This time around, the Man Without Fear: Daredevil. DD has always been one of my favourite characters, and his stories have always been among my favourite reads. Having said that, I never got into the Ann Nocenti / John Romita Jr. run or that wacky Daredevil in armour period, where he tried to pretend that Matt Murdock was dead and he was someone else. I just didn’t care for Nocenti’s take on the character and dropped it quickly. I DID pick up quite a bit of the “armour” run but STILL found it unreadable. Those two eras spanned roughly #250 to #380– almost thirteen solid years where one of my favourite books was ransacked.
A note on the Frank Miller run. No doubt this was the best era for the character, and while it is represented here with a few issues, the strength of the Miller run is in the totality and not the individual parts. While to me, not a lot of individual issues were good enough to make the list, you put all those issues together and it comprises one of the greatest runs by a creator on a character ever.
And now, this Blind Man Shall Lead…
1. Fantastic Four #39-40 & Daredevil #37-38
This is what I call the “Doctor Doom Saga”. The story began in Fantastic Four #39-40, where Daredevil assists the Fantastic Four in defeating Doom, who had taken over the Baxter Building and turned Reed’s inventions against them.
For his part in the latest defeat, Daredevil was marked by Doom for special attention, and when the right moment came, Daredevil would be used as a weapon to destroy the Fantastic Four. The right moment came in Daredevil #37-38 when, following a taxing battle with the Trapster, DD is handily beaten by Doom and gets to trade bodies with him as a boobie prize. DD turns the tables, gets his body back and has the Fantastic Four on his tail as a reward. With the help of Spider-Man and Thor, the Fantastic Four is held to a standstill. One of my favourite story sequences of all-time.
Great work by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Gene Colan.
2. Iron Man #35-36 & Daredevil #73-74
This one is definitely going to be a “Huh?” choice by most readers. A four-part crossover in Iron Man #35-36 and Daredevil #73-74.
I like this one because of the strange combination of characters that come together to battle Zodiac– Iron Man and Daredevil (two guys who generally don’t travel in the same circles), with Nick Fury and Madam Masque. It’s just a wacky, fun, story.
3. From wacky to deadly serious: Daredevil #227-233: “Born Again” by Frank Miller and David Mazzuchelli
A lot of fans consider this not only the greatest DD story of all time, but one of the greatest stories of all time. Kingpin totally and utterly destroys Matt Murdock’s life, and the true measure of the hero is taken when he fights back against overwhelming odds and adversity to triumph. An amazing bit of comics storytelling. Most normal people would have this at #1.
4. Daredevil volume 2 #82-87: “The Devil in Cell Block D”
I’ve always liked Ed Brubaker and his take on street level characters. To me, this is the best of his run (so far). He put the Punisher, Kingpin, and Daredevil into prison, threw in Hammerhead and some other hoods with grudges just for fun and shook well to see who or what blows. Oh yeah, bump off Foggy Nelson (apparently) in a prison ambush and have someone else running around Hell’s Kitchen in a Daredevil costume just to confuse everybody. This story line had everything! My one complaint is that the Foggy death was one of the poorest choreographed major deaths in the history of comics. Other than that this was an amazing story.
5. Daredevil: Yellow by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale.
DD’s early days in that wacky yellow suit (which I have a strange fondness for). I’ve always found Sale to be a competent and stylish artist. What makes this story great is the clever writing by Loeb– the dialogue literally drips with foreshadowing and irony. We know what happens to the character and Loeb has a great time playing with this. There are lots of clever bits in this story– a lot of fun to read.
6. Daredevil volume 2 #1-8: “Guardian Devil” by Kevin Smith and Joe Quesada
As much as I dislike Quesada, I can’t leave this story off the list due to a great story by Smith. To kick off the Marvel Knights era of DD, he throws Daredevil, Bullseye, Black Widow, Spidey, and Mysterio at you, and in the process bumps off Karen Page and drives Daredevil just about loony. The great twist in this is that an exclusive Spidey villain (Mysterio) orchestrates the whole shebang, for no other reason than to go out in a blaze of glory. (And he didn’t want to get smoked by Spidey again.) Fantastic story!
7. Daredevil #182
One of the most brutal Daredevil issues ever. Bullseye murders Elektra and DD exacts revenge. Frank Miller at his best. Unforgettable.
8. Daredevil volume 3 #32-40: “Out” by Brian Bendis and Alex Maleev
These are two guys that “get” Daredevil. They understand the street level grit and borderline noir world the character belongs in. Having said that, I’m not sure I really enjoyed this story, but it’s on the list for having the sheer guts to permanently alter a character’s status quo by having his secret identity outed on the front page of a newspaper.
9. Daredevil # 7 & 163
Call this variations on a theme. See what happens when DD has to punch his way outside his weight class when he takes on Sub-Mariner and the Hulk respectively. It’s exactly what’s expected when a costumed acrobat takes on guys with super-human strength– he gets the crap beat out of him. Great stories by Wally Wood and Miller. Different execution of a similar idea but both delivered in style.
10. The wacky pick: Daredevil Annual #1: Electro and his Emissaries of Evil
Stan Lee’s attempt to give Daredevil his own Sinister Six, the only problem being DD hasn’t actually GOT six competent foes. They were scraping the bottom of the barrel with such menaces as the Leap Frog and the Matador. DD’s villain pool at that time was pretty darn shallow.
Having said that, I actually liked the story quite a bit, especially seeing the five figure out what Doc Ock never did and gang attack Daredevil. He beats them quite handily using their numbers against them. (Ken Boechler)