Daredevil #163 (March 1980)
Roger McKenzie-Frank Miller/Klaus Janson
Doug: If you can recall our April conversation on mismatches, and if you've checked our list on the sidebar that touts upcoming reviews, then you know my inspiration for today's post and the upcoming Thor retrospective. As many of us remarked a few months ago, underdog stories are fun. Sure, we generally know how they'll turn out, but the question remains: can the creators make the telling of the tale interesting along the way?
Doug: Here's your helping of the meat and potatoes of this yarn, courtesy of a 100-Word Review:
Doug: I would have bought a Frank Miller-drawn Hulk series. It's interesting to see Miller and inkers Klaus Janson and Josef Rubenstein play around with the Hulk's scale and overall look as the story plays out. So why not let this just lead us into...While Matt Murdock and crew are attending a fundraiser for the re-election of DA Blake Tower, Murdock picks up the sound of the Hulk’s heartbeat nearby. Ditching Foggy Nelson and recently ex-girlfriend Heather Glenn, Matt does his thing in pursuit of ol’ Jade Jaws. Finding him, Murdock actually talks the Hulk down from his rage and coaxes Bruce Banner out. But Banner can’t stay in one place, so the next day he leaves Murdock’s brownstone. Trouble ensues, and the Hulk is loosed in downtown Manhattan. This time DD is forced to fight the Hulk, and is beaten nearly to death.
The Good: Of course it's the art, right? To finish my thought, the artists pretty much stick to "the Hulk is 7 feet tall", and it works great. If I remember correctly, when we had our conversation about the Thing and his listed height/weight in the Marvel Handbook, someone commented that the Hulk increased in size the angrier he became. While that may be true, it seems to me that it's a post-Bronze Age convention; please correct me if I am wrong, as I was never a regular reader of the Hulk's comic or magazine adventures. Here the Hulk stays the same size - big. Not huge, just big. It's perfect. From Daredevil's non-super-powered perspective, the Hulk is an engine of destruction. Miller conveys that to us. He's appropriately well-muscled, but without all the extra lines, no popping veins, etc. -- none of the excess we'd see a little over a decade later. I'd say that facially the Hulk is drawn about right, too. He's angry, but again, not bloodshot-eyes-angry. Am I getting across that I was pleased with this aspect of the story?
Another oft-used element of Miller's art that doesn't ever get old for me is the use of the motion panel. Miller uses it twice (we've seen it before here on the BAB) in this issue and it's quite effective. The pink silhouette is perfect to convey where DD had been and the direction in which he's moving. Did you ever make a flip-the-pages book (I'm sure there's a better name for it -- showing my ignorance) using stick figures and depicting walking, running, or falling? I did, and these panels remind me of that.
I'm digging Ben Urich when I re-read these 35-year old DDs. The guy's just one of those stereotypical "gumshoe" reporters. The slow reveal of Matt's alter ego is well-handled, and the pay-off in the issue following this one is solid. Urich's appearances in DD added depth to the existence of the Daily Bugle. I will add that I'm glad Urich had been in the cast for many issues prior to this McKenzie/Miller/Janson run. Had Urich been added only a half dozen issues prior and then this secret identity thing dropped, it would have been wholly rushed and quite artificial. The way it was executed showed some organic development.
The (Not so) Bad: What to do with the Hulk? We've all talked recently about the addition of the Hulk to any story automatically creates that Civil War-like trope. And so here you have a tale where the outcome is pretty set in stone, powerset-wise. But overall it was satisfying... but just that. I enjoyed the angle the creators took, with Murdock able to calm the Hulk by convincing Greenskin to trust him and then befriend Bruce Banner, culminating in a nice little twist at the end -- Daredevil actually getting the Hulk to quit fighting by uttering the same request about trust. I did not have the same feeling at the end of this yarn as I did the first time I read DD #7 (vs. Sub-Mariner) or Fantastic Four #25-26 (Thing vs. Hulk). In each of those previous cases, one hero was classically overmatched against his opponent, but the will to win ended up being the true triumph of the story. And although Daredevil was certainly knocked around to the point of hospitalization here, I just didn't have the same sense of awe as I've had in other stories of this type. Could it just be me? I wouldn't deny it. But don't leave here thinking that I thought this was a bad story; quite the contrary.
I'll say this as well -- a real challenge for a creative team is handling the Hulk in a Comics Code world. The recent films have dealt with this better, showing that his very presence seems to cause millions of dollars in property damage. We get a taste of that here, when he bursts not only through the top of the subway car but clean through the street. The Hulk also totals a taxi and a city bus, and rips up some asphalt. But it's nothing like the end of that first arc in The Ultimates, which was of course outside the Code and a bit more "realistic".
The Ugly: I can't admit to being put off by anything in this story, but in the interest of not leaving this space blank, I'll just throw out as a point of conversation that I tire of the love triangles/difficulties of heroes, their secret identities, and significant others. I even noticed that sort of thing when I was a kid.
Oh, wait -- thought of another. Purple pants. How in the world did Matt Murdock give Banner (and moreso, WHY?) purple pants to wear when Banner was staying over after the initial Hulk-out in this tale? Diversify your wardrobe, Banner. Sheesh...