once DD decides it'd be best if Frank didn't add to his daily body count. In the comic book version of this scene, Punisher had Murdock chained up while he's training a sniper rifle on the scumbag McGuffin the two vigilantes have been chasing. He's left Daredevil with a gun and a simple choice: Shoot Castle before Castle kills the goon in question and become a killer, or become complicit in a killing anyway by failing to stop a murder. Frank is wearing his typical Kevlar body suit in this scenario, so Matt's going to have to take an almost certainly fatal head shot to stop the Punisher.

The trailers and still images for Season 2 of Marvel's "Daredevil" on Netflix offer a number of tantalizing nods to some of the Man Without Fear's most famous story arcs.
The trailers and still images for Season 2 of Marvel's "Daredevil" on Netflix offer a number of tantalizing nods to some of the Man Without Fear's most famous story arcs. (Netflix)

It's a brutal scene, one that rips at Matt's code of honor and Catholicism, and it could really set the tone for the season depending on how early it plays out.

"King of Hell's Kitchen" -- A lesser known story arc from the end of writer Brian Michael Bendis' spectacular run on the Daredevil title in the mid-2000s, and one of my personal favorites. The second part of the Season 2 trailer focuses heavily on Elektra, but also introduces the Yakuza, or more likely the Hand, as a major antagonist for Daredevil this year.

The setup described by Elektra here is similar to this story line, which comes after Murdock has cleared most of Hell's Kitchen's major players out of the city (specifically, Fisk and Leland Owlsley). At that point, Matt declares himself the Kingpin.

A year passes. Then, in a spectacular fight scene drawn in all its gritty chaos by Alex Maleev, the Yakuza come for the Kitchen, taking on Matt in a 100-on-1 street fight. If you haven't read this specific issue (it's Part 2 of the story arc in question), stop what you're doing and find your nearest comic book provider. For all the talk about the beautiful bloody tracking shot that chronicled Matt's brawl with the Russians in the "Cut Man" episode from Season 1, this is one of the best fight scenes in Daredevil's history on the printed page. 

And if you take another peek at the second trailer, you might notice Matt and Elektra running headlong on a rooftop toward roughly 100 Yakuza soldiers ...

All right ... where is he? -- Matt Murdock is far from the only superhero to lose a lover in the heat of battle. But his romantic interests do have a very specific way of meeting their maker.

So, if Karen Page and Elektra are hanging around ... where's Bullseye?

Jeff Albeit cosplaying in the classic Bullseye's costume from the Marvel comic books at Comic-Con International in San Diego in 2015.
Jeff Albeit cosplaying in the classic Bullseye's costume from the Marvel comic books at Comic-Con International in San Diego in 2015. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

There's been no word of a casting decision, no hint that Murdock's greatest non-Fisk foe is in Season 2. But it's hard to believe the writing team will refrain from using him forever. Bullseye may not make an outright appearance this year, but it'd be surprising if we didn't get a more overt Easter egg headed into Season 3. Many believed the sniper who opened fire during the midseason episode "Condemned" last year might have actually been Bullseye, and some photos suggest the deranged assassin's trademark ace of spades playing card could be seen in that shot. 

Bullseye could be a really fun toy for the writers here, especially because his origin is a blank slate. Murdock claimed to know the assassin's background during the "Hardcore" story arc (another Bendis gem, and another absolutely haunting set of panels drawn by Maleev), and the villain has detailed an elaborate autobiography in his own miniseries (which, as fate would have it, includes a showdown with the Punisher in Cuba), but it was later suggested that the entire tale was a lie.

Bonus Round: (A little bit of devilish wishful thinking)

  • Meet the Gladiator: For the most part, Melvin Potter (the fella who made Matt's Daredevil suit) was portrayed as a stuttering man-child in Season 1. And then there was that scene where he beat the hell out of Matty and threw a saw blade at his head. For the uninitiated, Potter is the civilian name of longtime Daredevil nemesis the Gladiator, a C-list badnik who was rescued by later Daredevil creative teams that explored his struggles with mental illness. The complicated relationship between Murdock and Potter (Melvin ends up as Matt's bodyguard at one point) stands in stark contrast to the punch-outs between Daredevil and Gladiator, and it could be really interesting to see Potter come back for an episode in Season 2.
  • "The Devil In Cell Block D" -- Ever wonder what would happen if you threw Daredevil, Wilson Fisk, Punisher and Bullseye in a cage? This Ed Brubaker-written story requires a lot of build, so I doubt you'd ever see an identical story line, but Wilson Fisk is in prison and I wouldn't be surprised to see Castle or Murdock visit him there.
  • The Owl, unfortunately, the real one: One of the most pleasant surprises of Season 1 was Bob Gunton's hilarious take on an otherwise laughable Daredevil villain, Leland Owlsley, a.k.a the Owl, a.k.a. a dude I could totally handle in a street fight. Gunton played the character not as a supervillain, but as the frowning adult in the room while Hell's Kitchen's other crime bosses bickered or displayed breathtaking restraint issues (see: Fisk beheading a guy). Those restraint issues ultimately led to Fisk throwing Owlsley down an elevator shaft, probably killing the character. But Leland mentioned something about having a son before he shuffled off this fictional mortal coil, leaving open the possibility of the actual villain appearing in the future. If we must have the Owl, can we at least avoid having him use those claw weapons that look like they were part of a discarded Wolverine Halloween costume? I don't ask for much, people ...

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