Marvel Masterworks: Daredevil, Vol. 1 by Stan Lee
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
1 - A mysterious new super hero in red and yellow is gunning for the Fixer! But what is the connection between this criminal and the boy who was blinded saving a blind man years earlier?
This is the origin of Daredevil and the tale of his vengeance on the man who had his father killed. It reminded me a lot of Batman confronting the murderer of his parents. Stan Lee's writing wasn't bad in this and Bill Everett's art was pretty darn good for the times. Oddly enough, I didn't hate Daredevil's original red and yellow costume like I thought I would.
2 - Daredevil busts up a car theft ring, only to find that it's run by Electro! Can Daredevil escape Electro's wrath and stop him from stealing Reed Richards' inventions while the Fantastic Four is out of town?
Joe Orlando of EC Comics fame handles the art on this one. It's a jarring change from Bill Everett but the old pro gets the job done. The way Stan Lee managed to get Daredevil and Electro to Fantastic Four HQ at the same time was actually fairly clever. Daredevil vs. Electro begins the Daredevil tradition of being outgunned in nearly every fight, a big part of the character's charm.
On a side note, Daredevil sometimes comes off as a poor man's Spider-Man in the pre-Frank Miller days and sending him Spider-Man's sloppy seconds doesn't help that impression.
3 - After an accountant accused of fraud strolls out into traffic and punches his own ticket, the cops bring in the Owl for questioning. The Owl randomly picks Matt Murdock out of the phonebook. Will Matt defend the Owl in court or be forced to bring him in as Daredevil?
Joe Orlando's EC roots show through in the art in this one. His Owl is straight out of a Tales from the Crypt story. Daredevil's underdoggery continues in this one.
4 - Daredevil faces the might of The Purple Man! How can he hope to defeat a man whose every word is an unbreakable command?
So this is where the Purple Man first appeared! DD is really under the gun in this one. Killgrave, the Purple Man, proves to be a formidable foe. My admiration for Joe Orlando's art continues to grow. It's distinct enough from the Kirby imitation a lot of Marvel artists did during the same time period to set Daredevil apart.
5 - Daredevil goes up against the masked Matador!
The Matador is kind of a lame villain but the fight scenes between him and Daredevil are pretty good. Wally Wood becomes the regular artist at this point and gives Daredevil a little something extra.
6 - Daredevil takes on Mr. Fear, The Ox, and The Eel, the Fellowship of Fear!
Daredevl's underdog ways continue when he goes up against the Fellowship. Mr. Fear and his fear gas are pretty formidable. Ox and Eel are sloppy seconds from Spidey and The Human Torch, however.
Daredevil turns the lights out at one point during the battle. It would be really easy to over-use this tactic in future stories.
7 - Namor wishes to sue the human race and attempts to Matt Murdock as his lawyer. Matt tells Namor he doesn't have a case and the Avenging Son goes on a rampage. Standing in his way is Daredevil!
This issue has a lot of things going for it. It's the first appearance of Daredevil's trademark red costume. It also is the story that first got me interested in Daredevil when I read a summary of it in an issue of Marvel Saga. When I finally got the chance to read it years later, it became my favorite silver age Marvel story. Did it hold up under a re-read?
It did. It exemplifies the underdog, never-quit nature of Daredevil. Daredevil repeatedly gets his ass handed to him by Namor but keeps coming back. That's what being a hero is all about. Namor also shows he's more than a one dimensional asshole in this one, saving DD when he could let him drown.
To top it off, Matt winds up having to defend Namor in court anyway. Like I said, it's my favorite silver age Marvel story for a reason.
8 - Daredevil goes up against... Stiltman.
Despite the lameness of the Stiltman concept, I actually wound up digging this issue. The mystery of which of the characters was actually Stiltman was well done. Still, Stiltman...
9 - Matt Murdock goes to a tiny European country with a buddy from law school to see a surgeon that might be able to restore his sight.
Turns out Matt's old buddy was a dictator. I think this was an early attempt to get Matt away from his usual urban haunt. It was passable but I don't think Matt works well as a globe trotting super hero. At least it'll get Karen Page off his ass about getting eye surgery for a while.
10 - Daredevil takes on The Organizer, Ape-Man, Frog-Man, Bird-Man, and Cat-Man!
The first Daredevil story I read was an issue of Marvel Team-Up where DD and Spidey took on the Unholy Trio of Ape-Man, Bird-Man, and Cat-Man so this story had some special interest for me. As always, DD is outnumbered and outgunned.
11 - The battle with the Organizer concludes!
Daredevil continues his fight against unfavorable odds. The Organizer was formidable enough but his Ani-Men were scrubs, for the most part. I did like Daredevil's switcheroo with Frog-Man, though.
Closing Thoughts: The first run of Daredevil stories was a little uneven but still quite enjoyable. Daredevil's abilities and handicaps give him a bit of a Spider-Man feel but I think Matt being a lawyer is what helps differentiate Daredevil from the web-slinger. The writing was actually way better than I expected. The ever-changing art chores were a little jarring but all the lead artists were pretty good for the time. 3.5 out of 5 stars, adjusted for the passage of 50+ years.
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