I recently completed a discussion of 13 volumes of Marvel Masterworks - Daredevil over in the "What Comics Have You Read Today?" thread. While I'm waiting for the 14th, I thought I'd skip ahead to Frank Miller's celebrated run. I didn't start read Daredevil until nearly the end of Miller's tenure (I'll point it out when we get there), but I almost immediately began collecting backissues and, before too long, had acquired a nigh-complete set. I never did get an original copy of #158, Miller's fist, though. While it was readily available, it was simply too expensive. When I finally got to read it I realized it fit better as the conclusion of the previous storyline rather than as the beginning of a new one, so that's how I'm going to handle it. The question remains, then: with which issue should I begin this discussion?

I've never been a big fan of What If...?... except 1) when the stories were actually part of the MU proper (such as #4, "What if the Invaders Had Stayed Together After World war II?" or 2) when the stories were told by the regular title's creative team (such as #32, John Byrne's "What If the Fantastic Four Had Not Gained Their Powers?). Issue #28, "What If Daredevil Became an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D?" (co-plotted and drawn by Frank Miller) seemed to fit that bill, but although a acquired this issue many years ago, I did not read it until today.

It's honestly not very good.

Oh, the story itself is okay, but the continuity (for those of use who care about such things) is way off. Teenage Matt Murdock is struck across the eyes and blinded by a radioactive isotope as per usual, but in this version, Tony Stark is following behind. "Blast it. I told them not to take that stuff through Manhatten! Given five minutes, i could have arranged for air transport!" Well, why didn't you? setting aside that this revelation makes no sense, it opens up the question of Tony Stark's liability in the blinding of Matt Murdock. 

But that's not my problem with this scenario. the next thing stark does is load Murdock into his flying car and go zooming off to the S.H.I.E.L.D. heli-carrier. Daredevil #1 was published in 1964.Strange Tales #135 (the first appearance of S.H.I.E.L.D.) was published in 1965. Even given the sliding nature of "Marvel Time," the accident which triggered Matt Murdock's heightened senses was a flashback. After that happened, he still had to attend college/law school, all of which would have taken place years before S.H.I.E.L.D was created. 

I've been looking for an "alternate" beginning to Daredevil besides MMW V1, but this isn't it. 

NEXT: "Marked for Murder!"

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#190:

I planned to end the week with this issue on Friday, but I just realized I won’t be online tomorrow, so please excuse me for posting twice today.

Daredevil, Black Widow and Stone fail to prevent the Hand from stealing Elektra’s body. Daredevil goes to the Kingpin for help. The Kingpin demands quid pro quo, and Daredevil must quash an uprising within the Kingpin’s ranks before the Kingpin will reveal the Hands’ whereabouts. Daredevil, Black Widow and Stone interrupt the resurrection ceremony. Stone is wounded while distracted destroying Elektra’s body. Daredevil thinks he hears a heartbeat, and attempt to revive Elektra using the mystic energy-moving techniques, but fails. As all seems lost, the Kingpin’s men arrive and turn the tide. Moving again to destroy Elektra’s body, Stone notes that it is “clean.”

Outside, Kingpin explains the nature of their relationship, as he sees it, to Daredevil. Back inside, Stone and Elektra are gone, but the Black Widow finds Stone’s empty robe and throws it into the fire without telling Daredevil.

Sometime later, a figure scales the same wall of ice Elektra tried and failed to climb in her youth. She nearly falls, but ultimately reaches the summit. She removes her hood. It is Elektra. She opens her coat to reveal that she is now dressed entirely in white.

And that’s where the saga of Elektra should have ended.
#191:

For this, Frank Miller’s last issue, he returns to pencils. Oddly, Klaus Janson has been replaced as inker by Terry Austin. The interior style (as well as the crosshatching on the cover) provide a preview of Miller’s new technique, a melding of the styles of Moebius and Goseke Kojima, which will flower on his next project, Ronin. In one of the darkest stories yet, Daredevil visits the paralyzed Bullseye in his hospital bed and plays a game of Russian roulette… with a gun, we learn at the end, that is not loaded. The whole story (which references a previous battle in #146) is a mind game. And something else occurred to me for the first time while re-reading this last night, too. Because the story is narrated as an internal monologue, I don’t think Daredevil even says a word to Bullseye the whole time. From Bullseye’s POV, Daredevil just plays a silent game of Russian roulette with an empty gun.
THE MAN WITHOUT FEAR #1:

My original intention had been to cover “Frank Miller’s Daredevil” in release order, which means I would have ended with The Man Without Fear and assessed its appropriateness as a Daredevil #1-10 substitute. Whereas I still intend to do that, What If…? put me in mind of a different way to end this discussion. Also, Miller’s first run on the title put me in the mood to read these “prequel” stories.

Regarding the story, the first issue provides details to the well-known origin. For example, the Fixer ws also a loan shark, and Jack Murdock was one of his “collection” men. Also, Matt’s mother, Maggie (introduced in “Born Again”) is a part of the story from the beginning (or at least her absence is). Stick is also in the background, even before Matt loses his sight. But the story is not “decompressed” (the way Ultimate Spider-Man was, for example); every details serves a purpose.

Art-wise, this is the Romita, Jr. artwork I remember. When I read his recent Superman: Year One, this is what I saw in my head, but side-by-side there is no comparison.

THE MAN WITHOUT FEAR #2:

Matt takes brutal revenge on his father’s killers, one by one. He tracks one of them to a brothel. In the ensuing scuffle, Matt accidentally knocks a hooker out of a window, killing her. I think this in the scene which poisoned me against The Man Without Fear for a long time. But I see now how Miller used this event to shape him into the man he would become. Ironically, I didn’t really even take much note of this death the first time I read it; it was only while discussing it with a fan years later it was brought to my attention. Then I had kind of a knee-jerk reaction without taking into account why Miller included that scene. What do you think of that scene?

Stone and Stick discuss both Matt Murdock and Elektra Natchios. At this time, Stone is for training Murdock and Stick against. Stick mentions that Elektra is already tainted (and this is before her father is killed. Speaking of Elektra, she and Matt meet in quite a different way than they did originally. Granted, that first time (Daredevil #168) was a flashback, and the scenes from both versions could have each happened, but the tone is entirely different. This being what really “happened” in comparison to her actual first appearance being a mere memory (and both being written by the same author), I choose to go with the new version.

This issue foreshadows Matt’s darker side. It also introduces Foggy Nelson.

Wasn't the earlier version of the Matt/Electra meeting Code-approved? This title was not. Miller couldn't done this (his first intention?) under the Code.

I haven't read the story, but this sounds like the "she was only a hooker (or junkie). She's not quite human" bit.

“Wasn't the earlier version of the Matt/Electra meeting Code-approved?”

It was, but this is actually the third (contradictory) version of Elektra’s backstory written by Miller. I plan to point out more of the differences when I get to Elektra: Assassin (from Marvel’s “Epic” imprint, also not subject to Code approval).

Regarding the hooker’s death, she is not even the last person Matt will kill in this mini-series.

NOTE: He also accidentally killed one of the terrorists in Elektra’s first appearance (Daredevil #168).

THE MAN WITHOUT FEAR #3:

This issue features the death of Elektra’s father (entirely off-panel) and introduces the third distinct version of “Poppa” we have seen (following the original and Elektra: Assassin). (I wonder what that says about Elektra’s relationship with her father…?) This story confirms the fact that Elektra is bat$#!t crazy and always has been. The last three pages introduce the Kingpin and depicts the moment he took over the mobs.
THE MAN WITHOUT FEAR #4:

Issues #4 and #5 constitute a two-parter. Matt meets a young girl hanging out at the now-closed Fogwell’s Gym. She is 14 years old and her name is Dominique Moran, but she calls herself “Mickey.” They begin working out together and become friends. One day, two junkies kidnap her for the Kingpin’s child pornography ring. They try running a ransom scheme on the side and are killed by the Kingpin’s hitman, Larks. But Matt is on Mickey’s trail. He dresses all in black and wears a scarf over his face. He retrieves a police baton he stole from the local beat cop years ago and hid in the gym. As the issue ends, he prepares to enter the Kingpin’s warehouse.

THE MAN WITHOUT FEAR #5:

This is the story in which Matt Murdock “becomes” Daredevil.

It starts with Matt killing two guards. (He tackles them into the water. One drowns; the other pulls a knife, which Matt turns on him.) I must admit, I had completely forgotten about this development. If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t like his heroes to kill ever, this story isn’t for you. (Honestly, I don’t have a lot of patience for criminals who prey on children.) Then he sets off some explosives and beats a dozen guards bloody with the policeman’s nightstick he retrieved last issue. Larks runs, taking Mickey with him. Matt tracks them, catches up to them, and says…

“I don’t want to kill you. Let her go.”

Larks shoots him in the arm.

Matt repeats: “I don’t want to kill you. Let her go.”

Larks fires again. Matt swats the bullet away with the nightstick.

“Damn, who the devil are you?” asks Larks.

“Call me Daredevil,” says Matt, embracing the name for the first time. “I don’t want to kill you. Let her go.”

“Daredevil, sure. Whatever. You’re dead, Daredevil.”

“Please. I’m begging you. I don’t want to kill you. Let her go.”

Larks shoots again. Again Daredevil swats the bullet away, but this time it hits Larks right between the eyes.

Later, Matt and Foggy officially become partners. Stick makes a final appearance. Daredevil gets a costume. That’s three more deaths this issue, for a total of four. One problem trying to fit this origin into continuity: there’s no Karen Page. He and Foggy no doubt hired her directly after this story, but that leads to another problem. This story doesn’t lead smoothly into the original Daredevil #1 because Daredevil took his revenge on the Fixer after he got his costume. I’ve got an idea how to reconcile these differences, though, but I won’t get to it for a while. Just keep it in mind. Also, I wonder whatever happened to Mickey…?

ELEKTRA SAGA (#1):

I’m not going to cover the entire abridged series so soon after covering Elektra’s entire arc in Daredevil, but if you want to make sense of Elektra’s wildly contradictory backstory, I suggest reading Elektra Saga #1 immediately before Elektra: Assassin #1. This is what I did, even though I read the originals only recently. (I was surprised and disappointed to discover that even my mando paper reprints are turning yellow with age.) What this does is to gather the (more-or-less) reliable parts of Elektra’s backstory in chronological order.

“It begins with a sunny September afternoon… It begins with a nineteen year old boy who has not yet found a use fr his strange powers… Matt does not see. But he smells a delicate French perfume… and hears a voice as soft as velvet.”

Alternately, for a more in-depth experience, I suggest reading The Man Without Fear prior to Elektra Saga #1 (starting with “Unbidden, her thoughts return to Matt…”), followed by Elektra: Assassin, then Daredevil #174-182.

NEXT WEEK: Elektra: Assassin
ELEKTRA: ASSASSIN #1:

I had forgotten how much Elektra’s backstory in Elektra: Assassin contradicts her backstory in Daredevil, but I chalk that up to how she remembers those events and how he does. It’s possible to take the scenes of Matt and Elektra’s college days and place them in chronological order, but there’s no reconciling Elektra’s innocent naiveté of Daredevil #168 with her bat#!t crazy of The Man Without Fear #2-3. Also, Elektra spends all of Elektra: Assassin #1 drugged and confined in a madhouse, so I’m not certain how accurate those flashbacks are. For example, it is suggested that she was molested by her father as a child. Also, she trained with the Chaste and was rejected before she met Matt, when she was 12 years old, not after her father was killed, as in the original version. FWIW, I prefer the original, but that would explain how Stick knew so much about her in The Man Without Fear. Speaking of the chaste, only four members of “The Seven” were shown in Daredevil: Stick, Stone, Shaft and Claw. For the record, the other three are Star, Flame and Wing.

After Elektra joins the Hand, she is drugged and, in a scene reminiscent of Rosemary’s Baby, she is introduced to the Beast, the jackal’s son. She is told that, eventually, the Beast will achieve human form. In antecedent action, Elektra assassinates Carlos Huevos, a diplomat from some unnamed Central or South America country. She meets a man named Reich, that country’s ambassador to the United States, who she believes if the Beast in human form. Her mind shatters and she is placed in the madhouse, but at the end of the issue she kills some staff and escapes.

The gun on the cover picture must weigh more than she does.

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