This year marks the 20th anniversary of the iconic Marvel Knights line that took a deeper look at more of the street level heroes in the Marvel Universe. It took us onto the streets with the likes of Daredevil and the Punisher, while also showing some of the big name heroes like Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four. I haven’t got to read the runs for all of the characters, but from what I have, I really enjoyed. I will be primarily looking at the 15 issue run of the comic titled Marvel Knights that started it all and how the imprint left its mark on the Marvel Universe.
Writer: Chuck Dixon
Art: Eduardo Barreto
The story starts with the Punisher who is doing his usual thing when he notices things have been strange lately. Noticing gangs being taken out without any bullet wounds and looking like they had been beaten to death while also leaving a large hole in the ground. He then takes this to Daredevil saying he should tell the Avengers or something other superhero group. Of course Daredevil takes it upon himself to investigate and brings along Black Widow and Dagger, who was seeking help from Widow to find Cloak. The Punisher also decides to look into the situation which will of course brings the heroes together. Only to find out that it was Ulik the Troll behind it all!
Being how this is about street level heroes, the last thing you think they would have to face is a Troll who normally is battling with Thor. This trend would continue as they fought, Nightmare, alien bugs, and rogue LMDs. After the first battle with Ulik, the main group of Daredevil, Black Widow, Dagger, and Shang-Chi are brought together by Moon Knight who is looking to finance his own superhero team. Surprisingly enough after what they just faced, they are brought together by the goal of bringing in the Punisher, who had helped them against Ulik.
While looking for the Punisher and Cloak, the team would continue to run into different threats. During this time we got some cameos from some other Marvel Knights with Dr. Strange and the Fantastic Four who both come in briefly to help out. They would also eventually bring in Luke Cage to join in what was probably his last comic with the tiara and yellow suit before his Avengers days. Ultimately the group falls apart by the end with Moon Knight almost getting killed and deciding to pull out his funding while Shang-Chi and Luke Cage left to go after Shang’s father. Daredevil decided to go back to his lone wolf ways leaving Black Widow with Cloak and Dagger.
Now looking at the three main characters of the series, Daredevil, Punisher, and Black Widow. While there was lots of characters in this series, everything really revolved around these three.
Daredevil had one of the more popular runs during the Marvel Knights era and the team is kind of lead by him here. While he and the Punisher have their differences, it still seems odd that with all the stuff going on that Daredevil seems determined to stop Castle. Punisher even helps at times and is still who Daredevil wants taken down the most. With that being one of the main reasons the team was formed in the first place. I wouldn’t say this was the best iteration of Daredevil as it felt he only really cared about his vendetta with Punisher.
There were traces of his romance with Natasha as well and you could feel their history when they interacted. It was never directly stated, but you could tell that they both had a longing to be together again.
While Punisher is never on the team, the book follows him on several adventures including one completely cut off from the rest of the heroes. This is where we get the Fantastic Four cameo, who apparently dont know who Punisher is, but I suppose not everyone knows each other.
Punisher is the one who takes the fight to the bad guys most of the time. He is the one who faces off with Ulik, the giant alien bug, and the hoards that Nightmare sends while inside of Cloak. So it feels like he does a lot of the work off to the side while the rest are basically trying to hunt him down. At the end he faces off with Daredevil one more time and wins by threatening to kill himself. Daredevil stands down seeing that Castle was not bluffing and that was the end of it between them.
Widow also gets much of the side stories in the series as she is mostly accompanied by Dagger who she has taken under her wing. We get to see a motherly side to Natasha as she takes care of Dagger while trying to help her find Cloak. It isn’t a role we often see Black Widow in, but it shows some of the different side to her. At this point we had mostly seen her in a role with the Avengers or Shield, so getting to see her work with a different group of heroes was interesting to read and put her into a leader role.
Overall, this comic was a fun read and it helped to start this part of the universe off. There were some flaws that stuck out to me with the characters and stories, but it didn’t pull me out of it too much. I find that the individual runs of Marvel Knights were much better, but this would still be a suggested pick up to see how it all starts.
Looking back on Marvel Knights as a whole, it really brought a new dynamic to the universe. It gave us new perspectives on well known heroes and ones we did know as well. This time in Marvel was one of my personal favorites and you can even see the same elements from Marvel Knignts in other series like New Avengers. Getting to know other characters like Luke Cage and Jessica Jones who weren’t as big at the time or getting more individual runs from people like Black Panther and Black Widow who often don’t get their own series made this enjoyable.
Being the 20th anniversary, Marvel is going to be bringing back the Marvel Knights comic and I dont know if it will hold up the same to the older ones. The original run really helped to spawn a new era at Marvel that brought around some great comics which was even followed up the Ultimate Universe which also helped to change things up for Marvel. Without Marvel Knights, we might not have gotten some of the great stories and character developments that we did in the following years. The Marvel Knights era was one of my favorites and maybe twenty years later, Marvel can do that same thing again.
What did you think of the Mavel Knights comics? Which runs were your favorites? Do you think Marvel can do as well with them this time around? Let me know in the comments and thanks for reading!