Tuesday, October 11, 2005

DAREDEVIL #207 Marvel Comics, 1984

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.

"I want Daredevil to kick somebody in the head at least once an issue."
This issue is a self-contained story about Daredevil taking some Hydra chumps to school. In twenty-two pages Denny O’Neil efficiently gives you the set-up, the complications, some head-kicking, some sub-plot, a death trap, more head-kicking, and a flirty denouement. You don’t have to know anything about Daredevil to appreciate the comic – it’s totally accessible and totally entertaining.

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?


Anonymous said...

From the look of that last panel, I'm surprised he doesn't say, "Try astrology, baby ... now let's hit that hot tub."

Angry Android said...

Daredevil's one of the comics I read a lot as a kid (the Miller/Mazzuchelli run) but O'Neil wasn't too shabby either.

thekelvingreen said...

See that cover? Does Daredevil have heels on his boots? What's going on there?

Anonymous said...

Daredevil, miller, headkicking, and hot russians spies with black eyes. Nuff said!


Tycho B. said...

The use of one teeny board to trigger the bomb sounds like an iteration of the "Fallacy of the Predictable Tree" in motion pictures, as defined by Roger Ebert:

The logical error committed every time the good guy is able to predict exactly what the bad guy is going to do. For example, in FIRST BLOOD, law enforcement officials are searching the woods for John Rambo. A cop pauses under a tree. Rambo drops on him. Question: Out of all the trees in the forest, how did Rambo know which one the guy would pause under?

Anonymous said...

See that cover? Does Daredevil have heels on his boots? What's going on there?

Those are obviously his kicking-Hydra-in-the-head boots. With MAximum Heel for Maximum Head-Kicking

David Campbell said...

The Widow does indeed have a shiner in this issue - Hydra plays rough. And everybody was wearing boots like that in '84. I know I was. The kids laughed at my knee high red leather boots with heels - until I kicked them in the head!

Anonymous said...

This is around the point when I dropped Daredevil from my monthly purchases, merely because it weren't Miller. Your lengthy post made me rethink my rash decision of youth: that is a pretty darn good lookin' story. Thanks for the revisit.

Anonymous said...

Kyle: the Hydra agents captured her prior to the story's beginning- she's shown on page one tied to a chair with the shiner.

Dave: William Johnson has always been a bit of a mystery. After this run on Daredevil, he was supposed to draw a Magneto min that for one reason or another never materialized. Then he did two issues of Transformers that TF geeks still agree were KICKASS. #7-8, in 1985, it was about Ratchet outmaneuvering Megatron, and creating the Dinobots. Kyle Baker inked the issues, too!

Fans wrote in letters to TF demanding Johnson's return, but all he did after that, IIRC, was a few pages in an issue of G.I. Joe during the captured Joes in Borovia storyline in '87.

Edward Liu said...

Daredevil: Hydra Leader, you fail to grasp Tae-Kwon Leep. Approach me so that you may see.

HYDRA AGENT: Alright, finally some action. All Hail Hydra!

DD: Observe closely Hydra agents. Boot to the Head [boom].

HYDRA: Ow, you booted me in the head! Cut off one and nine will take its place!

(All due apologies to the true masters of Tae Kwon Leap.)

Spencer Carnage said...


Is that the story where a bunch of Joes get killed? Just all mowed down by that machine gun Viper? Man, that issue was crazy.

Anonymous said...

Spencer- nah, that story was a few years later, and IIRC drawn by Ron Garney and/or Lee Weeks.

However, Quick Kick was one of the Saw Viper's victims in addition to being one of the Borovia imprisoned Joes (along with Snow Job and Stalker), so it's easy to conflate them.

That story WAS insane. The last great bit of the Hama Joe run.

Anonymous said...

Any comic where the protagonist pulls out the double noggin knocker is fine by me.

Chris Sims said...

Aw, c'mon, Dave! Micah Synn's awesome! He's a caveman AND a pirate, and he wants to have sex with Foggy's wife!

... Okay, so maybe "awesome" is the wrong word. But yeah, I got this issue in a box of comics when I was fifteen and thought it was great. Although I think it's prety much a given that whenever Black Widow shows up, somebody's getting lucky.

Bully said...

"Okay, so maybe "awesome" is the wrong word."

Is the word you'e looking for here...AIRWOLF???

Sleestak said...

The soles of super-hero boots alwasy looked like they'd have crappy traction and the hero would slip and fall when running on a girder. I think only iron man actually had treads and studs until maybe Frank Miller started drawing realistic boots on Batman.

Anonymous said...

"until maybe Frank Miller started drawing realistic boots on Batman"

I hate that I know this, but if I'm remembering correctly--please let me know if I aren't--the first place I saw "realistic" boot treads in the DC Universe was just a few months before Dark Knight, in the 1986 miniseries Legends. Byrne drew treads on the bottom of the Flash's boots--silly thing, but it impressed me at the time.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of traction (or lack thereof), what do you think would happen if Flash wore Slyde's suit?

Anonymous said...

Murdock's such a playa'. If it's not Natasha trying to sneak into his double-D's, it's Elektra. And who does the golden-haired God of Thunder and Fabio-ness get? Volstagg the Voluminous.

I've never much liked Daredevil, as a character. Yet somehow, he always gets these awesome creator runs. Miller, O'Neill, Miller again, Bendis...I'd be hard pressed to find many other characters that have had such great work over the past 20 years.

BTW, Dave, you've mentioned the 80's as the Golden Age, and I'd definitely agree, but I'm curious as to where you'd set the parameters. DARK PHOENIX until X-MEN #1? Miller's DAREDEVIL until the end of BORN AGAIN? Simonson's THOR until the IMAGE migraton? And what about DC? Are you looking at the heyday of the Ostrander/WolfmanPerez/GiffDeMag era, or would you also include the later Vertigo era of Moore, Morrison, and Gaiman? Or perhaps even going as far as the Dixon/Morrison/Waid era of the 90's? Just how Aged is your Golden Age?

Anonymous said...

"He dances to it."

I've completely forgotten that comic, but I remember how much I loved that little panel as a kid. To me it beautifully sums up the essence of what Daredevil is all about.

Pure magic!

Thanks for reminding me, Dave!

thekelvingreen said...

Anonymous, the reason that the lame characters get the best stories is precisely because they're lame and no one cares about them; Daredevil was on the verge of cancellation, so Marvel didn't care what this punk Miller did with it. The hopelessness makes for a lot of creative freedom, and more risks are taken when you have nothing to lose. It makes for some great stories.

And Coyle, yeah, that Transformers story was one of the rare highlights of the US run.

thekelvingreen said...

By which I mean "Dan Coyle" of course. Sorry about that rudeness.

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