Daredevil Marvel Masterworks volume 11


By Steve Gerber, Chris Claremont, Gerry Conway, Tony Isabella, Bob Brown, Gene Colan, Don Heck, Sal Buscema & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-1-3029-0346-6 (HB)

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Unbeatable Fights ‘n’ Tights Fun… 8/10

Matt Murdock is a blind lawyer whose remaining senses hyper-compensate, making him an astonishing acrobat, formidable fighter and living lie-detector. Very much a second-string hero for much of his early years, Daredevil was nonetheless a striking and popular one, due in very large part to the captivatingly humanistic art of Gene Colan. He fought gangsters, a variety of super-villains and even the occasional monster or alien invasion, quipping and wisecracking his way through life and life-threatening combat, utterly unlike the grim, moody, quasi-religious metaphor he’s been seen as in latter years.

After spending years in a disastrous on-again, off-again relationship with his secretary Karen Page Murdock took up with Russian émigré and occasional client Natasha Romanoff, the infamous and notorious spy dubbed The Black Widow.

She was railroaded and framed for murder and prosecuted by Matt’s best friend and law partner Foggy Nelson before the legal eagle cleared her. Subsequently leaving New York with her for the wild wacky and West Coast, Matt joined prestigious San Francisco law firm Broderick & Sloan but adventure, disaster and intrigue sought out the Sightless Swashbuckler anywhere…

This eleventh hardback and eBook collection re-presents Daredevil #108-119, spanning March 1974 through March 1975, as well as Marvel Two-in-One #3, wherein twin storylines converged, and offers a heartfelt reminiscence eulogising unique authorial voice and much-missed scripter Steve Gerber in an effusive Introduction by sometime collaborator Mary Skrenes.

Following a period of cosmic intensity which saw the heroes battling aliens and monsters as part of the first war against Thanos, a new direction began in #108 after Daredevil rebukes the Widow for using increasingly excessive force on the thugs they stalked.

In ‘Cry… Beetle’ (by Gerber, Bob Brown & Paul Gulacy) their heated arguments are forcibly curtailed when Matt’s oldest friend – and current New York DA Foggy Nelson – is shot and she refuses to rush to his side with Murdock…

Back in the Big Apple for #109, Matt meets Foggy’s radical student sister Candace and learns of a plot by a mysterious criminal organisation. Black Spectre seek to steal government printing plates but rapidly en route to stop the raid, the Scarlet Swashbuckler is intercepted by a larcenous third party whose brutal interference allows the sinister plotters to abscond with the money-making plates…

Even the arrival of the cops can’t slow the bludgeoning battle against the Beetle in ‘Dying for Dollar$!’ (Brown & Heck), but as the exo-skeletoned thugs breaks away in Manhattan, back in San Francisco Natasha is attacked by a terrifying albino mutant called Nekra, Priestess of Darkness, who tries to forcibly recruit her into Black Spectre.

After tracking down and defeating the Beetle, Daredevil meets Africa-based hero Shanna the She-Devil, unaware that the fiery American ex-pat is back seeking bloody vengeance against the same enemies who have attacked Foggy, Natasha and the US economy…

The next chapter came in Marvel Two-in-One #3 (May 1974, by Gerber, Sal Buscema & Joe Sinnott), providing a peek ‘Inside Black Spectre!’ as destabilising attacks on US prosperity and culture foment riot in the streets of the beleaguered nation. Following separate clue trails, the Thing links up with the Man without Fear to invade the cabal’s aerial HQ but are improbably overcome soon after discovering the Black Widow has defected to the rebels…

Daredevil #110 sees the return of Gene Colan – inked by Frank Chiaramonte – as the perfidious plot further develops in ‘Birthright!’, revealing Black Spectre is an exclusively female-staffed organisation, led by a pheromone-fuelled male mutant called Mandrill.

One of the first “Children of the Atom”, the ape-like creature had suffered appalling abuse and rejection until finding the equally ostracised Nekra. Once they met and realised their combined power, they swore to make America pay…

‘Sword of the Samurai!’ (Brown & Jim Mooney) in issue #111 opens with DD and Shanna attacked by a monstrous Japanese warrior even as the She-Devil at last discloses her own tragic reasons for hunting Nekra and Mandrill. When she too is taken by Black Spectre – who want to dissect her to discover how she can resist Mandrill’s influence – DD is again attacked by the outrageously powerful sword-wielding Silver Samurai

Triumphing over impossible odds, DD then infiltrates the cabal’s flying fortress in #112 before spectacular concluding with ‘Death of a Nation?’ (illustrated by Colan & Frank Giacoia) which finds the mutant duo seemingly achieving their ultimate goal by desecrating the White House and temporarily taking (symbolic) control of America.

…But only until Shanna, a freshly-liberated Natasha and fighting mad Man without Fear marshal their utmost resources…

Even with the epic over, Gerber still kept popping away at contemporary socio-political issues, as with #113’s ‘When Strikes the Gladiator!’ – illustrated by Brown & Vince Colletta – which opens with the Black Widow calling it a day, continues with Candace Nelson arrested for treason, teases with her then being kidnapped by one of DD’s most bloodthirsty foes and climaxes with the creation of a new major villain and an attack by one of Marvel’s most controversial monster heroes…

Ted Sallis was a government scientist hired to recreate the Super-Soldier serum that turned a puny, 4-F volunteer into Captain America. Due to corporate interference and what we today call “mission creep”, the project metamorphosed into a fall-back plan to turn humans into monstrous beings able to thrive in the most polluted of toxic environments…

When Sallis was subsequently captured by spies and consumed his serum to stop them from stealing it, he was transformed into a horrific mindless Man-Thing and vanished into the swamps of Florida…

Candace, an idealistic journalism student, had uncovered illicit links between Big Business, her own university and the Military’s misuse of public funds in regard to the Sallis Project, and when she attempted to blow the whistle, the government decided to shut her up. More worryingly, sinister scientific mastermind Death-Stalker imagined far more profitable uses for a solution that made unkillable monsters…

Trailing Candy’s abductors to Citrusville, Florida, Daredevil is ambushed by Gladiator and his macabre senior partner, but saved after a furious fracas by the mysterious muck-monster in #114’s ironically entitled ‘A Quiet Night in the Swamp!’ (Brown & Colletta). Deathstalker unfortunately escapes, returning to New York where he tries to kill Foggy and restart the clandestine Sallis Project.

Even though DD foils the maniac in #115’s ‘Death Stalks the City!’, the staggering duel ends inconclusively and the potential mass-murderer’s body cannot be found…

Colan & Colletta reunited for ‘Two Flew Over the Owl’s Nest!’ wherein Daredevil jets back to San Francisco in search of reconciliation with Natasha, only to blunder into the latest criminal enterprise of one of his oldest enemies. This time however, The Owl isn’t waiting to be found and launches an all-out attack on the unsuspecting and barely reconciled heroic couple.

Chris Claremont scripted the conclusion over Gerber’s plot, with Brown & Colletta back on the art as Natasha and She-Devil Shanna desperately hunt for the missing Man without Fear, before the avian arch-criminal can add him to a pile of purloined personalities trapped in his diabolical computerised ‘Mind Tap!’

With Gerber moving on to other projects, a little messy creative shuffling results in ‘Circus Spelled Sideways is Death!’ (#118 by Gerry Conway, Don Heck & Colletta). Here Daredevil leaves Natasha, resettles in New York and promptly battles the infamous but always-inept Circus of Crime and their latest star turn – a bat-controlling masked nut called Blackwing, after which Tony Isabella takes the authorial reins and end this outing with a clever piece of sentimental back-writing in ‘They’re Tearing Down Fogwell’s Gym!’ – rendered by Brown & Heck.

As Murdock negotiates a plea deal for Candace, the man who trained his boxer father Battling Jack Murdock comes by with a little problem. It seems a crazy crooked doctor is offering an impossible muscle and density boosting treatment that turns bantamweight pugilists into unstoppable rock-hard giant monsters…

Addling lustre to the proceedings, this tome also includes contemporary house ads and a wealth of original art page by Brown, Gulacy, Heck, Colan, Chiaramonte, Colletta & Mooney, plus pre-production-amended cover art.

As the social upheaval of the 1960s and early 1970s receded, the impressively earnest but often strident material was gradually replaced by fabulous fantasy tales strongly suggesting the true potential of Daredevil was in reach. These classic adventures are dramatic delights no action fan can afford to miss.
© 1974, 1975, 2017 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.