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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Prior to the launch of the Englehart/Rogers Silver Surfer, I pitched a limited series to Marvel for the express purpose of "setting the Surfer free of Earth and enabling him to finally roam the universe again and putting an end to his moaning about being trapped on Earth." I recieved a polite rejection letter from then-submissions editor Carl Potts explaining that (at the time) Marvel had a "hands off" policy on the character so that only Stan Lee was allowed to write him (except for very rare guest appearances). It was shortly after that that Englehart and Rogers accomplished the same ends much more satifactorily than my amatuerish attempt. Those stories are available in an "Epic" collection and I love it!

Nice try, Jeff!  Alas, Lee was essentially spinning his wheels on the Surfer, with no genuinely compelling idea of what to do with him to make a successful ongoing series.  At least Norrin Radd was finally freed up so that someone else could make a serious go of it, and I think Englehart largely succeeded.  Of course, having excellent artwork certainly helped.  Also good was that Englehart & Marshall quickly got the title going in a multi-issue epic involving fairly well-known as well as a few relatively obscure and a few entirely new characters, and even got Norrin to lighten up a bit, minimizing the "poor-ol'-pitiful super-powerful but oh so put upon me."  Lee was so entranced by his image of the Silver Surfer as a Christ-like symbol of purity that too many of his Surfer stories weren't all that fun to read.

When I was reading Stan's Silver Surfer stories the thing that was jarring to me was that his girlfriend (Shalla Bal?) was still alive (and young and hot). The impression given in the first Fantastic Four stories was that the Surfer had been acting as Galactus' herald for a looonnnggg time. He had difficulty relating to humans. Then we find out that he is, to all appearances, human himself and that he only recently became the Surfer.

Yeah, that's difficult to reconcile. Some stories have it that the Zen-Lavians are an extremely long-lived race. One particular story toward the end of the 1987 run (a "Mopee" AFAIAC) tried to establish that every Shalla Bal and Zen-La we have seen since the original Silver Surfer #1 was an illusion... or something like that.

Of course, the disconnect comes from Jack Kirby's original concept vs. Stan Lee's execution. Kirby famously included a herald for Galactus on his own. Kirby's intention was that the Surfer was created purely from cosmic power. As the "fallen angel" on Earth, he would have learned about humanity from the ground level up. It was Lee who grafted on the Norrin Radd/Zen-La origin. We get an idea of what the Kirby version might have looked like 9in execution) from the mid-70s Lee/Kirby Silver Surfer graphic novel (although Lee still scripted around it).

The disconnect between the Silver Surfer as portrayed and intended by Kirby in his first several appearances in the FF were so different from the Silver Surfer as depicted by John Buscema and written by Stan Lee that it was essentially a different character who just happened to look like the previous version.  I don't know what the current status quo is but to me it makes a lot more sense that the Surfer had been working for Galactus for eons prior to arriving at Earth, that Shalla Bal and everyone Norrin ever knew on Zen-La were long dead by then and that it was only ever trickery by Mephisto that made him think different and to sort of compromise between Kirby's and Lee's versions, when Galactus recreated Norrin Radd as the Silver Surfer, the Surfer entirely forgot his former humanity until his encounter with Alicia Masters triggered his long dormant memories, which only slowly came back to him.

#173:

Two reporters (who bear a striking resemblance to Clark Kent and Lois Lane) get mugged while pursuing the story of Matt Murdock defending Melvin Potter (the Gladiator). Because both Matt and Melvin are on their way to the storefront offices of Nelson & Murdock for a meeting, Daredevil is in the vicinity and stops the mugging, but the perps get away. The cops find Melvin nearby and arrest him. When Becky Blake meets Potter, she faints. She identifies Potter as the man who raped* and crippled her, but she didn’t press charges because she was too scared.

Foggy s behaving strangely, unreliable, missing work. He throws Matt out of his apartment. Potter breaks jail. On a hunch, Daredevil finds Potter at the museum where his costume is kept, confronts him, and talks him out of donning it. Unaware that Potter has turned himself in, the real mugger (a dead ringer for Potter), decides to frame him by attacking Betsy Beatty, Potter’s parole officer. She fights back, however, and flees to her neighbors.

Daredevil finds the real criminal, Michael Reese, in a nearby S&M bar. After a hard fought battle, Daredevil prevails. Later, badly beaten, he convinces Becky to press charges and testify.

Plus ça change.

This title is definitely “grimmer and grittier” than ever before.

*(They don’t come right out and say it because of the CCA, but it’s pretty obvious.)

#174:

The return of Elektra. The first appearance of “The Hand,” the assassins who trained Elektra. (Frank Miller put the “Ninja” in “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.”) In Paris, Elektra discovers that the Hand has spread their operation to Europe and beyond. She also finds out that Matt Murdock is to be their next victim. (His photo apparently spontaneously combusts in the assassin Kirigi’s hand.) Miller provides a cinematic fade as Electra decides to fly to America.

In America, Elektra secretly protects Matt from assassination attempts. We learn that members of The Hand disolve when they are defeated. The Hand is encroaching on the Kingpin’s territory. It was the Kingpin himself who put the contract on Matt Murdock to pit his enemies against each other in the hope Daredevil would be drawn into the fray.

Foggy is on the outs with Matt. In their office, Foggy reveals that the firm is in deep finacial trouble. Just then, an assassin throws a bomb into the office. Foggy and Matt both survive, but the explosion has somehow robbed Daredevil of his radar sense. This all leads to the scene depicted on the cover, as Elektra and the gladiator become involved. (Melvin is fighting on DD’s behalf, but his head’s not in ithe game.) Finally, we learn that Elektra is the Hand’s next victim as he photo bursts into flame in Kirigi’s hand.

#175:

This issue exceeds my poor ability to summarize. It does have one of my favorite pages/scenes. When Daredevil confronts Elektra in her penthouse apartment and points out that she saved his life, she moves in for a kiss and says, “Daredevil… [closer] Matt… [closer] Do not let it go to your head” [as she kicks him through the window]. In this issue, Daredevil actually takes off his glove before reading a business card with his fingertips. Miller uses the correct plural of ninja: ninja. Elektra saves Daredevil’s live by killing Kirigi, and Foggy saves Matt Murdock’s bacon by recognizing Elektra as Matt’s girlfriend from college.
#176:

This issue introduces Stick, the mentor who taught young Matt Murdock how to cope with his blindness. It is revealed that Kirigi survived Elektra’s attack. Heather follows Daredevil, Elektra follows Heather, Kirigi follows Elektra. Turk cheats at cards.

With Stick, they started steering away from the idea that Matt has enhanced abilities because of the accident and the radioactive isotope, positing that his skills are something anybody can develop with sufficient training. 

I never liked that approach. 



Jeff of Earth-J said:

#176:

This issue introduces Stick, the mentor who taught young Matt Murdock how to cope with his blindness. It is revealed that Kirigi survived Elektra’s attack. Heather follows Daredevil, Elektra follows Heather, Kirigi follows Elektra. Turk cheats at cards.

"I never liked that approach."

Yeah, I agree with you there. I think that approach is true for Stick and his followers, but not everyone, as he asserts.

#177:

Daredevil trains with Stick in order to regain his radar sense until he begins to hallucinate. Ben Urich begins an expose on Randolph Winston Cherryh, the Kingpin’s candidate for mayor. Heather is restless. Foggy negotiates with J. Jonah Jameson. With Bullseye out of the picture, Elektra comes to the Kingpin’s attention.

#178:

This was the first issue featuring Power Man I had read since Giant-Size Power-Man #1, and the first issue featuring Iron Fist I had read ever. They were presented here like a pair of bumblers. The Kingpin sends a group of assassins to deliver an offer of employment to Elektra. (If she survives, she passes the interview.) Randolph cherry brings a $5 million lawsuit against the Daily Bugle… $1 for each reader. A blackmailer referred to as “Young Sheldon” seeks to expose Cherryh’s mob ties.

I’ll tell you, when I read this story for the first time, I completely misinterpreted a bit of dialogue. When Sheldon reveals he’s blackmailing Cherryh for his sister, he says, “My sweet, beautiful sister who’s never done nothing to nobody in her life!” That plea rang so false to my ears I thought to myself, “Come on! They’re not really falling for this, are they?” Turns out he was sincere, and the sub-plot continues in Power-Man & Iron fist’s own mag (which I have not read to this day). In the course of the story, the evidence against Cherryh was lost, anyway.

The issue concludes with Elektra arriving at the Kingpin’s offices for the face-to-face phase of her interview.

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