DAREDEVIL #1-8 (1998-1999): Guardian Devil; death of Mysterio and Karen Page

Guardian Devil was part of Marvel’s Marvel Knights line–an early attempt to draw in mature readers and show that Marvel wasn’t just about ruining the hard-won reputation of mutant comics and Spider-Man. Two years after filing for bankruptcy and lacking in much in-house talent that wasn’t named Busiek, Marvel hired “Event Comics” and started rebooting its characters.

The plan worked. Marvel drew in future big-name talents like the crew on this very title (along with Garth Ennis, Grant Morrison, Priest (a successful creator who became an even bigger legend owing to his MK: Black Panther run), and others). Although I have to say…I find this particular story to be overrated.

MK: DD, like most of the Knights line, was more grim and gritty than Marvel’s typical stuff.

Issue #1 started by immediately letting readers know that things were different with this comic.

A teen mom evades pursuers in a black sedan, clutching her baby to her breast. Daredevil, surprisingly, doesn’t leap in to protect her. He’s busy in church atoning and moping about because Karen Page has left him (again).

And his need for faith makes him get pretty…Strange.

What ends up happening is that the baby on page one is Jesus and Daredevil takes the role of protecting him. Or he’s not Jesus and it’s all just Mephisto and Mysterio being dicks.

Along the way, Karen Page has HIV, and Bullseye kills her (not really). Bullseye is hired to kidnap the baby. DD and Karen try to stop him and…

…Bullseye misses.

See, that’s a great scene. There’s a lot of good stuff in this story. There’s also a lot of religion and hand-wringing in this story, which, if you dig it, is rewarding. And mystic reboot-y kind of things…

I tend to find this kind of story a bit tedious (unless Ann Nocenti is writing it), so your results may vary. I don’t mean to be overly critical here–there’s a lot to recommend this story both as a piece of history and as an example of the maturing of the medium. But just because Guardian Devil is “important” doesn’t mean it’s great.

Mysterio’s involvement is interesting. He has a brain tumor so he decides to go after Daredevil and make him believe in a virgin birth, just to compel DD to kill him. Mysterio knows Spider-Man won’t kill him, after all. Or, he just hated the clone version (it was during that period that Quentin was revealed to have brain cancer) as much as Daredevil (Kevin Smith, in another cool twist, reveals that DD knew all along that Ben Reilly wasn’t the real Spider-Man).

When, in the end, Daredevil doesn’t kill him, Mysterio shoots himself in the head. A move he learned…

From Kraven. Very well done sequence. (Also, like Karen, he’s not permanently dead–or at least he’ll come back as a zombie.). Mysterio’s death goes uncelebrated, but Karen gets a big funeral.

They all know about her because she was a porn star, I guess. I’m sure that’s why Stan Lee attended (that’s him in the front pew, close to the preacher).

When we get to the actual superheroics, it’s a good story–there’s just a little too much Mephisto stuff and, like I said, only Ann Nocenti can make that work. Quesada’s art is good, mostly, but he really, really, REALLY likes to draw Daredevil’s cables.

They twist and turn so much they might as well be Medusa’s hair.

Finally, the baby gets a good home and is never seen again.

After Karen’s funeral, a conversation with Spider-Man leads Daredevil to realize that the infant he had saved represented a positive outcome among the tragedy. His faith renewed, he names the baby after Karen and gives it up for adoption to a couple in New Jersey. He visits the Black Widow and asks for forgiveness. After Foggy is released from jail, he and Matt visit the site of their old office, and Matt suggests that he will use Karen’s money—left to him in her will—to re-open their own practice.

The religious mumbo jumbo in this is just a big illusion created by Mysterio, who is mostly a Spider-Man villain. He gives his reasoning as to why he wants to screw around with Daredevil but it’s pretty fucking meh. Apparently, Daredevil has been drugged the whole time. I’m not sure how a drug can last for days on end but I guess this explains why he found it necessary to throw a baby off of a fucking roof. Sorry, but I wanted to throw this book when that happened… way before we got an explanation to Daredevil’s bat shit behavior several issues later.

Additionally, none of the characters really act rational in anyway. I guess, again, this is due to Daredevil being high as fuck but if I have to read six or seven issues before the explanation, I’m just going to assume that the writer doesn’t understand or know these characters. Had I been reading this as a new comic now, I would’ve quit on issue no. 1 or 2.

I’m not even really sure why I liked this story in 1999 or so, other than I thought Kevin Smith was a genius back then, I was still under the influence of religion and I thought that Dogma was Generation X’s Ben fucking Hur.

On to the positives.

I liked the art, I liked the villain lineup and I was really happy with the confrontation between Daredevil and Bullseye. Back in the early ’90s when I was hardcore into Daredevil, a big reason for that was Bullseye. I loved him just as much as Daredevil and maybe even a little bit more. He’s a complete fucking badass and underutilized by Marvel. Hell, he was completely shitted on in the 2003 Daredevil film. So when I can get some solid Bullseye shit, I’m a fan. So kudos to Smith for giving me the Bullseye I love.

Daredevil finds himself in the care of an abandoned infant and becomes convinced she’s the newborn Messiah; while Daredevil protects the child, he teams up with the Black Widow, suffers a terrible loss when Bullseye attacks and learns Mysterio is the mastermind behind all of his recent woes; in the wake of the loss of Karen Page, Daredevil is consoled by Spider-Man; Matt Murdock and Foggy Nelson attain the means to reopen their law firm.

3 thoughts on “DAREDEVIL #1-8 (1998-1999): Guardian Devil; death of Mysterio and Karen Page”

  1. Daredevil #1 is the birth of modern Marvel and this story is more important than it is good. I do Not agree with a one story writer, even a famous one, getting to kill off an issue 1 supporting cast character created by Stan Lee. That said they have not reversed it and her death pretty much was the underlying cause of the next decade of stories. So it definitely wasn’t wasted. I think the 98-00 period of palette cleansing with Heroes Return and innovation with Marvel Knights is an important era to study in Marvel history.


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