The first teaser for Marvel's The Defenders was released at San Diego Comic-Con on Thursday, and though it offered few details about the show, it at least did so with style. The music, the visuals, a single spoken line of dialog... it was a perfect tease, even if it didn't actually tell us anything about the series. Or did it?
Though it's entirely speculation for now, a few hints from the teaser (combined with little details from previous Netflix shows) suggest that the show might be at least loosely based on a Marvel crossover that centered around Daredevil and other street-level heroes. Though there will have to be several big differences between the show version and the source material, Defenders being based on this crossover would make a lot of sense given what they've already introduced into the Netflix corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
What story is it that they might be adapting? 2010's "Shadowland."
What is Shadowland?
Though Daredevil is best known as the Devil of Hell's Kitchen, he's actually travelled to a number of different locales in his time as a costumed crimefighter. On one of these journeys, he wound up in Japan as the leader of the criminal organization known as The Hand. He returns to New York and establishes a new base for The Hand known as Shadowland, and seeks to use them to do good in the city... but then straight up murders Bullseye in the same way that he had killed Elektra. Obviously, the other heroes who knew Daredevil weren't too happy about this more brutal style of justice; even The Punisher thought that something was wrong.
The various heroes (and even a few villains, such as Kingpin) unite to assail Shadowland, with the likes of Luke Cage, Iron Fist, Spider-Man, Moon Knight, Ghost Rider, Elektra and even Wolverine taking the fight to Daredevil and The Hand. It's discovered that Daredevil was possessed by a demon, which Iron Fist manages to cast out using his chi powers. To stop it from taking control once again, Daredevil kills himself... and then his body goes missing, because this was during the phase when death was kind of a revolving door in comics.
Daredevil and The Hand
We were introduced to The Hand in season 2 of Daredevil, and learned from Stick that his order (The Chaste) was trying to stop The Hand from attaining what's known as the Black Sky, because they wanted the Black Sky to lead them. We're still not entirely sure what a "Black Sky" is other than someone who The Hand wanted to lead them; given how Stick and others have referred to Elektra and the Black Sky child as "it", it could be assumed that the Black Sky is some sort of supernatural entity that's born in the guise of a human. Looking back at when Daredevil ruled The Hand, though, that may not be the case.
Daredevil accepted The Hand's offer to lead them under significant duress, and in the end only accepted because it was the only way to bring about peace since they don't exactly take no for an answer. While leader, he was possessed by a demon known as The Beast that The Hand worships. We can assume that this possession wasn't exactly willing; The Beast has ways of subverting the wills of others, so Daredevil may not have even known that he was possessed until after the demon was cast out. This may be what the Black Sky is setting up in the MCU; individuals who are ideal vessels for The Beast, giving the demon a physical form so it can lead The Hand in an assault against the world.
How would it work in Defenders?
At the end of Daredevil season 2, The Hand had Elektra's body and placed her in a sarcophagus; the presumption is that she was going to be resurrected, since there's definitely a precedent for that in the comics. If Defenders is going to adapt "Shadowland" even in part, then The Hand's plan may be much worse than previously thought. All of the blood that was collected in Daredevil season 2 could be used as a sacrifice to summon The Beast, and Elektra's body would be the demon's vessel. Elektra, the resurrected Black Sky, would lead The Hand and would commence to rain death and destruction down on New York.
We've seen Daredevil fight The Hand before, and it wasn't always pretty. This time they'd have a supernatural creature calling the shots, which would make them a threat even to powerhouses like Luke Cage and Jessica Jones. The core cast (Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist) might have some help from some of the various shows' supporting characters (Punisher, Patsy Walker aka Hellcat, Misty Knight and perhaps Shang-Chi if he's introduced in Iron Fist), but it will still be an uphill fight to overcome The Beast's power. We could even see a callback to when Elektra turned down The Hand in Daredevil because she couldn't bring herself to kill Matt; in "Shadowland", Foggy Nelson tries to appeal to Daredevil and the demon inside decides that Daredevil should kill Foggy himself.
What clues suggest Shadowland?
Looking at Daredevil and the concept of the Black Sky, it's easy enough to draw a parallel between Daredevil's possession by The Beast and The Hand wanting a Black Sky as a leader. Defenders will also feature several key players from Shadowland, but interestingly enough won't feature the characters who have most famously been Defenders in the comics. In fact, half of the MCU Defenders have never even been on a Defenders team in the comics, as it generally hasn't been comprised of "street level" heroes; instead, it's featured more powerful characters like Doctor Strange, Hulk, Namor and Silver Surfer. When we look at the teaser again, though, there may be a couple of even bigger hints that some missed the first time.
The teaser doesn't seem to show much aside from hinting at the heroes coming together, and it only features a single line of rather pessimistic dialogue. That line is spoken by Stick, however, which suggests that the war he's been preparing for has finally arrived. Stick and The Chaste are at war with The Hand, of course, and now The Hand has a Black Sky. Once the word "Defend" forms and the rest of the paper tears away, what are we left with? A shadowy hand, poised like it's grasping, with New York in the background.
This doesn't mean for sure that Defenders is adapting Shadowland, but when you look at the clues and everything that's been set up so far it could certainly work as a plot. Street-level heroes coming together to try and stop a powerful supernatural enemy from destroying New York (and possibly the world)? If you had to sum up Shadowland in a single sentence, that one would do pretty well.
Daredevil season 1 & 2 and Jessica Jones season 1 are now available on Netflix. Luke Cage season 1 will arrive on September 30th, 2016. The Defenders and Iron Fist arrive in 2017. Release dates for Jessica Jones season 2, The Punisher and Daredevil season 3 have not yet been announced.