DAREDEVIL #155-158 (1978-1979): 1st Frank Miller

McKenzie’s arc suffers from fill-in/bad artists, but in #156 Gene Colan comes on board, with Klaus Janson inking, and really you can’t ask for much better than that.

Matt Murdock is increasingly distracted by his alter-ego work, so Foggy hires Becky Blake (no relation to Don Blake) to help out with the office stuff.

One thing that made Marvel special was it showed how superhero work would directly impact on-the-job performance in a secret identity, and the book that did this best was Daredevil. 

Meanwhile, The Champions have broken up, and Black Widow apparently really wants to be on a team, so she’s hanging with Captain America and, still, Hercules.  The two of them kind of had a thing while together in The Champions.  To be fair, Herc and Widow had things with a LOT of people.

Daredevil gets a concussion and ends up fighting the Champions and Captain America. Above is the fight from #155. Below is from #156, where Gene Colan is on the art. See how much better it is?

captain america daredevil

DD passes out, and the fight is over. I liked the fight but it’s hard to imagine that a crew with Hercules, Captain America, Beast, and Black Widow can’t figure out how to subdue Daredevil.

After that’s all figured out, Widow and Daredevil are reunited while DD is recovering in the hospital.

Look at the great job Colan does with Hercules in the background!

These issues are a bit of a hodgepodge, with stories flowing directly into each other and no clear breaks, but they’re a terrific rollercoaster.  McKenzie’s run is about to end, and it’s too bad.  He’s an unsung writer of this series. But he’s going to replaced by a legend.

While DD is hospitalized, Death-Stalker attacks.

Again, good read and fun fight, but COME ON. First these Avengers can’t contain Daredevil, and now they can’t capture Death Stalker?

Deathstalker escapes and Black Widow helps Daredevil rehab back to fighting form.

Issue #157 ends with the Ani-Men attacking Nelson and Murdock’s offices. Colan makes them look great.

And issue #158 picks up right there, with art by a “lanky newcomer.”

He was brought in because things were getting chilly with Gene Colan (and many other longtime Marvel creators) as the company was sold and Jim Shooter became unapologetically corporate.

After the splash, the first few panels (above) immediately show how different Miller is from his predecessors: Look at the focus on motion.  When the villain jerks her hair, you can see her head moving–even though there’s no motion lines in the panel.  Look at the way her thigh curves in and tucks her shin, in the top panel, to provide support for her kick.  Even Natasha’s clothes seem to move.

daredevil 158

They are working for Death-Stalker, so before the issue ends, DD takes on Death-Stalker one-on-one.

It’s five pages, highly choreographed, as DD must dodge his foe’s death-touch.

Death-Stalker dies in the end, when he turns ethereal and re-solidifies (accidentally) inside a tombstone.

Yeah, Miller’s distinctive style is already apparent.

McKenzie will still write a few more issues, but it’s obvious from the beginning that this comic will belong to Miller and Janson.

1 thought on “DAREDEVIL #155-158 (1978-1979): 1st Frank Miller”

  1. There is one thing about Daredevil that cannot be denied: He is never at a loss for quality female companionship! Just look at all the hot action on the splash page of Daredevil#158! Becky Blake makes paraplegism seem sexy, and look at the Black Widow go against the Unholy Three, even without her weaponry! I’d still like to know how she managed that rather superhuman leap out the front window to capture the Bird-Man! Still, she IS the Black Widow, so…. the artwork runs the full range from god-awful ( Frank Robbins- WHY does this man even have a career???!! ) to super ( Gentleman Gene “The Dean” Colan ) to simply astonishing ( the debuting Frank Miller ) his mastery of the human form is only matched by the legendary Gil Kane. The Widow finds herself being drawn back to DD in the wake of the event between herself and Hercules in Avengers#173- good thing it happened, too, because Hercules could be considered a predator of mortal women, considering Natasha’s revelation of Hercules’ immortality versus her relative mortality. Natasha has got SOME kind of anti-aging mojo working for her- one account lists it as the KGB’s version of the Super-Soldier Serum, which I know makes you tough, but I am unaware of any life-lenghthening properties it is supposed to have. My theory is that as a part of her arrangement with SHIELD, Nick Fury hooks her up with a shot of the Infinity Formula that he himself has been on for the past several decades. It does make sense- the Widow is one of SHIELD’s top operatives, so it would fall to extreme logic that Nick would want to maximum the agency’s investment. Still, her lifespan-elongated as it is-is STILL just a blink of an eye to an immortal like Hercules! So, she’s better off with a mortal like DD! Speaking of ol’ Herk, it also mystifies myself how even a berserk Man Without Fear can brutalize an entire team of Avengers, especially Avengers as capable as the Black Widow and Captain America, as well as the mightiest Greek god this side of Zeus!! Just nonsense! The Death-Stalker’s escape from their clutches in the hospital room is easier to swallow, because just because you’ve got Captain America and Hercules on the job is no reason why a man with dimension-phasing abilities like Death-Stalker cannot evade them! The Death Stalker was one of Marvel’s most frightening supervillains, with powers that made him virtually unbeatable. Remember, at the conclusion of issue #158, the Death-Stalker basically defeated himself, which was a damn good thing, because after over four years of relentless effort, neither Daredevil nor any of his superfriends could get the job done. As noted in an earlier post, I was somewhat relieved at the finish of the Death Stalker, because this fellow was Count Dracula-level terrifying. Daredevil simply could not have survived against this guy indefinitely. Nossir. Incoming superstar writer/artist Frank Miller wanted to clear the field of all of Daredevil’s regular antagonists in order to pave the way for the next several year’s worth of relentless battles against ninjas. I know a certain percentage of the DD faithful thought this was a cool thing, but I am in the minority who did not enjoy it. Ninjas are nameless, faceless enemies. Marvel built it’s brand on multi-faceted villains with names, faces, families, and backstories who could possibly go straight at any time. You don’t get this with generic, nameless, faceless ninja assassins. I don’t mind an occasional story about ninjas, but Miller made his Daredevil series about nothing BUT them, for several years, well into the middle part of the following decade. YAWN. I realize that Miller’s “new direction” was solely responsible for saving the Daredevil series from cancellation, and it’s hard to argue with success, but I did not like it, and it turned me away to other comics. ( most notably, the Distinguished Competition’s Batman, ( not TOO many ninjas ) The Justice League of America, and, most notably, The New Teen Titans, all due to my Daredevil-ninja exhaustion, and my discovery of Hanna-Barbara’s “Challenge of the Superfriends” on Saturday morning ) So, congratulations to Frank Miller for saving Daredevil from the scrap-heap in 1979, and the takeaway is, I suppose, never underestimate Ninja-power! Word!


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