Frank Miller's Daredevil pt. 3

For today's blog, I ask you to step into the McT.A.R.D.I.S. with me. Let's travel back to Cold War West Germany, specifically:

and let's welcome our guest, 9-year-old Bryan!

Henceforth designated as Bryan, whereas 2014's pushing-4o-year-old Bryan will be designated as Me.

Me: Welcome, myself! I am from your future.
Bryan: (shrugs)
Me: I do an awful lot of speaking for you in these blogs, so I thought it might be fun to let you speak for yourself. What do you say about that?
Bryan: I don't know what a "blog" is.
Me: It's... never mind. You know "Tomorrow Is Yesterday," that Star Trek episode you watch all the time?
Bryan: I...
Me: Wait, not in 1984 you didn't, that came a little later, my bad. Well, I can't tell you. If I give you knowledge of the future, it might have grave consequences.
Bryan: What about "Days of Future Past?"
Me: I... (pause) All right, I might as well tell you. It's all true.
Bryan: Whoah!
Me: Seriously! I had to frag like 12 sentinels just to get here today. So, keep up with your cardio - you'll need it.
Bryan: What the hell is 'cardio?'
Me: Never mind. Would it interest you to know I'm wearing the same sweater/ collared-shirt combo you're rocking in that picture?
Bryan: Your Mom still dresses you in the future?
Me: Let's just get to the last set of Miller's Daredevils, what do you say?
Bryan: (shrugs)

Me: You have no idea how lucky you are to be getting into comics in the era you are. Take this 2-part Punisher story.

Bryan: I love this story. Angel dust seems super-scary.
Me: It does indeed. This is pretty much the first "serious" depiction of drug use in comics. Sure, Spider-Man and Green Lantern / Green Arrow tried to tackle the issue in previous years, but the 70s didn't do an especially good job at realism in comics. The whole "relevance" movement did not age well. You see... hey, are you listening?

Me: Dude! You can play Atari later. Pay attention.
Bryan: Well, stop with the history lesson. Borr-ring.
Me: Okay, let's stay on topic, you're right. No one had ever written the Punisher quite like this before, and it'll be a few more years before anyone does again. You don't realize it at the time... (Opens Bryan's chest of comics and spreads a few out)

Me: Well, the Punisher's not in the Marvel Team-Up Annual, but I know how much you like that one. And since it's by Frank Miller, it's somewhat related, so there it is. But this Spider-Man one -
Bryan: That's the best story ever!
Me: Yes, well, you won't enjoy it quite as much in 2014, but I grant you, it's a lot of fun. I bring it up, though, because Miller continues the characterization of the Punisher we see in DD 183-184 herein.

Bryan: (sigh) Denny O'Neil wrote that. Not Frank Miller. He just drew it.
Me: (flips open cover) By God, you're correct. I could have sworn -
Bryan: What else are you getting wrong, old man?
Me: ANYWAY. Denny was Frank's editor, and yes, he wrote this one. But it was Frank's version of the character, not Denny O'Neil's. I mean, like Bullseye or the Kingpin, before the Punisher appeared in Daredevil, he was just some random Spider-Man villain, not particularly interesting.

Me: See, from where I'm sitting in 2014, this sort of thing - the enemy enlists children; the war has gotten dirtier - is fairly well-worn. But from where you're sitting, this is all totally new, both for comics and for Frank Castle.
Bryan: I wish he'd get his own series. The Punisher is seriously bad.
Me: He will, and Klaus Janson draws it, to boot!
Bryan: Sweet!
(High five)
Me: Sadly, once Janson leaves, it gets kind of lame. Just my opinion - it wasn't shared at the time, to be sure. The Punisher is the most popular thing going in the late 80s. Him and Ghost Rider, believe it or not. It's short-lived, though, so buy accordingly. And the market crashes for good in the mid-90s, so make sure and get rid of everything before then.
Bryan: Can we look at DD 185?
Me: I'm glad you brought it up!

Me: See, I remember liking this one as a kid (and note, Janson's taken over full-time illustration duties) but I didn't realize how good it actually was until just a couple of weeks ago.
Bryan: Well, you just forgot. I've read this one a hundred times.
Me: Can't remember everything, kid. The humor of this one is great, though. A hallmark of Miller's run is multiple narrators. Here we get a hard-boiled, tongue-in-cheek narration from Matt's best friend and law partner, Foggy Nelson. The classic insider / outsider narrative.

"No Ifs, Ands, or Buts."

Me: I love the look of these damn things. I didn't - well, let me ask you to make sure. Do you have any idea who Alex Toth and Wil Eisner are?
Bryan: Nope.
Me: You will, later on. Miller's homage to their respective styles is all over these DDs. I - are you playing Atari again?

Bryan: Sorry, dude, but you lose me with this "homage" and "insider/ outsider" stuff.
Me: How can you even play this stuff? It's so... primitive.
Bryan: I'm sure you guys in 2014 are running kill scenarios in the Danger Room, but I've got to work with what I have.
Me: Oh, I know, just teasing. It's a good thing you - we, I mean - didn't grow up with the games available to the youth of 2014. We never would have developed this relationship with comics, for one.
Bryan: People still play videogames even though the Sentinels are attacking?
Me: I... yes. In-between Sentinel attacks. There's lots of down-time.
Bryan: Are we married?
Me: Yes.
Bryan: To Drew Barrymore?
Me: No.
Bryan: What the hell!
Me: Sorry. Should we wrap up DD 185? The bits with Turk are great.

Me: I love, too, how throughout Miller's run, we often see characters protected by other characters unknowingly. Whether it's Elektra looking after Matt or Matt looking after Foggy or what not - good stuff.
Bryan: I love the Turk and Grotto bits. Or when Turk becomes Stilt Man, next issue.
Me: Believe me, I almost screen-capped that entire issue. So much fun!
Bryan: What's "screen-cap?"
Me: That's classified.

Me: How about this business where DD's hyper-senses go out of control? Fun, right?

Bryan: Did you notice that great reversal of the joke in Josie's, with Daredevil being thrown through the window? I love that.
Me: Me, too.
Bryan: I'm not surprised.
(high five)

Me: This leads, of course, to Matt's seeking out his mentor, Stick. For the benefit of those who haven't read this, care to summarize?
Bryan: Um, well, Daredevil seeks out his old mentor. Stick. Who the Hand have a contract on. You remember the Hand, right?
Me: Of course.

Bryan: The Hand need a champion to take out Stick and his crew. (Stone, Claw, and Shaft.) So they resurrect Kirigi. Who doesn't last so long once he goes up against them.

Me: "There are many you must kill." Classic!

Me: I don't like how fast he's dispatched. But it definitely shows how bad-ass Stone and these guys are.

Me: Well, until they get killed, too, leaving just Stone, Daredevil, and the Black Widow to fight the Hand.
Bryan: The Black Widow is cool.
Me: Yeah, she's another one I'm kind of skipping over for these blogs. But she's fantastic here - as with everyone else in these pages, no one else ever handles her as well.

Me: Here's a fun bit of trivia for you. The actress who eventually plays the Black Widow is, at the time you're reading these, not even born yet.
Bryan: Is she pretty?
Me: She's annoying. But sure, she's pretty.
Bryan: Prettier than Drew Barrymore?
Me: I honestly forgot how much of a crush we had on Drew Barrymore back in the day. You're taking me back, kid.
Bryan: Why didn't they get her to play the Black Widow?
Me: Again, Sentinels.
Bryan: Oh. That's sad.
Me: It is. (closes eyes) Hold on to the nights, hold on to the mem-o-ries...
Bryan: Okay, well, back to Daredevil. The Hand still needs a champion, so who do they set their sights on?
Bryan / Me: (in unison) Elektra.

Me: Miller's 2nd-to-last issue, 190, reveals more of her backstory. She once knew Stick and Stone and the gang, but she was too "unclean."
Bryan: Leading her to the Hand. Of course, Bullseye killed her, so they have to resurrect her.

Me: How does that work out?
Bryan: Well, good and bad. They interrupt the ritual, but she's revived just enough for DD to hear her heartbeat. So he leaves Stone to fight off the ninjas and tries - unsuccessfully - to do the job himself.

Me: Let me quote Adam Besenyodi again from Back Issue 48 for this part, as I think he nailed it: "The genius of Miller's execution is having DD purge the evil in Elektra, thereby giving the reader permission to believe in the character by restoring her purity. We understand the Hand's resurrection would have left Elektra unclean, and Murdoch's sacrifice is for the currency of her soul. It enables her to move from darkness to light both  literally (from death to life) and symbolically " 

Me: This is visually represented by her moving from her red outfit to the all-white one we see at the end.

Bryan: It's even foreshadowed a bit at the beginning.

Me: You're right! How did I never see that before?
Bryan: I'm sure you're distracted fighting the Sentinels and all.
Me: That must be it. Well-spotted, though. Sadly, I don't think they ever returned to this idea of a purified Elektra leading the anti-Hand.
Me: This is pretty much my favorite comic of all time.
Bryan: And it will be for quite some time. If memory serves, you used to recreate this battle in the abandoned church with your / our action figures.
Me: Well... (turns red) sometimes.
Bryan: Don't be embarrassed. Playing with action figures is a perfectly fine thing for a 10-year-old to do. In fact, do both of us a favor: next year when you take the train to West Berlin, you create an epic storyline with your He-Man figures, and for years afterward you'll try in vain to remember the plot you came up with. Write it down, would you?
Me: I'll try.
Bryan: Well, there's only one issue left. But I don't want to say too, too much about it, since it serves as such a brilliant coda to the whole Miller run. Suffice it to say, though, it's a very somber and thoughtful meditation on all-things-Daredevil.

Me: I like it, but it's so different from the ninja stuff.
Bryan: You'll appreciate it more as the years go on, trust me.
Me: Don't trust anyone over 30, sorry.
Bryan: Oh, okay, Abbie Hoffman.
Me: Who's -
Bryan: Never mind, never mind. 
Me: Can I get back to my Atari now?
Bryan: Sure thing, kid. Nice to spend some time with you. 
Time has resumed its shape. All is as it was before. Many such journeys are possible. Let me be your gateway.


  1. This was awesome! Were any sehlats harmed in the making of this post?

    To be honest, I mostly wish Elektra had just stayed dead. Her resurrection doesn't rob her previous death of its power, but I'd argue that it weakens it juuuuust a little bit.

    Going off-topic slightly, but...boy, is there a ton of great material here for that upcoming Netflix series to mine. Granted, the abundance of material hasn't helped Marvel make a great series out of S.H.I.E.L.D., so a good Daredevil "tv" show is no foregone conclusion. But think of the possibilities!

    1. I've been reading a lot of chatter online about how S.H.I.E.L.D. is getting good now. I even saw Jim Steranko weigh in on the topic, affirming the show, something that really surprised me. I'll have to give it another shot. But yes, absolutely - I have the same hopes for the Netflix series. There's so much there to work with.

      I'll agree to disagree on the subject of Elektra's resurrection, but it's certainly a respectable argument. For me, her death and resurrection - and Spock's, and possibly Jean Grey's - were pretty much the ones that formed my ideas on the topic. (Sorry, Jesus. And Osiris. And whomever else!) Later returns from the dead activated my shenanigans klaxons, but those ones were / are the ones I always compare everything to to see if it cuts the mustard. For me, Elektra's is the best - that whole storyline and climax in the church and the emotionally underpinnings of it all... gah, verklemmt, cannot be objective. Just such powerful stuff for me.

      Stone's yelling back "Murdock! Help me!" ... man, with the right music and editing and performance, cross-cutting to Elektra and Matt amidst the flames and the horde of ninjas: that'd just be cinematic gold. Beyond gold. Cinematic history.

      Thanks for the kind words. (1984 Bryan could not be reached again for comment, but I'll assume he thanks you as well.)

    2. I'm definitely not opposed to Elektra's resurrection in any strong sense. It happened, it worked reasonably well (at worst -- and brilliantly for many, yourself included), and it's ancient history. Part of me wonders, though, what the impact might have been if she had never returned at all. If that death really HAD been final.

      Alternatively, I am a morbid bastid.

      As for the S.H.I.E.L.D. tv show, it's not terrible, and it has continued to improve. Last night's episode -- now featuring 100% more Bill Paxton than any previous episode -- was arguably the best so far. It just seems like it ought to have been considerably better, and right out of the gate, given the scads of great source material and the talent involved. But I'm certainly not a hater, as many people are.