WARNING: This article contains spoilers for Marvel Knights 20th #1, by Donny Cates, Travel Foreman, Derek Fridolfs, Matt Milla and VC's Cory Petit, out today.
As you read through Marvel Knights 20th #1 -- the first part of the anniversary series celebrating the famed imprint -- you start to unravel a mystery that stretches wide across the entire Marvel Universe, one that’s far more complex than you initially imagine. What begins with Daredevil is soon revealed to encompass superheroes from Captain America to the Fantastic Four, and, seemingly, no one has been spared.
What exactly has happened to the Marvel Universe? As the issue opens, we see Matt Murdock crying over Karen Page’s grave. Longtime fans will remember Karen’s fight against AIDS in the Marvel Knights edition of Daredevil 20 years ago, and if you do remember those issues, you’re doing better than Matt. It’s quickly revealed that he has no memory of who Karen is, or why he’s crying over her grave. More worryingly, he has no idea who he is either, which means he has no memory of being Daredevil.
He’s not alone either, as we find that Frank Castle, aka the Punisher, has only recently been “woken up” by none other than Bruce Banner. Castle approaches Matt Murdock with a scrap of paper with the information given to him from Banner’s gamma-irradiated alter-ego Hulk, who it appears has been spared from whatever memory wipe has overtaken the Marvel Universe. As Banner and Castle try -- and fail -- to apprehend Daredevil, we see a list of names Banner also was to similarly “wake up,” which includes Captain America, Tony Stark, Elektra, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones and Wolverine.
Even more interestingly, it’s not just superheroes who’ve had their memories wiped. When Matt runs to his law firm to find his best friend Foggy Nelson, he find himself faced with a scared man who has no idea who Matt is. Foggy shares a law firm not with Matt, but with Jennifer Walters, who similarly doesn’t seem to remember that she is, in fact, She-Hulk. When we see Foggy’s face as he stares at Matt’s business card and finds that -- to him, at least -- the card is blank, it becomes obvious that this goes further than a mere memory wipe. People’s most basic perceptions of their surroundings have been changed.
This idea is further compounded when Matt bumps into Ben Grimm and the rest of the Fantastic Four while fleeing the police. While Matt sees the FF for who and what they are, Ben looks at his reflection in a shop window and doesn’t see his usual rocky visage but his human form. Whatever powerful magic is affecting everyone’s memory seems to be affecting how they view themselves and the world around them. By the end of the issue, however, we see that it’s not only heroes and their friends who are affected, but the villains, too.
Earlier in the issue, Bullseye was following Frank Castle and Bruce Banner as they confront Daredevil, before reporting back to an unseen person. By the end of the issue we learn that he’s been speaking to none other than Wilson Fisk, and while the Kingpin does seem to possess more information than he’s ready to reveal, it’s clear that both he and Bullseye have been affected by the force that’s swept over the Marvel Universe. Not only that, as Kingpin dismisses Bullseye, we see that he himself is reporting to a higher power: Doctor Doom, flanked by Taskmaster and Crossbones.
It’s here that Kingpin reveals perhaps the most intriguing clue to this mystery, as he pleads with Doctor Doom about the superheroes that are slowly having their memories restored. He asks the Latverian ruler if they can not “use the machine” to make them all forget again, to which Doom replies, “There is a dragon wrapped around the machine,” preventing him from using it. It appears Doom and Kingpin have dabbled in something beyond their own control, and now the rest of the Marvel Universe is suffering. Not only that, but they seem unable to do anything to reverse it. We’ll have to wait two weeks for Marvel Knights 20th #2 for more clues to this mystery, as well whether Daredevil, Punisher and the rest of the Marvel Universe can move closer to undoing whatever is that's been done to them.