Daredevil #160 (September 1979)
"In the Hands of Bullseye"
Roger McKenzie-Frank Miller/Klaus Janson
Doug: This is the second-to-last issue of Daredevil that I purchased before my five year hiatus from new comics buying. I was fortunate enough to also purchase next week's conclusion to this Bullseye 3-parter off the spinner rack, but then I quit cold turkey. I don't know that I overall stopped with the November 1979 cover dates (next week's issue), but it was close. I've always loved the cover to this book, despite it's depiction of violence against women. White covers always tend to grab the eye, and I'm a well known sucker for floating heads. But the expression on Bullseye's face -- his "Ta-da!" exuberance, and the hopeless state of the unconscious Black Widow make it one of the best covers in Frank Miller's run on this book.
Doug: If you'll recall, back in DD #158 the law offices of Nelson & Murdock had been trashed by the so-called Unholy Three (I always find that a dumb moniker. They're the freakin' Ani-Men!) when they came to kidnap Matt Murdock for delivery to the Death-Stalker. Heather Glenn, Matt's girlfriend, had asked the Black Widow to go search for the blind attorney -- even though she knew that Matt could take care of himself. So today's story actually begins with an epilogue. Natasha Romanoff arrives back to her penthouse apartment after a night on patrol. She thinks to herself that every time she gets close to someone, death ensues. She's brooding, and perhaps that's why her guard is down. As she begins to ready for bed, a voice comes from the other side of the room -- the voice of Bullseye! He has not come for pleasantries. Had Natasha not been trained to be hard, fought alongside the Avengers, the Champions, SHIELD, and Daredevil, she surely would have died instantly. As everything is a weapon in the hands of Bullseye, it's spellbinding that he attacks the Widow with a hairbrush, a picture frame, a flower vase, a blowdryer, one of his own explosive throwing projectiles, and a chandelier. While the battle lasts 15 panels, we get the impression that it does not last 15 seconds. Pulling a clipping from the newspaper he'd read at the end of the previous issue, Bullseye pierces the photo of the Widow with a stiletto and hurls it into the wall. She is his captive; his hostage.
Doug: Sceneshift to a cemetery, where the DD cast is gathered at the grave of Maxwell Glenn, Heather's father. Matt has brought her here to come to grips with his death -- the others provide moral support from a distance. It's pouring rain. Heather is perturbed that Matt made her come, and especially on a day as it is. She chafes at him, saying that when she needed him the most he was away playing Daredevil. She asks for a promise that it won't happen again... and gets no answer. Matt begins a "with great power..." speech, and gets a slap to the face for it. Heather storms off and Matt is left alone. Foggy encourages the girls to let him be. We next find Matt in his brownstone, brooding. He's poured himself a drink, and thinks about why he became DD in the first place. He figures there's one person who will "get" what he's going through -- Natasha. So it's into the red suit with the hornheaded mask, and away he goes to seek his former lover.
Doug: Matt billy clubs it across town and arrives to Natasha's to an open window. There's no sign of her, and his radar sense tells him that there's been a scuffle. His keen sense of smell tells him that there's been blood in the room. And then the breeze raises the paper pinned to the wall. Using his heightened sense of touch, he recognizes the scrap as the picture of the Widow that had run in the paper a few days past. DD hightails it to the Daily Bugle offices, where he pumps Ben Urich for information on Bullseye. Urich tells him that they have nothing that hasn't already seen print. DD wants to know how Bullseye made it back onto the streets. Urich relates how he broke out of Bellevue Psychiatric by strangling his therapist, knocking out a security guard, taking a nurse hostage, and finally commandeering a police car, which he later abandoned. Before Urich has finished this recounting, ol' Hornhead is nowhere to be seen. Urich shuffles over to his file cabinet and pulls a folder out. There's a picture of Daredevil clipped to the outside, but the filing had been in the "M" section... for "Murdock".
Doug: You know, if you were or are a reader of Conan, whether under the pencils of Barry Smith or Big John Buscema, then you've seen your share of bar fights. I'd say there's nothing either of those two masters ever put to bristol board that would surpass what Frank Miller and Klaus Janson give us over the next five pages. In fact, it's so strong an action scene that I just decided to include the entire thing rather than attempt to pick-and-choose which panels were the best. The premise of the scene is that DD has come looking for Bullseye's location -- he wants information and he wants it now! It's kind of funny -- DD had a chance to get what he wanted, but I guess there was a sense that all hell was about to break loose so he figured he'd rather be the orchestrator rather than a reactionary. His strategy seems to work just fine.
Doug: This second act in the Bullseye trilogy is mostly set-up, isn't it? So why the heck would I have scrapped my original title (which wasn't very satisfying; it was a work in progress) and changed it to one of my "favorites"? Seriously -- why do most of us read comics? That's right -- same reason people go to hockey games. For the fights! Obviously, there was more to this issue than that, and I recall at the time finding the "Urich knows Matt is DD" subplot intriguing. It's nothing we hadn't seen before from J. Jonah Jameson over in the Spidey books, but this was fairly new territory in DD (hey, that Mike Murdock thing really threw everyone off back in the day!). I personally never warmed to Heather Glenn, so that she and Matt may have been heading toward "over" was OK with me -- I thought it would have been much cooler if he'd gone back with the Black Widow. And I guess that's one of the elements of the story that really gripped me then, and now on the re-read: Bullseye tries to hit Daredevil where it hurts, by kidnapping his partner (and presumed love interest?). He accomplishes this relatively easily when he shouldn't have. And then we see DD go after her like a man possessed. There was some serious passion involved in every scene and from every character -- from Bullseye to Heather Glenn to Ben Urich to Daredevil. Although we only had half a dozen scene shifts, the pace was frenetic. I loved this book 35 years ago, and it's still one to check in on every now and then! Enjoy the more-than-usual full-page art samples today!