I love good old-fashioned plot-driven episodic fiction, so I think very highly of Daredevil #207.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy reading well-written dialogue or character studies or stories that focus on setting a mood or exploring a theme, and I think that comics as a medium is broad enough and versatile enough to handle all manner of story-telling. But I have to be honest, 22 pages of Ultimate Peter Parker talking to Ultimate Mary Jane in his Ultimate Bedroom? I don’t find that a very satisfying read in a monthly comic book. It’s okay if you’re reading the trade paperback, I guess, but if I’m reading a “pamphlet,” I want some narrative momentum, some plot… some head-kicking.
There. I said it. I want Daredevil to kick somebody in the head at least once an issue.
Back in the Golden Age – the 1980s – head-kicking was par for the course in Daredevil, but not at the expense of character development. Frank “The Tank” Miller set the bar high with his plot-heavy tales of swashbuckling and skullduggery, and after he left the book, writer Denny O’Neil took over the writing chores. The under-appreciated O’Neil run maintained a similar tone to Miller’s work, but strode confidently in a new direction.
Denny O’Neil worked with artists like William Johnson and David Mazzuchelli, which didn’t hurt things, either. I’m the first to admit that some of the issues were a little underwhelming, and there were some lame villains thrown in the mix. Crossbow? Micah Synn? Yeesh. But still, the Denny O’Neil run on this book made me get into comics again, and then I went back and read all the Frank Miller stuff which blew my young mind.
And how can you go wrong with panels like this?
That is money.
I don’t know what happened to William Johnson, the penciller for this issue. Did he work in comics after this? I love his stuff, and Danny Bulandi’s inks work perfectly with Johnson’s art. It’s great stuff. My only complaint about this issue is that the colorist was too fond of pink, and they switched inkers for the last couple pages. Oh well.
I almost forgot! Check out that cover at the beginning of the post. That’s Bill Fucking Sienkiewicz inking over William Johnson. Is that perfection? Daredevil kicking his way out of a Hydra death trap? Is that not what superhero comics are all about? Is that not all that is good and right in the world? Do you hear angels singing when you look at it? If you don’t, stop reading right now, you commie.
Ha! I kid. Keep reading.
The story? Black Widow gets captured by Hydra, the evil green-clad global terrorist/criminals who give S.H.I.E.L.D. such a hard time. They’re looking for a microchip that a Russian defector has (remember, it’s 1984), and they make the Widow contact attorney Matt Murdock, aka Daredevil. HYDRA wants Daredevil to find the chip, or they’ll kill the Widow. Simple as that.
In the middle of the book, Daredevil and HYDRA both figure out where the defector is, and arrive at a dark construction site at the same time. Daredevil’s natural habitat is dark construction sites, so we get this brilliantly laid out cat-and-mouse sequence where he picks off the Hydra hit squad in the dark:
And yes, Daredevil does kick somebody in the head. Actually, if you count the cover, he kicks three people in the head this issue, and punches or otherwise pummels five other people. Good enough for me!
Hydra are sore losers, so they wrap up the Widow like a mummy and hang her from a rafter in a warehouse. The Hydra field leader plants a bomb in the floorboards so when DD shows up, “Boom! You will both go away forever!”
We get this great sequence where Daredevil enters the empty warehouse to rescue the Black Widow. The evil Hydra guy has paralyzed her vocal chords so she can’t alert Daredevil about the trap. With his super-senses he can hear her panicked heartbeat, so he knows something’s fishy…
My only complaint? The sequence is drawn in such a way that it looks like this one tiny floorboard is the trigger for the bomb. How does Hydra know Daredevil is going to walk on that precise spot in this huge warehouse? It would have been better if there was a large section of floor that was booby-trapped, but whatever.
Does Daredevil trigger the bomb? Do he and the Widow die in a huge explosion?
He cuts her down, they beat the crap out of the Hydra goons, and all is well.
And the McGuffin – er, microchip? We learn at the very end of the comic that the Black Widow had the thing all along, hidden under a false fingernail. That crafty minx!
Meow! Looks like somebody’s getting lucky…
Daredevil #207 – light on angst, heavy on plot and head-kicking. What more can you ask for?