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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#179:

Ben Urich meets a source in a crowded theater on Times Square. Elektra sits behind them, quietly kills the informant with her sai and threatens Ben. Urich confides in Daredevil, then meets Cherryh in a gym. Some weightlifters rough up Urich a little bit before Daredevil steps in. Daredevil overhears that Cherryh has a meeting with the Kingpin, but Daredevil cannot make it due to obligations as Matt Murdock. Ben goes anyway, by himself. The Kingpin arrives, then a bag lady tries to follow him into the restaurant. She is turned away and, on a hunch, Urich follows the bag lady and snaps her picture.

Following leads of his own, Daredevil knowingly steps into a trap. He and Elektra fight for six (mostly wordless) pages, culminating in Daredevil’s foot caught in a bear trap. All issue long, people have been telling Urich that his smoking habit will kill him. Just then he coughs, and Elektra skewers him. His last thought before fading to black is, “Damn cigarettes.” This issue is narrated by Ben Urich from his point of view. Months later, when this arc was re-edited into The Elektra Saga, his narration was necessarily dropped, but the story works equally as well without it.
#180:

The issue begins with the subterranean “king” tiring of his old wife and choosing the bag lady from last issue as his new “queen.” Daredevil, with a cast on his foot and using a crutch, fights Turk and some other thugs. Ben Urich survived Elektra’s attack last issue. He has spiked the story, but develops the roll of film he took, anyway. He recognizes the “bag lady” as the Kingpin’s wife, Vanessa, and contacts Daredevil. Ben leads him to where he snapped the photo. Daredevil sends him back, but Ben is taken prisoner by the sewer people. Meanwhile, due to mounting legal pressure, the Daily Bugle drops its investigation of Cherryh and issues a retraction.

Back in the sewer, Daredevil encounters one of the sewer dwellers whose leg has been bitten off by a “monster.” Daredevil gives him his crutch. Meanwhile, the election results begin to come in, indicating a landslide of Cherryh. Down below, Daredevil has been captured by the sewer king, and has been thrown to an “urban legend” along with Ben Urich. A silent, underwater battle rages for two pages, followed by a three-page silent battle with the “king” (who looks like a twisted reflection of the Kingpin). Up above, Cherryh wins the election.

Suddenly, Daredevil shows up in the Kingpin’s office and tosses Vanenssa’s wedding ring on the Kingpin’s desk. The next thing we know, Cherryh admits everything the Bugle accused him of and resigns in disgrace. The Kingpin wants retribution, even if it’s just symbolic. J. Jonah James son is out of the question (too big, too important), and Matt Murdock is daredevil’s friend. The Kingpin settle on Foggy Nelson, and orders Elektra to kill him.

This issue is the best example so far of how visual of a storyteller Frank Miller is.
#181:

“Bullseye vs. Elektra—One Wins. One Dies.” That pretty much sums it up. Miller as writer is experimenting with different voices again, telling this story from Bullseye’s POV. [The popularity of today’s common practice of utilizing “internal monologue” captions rather than more traditional thought balloons can be tracked back directly to these stories.] In prison, Bullseye stews over the fact that Daredevil not only captured him, but also saved his life. For the time being, he is content to wait for the Kingpin’s lawyers to spring him. Also a prisoner, the Punisher tells Bullseye about Elektra being the Kingpin’s new assassin in the hope he will do something stupid. Bullseye’s opportunity soon comes when his parole officer sets up an interview with Bullseye on an episode of the “Tom Snyde Show” taped on location on Ryker’s Island. Bullseye escapes.

Finding out about the contract on Foggy’s life, Bullseye follows him until Elektra finds him. Foggy recognizes her as “Matt’s girlfriend” from college, which causes a pang of regret in Elektra. Bullseye reveals himself and they fight for six (mostly) silent pages. Mortally wounded, Elektra makes her way to Matt Murdock’s brownstone and dies in his arms. Playing a hunch, Bullseye discovers Daredevil’s secret identity. Using a dummy and a tape recorder, Daredevil puts Bullseye off the track. Another wordless battle ensues until… Bullseye falls from a wire and Daredevil grabs him by the arm. Determined not to be rescued by Daredevil again, Bullseye stabs at Daredevil using Elektra’s sai.

In a shocking surprise move, Daredevil simply drops him… clearly not to avoid getting stabbed, but to stop Bullseye from killing anyone ever again.

This is HUGE development, that a hero would do such a thing. It also had a huge impact on the comic book field, and played a significant role in ushering in decades of “grim and gritty” storytelling. Bullseye fell to the pavement, his spine was shattered and he was paralyzed. It is also the payoff to Daredevil saving Bullseye’s live by pulling him out of the way of the subway train in #169.
#182:

This is a kind of disturbing story in which Daredevil becomes absolutely convinced that Elektra is still alive. (Given how many characters do return from the dead in Marvel comics, it’s surprising how few heroes consider this possibility, but it’s nonetheless disconcerting to see it played out to this extent.) Meanwhile, the Punisher “adapts” to prison life in his own unique way. An official from an unidentified government agency conspires to set up a situation in which the Punisher can escape. At Glenn Industries, the board of directors maneuvers to wrest control of the company from Heather.

The prison break occurs without a hitch. In the confusion, Turk breaks out as well. The Punisher breaks up the drug deal as he agreed, but his liberator then betrays him. He survives, but one of the dealers he killed in the attack turns out to be just a kid. While all this is going on, Matt Murdock asks Judge Coffin for an exhumation order. The judge refuses, and Daredevil digs up Elektra’s grave on his own.
Notified by the judge about Matt’s erratic behavior, Foggy arrives at the cemetery just in time to witness Matt finally accepting the evidence of Elektra’s corpse.

Grim.

Gritty.

Sending The Punisher to prison was one of the best ideas Frank Miller ever had.



Jeff of Earth-J said:

#182:

This is a kind of disturbing story in which Daredevil becomes absolutely convinced that Elektra is still alive. (Given how many characters do return from the dead in Marvel comics, it’s surprising how few heroes consider this possibility, but it’s nonetheless disconcerting to see it played out to this extent.) Meanwhile, the Punisher “adapts” to prison life in his own unique way. An official from an unidentified government agency conspires to set up a situation in which the Punisher can escape. At Glenn Industries, the board of directors maneuvers to wrest control of the company from Heather.

The prison break occurs without a hitch. In the confusion, Turk breaks out as well. The Punisher breaks up the drug deal as he agreed, but his liberator then betrays him. He survives, but one of the dealers he killed in the attack turns out to be just a kid. While all this is going on, Matt Murdock asks Judge Coffin for an exhumation order. The judge refuses, and Daredevil digs up Elektra’s grave on his own.
Notified by the judge about Matt’s erratic behavior, Foggy arrives at the cemetery just in time to witness Matt finally accepting the evidence of Elektra’s corpse.

Grim.

Gritty.

"Sending The Punisher to prison was one of the best ideas Frank Miller ever had."

Oh, thanks for reminding me! I forgot to mention that the Punisher ended up in jail after Spider-Man Annual #16 (which was drawn by Miller & Janson but, for the record, was written by Denny O'Neil). BTW, do you mean because it opens up story possibilities or (I suspect) because he belongs there?

ClarkKent_DC said:

"Sending The Punisher to prison was one of the best ideas Frank Miller ever had."
Jeff of Earth-J said:

Oh, thanks for reminding me! I forgot to mention that the Punisher ended up in jail after Spider-Man Annual #16 (which was drawn by Miller & Janson but, for the record, was written by Denny O'Neil). BTW, do you mean because it opens up story possibilities or (I suspect) because he belongs there?

Oh, most definitely because he belongs there. Which is something that we can't be reminded of enough.

“Which is something that we can't be reminded of enough.”

Wow, good scene. Thanks for linking it.

"Sending The Punisher to prison was one of the best ideas Frank Miller ever had."

“The Punisher ended up in jail after Spider-Man Annual #16 (which was… written by Denny O'Neil).

CLARIFICATION: The Punisher will be sent to prison after Daredevil #184, too (whoops… SPOILER), but I was referring to the first time.

WHAT IF…? #35:

At the top of this discussion I said that I was never been a big fan of What If...? except when the stories were actually part of the MU proper or when the stories were told by the regular title's creative team. Issue #35 fulfills both of those requirements. In this story, Matt Murdock is visiting Elektra’s grave, on an appropriately dark and stormy day, when he is joined by a stranger (who we know to be the Watcher). The stranger goes on to tell Matt the story of what might have happened if Bullseye had been killed in the prison break.

Elektra still would have taken the contract on Foggy Nelson, and she still would have let him go when he recognized her. Without Bullseye alive to find and kill her at that point, she sought out Matt Murdock. She still had to face the ramifications of betraying the Kingpin, but essentially, Matt and Elektra disappear, run away together and live happily ever after.

I just decided to change how I plan to end this discussion.

I was personally very saddened when Bendis decided to turn the Gladiator back into a villain again. I actually enjoyed his redemption arc here and wish he'd stayed straight.

I wasn't a fan of the "no radar sense" explanation myself. It made Daredevil less special, not to mention making a lot of his feats utterly ridiculous  

“I wasn't a fan of the ‘no radar sense’ explanation myself. It made Daredevil less special, not to mention making a lot of his feats utterly ridiculous.”

To be fair, a lot of his feats were utterly ridiculous anyway. I don’t see Miller’s revision as “no radar sense” so much as it is “something everyone has yet remains undeveloped.”

“Which is something that we can't be reminded of enough.”

The article linked within the article you linked, in which Gerry Conway denounces the use of the Punisher symbol by the police, is accompanied by an ad for the following product, sold through Etsy, accompanied by the pitch, "[The purchase of] this high quality Patriotic framed canvas wall art 'Thin Blue Line Punisher Blue Lives Matter with the US Flag' will be the best decision you make this week.”

THAT is irony writ large!

Since this flag and the "blue lives matter" phrase imply that police shootings are all good and the black and white stripes probably refer to the customary words for races, when I see this flag I can't help but think it is a white supremacy thing. I hadn't previously thought that about the Punisher skull misappropriation since I didn't realize it was being sported by police.

I wasn't going to delve into this but now it's in my face.

Richard Willis said:

Since this flag and the "blue lives matter" phrase imply that police shootings are all good and the black and white stripes probably refer to the customary words for races, when I see this flag I can't help but think it is a white supremacy thing. I hadn't previously thought that about the Punisher skull misappropriation since I didn't realize it was being sported by police.

I wasn't going to delve into this but now it's in my face.

It is, Richard. It is.

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