Klaus JansonDaredevil
Daredevil and the Punisher: Child's Play
Medium: comic
Year: 1982
Writer: Frank Miller, Roger McKenzie
Artist: Frank Miller, Klaus Janson
Keywords: superhero
Series: << Daredevil >>
Format: 51 pages, reprinted from Daredevil 182-184
Website category: Comics
Review date: 16 October 2021
This is the 1988 reprint that completists will want to avoid. If you want the full story, read the original issues.
DAREDEVIL 182 ("She's Alive") = just the 8 pages of the Punisher escaping from Rykers and killing everyone involved in a drug shipment. They've cut all the Elektra material.
DAREDEVIL 183 ("Child's Play") = all 22 pages, complete. A 12-year-old girl on angel dust takes a dive out of her classroom window in front of Matt Murdock. The worst of it is she didn't die immediately and Matt ran all the way to the hospital with her in his arms. There, eventually, she dies. The drug dealers are now being chased by both the Punisher and Daredevil, not to mention the dead girl's little brother who thinks he has to borrow his dad's gun and take vengeance personally.
DAREDEVIL 184 ("Good Guys Wear Red") = 21 pages, omitting only the epilogue.
It's also really good, by the way.
It's about drugs, but I'm not giving it a pass just for that. There are lots of "Look How Bad Drugs Are, Kids" stories out there. This isn't that. It's tough as hell. People die for stealing from their fellow criminals, or for hallucinating snakes in class, or just for breathing near the Punisher. (He's a stone cold murderer, by the way. Look at what happens to the third of Injun Joe's boys in the opening scene. The first two were self-defence, but after that the little one was no threat.)
The children's angle also makes it nastier. Both, um, heroes see the death of a child, which with the Punisher is blackly hilarious. "Please, I give up," says a silhouette, throwing away his gun. He's unarmed and he's surrendered.
The Punisher shoots him in the throat. KCHOWW. "This is war. I don't take prisoners."
On the next page, though... "This last one I shot... a child. Just a child." Does the Punisher feel sorry? Does he think he's done wrong? No, he blames the criminals and turns that into a justification of his actions. "The enemy enlists children. The war has gotten dirtier. I'm needed more than ever."
(Mind you, Daredevil can be almost as big a hypocrite. I laughed at: "Billy, wait! I know how you feel, but you can't take the law into your own hands." What's more, he says that in costume.)
It's an interesting contrast. Daredevil's a lawyer who believes in the system and is such a boy scout that he can even be tricked into defending a murderer. (That super-hearing lie detector isn't as infallible as he thinks it is.) He could convince you that vigilantes are heroes. The Punisher, on the other hand, is scarier and a more accurate portrayal of how vigilantes operate in real life. Sometimes governments do too, e.g. President Rodrigo Duterte's anti-drug policy in the Philippines. This is still a relatively early portrayal of Frank Castle, when the character was still nearly a villain, and there's no doubt where our sympathies are meant to lie... but this story's little Billy O'Koren is cheering on the Punisher and actively following in his footsteps.
Hence the story's title. The legalistic debate we often get in Daredevil stories is focusing on something much more immediate, i.e. the decisions of a child. It's definitely a strong use of both characters, though. Daredevil's holier-than-thou preachiness leads him into disaster and #184 makes it genuinely possible that he might lose and the Punisher might win.
As it happens, this is actually a Roger McKenzie storyline that would have appeared in Daredevil 167 but got rejected by the Comics Code Authority. Two years later, Frank Miller used it anyway.
I'm happy with the editing of the original issues, which have resulted in a self-contained story. Well, almost. Daredevil proposing to Heather is so out of nowhere (for us here) that it's funny, but his romantic troubles become quite strong in issue 184.
I really like this one. It's clever, scary and funny. ("You've never harmed an innocent." Bwahahahahaha. What do you mean, that wasn't meant to be comedy?) I really like the vertical split motif that Miller uses in the opening and chapters, e.g. the disastrous Matt-Heather phone conversation and little Billy all alone underneath a skyscraper. The script lightly touches on more socially acceptable drugs too, e.g. Ben Urich's tobacco. If a comics newbie came to me asking for an introduction to Daredevil and I thought it would be a bit heavy to hit them with Born Again, I might give them this.