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!"
It was a very busy time for good ol' Bruce. He was appearing here in DD, in a fine two-parter in Iron Man featuring Ant-Man, and in She-Hulk's origin. While also in Defenders and his own book, where he met yet other heroes (including It the Living Colossus and Captain Mar-Vell).
Jeff of Earth-J said:
This is the only issue of Daredevil that I acquired before Frank Miller became the next “Big Thing.” I bought it because of the Hulk (right around the same time Hulk appeared in Iron Man, IIRC). I wasn’t too impressed at the time, but what did I know? I was, like, 16 years old. Looking at it today (for the first time in many years), I am quite impressed with the pacing as well as the panel-to-panel continuity. I should mention that this issue is inked by Josef Rubinstein, who embellishments add quite a bit to the overall effect. Another thing, then and now, I love that cover! The Hulk’s threat is truly menacing.
Plot-wise, the story begins at a fundraiser for DA Blake Towerwhich New York’s movers and shakers have attended: J. Jonah Jameson, Tony Stark, Judge Coffin (what a Dickensian name!), etc. Later in the story, after months of researching DD’s connection to Matt Murdock, Ben Urich overhears Heather Glenn call out to Daredevil as “Matt!”
I cited this one in the thread "Covers That MADE You Buy the Comic!" As I said over there, "When you see this image, you can only think: How dead and mangled is Daredevil going to be when this match is over?"
As noted above, the Hulk appeared in Iron Man about the same time, in a much goofier story. I like to think that appearance followed the Daredevil episode.
With #168, 24 year-old artist Frank Miller took over the writing as well as the art, and he hit a homerun right out of the gate (to mix a couple of sports metaphors). I have read Frank Miller’s run of Daredevil several times, but I know I haven’t read it in the past 20 years. The last couple of times I read it, I read it via The Elektra Saga, told from that character’s POV and ordered chronologically. The story is quite god that way, but one does tend to miss the big picture. What #164 did for Daredevil’s origin, #168 does for Matt’s college career. What Frank Miller is doing here is nothing less than John Byrne’s Man of Steel or his own later Batman: Year One without justification of a “crisis.”
I remember, back in the ‘90s, when some writer (I don’t remember who) was fixin’ to take over writing an Elektra solo series, he said in an interview that the character had “sloppy storytelling early on” and he planned to “fix” that. Miller commented that “that fella needs to learn some manners.” Really. I quite agree. What I disagree with is that other writer’s assertion about sloppy storytelling. #168 has good structure, effective use of flashback, and a parallel scene of the hostage situation in which her father was killed with the battle on the docks at the end. Also, the circumstances under which Electra cries. That this was Miller’s very first story makes it even more impressive.