It’s mind-boggling how much Frank Miller could fit into a single issue of Daredevil. Issue #187 brings back Stick, but reintroduces him as part of an offshoot of ninjas who have devoted their lives to stopping The Hand.
This story marks the first appearance of The Chaste: Shaft, Stone and Claw. Three white-clad ninjas who use weapons/fighting styles reflected by their names.
Stick was introduced in issue #176 as part of a brilliant retcon: When young Matt Murdock was hit by a radioactive barrel as a child, and found his senses elevated, Stick visited the boy in the hospital and taught him how to manage his new abilities. Daredevil needs Stick’s help again, because he’s losing control over his abilities, and Stick, using discipline and meditation, helps him get it back under control.
He does find time to break Josie’s window again along the way.
Meanwhile, Black Widow returns with a new costume, helps DD fight some Hand members, and gets poisoned.
Frank Miller redesigns Black Widow.
When I first saw this costume I thought it was a bit preppy, but it grew on me to the point where I now like it more than her traditional leather catsuit.
As part of his re-training of Matt, Stick reveals that the radiation that hit him as a kid didn’t give him powers–he’s just a really well-trained ninja. This is a major retcon, and one that I don’t think was followed after Miller’s run on Daredevil.
AThe Hand resurrect the ninja Kirigi, who was beheaded by Elektra, and we see him being told by the leader of The Hand that “there are many he must kill.” Stick dies in this story, sacrificing himself to save Daredevil, Widow, and The Chaste in a battle against Kirigi.
In #188 is a fun little diversion: Charles Bronson and Marlon Brando’s Godfather character make appearances as crime bosses working for Kingpin.
(I’m not sure who the guy in the pink tie is supposed to be–any ideas?)
Much of Frank Miller’s Daredevil was inspired by Miller’s having been mugged in New York City. It made him dark and cynical. I suspect that’s why he relates to Charles “Death Wish” Bronson.
Meanwhile, Foggy Nelson is picking up the pieces of Matt Murdock’s brutal relationship…Matt is portrayed as a total dick. He’s bullied Heather into marrying him, and now she has a drinking problem.
Then Foggy, in a remarkably proactive move, gets Black Widow to forge dear John letters from Matt to Heather…and vice-versa. Widow’s letter from Heather to Matt…
And then from Matt to Heather…
This gets each of them to break up with the other. And of course Miller can’t leave this book without another Josie’s Bar scene, with someone getting thrown through her window. This time, though, it’s Daredevil himself who is thrown through it!
And of course, since The Hand’s ability to resurrect the dead was established in #188, this arc ends with Elektra being returned to the living–now clad in white.
Issue #191 is the capstone on a brilliant run. Devastated over the loss of Elektra (and unaware that she is in fact alive), Daredevil visits Bullseye–Elektra’s killer–in the hospital and plays a game of Russian Roulette.
It has built in suspense–six story beats, one for each potential bullet in the revolver. On the last page, [spoiler alert] it’s revealed that there is no bullet in the final chamber and Daredevil tells Bullseye, “I guess we’re stuck with each other.”
This is a very telling story. And it is one of the 100 best single-issue stories of all time, according to this objectively accurate list.
Under Frank Miller, Daredevil’s personality dramatically shifted. This game he plays is almost sadistic. He’s using a helpless Bullseye–torturing him, actually–to work out his inner demons and regrets. This is something Matt did for most of Miller’s run, whether it was bullying Heather Glen into marrying him, risking everything–and the lives of those closest to him–just to take down a corrupt politician against whom Murdock had a vendetta, and similarly using all the women in his life to achieve the goals that he personally believed just. This relentless aspect of his personality became endemic to the character–it defined him, all the way up to Mark Waid’s run in the 2010s.
In many ways, he’s a lot like Batman at this point–or at least like the Batman Frank Miller portrayed in Frank Miller’s Batman. And that continues down to the ending of this issue: “I guess we’re stuck with each other.” That could easily be what Batman says to Joker.
And so, the end of one of the greatest runs in comic book history.
Also: Turk appears!
This concludes the Elektra story that is one of the best Frank Miller stories of all time.