Saturday, September 19, 2015

Rumor Has It... Netflix Phase 2

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Welcome back to the next edition of “Rumor Has It,” my somewhat new off-and-on series looking at Marvel-related rumors.  These won’t come out very often, but it will generally come on Saturday afternoon dealing with a rumor from the “Weekly MCU Review” that was prefaced with the phrase “Rumor has it.”

Today, Rumor Has It that Marvel is considering the following slate for its Netflix Phase 2, starting in 2018 after the release of The Defenders:

2018: Moon Knight with Bushman as the main villain
2018: The Punisher with Jigsaw as the main villain
2019: Deathlok with Fixer as the main villain
2019: Spider-Woman with Madame Hydra as the main villain

As of now this is very much just a rumor from a single website which is actually younger than “Mostly MCU Reviews” (how weird is that?), with their first article coming at the end of May (mine was the beginning of March), so we need to be taking it with an economy-sized bag of salt.  However, I absolutely think that this slate of TV series is possible for several reasons.  In this article I will run down the heroes and villains listed as well are arguments in favor of or against their inclusion on Netflix.  I’ve talked about the subject of Marvel Netflix Phase 2 a couple of times already; one of my articles associated with Daredevil season 1 was this projection of Netflix Phase 2.  I mentioned all of these characters except Deathlok in that article, but Moon Knight was the only one I included in my Phase 2 line-up (but during the correct year!).  Of course, that’s working without any industry sources, so I guess that’s not too bad…

But without further ado, let’s get down to the brass tacks of the rumor.  Remember:  all the analysis is my own, and I’m not working off of any insider information, so you can take that with a bag of salt, too!

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Moon Knight (2018)

The Character

Marc Spector is one of the various Marvel Comics versions of Batman.  He’s an eccentric millionaire, expert in multiple forms of martial arts, and fights crime in an armored suit.  However, unlike Batman, he actually gained his training as a former Marine before selling his talents to the highest bidder as a mercenary.  While on one such job he was killed by Raoul Bushman (the listed villain for the series) and reanimated by the Egyptian moon god Khonshu to serve as his avatar.  Khonshu also grants him enhanced abilities which shift based on the phase of the moon.  On his return to America, Spector creates several aliases to help him in his war against crime, including a millionaire playboy, a cab driver, and of course the Moon Knight.  However, these aliases develop their own distinct personalities, giving him multiple personality disorder, which would make him a very interesting character to explore over the course of a TV series.

Moon Knight wears an armored suit, carries multiple unique moon-based weapons, and even flies his own helicopter.

The Villain (Bushman)

Raoul Bushman is the African mercenary who hired Marc Spector as part of a team which attacked an archaeological dig in Egypt, killed the archaeologist, and looted the dig site.  However, Spector turned on Bushman and challenged him to single-combat, which Bushman won, killing Spector in the process.  After Khonshu reanimated him, Spector returned and killed Bushman.

Bushman was later resurrected as part of a team which worked for the Hood to fight Moon Knight in New York City.

Bushman does not have any superhuman abilities, though he is an expert with firearms as well as unarmed combat.

Arguments in Favor

Moon Knight’s power set, and especially the source of his powers, is something we have not really seen in the MCU; they fall more into the realm of Doctor Strange than being the form of “magic” we associate with Thor and Asgard.

There was also a rumor back in 2008-2009 that Marvel was working on a Moon Knight TV series—similar to the situation with A.K.A. Jessica Jones before it was picked up for Netflix.  Could the Moon Knight series be gong the same way as the Jessica Jones series?

Arguments Against

Unfortunately, for as much as I would love to see a Moon Knight series, I’m worried that the character is a little too similar to the Punisher (another heavily-armed vigilante) for the two of them to appear in Netflix series during the same year.  Add to that the fact that the Ben Affleck Batman movie will be coming out sometime between now and 2020 (possibly even 2018), and I just can’t see a Marvel version of Batman getting his own Netflix series in 2018 when the public may already be gearing up for the “real deal.”  Focusing the series on Moon Knight’s origin may be a way to avoid the Batman comparisons and make the two (three) work during the same year.

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Punisher (2018)

The Character

Frank Castle is another former Marine who (in the comics) served in the Vietnam War, even going so far as to change his name and reenlist so he could serve more than the maximum number of tours.  Castle has a wife and two children at home whom he adores.  However, his whole family is targeted by the mob after witnessing a gangland hit in Central Park while Castle was on leave.  Frank was the only survivor of the hit, leading him to put his considerable military skills to work in getting revenge on the mob for taking away his family.

Castle does not have any superhuman abilities, but his is an expert marksman with anything that shoots a bullet as well as an expert in guerrilla warfare.  Oh, and he has absolutely no qualms with murdering criminals in cold blood to “punish” them for their crimes.

The Villain (Jigsaw)

Billy Russo, a.k.a. Jigsaw, is a mob hitman, specifically the hitman behind the murders of Frank Castle’s family as well as the hit which they witnessed.  Following the Castle murders, the Punisher tracks down Russo and his associates.  Castle guns down all of Russo’s associates, but leaves Russo himself alive to deliver a message to his bosses.  However, in the confrontation Russo’s face is horribly disfigured when Castle shoots out a pane of glass which shatters and cuts his face up, giving him a jigsaw-like pattern of scars.

The two clash regularly throughout their shared comic book history, with each attempting in turn to kill the other and failing.

Arguments in Favor

Of all the series/characters on this list, Punisher makes the most sense for a Phase 2 Netflix series because we know that he will already have appeared in a Marvel Netflix series before 2018 (and I think he may even join the team for The Defenders in 2017).  In terms of special effects, Punisher would probably be the most budget-friendly of these characters to bring to life on the big screen because his suit and weaponry are more straightforward than either Moon Knight or Deathlok and he does not have any potentially-expensive superpowers like Spider-Woman.

Punisher also makes sense when you look at Marvel’s goals with their Netflix series.  Marvel has to some extent been using Netflix as a way to rehabilitate characters who appeared in previous movies (Daredevil, Punisher, Bullseye, Elektra, Kingpin…), and Punisher himself has already appeared in 3 movies, none of which were particularly well received.  Pitting Punisher against Jigsaw (who appeared in the 2008 Punisher: War Zone) would make a lot of sense to give both a fresh start.

Likewise, Marvel is using Netflix to go darker, and there are very few characters darker than the Punisher!

Arguments Against

I can’t think of any arguments against this Punisher idea.  If you think of one, put it in the comments below.

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Deathlok (2019)

The Character

“Deathlok” is the codename given to a number of characters in Marvel Comics, all of whom share similar traits.  In essence, Deathlok is a cyborg created by the fusion of robotic technology and a human body/brain.  The first Deathlok was a dead soldier whose body was reanimated as a cyborg.  Most of the others are human brains placed inside cyborg bodies.

Unique among these eight characters, Deathlok and the Deathlok Program have already appeared in the MCU on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.  Mike Peterson was a regular guy who volunteered for a Hydra experiment (without knowing it was Hydra) which gave him super-strength.  Peterson was saved by S.H.I.E.L.D. and became a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent.  However, he was captured by Hydra and given technological modifications including a prosthetic leg, laser-targeting eye, wrist-mounted rocket launcher, body armor, and the like.  He was freed from Hydra control by S.H.I.E.L.D. after the Hydra uprising, and joined Coulson’s S.H.I.E.L.D. organization as a covert agent tracking down Hydra leads.  I expect him to join the Secret Warriors in AoS season 3.

Peterson is not the first Deathlok in the MCU, however.  The Deathlok Program goes back several decades, with S.H.I.E.L.D./Hydra Agent John Garrett serving as the first subject.

The Villain (Fixer)

The Fixer is a name used by two Marvel villains, but I’m going to assume that the Fixer in question is the second character, Paul Ebersol, a scientist who did odd jobs before making a name for himself as a genius-level inventor who worked for criminal organizations like Hydra.  In fact, the Fixer has been involved with just about every supervillain in the Marvel universe, including Doctor Doom, Baron Zemo, the Masters of Evil, and the Thunderbolts.

Eventually the Fixer attempted to redeem himself as a member of the Thunderbolts and the Redeemers (another group of villains trying to “redeem” themselves like the Thunderbolts).

The one storyline I can find involving both the Fixer and Deathlok is when the Fixer mind-controlled the first Deathlok to force him to assassinate the President of the U.S., though that scheme was eventually thwarted by Nick Fury and the Thing.

Arguments in Favor

Like Punisher, Deathlok has already appeared in the MCU, making it entirely possible for a Netflix series to pick up where his Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. story leaves off, explore his character in far more depth than AoS can, and move his story forward.  Additionally, Deathlok is a very violent and dark character, something which Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. can’t portray on network TV nearly as well as it could be shown on Netflix.

The character of Mike Peterson thus far has a very interesting story as he has been manipulated by Hydra to the point of losing his humanity and has now begun trying to redeem himself.  The series could also work with the theme of fatherhood the same way that Ant-Man did, as Mike has a young son named Ace whom he has not seen since he went to work for S.H.I.E.L.D.

A Deathlok series would also be an excellent way for Marvel TV to build up the connections between Marvel ABC and Marvel Netflix.

Arguments Against

If Deathlok receives his own series, one concern I have is that he might be removed from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and at this point he’s the only technologically-powered superhero on the show.  Of course, there’s no reason to believe he couldn’t be on both series.

The bigger argument I have against this plan concerns the villain and potential storyline that he may represent.  If the storyline were Fixer mind-controlling Deathlok into assassinating the President, it would be a rehash of The Avengers (when Hawkeye was mind-controlled by Loki), Iron Man 3 (when Killian attempted to assassinate the President), Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 1 (when Deathlok himself was forced to work for Hydra), and Captain America: The Winter Soldier (when Hydra’s INSIGHT program was shown targeting the President for assassination).  I’m sure they could find a way to put a unique spin on this story, but I would prefer to see a different story altogether.

However, the storyline for this series could be entirely different; what do I know?

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Spider-Woman (2019)

The Character

Spider-Woman was probably originally created by Marvel as a way to prevent other comic companies from profiting off of the success of Spider-Man.  However, following her first appearance she actually gained a following and became a reasonably popular character, so much so that the Marvel is going to publish a new solo series for her as part of the All-New, All-Different Marvel.

Jessica Drew was born in London, but her family moved to Mount Wundagore in Transia when she was young.  She becomes ill from radiation poisoning, and her father (who is working for the High Evolutionary because that’s the only reason anyone goes to Mount Wundagore… aside from being ready to pop with super-babies!) injects her with an experimental serum of irradiated spider blood to save her life.  He puts her in a “genetic accelerator” (which causes her to age at a decelerated rate) so the serum can take effect, and when she is released decades later, she is only 17 years old.  She is quickly captured by Hydra, which brainwashes her into becoming a sleeper agent to infiltrate S.H.I.E.L.D.  Her first mission is to assassinate Nick Fury, but she fails, learns Hydra’s true nature, and goes to work for S.H.I.E.L.D.  However, she is eventually recaptured by Hydra and reactivated as a double agent within S.H.I.E.L.D.  She was also replaced by the Skrull Queen Veranke during the Secret Invasion storyline (girl can’t catch a break!).

Spider-Woman has a number of spider-based abilities, though mostly different ones from Spider-Man.  She has superhuman strength, hearing, smell, and durability.  She also has the ability to cling to surfaces like a spider.  She develops quick immunities to poisons and toxins.  Her most interesting powers are that she secrets strong pheromones which attract men and repel women and that she can discharge blasts of bio-energy from her palms (her “venom blast”), similar to Wasp’s “bio-stings.”

The Villain (Madame Hydra)

The girl who would become Madame Hydra (who also goes by the codename Viper) began as an orphan in Central Europe.  She was taken in by Hydra, where Daniel Whitehall raised her to become a Hydra agent.  As a Hydra agent she fought Captain America, the Avengers, and S.H.I.E.L.D. on numerous occasions before going solo, taking the name Viper (from its previous owner) and taking over the snake-themed villain group the Serpent Squad.

The demon Chthon later made Madame Hydra believe that she was Jessica Drew’s long-deceased mother, Merriem Drew, who had been granted longevity for allying herself with Chthon.  This led the two into conflict with each other and with Chthon, who was trying to control both of them.  Interestingly, Chthon has a strong connection to the High Evolutionary and Jessica Drew’s origin in the comics—as well as to the Scarlet Witch.

Oh, and Madame Hydra/Viper also blackmails Wolverine into marrying her, so there’s that.

Arguments in Favor

Based on the MCU as we have seen it so far, Jessica Drew and Madame Hydra would fit right in, with their stories connecting to S.H.I.E.L.D. and Hydra.  We have already met Daniel Whitehall on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 2 as a Hydra head with a penchant for brainwashing people into compliance.  It would be entirely possible to explain that Jessica Drew and Madame Hydra were both Central European orphans “adopted” by Whitehall after his release from S.H.I.E.L.D. custody and whom he trained/brainwashed (in Jessica’s case) to become Hydra agents and infiltrate S.H.I.E.L.D. on his behalf.  Jessica’s powers could either come from the High Evolutionary (or his equivalent), explaining Hydra’s desire to brainwash her, or from Hydra experimentation.  She could even be one of the enhanceds that Cap mentioned fighting at other Hydra bases in Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Jessica Drew’s storyline could be about her attempts to atone for her time as a brainwashed Hydra agent, while Madame Hydra seeks revenge against her for betraying Hydra, which would fit very nicely into the S.H.I.E.L.D.-vs.-Hydra storyline that has been playing out on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. for the last season-plus.

Arguments Against

As long as Hell’s Kitchen/New York City is big enough for two superheroes named “Jessica,” I really don’t see a problem with her.  However, I do wonder if Marvel will still be fighting Hydra 4 years from now.

One concern I have is with the fantastical nature of Spider-Woman and her powers.  Considering that Marvel is already (rumored to be) having trouble figuring out how to depict Iron Fist, would they really want to take on Spider-Woman?


At the end of the day, we really can’t rule any of these potential Netflix series out, but we can’t really confirm any of them at this point, either.  Based on my analysis, any of these series proposals would be plausible within the context of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as all of the characters mentioned could fit into the MCU well.  I think the most “probable” of the four would easily be Punisher as the character will already have appeared on Netflix before then and has been rumored to receive his own series ever since the Marvel/Netflix deal was announced.

If they officially announce that this really is the slate of series as part of Marvel Netflix Phase 2, I will not be disappointed at all; I am very interested in seeing all of these heroes/antiheroes appear in the MCU and in a further exploration of Mike Peterson, a.k.a. Deathlok, and his redemption arc.  However, I do think that Marvel would be best-served by adding 2 additional seasons to this slate.

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First, I would want to see a Heroes for Hire series as the natural successor to Luke Cage and Iron Fist in 2018.  This series would star the two Heroes for Hire, as well as Misty Knight (among others) starting up their eponymous business in the wake of the events of The Defenders.  Jessica Jones would also appear in several episodes as Luke Cage’s love interest.  This would allow Marvel to further all three of these characters’ stories between The Defenders seasons 1 and 2 without turning it into a straight-up The Defenders season.

Second, I would also want to see a season of Daredevil in 2019, also as a way to further his story.  Following The Defenders, I could see Matt Murdock hiring Jessica Jones as his bodyguard (as in the comics), giving her an opportunity to appear in that series.  This would allow the established Defenders to continue their stories during that time alongside the new characters’ series.

What are your thoughts on these rumored Netflix series?  Do you think Marvel will go this direction, or will they do something completely different?  Would you want to see these characters?  Let me know in the comments!

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