BY MATT TUCK
Rumor has it that the Punisher could bring the war to Armor Wars and suit up as War Machine on Disney+. He’s not the only Netflix character rumored to make a grand re-entrance into the MCU, either.
Dear Kevin Feige,
Bring back Jon Bernthal as the Punisher. And put him in the War Machine armor. While you’re at it, give us back Daredevil in his cool black ninja suit from Season One, and toss in Kingpin for good measure.
Am I asking too much? I didn’t think so, either. It’s been two years since we last saw the Marvel shows on Netflix, and we are tired of waiting. With all those characters “on the board” and with Armor Wars, Spider-Man: No Way Home, and Shang-Chi: the Legend of the Ten Rings on the horizon, there’s no better time than now to reintroduce some famous faces to the MCU.
It came as a shock nearly three years ago when Netflix began cancelling all its Marvel series and apparently severed ties with the company, at least as far as original content was concerned. After Daredevil wowed audiences with a violent, gritty, and grounded story worthy of Frank Miller, the ball was rolling on Netflix. The second season arguably surpassed the first, introducing what many felt was the best portrayal of Frank Castle to date. Personally, I think the bloody prison fight scene with Frank murdering everyone in sight was the real Punisher fans had wanted for a long time.
Following the success of DD came Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist, who joined together Avengers-style to form the Defenders. Finally, the Punisher starred in his own solo series, which lasted into season two.
While they weren’t all critical darlings, the Marvel Netflix-verse appeared to be thriving and a hit with fans (although it is hard to say since Netflix does not release its viewership numbers, so nothing is official). Then came the news that Disney was starting its own streaming platform to compete with the likes of Netflix and Hulu, and we all knew the Defenders’ days were numbered. Beginning in late 2018 and into early 2019, the axe came down, and one by one, Netflix closed the doors on all its Marvel series.
Naturally, fans assumed that these cancellations were only temporary since Disney+ would house all the Marvel properties. It was easy to assume that all these hit series would be on hiatus until Marvel Studios could bring them aboard Disney+. And so we waited. And waited. Now we are left to wonder if any of those properties will ever find their ways to Disney+.
Thus, the Netflix speculation was born. Stars like Charlie Cox, Vincent D'Onofrio, and Jon Bernthal made it public that they would be up for reprising their roles for Disney+. D'ONofrio went so far as to even start a petition to save Daredevil. Meanwhile, Kevin Feige and Marvel Studios basically stayed mum on the subject, offering little insight into the characters’ futures.
It took two years, but Feige vaguely addressed the situation. Earlier this year, when asked about the status of the Netflix characters, he told The Hollywood Reporter, “Everything is on the board.” Of course, that could mean anything, but it opened the door to a range of speculation.
Out of all the Netflix characters fans want to see reprise their roles, it is hard to argue that Jon Bernthal’s Frank Castle is not at the top of the list. For the past two years, there have been plenty of rumors that Bernthal is coming back and that he will join the larger MCU picture. While there has been no word on the subject from either Marvel or Bernthal, the speculation is never ending until one of the two makes it official.
In this case, no news could be good news. If nothing has been made official, then it means there is still a chance that we could see Bernthal return to the role. One of the more intriguing scenarios comes straight from the comics, The Punisher #218, to be exact.
That issue began a story arc that saw Nick Fury lead Frank Castle - who was drawn to look suspiciously like Bernthal - to the War Machine armor. The Punisher then took up the suit and gave it his trademark skull. While he did not wield the armor for long, readers were treated to a few violent moments before the War Machine suit returned home.
If Marvel Studios wants a jaw-dropping moment that would erupt in cheers across the globe, this would be it. As brief as the Punisher’s stint as War Machine was in the comics, it had a lasting impact, and fans have wanted more. Personally, I would like a Garth Ennis-penned run of War Machine Punisher. That would be amazing.
To have Bernthal suit up as War Machine would truly bring the war to Armor Wars. However unlikely as that may sound, it could work. Sure, the story will almost certainly be used as a platform to introduce Riri Williams to the MCU and establish her as Tony Stark’s successor ahead of her Ironheart Disney+ series, but that doesn’t mean Frank Castle can’t join the fun and give Rhodey and Riri a common frenemy to bring down. Toss in Norman Osborn in his Iron Patriot persona, and Armor Wars will suddenly become the can’t-miss show.
The Netflix rumor gaining the most traction has been that Charlie Cox will once more step into the MCU. Only he won’t do it as Daredevil, but instead he will defend Peter Parker in a courtroom.
At the conclusion of Spider-Man: Far From Home, Mysterio’s last move before his death was to expose Peter as Spider-Man and frame him for the villain’s “murder.”
Since the final scene of Far From Home, fans have theorized that Murdock would appear at Peter’s side as his lawyer. There have even been unconfirmed reports that Cox has been spotted on the No Way Home set. Then again, there have been plenty of “unconfirmed reports” of various actors on that particular set, so it doesn’t mean much until Marvel Studios either acknowledges it or an actual picture is “leaked.”
To take this rumor up a notch, there is another interesting theory that states that No Way Home will introduce a second Daredevil alongside Cox, and this version of the character would be the official MCU DD. Could that mean that Elektra will wear the red and black as she did earlier this year in the comics? It’s plausible.
IRON FIST IN SHANG-CHI
Shang-Chi debuted its first trailer (which looks great, by the way), but there is still much we don’t know about the movie.
For months, fans have drawn the conclusion that Iron Fist would find his way into the movie, setting up a martial arts showdown for the ages. There is even a woman wearing Iron Fist’s trademark green and yellow in the Shang-Chi trailer, and that has sparked curiosity.
Could we see Iron Fist return in Shang-Chi or perhaps the sequel (because Marvel loves sequels)? That is a distinct possibility, given the woman in the trailer, which we can assume is no accident by Marvel Studios. But how do we know it will be Danny Rand under the mask?
In the comics, Iron Fist: the Living Weapon #1 introduced a new Iron Fist to the mix, Pei. She assumed the mystical power and became the new protector of K’un L’un. If Marvel is looking for an opportunity to transition to a different Iron Fist without necessarily recasting, this would work.
One thing is certain: there is no way Marvel Studios will leave these characters on the shelf for too long. Over the past 12 years of the MCU, we know that Marvel doesn't like recasting its heroes. Aside from Don Cheadle taking over as James Rhodes/War Machine and Ed Norton’s turn as Hulk, the casts of its movies and series have largely remained consistent. The studio even chose to retire the popular T’Challa rather than hire a new actor for the role following Chadwick Boseman’s death.
With heavy hitters like the Punisher, Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and the Kingpin at the company’s fingertips, it is certain they will all eventually return to the MCU. Since Marvel seems to prefer to stick with the original casting choices, it is plausible that we could see those familiar faces one more time.
Matt Tuck is the author of the novel, Lost Bones of the Dead. He is also a teacher, freelance writer, comic collector, and an international man of mystery. You can follow him on his Facebook page, The Comic Blog.