The Birth of Netflix’s world of Marvel’s Daredevil- the cornerstone on which was built a rather successful TV show quintet culminating in this summer’s The Defenders- really began in Daredevil #159. Hey, it’s the one I’ve got handy, so roll with me. No, it is, I’ll prove it- much like Daredevil #219’s “Badlands” will be the premiere of a story-telling style in modern comics that presages his breakthrough in the Sin City series and movie.
The issue before began Frank Miller’s smash adaptation of the character, who dates back to 1964 and the last of the creative burst of titles that defined The Marvel Age. With its supervillians, that debut issue doesn’t really foreshadow what’s to come, though it does depict, as notahoax.blogspot points out along with their many fun insights, the entirety of that era’s Daredevil supporting cast. Ah, but it’s that next one, “Marked For Murder,” where Roger MacKenzie, Frank Miller and Klaus Janson begin the transition from supervillain hijinks to hard-boiled noirish pulp in athletic illustrative guise. Rightly recognizing 158 as the last part tie-up of what came before, Tom Brevoort chose Daredevil #159 to begin the reprints featured in Marvel Super-Heroes Megazine #1, which is how I came to own my copy. That same Megazine presents the beginning of John Byrne’s runs writing and penciling (and inking FF) on Fantastic Four and Incredible Hulk, but also, John Romita’s first work at Marvel on Invincible Iron Man #115. Like DD #158, that issue features its title character against the Ani-Men gang, just like Chris Claremont’s opening arc on Uncanny X-Men (thanks again, Notahoax Matt!).
But “Marked For Murder”...oh man, it’s so taut! If a superhero taking on a gang of ordinary hoodlum gunmen seems like a cliché you’ve seen before, I assure you, it’s done here with maximum suspense, clever but clear angles, masterful figure drawing, and vivid storytelling vision. And here, to me, begins the inspiration for the adaptation of the founding Netflix Marvel success- a television series that it seemed about nine out of ten respondents praised with high confidence.
These aren’t the first Miller efforts on Daredevil, the character. That honor goes to Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man #27 & 28! Spider-Man’s been blinded by longtime Maggia foe The Masked Marauder, a disability that panics him, one with, uhm, no end in sight. The multiple agility images and use of shadow, Miller-style, debut there. It’s an interesting pair of issues, watching Daredevil figure out how to guide the stubborn and discomfited wall-crawler through a unique team-up, tracking down the Maggia plot and taking him meanwhile for an examination of his wounded eyes.
“Marked For Murder,” though, keeps a breath-taking pace while demonstrating layouts you’d swear require Miller to swim the desolate pier and climb the rundown rooftops. His sense of space, from panel to panel, puts you in the thick of Daredevil’s danger and acrobatic risk-taking. You’ve been in the moment after several pages of action, and suddenly a near-impossible trick reminds you of Daredevil’s individuality as a superhero. In the framework of its down-to-Earth possibilities, Daredevil’s climatic stunt is positively amazing but totally believable, too.
Let’s take it from the top:
What went before w/ Bullseye, framed in slide show, making it seem less realistic
Slaughter’s death-mask-like face shadowy room
Murdock & Foggy free clinic -Even elements of the show that didn’t begin here are represented nonetheless. Urich’s thoughts take first step towards uncovering Matt’s double I.D.
Actual court case thugs threaten Murdock and Nelson on the street shadowy alleyway frames Matt’s unseen departure. By page seven, we’ve joined Daredevil himself at a dizzying height perched above lonely Pier 42 This issue’s shorn of other subplots, diving straight into an extended eleven-page action sequence. True battle scene, complete with Daredevil’s unique reconnaissance.