Robot 6

Six by 6 | Six largely ignored Daredevil stories worth tracking down

Having just edited, and written some of, a collection of essays titled The Devil Is in the Details: Examining Matt Murdock and Daredevil (debuting from Sequart at Emerald City Comic Con), I’ve spent a lot of time reading Daredevil comics. I’ve soaked them all up, processed them, and seen them analyzed scores of ways.

Daredevil is an amazing character and title, and there will always be runs and stories that get praise; we hear about them constantly. So I wanted to quickly bring light to some of my lesser-known favorites. Here are six Daredevil stories that are consistently ignored and yet I think you should track them down.

1. Daredevil/Black Widow: Abattoir
This 1993 graphic novel was a gem I didn’t even know existed until very recently. I had never heard anyone mention this weird and violent tale from Jim Starlin and Joe Chiodo, and I worried that might be because it was terrible. I was happy to discover, after finding a secondhand copy on Amazon, that wasn’t the case.

The story has Black Widow chase down a brutal butcher family of sorts that’s killing telepathic S.H.I.E.L.D. agents. Daredevil nominates himself as the guardian devil for his old flame, and the game is afoot. What follows is as much a psychological game as it is a barbaric fighting match. Axes and chains are as dangerous as flashbacks and barbed words. This book is a mature read, as the blood flows loosely and we even get a narratively charged female-on-female kiss — something I have to assume was risqué for a Marvel book in the early ‘90s.

Starlin does a good job putting this short but punchy tale together, but it’s really Chiodo who steals the show. His style feels as if it’s aimed at aping Bill Sienkiewicz on Elektra: Assassin, but it also does a few other things: He charges Black Widow with beautiful energy like Howard Chaykin often does with women, and when he swerves into the flashbacks he brings a cartoony style like a detailed chalk drawing on the sidewalk. The art is emotive and elevates this tale through characterization and page structure. I had my doubts about this one but there’s plenty to love.

2. Battlin’ Jack Murdock
This 2007 miniseries received some praise at the time of its release but then quickly fell off the radar to the point where I never hear it discussed. It’s a shame because this four-issue story from Zeb Wells and Carmine Di Giandomenico is poignant and perfectly structured. Each issue is a round in the final fight Matt Murdock’s father was supposed to throw. The main crux of this issue is covered in Daredevil’s origin, but here Wells and Di Giandomenico add some amazing layers of emotion.

Throughout the fight, a bloody affair reminiscent of Raging Bull in its stark depiction of pugilism, flashbacks show us Jack Murdock’s life as he becomes a father, loses a love and finds some new ones. This mini is very much an analysis of fatherhood and how it shapes a man. The way we are shown Jack’s decisions and actions shaping Matt and eventually himself is done with nuance and a real punch that has to hit you on the jaw.

Most people cite Daredevil: Yellow as the modern take on the mythos around Jack Murdock, but it was really this mini that updated the tale and expanded it to finally carry the weight it deserves.

3. Father
This one’s not actually the best tale. It’s a murder mystery, it’s got some sweet twists, and it’s a comforting read in that it challenges you (but not too much), and it does work on rereads. The real reason this six-issue miniseries has stuck with me is the fine work from Joe Quesada. He writes a sound tale, but his artwork here is some of my favorite stuff of his; he controls the page in inventive ways so he can drop major beats and emotion in a manner that artfully engages you.

The major reason I dig this book is the way he chose to craft Daredevil. Quesada’s thinking was that the son of a boxer would himself have some physicality, and so he renders Daredevil as a hulking beast of a vigilante. This might not be a visual that’s in continuity, and I don’t even think it’s a change I would want instated, but here it works so brilliantly as a visceral image of the man. It also makes for some of my favourite covers of all time, each one dripping with depth and tenacity.

4. Flying Blind

A guilty pleasure, this is the story that ended the first volume of Daredevil, so make of that what you will. All I know is that S.H.I.E.L.D. tasks Matt Murdock with assuming a new identity, right down to his conscious level, to solve a crime in France. Matt becomes the dark-haired Laurent Levasseur, forgets he is Matt Murdock, and battles against another Kingpin crime via two never-beens named Synapse and Le Concierge. It’s just so ridiculous that’s it’s fun. Or funny.

Either way, the absurd inventiveness of this four issue story still holds my attention today.

5. What If … Daredevil Became an Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.?

This 1981 issue is #28 from Vol. 1, and it’s co-plotted and drawn by Frank Miller with inks by Klaus Janson. It posits a world where Tony Stark is at the scene of the accident that steals a young Matt Murdock’s sight. He delivers the boy to the nearest helicarrier and a new agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. is born.

What follows is a high action set of pages of Murdock busting HYDRA heads in the bombastic style Miller and Janson do best. These are the Miller/Janson pages you don’t want to miss out on because they’re just as good as what they did on the main title but not beholden to anything. This is What If …?, and that’s a place where you can go crazy and just have fun. That’s what this issue is, a whole mess of fun in what is ostensibly a fight comic. And it’s got one of the best cover/character redesigns of all time.

6. Daredevil #297: The Termination of Typhoid

The first part of the “Last Rites” storyline from D.G. Chichester and Lee Weeks, it’s a surprisingly dense and gritty tale that evokes the Miller era without feeling too much like a pastiche. Well, maybe a fair bit, but not completely. And it’s this opening issue that drops one of the ballsiest Matt Murdock moments of all time.

Typhoid Mary had been a thorn in Matt’s side for some time by this stage, and so he executes a morally ambiguous plan to remove her from his rogue’s gallery. Due to her mental instability, Matt, as Daredevil, lures her in with a kiss in the rain — a spectacular splash page — and then whisks her away to a seedy motel for a night of debauchery. When she awakes, she finds herself in her modest Mary persona, alone, and about to be sent away in a straight jacket due to the commitment papers Matt has forged and left behind.

This emotional roller coaster has to be read to be believed. It’s exhausting and shines a new light on the Lothario of the Spandex set.

***

These are six stories and issues I never find a lot of discussion about but which absolutely capture my imagination and heart. I hope you remember them fondly or else go out and chase them down to see what all the fuss is about.

As for my book, The Devil Is in the Details, I should have some early copies of the book at ECCC at the table I’ll be sharing with Paul Allor, and it will be solicited soon through Diamond Comic Distributors. The collection features essays by some of the best current writers about comics like Tim Callahan, Kevin Thurman, Julian Darius and myself — if I’m anywhere near that list. We cover a multitude of topics around the Man Without Fear such as his extensive love life, his supporting characters, some specific runs worthy of discussion, and plenty more. It is the absolute must buy addition to every Daredevil fan’s shelf.

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Comments

24 Comments

I absolutely agree on Battlin’ Jack Murdock being an under-the-radar gem. I had read it some time ago and found the pacing and the whole analysis of who Jack Murdock truly was to be rivetting. It truly deserves some more recognition.

Bendis’ DD: Ninja had some great artwork by Rob Haynes, who I didn’t see much of at the time or since. I liked it for the same reason you liked Father. I never get tired of pouring over those pages again and again!

I only got the first two issues of Father when it first came out, and didn’t hunt down the final four issues until last year. I was blown away at how good it was. The ending punches you right in the face.

I’ll be ordering this when it hits Previews! I have (in one form or another) the first 300 DD issues. I bailed on the original series after “Last Rites” (For my money, Chichester should not have been given the assignment…). The Marvel Knights relaunch brought me back to DD and it’s been great ever since, except for (IMO) the tail of Brubaker’s run and the Diggle crap.
And I love reading thoughts about the character and the history!
I hope Heather Glenn gets a lot of attention. That relationship is due for some heavy analysis. The death of Heather’s father might be Matt’s greatest failure as a hero, and his treatment of Heather in the shadow of his relationship with Elektra is his greatest failure as a man. It was great that Marvel published The Fog TPB reprinting Heather’s death, but I wish they had also published a TPB of the Purple Man arc that lead to her father’s death
Looking forward to this book!.

I always enjoy reading about lesser known stories that deserve wider recognition. Thanks. Just one minor correction: Flying Blind was the second-to-last story from Volume 1, iirc. The last one was by Chichester and Weeks. It’s a very nice story to end the volume, featuring several classic Daredevil villains and showing the type of hero he is and the way he does things.

Hugo – yep, we’re on the same page :)

Z-Ram – Ninja actually didn’t do much for me. I didn’t dislike it but it never sang out to me.

Rollo – not surprised because there was a mammoth gap in the scheduling for those issues. Quesada took a while to come back to it, from memory.

Seth – man, sounds like yuo have an awesome collection. I’ve got a pretty in depth essay about Brubaker’s run that I think you will massively enjoy. Alas, Heather Glenn doesn’t get as much of a spotlight as you might hope – I actually cut a great deal of her section for space. I’d be happy to email you those few thousand words, though, i was really proud of them but for space and central thesis they had to go.

Kolimar – yeah, Chichester and Weeks bookended te volume but i always think of Flying Blind as the last actual story told. I get what you mean though :)

Last rights was excellent, an event that actually felt like a decent summing-up of both the Miller and Nocenti eras, with a climax that actually had significant repercussions. And then, I dunno what happened, but after writing a few decent stories Chichester started writing awful, awful crap – I still remember the Surgeon General.

I’m very curious about this book, being a huge DD fan. Will have to pick up.

I still have a soft spot for ELEKTRA LIVES AGAIN ogn by none other than the goddamn Frank Miller (sans Klaus Janson). Beautifully coloured by Lynn Varley.

Brought a perfect ending to the ELEKTRA SAGA that FM begans years ago.

Then of course, MARVEL went ahead and ruined it all by bringing her back and butchering her character time and time again.

Also, Daredevil ogn: LOVE AND WAR by FM and Bill Sienkiewicz was also a classic.

i still think that fall from grace was a narrative masterpiece.
Even if i don’t like the new custume and the art is not so good.
But the idea and the style of the storytelling is really good

I’m not sure whether or not this is considered “ignored,” but I really loved Daredevil: Redemption. It was a take on the West Memphis Three murders, and was a really cerebral tale. Great list, otherwise. I might just have to find Abattoir.

There’s an uncollected Bob Gale story that’s pretty good.

Max – Playing to the Camera. I believe it is the ONLY volume 2 material that has never been collected (20-25). Great art, not so great story.

Hari – I’m right there with you about Redemption. Hine and Gaydos (beautiful stuff!). I do believe it is an underrated gem. It doesn’t make enough DD lists.

I have a soft spot for all of the What If DD tales. Sort of like DC Elseworlds. Self contained, no baggage.

Daredevil 2099 (one shot) – A Robert Kirkman tale back in ’04. This one was a neat futuristic take that no one talks about. Check it out.

Ryan, I’m so excited about your book. My plans for ECCC folded, however. I was really hoping to make it down there for a grab. I guess I’ll have to wait.

C.

One more I wanted to add:

Not strictly a DD mini, but I certainly stash it with my DDs is Powerless. It has more Gaydos art (I’m a fan!) and it is a crazy tale that also features Wolverine and Spider-Man.

Daredevil #208 Story by Harlan Ellison & Arthur Byron Cover with pencils by David Mazzuchelli.Don’t know if it was ever reprinted

nice picks though i would also have incluced daredevil redemption for not only was it based on a real screwed up murder case. the west memphis three but shows how much dare devil will do to try and help his cleint. plus always loved that what if issue mention

Miller was also involved in DD 219, which could be considered his first SIN CITY comic. It was drawn by John Buscema and certainly seems to be inspired by HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER. It has reprinted in the O’Neil/Mazzucchelli collection Love’s Labors Lost, which also includes reprints of #218 and #220, both issues of which Miller was somehow involved.

I liked the Last Rites storyline so much I bought it online(it took so long to arrive the seller threw in #1 SPAWN(so you take the good with the bad)). Since Marvel is releasing a ton of 90 stories in trade hopefully this one pops up soon.

Tim O’Neil – wasn’t the Surgeon General a Nocenti creation?

Tom Fitzpatrick – yeah, Elektra could have been something special but kind of got watered down. A shame. I write quite a bit about her in the book.

Guys, A LOT of Redemption love. That’s awesome. I dug what Hine and Gaydos did there, and it came in just outside the list. So did Powerless, which I really enjoyed. The Daredevil/Punisher mini Means and Ends was also pretty cool but just missed the list.

I wasn’t a massive fan of the Bob Gale story, and I worry its mythic portrayal as an uncollected book will make people rush out to buy it when it finally drops and it’s not that it’s bad, it’s just not really that good.

Clayton – a shame you couldn’t make it, buddy. I’m sure I’ll get this into your hands somewhere/somehow :)

DD #208 by Harlan Ellison gave me the creeps when I first read it as a 12- year old; it’s certainly underrated.

My thoughts immediately went to ‘Redemption’ as well. It’s a very impressive book. While being a variation on the real WM3 tale, it is astonishing how many aspects of the Daredevil books were based on actual facts. The combination of the WM3-rooted story with a superhero tale works perfectly. It puts the role of a superhero in perspective.

I actually quite liked the Bob Gale ‘Playing to the Camera’ story too. It featured nice characters which I would have liked to see more of, and the right mixture of Daredevil action/investigation and Nelson & Murdock court case drama. But Bendis’ subsequent run is so good that I completely forgive the man for taking the series in a different direction.

Not a story at all but I always thought the new costume by Scott McDaniel was underrated. The worst thing about it to me was that it was *such* a McDaniel creation that it didn’t look right when anyone else drew it.
Comic book fans have seen so many good artists draw the Daredevil costume that I think they forget how ridiculous it is that a man dressed all in red spandex could be considered a creature of the night and a superhero answer to film noir.

Getting this. Like everyone here, I really dig DD. Marvel has been wise to keep their meddling with him to a minimum. That’s part of his appeal IMO.

Nice picks Ryan.

DAREDEVIL: REDEMPTION. Hine/Gaydos. Excellent. Surprised it didn’t make the list, I feel it’s more ignored than say, FATHER.

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