On August 18th, Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist are playing defense for New York City. That’s right, in a just few short weeks, all 8 episodes of Marvel’s The Defenders comes to Netflix to bring the pain to The Hand (and possibly some other baddies as well). Each of these vigilantes had their series on the subscription service. It’s time for them to team up. But there’s still a little wait time until they do. So why not get ready by learning more about your favourite street-level heroes’ comic book origins? I’ll be giving you some insight on their first meet ups and team ups, their enemies and even their current comic! Come with me and find out more about New York’s last defense.
Every hero needs a villain. Sherlock Holmes has Moriarty. The Rebels have the Empire. G.I. Joe has Cobra. And The Defenders have The Hand, a ninja clan that’s been around for centuries who gain their power from a demon known as The Beast. They have extremely long life and can resurrect their dead. No wonder they keep popping up in Netflix series. You can’t get rid of these guys. They’ve been a pretty worthy adversary so far. And now they have Sigourney Weaver in their ranks, so they must be bad-ass. But what about The Hand in the comics? They first appeared in 1981 in Daredevil #174 and fought many a street level hero since. Let’s take a look at some of their greatest comic book appearances.
The Assassination of Matt Murdock
(Daredevil #174 – Written and Drawn by Frank Miller / Finished Art by Klaus Janson)
It’s important to have a memorable debut. The Hand had just that in the pages of Frank Miller’s iconic run on Daredevil in the early eighties. The ninja clan show up in New York as assassins for hire and begin to take up all the contracts in the city. This doesn’t sit right with Wilson Fisk (the Kingpin of Crime). But instead of waging war with the newcomers, he hires them to take out attorney Matt Murdock and his client, Melvin Potter (the former masked hood known as the Gladiator). The idea is that the Hand will kill some potential problems and then end up in a war with Daredevil because of it, alleviating Fisk of two opponents without him having direct involvement. It’s a tight plan and makes life harder for Daredevil’s civilian identity.
But Kingpin didn’t take one thing into account: Elektra. A former member of The Hand, she tracks their movements back to New York and becomes a guardian angel for both Murdock and Potter behind the scenes. Daredevil isn’t even aware of her involvement until after the fact. When Matt temporarily loses his radar sense after coming in contact with an explosive device, he tries to shake off the bomb’s effects and rushes into a fight with the Hand. But he’s truly fighting blind this time. He doesn’t know that Elektra’s already on the scene. She frees Potter and gives him his Gladiator armor.
This leads to a big fight and The Hand are sent packing. Not sensing Elektra, Matty thinks he’s done it all by himself. But Gladiator sets him straight when it’s all said and done and DD realizes just how close he came to losing without his former lover’s help.
(Daredevil #190 – Written by Frank Miller / Art by Klaus Janson)
Another Elektra-centric story, this issue takes place in both the present and the past. We get a definitive look into how the famous assassin joined both The Hand and The Chaste (a group that fights for the forces of good against The Hand). In the present, The Hand are up their old tricks as they plan to resurrect Elektra to be an immortal warrior. Daredevil, Black Widow and Stone (the last remaining member of The Chaste) set out to stop them.
The Hand get pretty close to winning once again. They unearth Elektra’s body and are all set to raise her. In order to find out where they’ve taken her, Matt must form a short alliance with the Kingpin and take out a rival mob boss. Once gaining the info, DD, Stone and Widow set out to stop the ninja clan.
In the end, they are successful in disrupting The Hand’s ritual and a fight ensues. During the battle, Matt hears a faint heartbeat coming from Elektra. Daredevil leaves the fight because of this and attempts to perform the resurrection ritual on his own. He’s unsuccessful but is able to purify Elektra’s soul. This would lead to Elektra’s eventual return as a member of The Chaste years later. But at the time, The Chaste and The Hand took each other off the playing field.
(Wolverine #1-4 – Written by Chris Claremont / Art by Frank Miller)
While this is the first pick without Daredevil or Elektra, it still involves Frank Miller. Go figure. The creator of The Hand created some of their best stories. What’s interesting with this story is that this was the first time they were featured as hired guns instead of the main antagonist. Wolverine travels to Japan to catch up with his lover Mariko Yashida, who he has lost contact with. When he arrives, he finds that she is betrothed to another and that her father, Lord Shingen, has forbid her from speaking with Logan. But that won’t stop the ol’ Canucklehead from trying to see his lady friend. So Shingen hires The Hand to kill him.
The Hand try on several occasions to take out the mutant but to no avail. Even when he’s betrayed by his new companion, Yukio, he still finds a way to take them out. They are essentially cannon fodder in this story. The big showdown is between Wolverine and Shingen but The Hand are still enjoyable as the henchmen of the piece.
Miller’s visuals of Logan fighting a horde of ninja is freakin’ spectacular. Even though The Hand mostly got their asses handed to them in this miniseries, they still looked pretty cool.
Enemy of the State
(Wolverine Vol. 2 #20-32 – Written by Mark Millar / Art by John Romita Jr.)
The first story on the list that doesn’t involve Frank Miller. We get Mark Millar instead! This was probably one of the best year long story arcs to come out of Marvel in the early 2000s. Wolverine is set up and taken out by The Gorgon, the new leader of the Hand. He kills Logan and resurrects him as the ultimate assassin. Then he unleashes him on the Marvel Universe as the newest agent of Hydra. The goal: kill as many superheroes as you can.
The combined forces of the Avengers, the X-Men and S.H.I.E.L.D. are not even prepared for what comes next as Logan and the Hand go on a killing spree. They even go after Daredevil but are unsuccessful….or are they? Turns out it was all a ploy to get Elektra with her guard down so The Gorgon can off her too. Wolverine ends up picking off Northstar shortly after that. Then comes phase two: resurrecting an evil superhero army.
Hydra and The Hand amass a collection of third string heroes to use as fodder against S.H.I.E.L.D. But the spy organization gets back some ground when they are able to capture and re-program Wolverine. Logan eventually tracks down The Gorgon and takes him off the board. Elektra then takes control of the Hand and moves their attentions elsewhere, leaving Hydra without an army. So the good guys win? Kind of. Elektra is a villain for a time after this (and then turns out to be a Skrull, but that’s a story for another time). The Hand isn’t so much thwarted as they are removed from the equation. So technically, they didn’t lose. You gotta take the wins where you can get ’em, I say.
That brings us to the end of another installment of our countdown. If you get the chance, go check these comics out for yourself. Be sure to check back here next week for more insight into the comic book counter parts of The Defenders.
Marvel’s the Defenders debuts on Netflix on August 18th.
If you’re gonna geek out, GEEK HARD!