March 1981: Daredevil 171 – Or, have you got yourself locked in a room, with a violent giant?


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Synopsis: Daredevil 171 was written and drawn by Frank Miller, with Klaus Janson and opens with Matt (Daredevil) Murdock, in his costume, waking up in the back of a garbage truck. He jumps clear to get some sleep and in a cutaway scene, we see one of the mob’s underlings killed by a man answering to Wilson Fisk, the legendary crime boss known as the Kingpin.


The next morning, Matt has an expositional conversation with current girlfriend Heather Glenn (it’s a Daredevil girlfriend, don’t get too attached) explaining why Fisk is back and what has gone on. We then go to the mob, who gloat about how well their plan is going, despite Vanessa Fisk telling them that what they are doing is suicidally dangerous for them and the city. One of the mob’s recent hires Bullseye, notes that he might be on the wrong team here.

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Deciding on a different tactic, Matt assumes the identity of ‘Shades’, a hitman who worked for Eric Slaughter and gets himself brought to the Kingpin. Matt is amazed by the sheer size of the man. Kingpin gets the message to give his files to the mob for his wife at a construction site, from a dying subordinate, who got the message from Bullseye, as well as the mortal wounds. Matt is torn up by the fact that he recently saved Bullseye’s life and feels somehow responsible. Kingpin and his men leave, we don’t really see what Matt does.

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The next day, Matt is missing from work and although his law partner Franklin (Foggy) Nelson is there, he’s in no condition to do anything, seemingly depressed and distracted. Matt has returned to the Kingpin’s place and opens his vault, purely by strength. When cornered by a returning Kingpin, Matt drops his clothes, revealing himself as  Daredevil and begins a pitched battle with Kingpin. It doesn’t go well. Kingpin takes every hit from Matt as it unhurt and delivers only one punch, but that is a thunderous punch that knocks Matt out. While Matt is dumped into the sewers, Kingpin goes to meet the mob, mostly led by his old lieutenants. He double crosses them, using a sonic weapon to floor them. All is well until a rocket propelled grenade is fired at the construction site, seemingly killing all there, including Vanessa. The only survivor is Kingpin and his right hand man who convinces a Kingpin in shock to re-take the city from the mob and make them all pay.

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Notes: This is a bit more Miller-esque, now that he’s found his feet. This is a Daredevil with a thick layer of noir all over it and a shift towards the villains being more fleshed out and interesting. Miller’s fight scenes are bold and interesting, looking like no one else’s at the time. The art is cinematic and eye pleasing, like the adaptation of a really cool film no one has ever seen. Miller’s Kingpin is not the big man from Spider-Man, but a terrifying mobster with a savage temper and no time for anyone not of use and no mercy for anyone in his way. His single punch takedown of Daredevil points out how much further up the food chain he is than the Man without Fear.


The scene changes and subplots are woven well and Miller’s strengths as a writer are as clear as his art. There’s a reason that this is the Daredevil that keeps being referenced. If you’ve not read this era, I think you are missing out.


Next Time: The next great FF run


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