Friday, 28 September 2012

A few Daredevil previews

As well as his five Essential volumes so far, there have also been a handful of Daredevil issues from further down the line reprinted in other Essentials, so it’s time to take a quick look at them all.

Daredevil #138 written by Marv Wolfman and drawn by John Byrne, reprinted in Essential Ghost Rider volume 1

This is the middle part of a crossover with Ghost Rider (issues #19 & 20), which sees the first appearance in the series of Karen Page for over fifty issues. In the meantime she’s popped up amongst Ghost Rider’s supporting cast, meeting Johnny Blaze when they both worked on a movie together and is making Roxanne Simpson jealous even though Johnny claims they’re just friends (which is less than Karen would want). Although Tony Isabella was writing Ghost Rider, there’s strong continuity between the two titles and indeed at times the Daredevil issue feels as though it’s picked up a story from the other series, though it reassure with subplots involving Foggy, Debbie Harris and Heather Glenn (who we’ve not yet met in the regular Essential Daredevils). Storywise we get a straightforward tale of Karen being kidnapped by the new Death’s Head and his henchmen, the Smasher and the (apparently mind-controlled) Stuntmaster. The issue is largely a water-treading middle parter in which Daredevil gets placed in a complicated trap from which he escapes whilst Ghost Rider goes searching for Karen but gets sidelined by some drug smugglers, and Karen discovers the new Death’s Head is after her father’s research. Then Daredevil arrives and realises he knows who Death’s Head really is, but finds his life being drained away and Ghost Rider doubts he can save him… As crossovers go this is well written and manages to smoothly blend the elements of both series together, and helps to “ratify” the transfer of Karen between series (even though she hasn’t been seen in Daredevil for years), but as an individual issue of Daredevil it’s nothing fancy.

Daredevil #178 written and drawn by Frank Miller, reprinted in Essential Power Man and Iron Fist volume 2

The bulk of the issue is taken up with the thread of Matt and Foggy defending the Daily Bugle in a libel suit from a politician who denies being financed by the Kingpin. When a boy brings potential evidence, the Kingpin sends thugs to stop him, causing Foggy to worry for Matt’s safety and so he hires Power Man and Iron Fist, the “Heroes for Hire” to protect Matt. This results in a degree of chaos as Matt needs no protection and at times has to employ bizarre methods to escape his minders, leaving them to believe he’s been kidnapped. Eventually everything is resolved in a climax, but the critical evidence that would support the Bugle’s case is lost. This issue is somewhat comedic in turn, although not as much as a follow-up issue of Power Man and Iron Fist in which Foggy and the Heroes for Hire try to help the boy’s sister’s ambitions to be a star ballerina and face the web of jealousy and intrigue surrounding her replacement, culminating in a somewhat slapstick chase during a live performance with Daredevil drawn in to boot. Compared to that, the Daredevil side of the appearances is more serious but only to a point. It’s clear even when read in isolation that the Elektra subplot is far more intriguing, as the lady goes to work for the Kingpin after demonstrating her lethal abilities against four assassins sent to test her. When run alongside the main scenes it’s clear that this issue is a cross between a gratuitous guest appearance for the sake of it (although I’m not sure which series was promoting the other) and a forgettable comedic interlude before looming dramatic events.

Daredevil #182 (part), #183-184 written by Frank Miller (all) & Roger McKenzie (#183), drawn by Miller, reprinted in Essential Punisher volume 1

I’ve written about Essential Punisher volume 1 before, and some of my observations are the same, namely that Daredevil is one of the best heroes to contrast the Punisher with due to their very different methods. The pages from issue #182 reprinted here are just the eight pages featuring the Punisher as he escapes from prison. There’s no sign of Daredevil on any of these pages and I’m surprised that a truncation only was run, which is contrary to the normal Essential approach of carrying the full issue. Issue #183’s story was delayed for over a year because of concerns by the Comics Code Authority, which presumably wasn’t as toothless in this era as it’s often claimed to be, and this is possibly why a doctor gives Daredevil an extended talk about drugs, just to ram home the point that they’re bad, in case the depiction of a school girl going high and throwing herself out of a window didn’t give any hints. The story that follows focuses upon her brother’s anger as he steals his father’s gun and goes hunting for vengeance on the drug pushers with both Daredevil and the Punisher bringing their respective methods. It’s a strong contrast between Matt Murdock’s system approach, even when he finds he’s just got a killer off a charge and hadn’t realised it because a pacemaker prevent a jump in the liar’s heartbeat, and the Punisher’s more direct, ruthless approach. The story covers a surprising amount, including the failings of the system and deprivation such that the parents are watching TV and arguing without knowing their daughter is dead or realising their son is going on a vengeance mission. Daredevil’s quest to prove to the boy that the system works and can take out the criminals just adds to the tension as events rush to their climax. And on top of all that, we have ongoing developments with Heather Glenn as she discovers problems within her company, and is proposed to by Matt who seems to have a rather traditional marriage in mind. For a two-part story there’s a heck of a lot in this but never once does it overload the reader. It’s a strong, intense piece that shows why the Miller era is so adored, much more so than issue #178.

Daredevil #257 written by Ann Nocenti and drawn by John Romita Jr, reprinted in Essential Punisher volume 2

This is an odd crossover between Punisher #10 (written by Mike Baron and drawn by Whilce Portacio). Both issues are set around a disgruntled ex-employee of a pharmaceutical company who is taking revenge by poisoning bottles of its products. But rather than a conventional two-parter we instead get the two series broadly following their own heroes’ investigations until they meet on a rooftop and fight over their radically different approaches to justice. The actual confrontation is shown in both issues but from different perspectives – Punisher shows us it straight, whilst Daredevil shows it from the perspective of the killer as he listens to the two fighting it out over him and he thinks they’re more alike than either realises. Otherwise the Daredevil issue carries part of the ongoing Typhoid Mary plotline as the Kingpin continues his scheme to destroy Matt using Mary’s multiple personas. In general I found the issue unsatisfying because it doesn’t become clear at first that it’s taking place parallel to events in Punisher and there are moments where small details vary between the two. However it’s interesting to see the conflict of values between the two through a third party’s eyes, and it was a masterstroke to do it through the eyes of the criminal they’re fighting over. Overall, we have a fairly dark tale and a sign of how Daredevil’s niche was permanently set down in the 1980s.

It’s inevitable that most of these issues feel rather unsatisfactory given that they’re all in the Essentials already only because of their guest stars. But the problems go in very different directions – the Ghost Rider tie-in is part of a storyline with a clear justification for crossing over, whereas the Power Man and Iron Fist appearances serve no real wider purpose. The Punisher appearances are the most easily justified because of the obvious contrast between his and Daredevil’s methods, and there are clearly multiple ways to present the conflict of values without it always having to be two figures shouting lengthy expositions of their philosophies at each other whilst a criminal lies on the ground. But the second appearance is let down by the awkward way in which the storyline is presented, a problem that also curses the Ghost Rider tie-in, leaving only the issues with the Punisher’s first appearance as a strong example of Daredevil issues yet to come. Even then the truncation of issue #182 (which may have originated with a stand-alone reprint of some of the Daredevil/Punisher clashes from a decade ago) is annoying as it denies us a glimpse of the wider issue. I can’t wait for the Essentials to reach the Miller era.


  1. Since this post was published, Essential Daredevil volume 6 has been published including Daredevil #138. Watch out for an eventual review of the whole volume.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...