December 1981: Daredevil 181 – Or, honestly what did the TV people think would happen?


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Synopsis: Daredevil 181  was written and drawn by Frank Miller with finishes by Klaus Janson and opens with Bullseye fantasising about killing Daredevil. Since Daredevil saved him, Bullseye has been in maximum security on Ryker’s island, suffering from intense headaches from his brain surgery and kept isolated from the general prison population, his only outlet, a private gym.

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In this gym, he is spoken to by Tom Snyde, who wants to interview him on television. Yup folks that’s right, he wants to interview one of the deadliest men alive, in person in prison. Guess how well this is going to go. Bullseye isn’t really interested until during his one exercise yard afternoon per week, he is approached by Frank (the Punisher) Castle, who tells him he has been replaced as the Kingpin’s assassin and is being left to rot. Next thing we see, Bullseye is on tv, in costume and it goes exactly as you expected it would.

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Killing everyone in the room, except Snyde, who he uses as a human shield to escape. Once he does, he finds Eric Slaughter, who operates a freelance contract killers bureau, which has been contracted to remove Bullseye from the board, in case he got out of jail. Slaughter, not keen to be killed, calmly points out that the new assassin  Elektra, has been assigned to kill Franklin (Foggy) Nelson and Bullseye goes after her.

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While doing research on Nelson, Bullseye comes to the idea, that his law partner Matt Murdock is actually Daredevil, not just a friend. He then goes after Elektra and after a long and brutal fight between the two, stabs her through the chest with her sai. With her last breaths, Elektra makes it to Matt’s door, dying in her arms.

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After a visit to the morgue seems to confirm Bullseye’s theory, he tells the Kingpin, who is less than interested, but wants Daredevil dead, so tells Bullseye it’s the price to get his old job back. Bullseye goes to Matt’s place and is fooled by a dummy into believing Matt isn’t Daredevil and the two of them battle. It’s as intense and brutal as the fight with Elektra, which ends when Bullseye falls from a telegraph wire and shatters his spine. Thing is, Daredevil had hold of him at the time, so did he fall, or did Daredevil let go?

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Out of costume, Matt buries his old college girlfriend and the Kingpin tosses the files for Bullseye and Elektra away. Bullseye lies in a hospital bed, paralysed from the neck down and all the while, hating Daredevil all the more.

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Notes: To describe this as historic is a bit of an understatement. This story was something of an opus for Miller during his first run on the Man without Fear. He changed the strip from a swashbuckling also ran, to a first rate crime noir book. The fights scenes are gloriously brutal, with stakes as high as you can get. Unlike many Fighty McFightin’stein scenes in other comics of the time (copywrite Andy Leyland) this felt viscerally savage. No one got out of this without scars. The beauty though is in the smaller scenes, the Punisher setting the ball rolling on this whole turn of events, the fact that Elektra is ready to kill Foggy, till he recognises her as Matt’s ex, even the Kingpin’s bemusement at Bullseye’s theory. Despite Daredevil’s name being on the cover, it’s a bit light on him. It’s all from Bullseye’s point of view and his main appearance is in relation to Daredevil, or in cut aways.


This was Miller at his hight as a storyteller and you can’t fault anything that is going on here, anyone who has written Daredevil  after this owes something to Miller, for good and ill. Definitely a creator, whose work deserves many of the plaudits it has.


Next Time: Starlin, Thanos and cancer?

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