Daredevil leaps across rooftops and back onto our screens on Friday, and he's facing some tough new enemies, but who are Elektra and the Punisher?
Exclusive to Netflix, "Daredevil" tells the story of idealistic lawyer Matt Murdock, played by Charlie Cox, who doesn't let a little thing like being blind get in the way of running around rooftops in tight clothing and beating the tar out of bad guys. Skilled martial art kickpunchery and heightened radarlike senses helped him defeat the imposing Wilson Fisk in season one, but now he faces a number of new threats.
"Daredevil" was the first of four collaborations between Marvel and Netflix to shine a light on darker corners of the Marvel universe. A gritty, violent vision of the tough choices at the outer reaches of street-level super heroics, the show promises more brutal action. Season two introduces two characters from the comics who test Daredevil not just with their physical prowess but also with their no-holds-barred morality. Can Daredevil keep his soul intact as well as his body when he faces these new threats?
Created by artist and writer Frank Miller, Elektra first appeared in January 1981, in "Daredevil" issue 168. A skilled martial artist and deadly assassin, Elektra has taken on various Marvel heroes many times in the comics. But her relationship with Daredevil is a complex one, because when they were college students, young Elektra Natchios and Matt Murdock were lovers.
After the death of her father, the Greek ambassador to the US, Elektra took up martial arts and eventually became a killer for the Hand, an evil ninja sect. Though creator Frank Miller killed Elektra and intended her to stay dead, the character has been resurrected a number of times.
Elektra is played in the new series by French actress Élodie Yung, previously seen as another ninja in "G.I. Joe: Retaliation" and a goddess in "Gods of Egypt".
Elektra previously appeared, played by Jennifer Garner, in the 2003 "Daredevil" movie starring Ben Affleck. Although the film is much-maligned, she was popular enough to appear in her own spin-off movie -- which was even worse.
The Punisher is Frank Castle, a former US marine who declares war on criminals when his wife and child are killed in the crossfire of a gun battle in New York's Central Park. And we do mean war: The Punisher has no superpowers, instead bringing the skills and heavy armament of a soldier to bear.
Driven by vengeance, Castle dons a black uniform with a distinctive skull on his chest and sets out to kill as many criminals as possible. Though he's had some more-wacky adventures -- including the times he was brought back from the dead as an angel and later as the monstrous FrankenCastle -- his stories have usually been grim and gritty affairs. Most notably under writer Garth Ennis, the Punisher has been the star of some of the darkest stories ever published by Marvel.
Created by writer Gerry Conway and artist John Romita Sr., the Punisher made his first appearance in "The Amazing Spider-Man" issue 129 in February 1974. He was determined to kill your friendly neighbourhood wallcrawler, who had been falsely accused of murder, and since then his unapologetic killing of criminals has often brought him into conflict with more liberal heroes.
Seeing as both hunt criminals in New York, the Punisher and Daredevil have come up against each other many times, beginning in 1982 in "Daredevil" issue 183. Daredevil's athleticism and powers are matched by Castle's unapologetic violence and sheer aggression. And in Garth Ennis' run, the Punisher won something of a pyrrhic victory when he managed to subdue Daredevil long enough to chain the red-clad hero to a rooftop...with a pistol taped to his hand. Castle gave Daredevil the choice to kill him to prevent Castle killing again, a choice Daredevil anguished over before pulling the trigger. That moment inspired a scene in "Daredevil" season 2.
Speaking of memorable clashes with superheroes, the Punisher's run-in with Wolverine showed off his highly imaginative approach to violence. The fight between the man who lives to kill and the man who can't die ended when the Punisher immobilised Wolverine by shooting him in the knees then ran him over with a steamroller.
Jon Bernthal, star of "The Walking Dead" and "Fury", plays Castle in the new series of "Daredevil". He's not the first to play the role, the character appearing in three movies that started with only a loose connection to the comics and have become more accurate over time. Action star Dolph Lundgren played a version of the character in "The Punisher" in 1989. Then in 2004 Thomas Jane donned the black outfit in a movie that altered Frank Castle's origin slightly but also drew directly on some characters and scenes from Garth Ennis' run. Then in 2008 Ray Stevenson played Castle in "Punisher: War Zone", probably the closest film to the comics.
Every episode of season 2 of "Daredevil" will be on Netflix on Friday 18 March, in every country in which the streaming service is available.