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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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).

ClarkKent_DC said:

Jeff of Earth-J said:

DAREDEVIL #163:

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.

I have just moved on to Daredevil Visionaries: Frank Miller, Vol. 2 reprinting #168-182. This arc begins with the first appearance of Elektra and ends with Matt’s acceptance of her death. I thad been my plan to “pick up the pace” of the discussion at this point, posting a single reaction to the entire volume rather than proceeding on an issue-by-issue basis. But I find I have a lot to say about most f these issues, so I shall proceed an issue at a time… for the time being, anyway.

#168:

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.

#169:

Bullseye, diagnosed with a brain tumor, escapes from the prison hospital and goes on a killing spree, hallucinating that everyone he sees is Daredevil. Neither Daredevil nor police Lt. Manolis believe that the tumor is responsible for Bulleye’s (shall we say) “antisocial tendencies” initially, but both are concerned that a skilled lawyer may use the tumor as an excuse to get him off of all the murders he has committed, leading to a philosophical debate. Manolis believes that, because Daredevil saved Bullseye’s life at Coney Island, from now on, Daredevil is responsible for any crime Bullseye may commit in the future. Daredevil disagrees and says he would have saved him regardless. Later Daredevil gets the opportunity to put that to the test as he decides, at the risk of great personal injury to himself under the circumstances, to save Bullseye a second time by pulling him from in front of a speeding subway train.

Keep that in mind.
#170:

Wilson Fisk, the former “Kingpin of Crime,” has gone straight and retired to Japan. After an Eisner-esque title page and opening credit sequence, we learn that a $5 million contract has been taken out on the Kingpin because he has agreed to clear his name by turning his former lieutenants to the U.S. Attorney General at the behest of his wife, Vanessa. The firm of Nelson & Murdock has been hired for $200 thousand dollars to represent the Kingpin in court. Just as Daredevil and Lt. Manolis feared, Bulleye has been absolved of his crimes because of the brain tumor, which has now been removed. He is contacted by the underworld to fulfil the contract, but he demands $10 million. He then kidnaps Vanessa in order to draw the Kingpin into the open. Daredevil feels responsible.

#171:

The Kingpin wants Vanessa back. One of his lieutenants sees this as an opportune time to regain control of the mobs, but the Kingpin assaults him for making the suggestion. The mob proposes a trade: Vanessa for the Kingpin’s files. They plan to betray him once they have them.

Meanwhile, Daredevil (in disguise as “Shades”) goes to Josie’s bar seeking information. During the fight that ensues, a window gets broken for the second issue in a row. Turk and Grotto take him to meet the Kingpin. Shades “auditions” for the job of hitman and is hired. He sneaks around and finds the files, but is caught by the Kingpin and beaten into unconsciousness. It is then that the message from the mob arrives. The meeting is set at a construction site closed for the night.

Expecting a trap, the Kingpin arrives with a briefcase gimmicked briefcase designed to emit a high frequency sonic charge which incapacitates the mob bosses and Bullseye. A bit farther away, a mysterious person fires a mortar, bringing the framework of the building down around their ears. All manage to escape except Vanessa, who had been tied to a girder.

Meanwhile, Turk and Grotto shove the unconscious Daredevil into a water main.

#172:

Daredevil wakes up submerged in a water main. He slips his bonds, holds his breath and, using his senses, makes his way out an open pipe. A number of homeless people are milling about underground. Shortly at Josie’s Bar, Turk celebrates. Daredevil confronts him and prevents him from breaking Josie’s window a third issue in a row in his flight to escape. Daredevil gets the story from Turk and readers get a recap of the past couple of issues.

With Vanessa out of the picture, the Kingpin uses his knowledge of the mobs to set the bosses against each other. Bullseye susses out Kingpin’s involvement. He had already agreed to kill him for $10 million; now he demands an additional $5 million to find him (he nonchalantly announces as he kills a fly with a paperclip shot from a rubber band). Much of this issue details a three-way strategy among Daredevil, Bullseye and the Kingpin, each against the other two.

The three converge at a meeting of the bosses. By this time, the bosses not in attendance have either joined the Kingpin or are dead. Using cold logic, Kingpin convinces Bullseye to switch sides and work for him. The Kingpin realizes that it was his man Lynch who fired the mortar killing Vanessa to convince the Kingpin to retake the mobs. The Kingpin beats him to death. Bullseye and Daredevil duke it out mano a mano and daredevil wins. The Kingpin gives Daredevil the evidence against his former lieutenants to turn over to DA Tower (it will benefit the Kingpin, after all) as well as Bullseye.

EPILOGUE: Vanessa is alive! The collapsing building knocked a hole into the sewer system. She fell through and survived, but she is not in her right mind. She takes her place among the cities homeless.

I am really enjoying this read-through, my first (as I mentioned) in many years. Miller’s art isn’t very “pretty” (thinking ahead to his collaborations with David Mazzuchelli), but his layouts are highly innovative. His use of perspective in this issue is particularly striking.

Personally, I liked Klaus Janson's inks just fine.  His art complemented Miller's just fine. Better than what I remember of Batman:Year One's art.

I am probably just not a fan of that art.

I found the decision to use a largely forgotten Spider-Man villain in a proeminent role in his first extended plot interesting.  Miller truly struck one right there with the Kingpin.  There were always lots of untapped potential in the character.

The 1982 one-shot No-Prize Book cited this story because one of those homeless people was drawn with two left feet (on page 2, panel 6; see here).



Jeff of Earth-J said:

#172:

Daredevil wakes up submerged in a water main. He slips his bonds, holds his breath and, using his senses, makes his way out an open pipe. A number of homeless people are milling about underground. Shortly at Josie’s Bar, Turk celebrates. Daredevil confronts him and prevents him from breaking Josie’s window a third issue in a row in his flight to escape. Daredevil gets the story from Turk and readers get a recap of the past couple of issues.

Overall, Miller's Daredevil and Claremont & Byrne's X-Men were the best Marvel comics of the late '70s/early '80s.

“Personally, I liked Klaus Janson's inks just fine. His art complemented Miller's just fine. Better than what I remember of Batman:Year One's art.”

I wasn’t knocking Janson’s inks; I like them, too. I particularly liked them after I saw Janson’s pencils and realized what it was he brought to the table. For the record, Mazzuchelli was Miller’s penciler for “Batman: Year One”> and “Born again, not his inker. And I prefer “Born Again” to “Year One.”

“The 1982 one-shot No-Prize Book cited this story because one of those homeless people was drawn with two left feet.”

I thought about mentioning that, but after examining the art more closely, I decided that Miller simply hadn’t mastered drawing bare feet at this stage in his career. But CK posted a link, so judge for yourself.

“Overall, Miller's Daredevil and Claremont & Byrne's X-Men were the best Marvel comics of the late '70s/early '80s.”

I would add to that Byrne’s Fantastic Four and Simonson’s Thor for sure (others as well).

I didn't include those since they came a bit later in the '80s.  Simonson's Thor was excellent.  Another later entry for the '80s for Marvel I'd rate highly was the Silver Surfer, initially by Englehart & Rogers, with Starlin & LIm taking over later.  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 really opened up the possibilities for greater stories than the limitations Stan Lee had previously set for him.  The Silver Surfer is the sort of character who really requires epic storylines which are difficult to do with such an alien whose nature would make him difficult to fit in with normal people or to create a compelling supporting cast for, not counting a crimson-hued recurring villain who was too one note a character to be all that compelling.

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