On March 18th, we’re heading back to the Devil’s playground, Hell’s Kitchen. For fans without fear, both new and old, that Friday will be the start of a binge watch that will cause many to turn a blind eye to other work or obligations they have as Netflix launches all 13 episodes of Daredevil Season 2. The first season took the streaming service by storm and Matt Murdock gained many new fans as he defeated the nefarious Wilson Fisk (a.k.a. the Kingpin). But with a new season comes new challenges and I’m here to get you ready for them. Over the next few weeks leading up to the new season’s release, I’ll be dropping more Daredevil comic history knowledge, focusing on new characters, storylines and predictions. There’s still a fight to be won on the streets of Hell’s Kitchen, and with Countdown to Daredevil, you’ll know who all the players are.
This week, we take a look at the most notorious group of shit disturbers in Daredevil lore: The Hand. Introduced in Daredevil #174, The Hand are a ninja clan that was formed in 1588. Once a Japanese secret society of samurai, the group was co-opted and corrupted by a clan known as the Snakeroot and became not only mercenaries working for the highest bidder but also a force out to obtain power all over the world. The Hand became worshipers of a demon known as the Beast, who’s dark magic grants them long life and the ability to raise the dead…..so they keep coming back. They helped create Hydra, have corrupted superheroes and are play a starring role in one of the WORST Daredevil story arcs of all time. But despite some ups and downs, they remain a constant thorn in the side of Matt Murdock and a number of other superheroes that reside in New York.
Their appearances during Frank Miller’s Daredevil run are some of their best. They are first mentioned by Elektra as the group that trained her as an assassin. But when they make their way to Hell’s Kitchen, it is not her that they seek. Hired by the Kingpin, The Hand set out to kill Matt Murdock. They fail, of course, but not for lack of trying. It takes Daredevil, Elektra and Gladiator to defeat them. This is just the first wave as they quickly return for Elektra, this time sending Kirigi, their most fearsome ninja, to do the job. He makes several attempts but is also unsuccessful.
After these minor setbacks, the Hand decides to kick things up a notch and go after their rivals, a group known as the Chaste. The Chaste are led by Stick, the blind martial arts master that trained Matt Murdock and Elektra for a time. Four Hand ninjas are dispatched to take out Stick but he and one of his followers steal their life energy to stop them. This kind of backfires as Stick cannot handle the amount of energy he’s absorbed and ends up exploding from the power of the life force inside him. So the Hand kind of gets a win here. This is the same story arc where they attempt to resurrect Elektra (recently killed by Bullseye) as a new agent in their clan. DD and the remaining members of The Chaste are able to stop this also. So for an undying ninja clan with the powers of a demon backing them, they sure didn’t stack up too well against the blind lawyer from Hell’s Kitchen.
Throughout the 80s, The Hand would pop up numerous times, usually as hired guns and usually whenever a character was in Japan. Wolverine’s encounter with them in his first miniseries is probably the most notable. They were working Lord Shingen, a Yakuza crime lord and head of the Yashida clan at the time. Logan would have to defeat a whole bunch of Hand ninjas to get to Shingen, who he would kill for the right to marry his daughter, Mariko. But as the decades pass, the Hand mostly faded into the background.
In the past 15 years, the Hand gained attention once again. Some good, some bad. In a Wolverine story called Enemy of the State, the group (along with the help of Hydra) would be successful in killing and resurrecting the best there is at what he does. Logan would go on a superhero kill spree, taking out both Elektra and Northstar as well as a bunch of third stringers that would be resurrected as a superhero army to attack the S.H.E.I.L.D. helicarrier. S.H.I.E.L.D. would have to capture and de-program Wolvie in order to stop the Hand. In the end, Elektra would take control of the clan and focus their attentions elsewhere……that is until it’s revealed that Elektra is really a Skrull replaced during the Secret Invasion. I know, it’s kind of a cop-out but that’s what happens when you set up big crossover event books: you shit on past stories.
Because of the Skrullektra debacle, the Hand was a bit of a laughing stock in the eyes of the crime world and were hurting bad without any real leadership. This lead them to go to the last guy you’d think of to take charge: Daredevil. They go after him hardcore but he refuses. DD’s eventually tricked into taking the position when the job is offered to Wilson Fisk, a.k.a. The Kingpin instead. Matt takes the position on the condition that the clan cuts all ties with Fisk and Lady Bullseye. Thus begins the WORST Daredevil story of all time: Shadowland.
With the Hand now under his power, DD sets up the clan in Hell’s Kitchen as a sort of law enforcement….and then takes things way too far. He kills Bullseye, captures a large number of NYPD officers in the sewers, and sets up police state rule over the neighbourhood. This does not sit well with the street level heroes and they band together to take down Matty and his ninja friends. It’s later revealed that Murdock was possessed by The Beast, the demon that the Hand worships, so he’s not to blame for his actions. No, the real villain here is Andy-fucking-Diggle, who subjected us to one of the worst Daredevil comic runs of all time.
Since then, The Hand has popped up here and there, even being led by The Kingpin, but has never really recovered from the mistake of a story line that was Shadowland. Hopefully they will return to greatness with their appearance in Season 2 of Marvel’s Daredevil. One can only hope. That’s it for this week. Be sure to check back here next week for more Daredevil knowledge.
Marvel’s Daredevil, Season 2 debuts on Netflix on March 18th.
If you’re gonna geek out, GEEK HARD!
Last Week’s Column: DD’s Worst Villains
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