It was four long years ago when the acclaimed Marvel series took its final bow on Netflix. Now, Daredevil star Charlie Cox is back wearing the red (with added mustard yellow) horns in She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, sharing screen time opposite Tatiana Maslany as Jennifer Walters.
At a glance, a comedy like She-Hulk isn’t the most obvious venue for Daredevil to debut in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (putting aside Murdock’s single mundane scene in Spider-Man: No Way Home). Daredevil spent three seasons exploring the Catholic pathos of Matt Murdock and his relentlessly under-lit corner of Hell’s Kitchen. From beating up human traffickers to having serious debates with the Punisher, Daredevil was far removed from the joke-a-minute modern MCU.
But now there’s an unmistakable “MCU filter” that colors Daredevil’s presence. Like a deal with the devil, there’s a lot to love about Daredevil’s return... and a lot to be worried about, especially with his upcoming series and the inevitable arrival of other “dark” Netflix characters to Marvel’s overcrowded canon.
First, it’s comforting to know Daredevil hasn’t totally lost his sense of self. In the new She-Hulk episode “Ribbit and Rip It,” Daredevil is still serious, and a stark contrast to the very un-serious Jennifer Walters. Daredevil treats superhero-ing with gravitas, and while he could be read as condescending to She-Hulk, he still makes a solid point. Jennifer has avoided being a superhero. There’s no disputing that she’s strong, and she may have a few archenemies, but that doesn’t mean she knows what she’s doing in the field. Daredevil exists as the established veteran to ensure Jennifer is made aware that experience matters.
But Daredevil has adapted to his new environment. His appearance in She-Hulk is the first time fans are witnessing him use his mouth as much as his fists. When Z-list superzero Leap Frog (Brandon Stanley) suspects Daredevil might be a lawyer, Daredevil disguises his identity by retorting, “No, I’m just a big fan of legal dramas.” Clever.
It might seem uncharacteristic of Daredevil to have wit if his grim Netflix series is your only reference. But comic book readers know Matt Murdock actually has a funny bone, particularly in the popular Mark Waid run in the early 2010s that brought the character back from irrelevancy.
Still, there was some wobbly execution to Daredevil’s first real appearance in the MCU. Fans were quick to note how rubbery Daredevil’s movement looked, especially in his brief scuffle with Jennifer Walters.
The CG work that her character demands will make anyone fighting her look rough. Daredevil is no exception, with his appearance looking especially weightless compared to the visceral combat of his own series. Daredevil was always meant to be acrobatic, but in live-action TV gravity and physics matter a great deal. When “live-action” characters start to flop around like cartoons, the suspension of disbelief already asked of the audience begins to stretch thin.
The Inverse Analysis — Daredevil’s portrayal in the MCU has been competent so far, but the future arrivals of darker characters like Deadpool, Wolverine, and the Punisher could be subject to the same “MCU filter” that renders them less like onscreen characters and more like video game avatars. And if Daredevil’s quasi-sequel series on Disney+, Daredevil: Born Again, looks just like Daredevil’s appearance in She-Hulk, we’ll have a problem.
Fans wanted Daredevil in this franchise again, but is it worth it if Daredevil looks less like the dark hero fans remember and more like just another MCU action figure? There’s a reason fans loved Daredevil to begin with, and it wasn’t because he was like everyone else in the Marvel universe.
She-Hulk: Attorney at Law streams new episodes Thursdays on Disney+.