Klaus JansonDaredevil
Daredevil: Marked for Death
Medium: comic
Year: 1979
Writer: Roger McKenzie
Penciller: Frank Miller
Inker: Klaus Janson
Keywords: superhero
Series: Daredevil >>
Format: 96 pages, reprint of Daredevil 159-164
Website category: Comics
Review date: 11 October 2021
I love Frank Miller's Daredevil, but I don't own the full run. Instead, I have a few graphic collections, with this being half of Miller's ten issues when he was just the series's artist. The writer is Roger McKenzie, who's not a particular fan favourite and his scripts were even disliked by Miller himself.
They're quite good. I enjoyed them.
#159-161 has Mr Slaughter and then Bullseye trying to kill our hero. Bullseye even targets Black Widow, because she's linked romantically with Daredevil and could be a hostage. This is standard adventure serial fare, but it's also well done. I like the noir feel of Daredevil's New York and I was particularly impressed by how the storyline ended. It's not just the usual fisticuffs, but instead is exploring Bullseye's mental weakness and how much his behaviour and self-image is a front. The guy breaks. If your hero is the Man Without Fear, then I like the counterpoint of his nemesis crumbling like that.
#162 is a Hulk story. I love the Hulk and this is everything I expect from him. He's someone Daredevil can't fight, because no one can... but that's not going to stop Daredevil.
"If I found you, so will others. They will come with guns and tanks and try to kill you. They don't understand. They think you are a monster."
"I am a monster."
Then, finally, #163 is an origin story. Ben Urich's been circling in on the truth throughout these issues, but here he confronts a hospitalised Matt Murdoch with it. He knows. Matt is Daredevil. This is more compelling than superheroes hitting each other, but it's really just a framing story for how Matt lost his sight and what happened to his father, Battling Jack Murdock. It's strong stuff. The boxing looks intense.
Miller's art is much more conventional than his later work, to the point where I wouldn't have guessed it was him. At the same time, though, it wouldn't be impossible to call it better. He's drawing everything (as you often get with artists before they get older and simpler) and not taking shortcuts. There's a stronger sense of movement. I particularly like some of his faces. Personally, I think it doesn't hold a candle to his Sin City work, but you can see why Miller was one of Marvel's rising stars and you can't just dismiss it as "early work".
The art's main problem, actually, is the colours. It's standard 1979s Marvel colouring, i.e. it has a very restricted colour palette that suits the Hulk far better than it does New York and Hell's Kitchen. The Hulk's pages almost make Daredevil feel like a guest star in his own book. Miller and Janson sometimes overcome this, e.g. the noir panel when Matt leaves Foggy early in #159, but even so I'd love to see a reprint with modern colouring.
As for McKenzie, it's worth remembering that he'd made Daredevil more serious too. He'd also been writing horror stories and he brought a darker tone when he joined the series in 1978. I enjoyed these issues, although admittedly McKenzie has the odd Comic Book Moment. He'll give characters names like Mr Slaughter and Judge Coffin. The dialogue can be a bit purple and there's an apparent plot hole in #159. (Where did that sonic attack that incapacitated Daredevil come from? If Bullseye did it, why didn't he use it again? If someone else, then who?) These lapses are minor, though, and these issues stand up better to modern rereading than a lot of other comics of that era.
It's a good run. It's weaker than the Miller-written issues that followed it, but it's worth reading and I prefer its telling of Daredevil's origin story to Frank Miller's 1993 mini-series. I love its Hulk story. Its use of Bullseye is thoughtful. These are well-structured stories and important landmarks in Daredevil's life.
Mind you, I say that as someone who likes Daredevil so much that I even enjoy the 2003 Ben Affleck movie...