Monday, July 7, 2014

Doug's Favorites - Daredevil 160

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!


Edo Bosnar said...

Great review, Doug. You pretty much capture my thoughts on this issue perfectly. It's another wonderfully done issue, from that cover that just made you want to snatch it off the spinner rack without even thinking, to the very well-written and drawn story - not a single wasted word or panel.
And I love all the details in the Daily Bugle's newsroom: Robbie Robertson going over the galley-proofs with a guy from the print room, the JJJ poster, and that guy whispering "Oh, no! Not ANOTHER Spider-man expose."

Garett said...

I agree that Miller was great with these bar scenes in DD! There's a sense of exaggerated realism, as opposed to Sin City which felt like fantasy.

Doug said...

Thanks, Edo!

I'll have to read DD #181 again sometime, but I am thinking I'd put today's issue up against that one any day.

Of the three issues in this Bullseye arc, this middle installment is the best, in my opinion.


Dr. Oyola said...

Love Love Love the art - the pencils, the coloring the inking, all of it.

J.A. Morris said...

Great review, great issue. I've always thought the Widow should've given Bullseye more of fight in this story, being trained as a SHIELD agent and what have you.

I agree about Heather, always found her to be boring and lacking much of a personality.

Anonymous said...

And I agree, the Widow should have given Bullseye more of a run for his money. For a character who's been part of Marvel for as long as she has, she should be a more formidable foe for anyone. I think the intent was to show how good Bullseye was, not Black Widow.

I loved the issue, overall. Looking back on it with my old eyes, I could see where intercutting the fight between Bullseye and the Black Widow with DD's taking down of most of the Underworld's underbelly.

And I am just now getting the "Anything's a weapon". Now that the Widow is in his hands, he'll use her as a weapon against DD.

The Prowler (often resorts to using his bare hands as utensils).

Anonymous said...

Talk about comment interuptus!!! I meant to say if they would have intercut Bullseye's and Widow's fight with DD's taking down of the Underworld's underbelly would have added more drama and pacing. I think it was the quickness of the fight that made it seem......unreal. We know that DD is looking for Bullseye, Bullseye and Widow are fighting, could Matt there get in time? Should he have gone to Natasha's in the first place.........end with him finding the picture?
I feel sometimes straight linear story telling loses some of the drama.

The Prowler (once spent some time in Hell, they don't do wake up calls and good luck getting towels).

Humanbelly said...

What a wonderfully interesting observation there, Prowl. It never occurred to me at all, but now that you've pointed it out, I totally buy it--- having both events told in parallel (via a cinematic-style quick-cutting between the two locales) might have been an even better way to tell an already-great part of this story.

My one quibble overall with this chapter (and it was already almost touched-upon)-? I'm not sure I see what guarantee there was that DD would EVER see the note left by Bullseye. It was pure fleeting whim & happenstance & completely unrelated personal issues that led him to Natasha's apartment-- had not a thing to do with any planning or manipulation on Bullseye's part. Or. . . have I missed a crucial detail?

Oh, well, quibble #2: That hair dryer on the cover has a cord about 12' long! I know Natasha's profession required a lot of heavy-duty wig-maintenance, but--SHEESH!

OH, AGAIN! Quibble #3: Speaking of Natasha's profession. . . I'd forgotten to point out the hilarious throwback to Stan's type of writing with the Bugle headline about "Natasha Back in the Big Apple!". It never fails to crack me up that an active SPY somehow manages to operate effectively while under a Britney Spears/Miley Cyrus level of public scrutiny-- and that the public acclaim is specifically BECAUSE she's big-time, celebrity spy-!

How. . . how does that work. . . ?


Murray said...

Rather than tippy-typing a web search on "Black Widow", I'm trying to pummel my own memories. Not as accurate, but nostalgic fanboy fun.

I recall her being a spy in Avengers stories, leading Hawkeye around by the nose. I *think* her cover was jet setter Natasha Romanov.

Then, in Amazing Adventures #1, she gave up the spy game and her (ugly) masked costume. Dressed in her sleek new black catsuit, off she went. I recall the general tone being that she was quite trepidatious about going out with her identity exposed for all to see. Taking the big plunge.

So, I think she really was a "Paris Hilton" who suddenly shocked the world by suddenly being a super adventurer ex-spy.

I have no memory of why she went public. At a guess, maybe it was a condition of SHIELD that they wouldn't arrest her as a spy if they could keep track of her?

I suddenly have a memory flash from one of those Amazing Adventures stories. A Gene Colan splash page with Widow allied with some ghetto kids featured on the front page of the Bugle.

Edo Bosnar said...

Don't know the specifics, but I think Murray is right: by the time the '70s had rolled around, Natasha was definitely an ex-spy and full-time super-hero. And yes, I think she was also a kind of high-profile celebrity in the Marvel U, as that newspaper headline indicates.

Humanbelly said...

Well, that would make scads more sense (in a Marvel-Universe-sort-of-way) than the way I've always interpreted it-- although, yeah, I do recognize that by the 80's, at least, "Former Spy" would have been listed under Experience on her resume. I've never read Natasha's solo series, where she made the shift to the black jump-suit, so I'm definitely gap-py in my grasp of her continuity.

But, as Murray touches on above, back in the Kooky Quartet era, I'm pretty sure I remember there being headlines about "Black Widow Turns Traitor" and what-not when she went undercover back to Russia-- with the pictures showing her in her fishnet-cape-and-mask "spy" costume (heh-- what a hoot-!). Still, that does sort of work-- MAJOR spy makes a big splash by defecting, and then rides the publicity wave to become a highly visible activist socialite.

Hunh. NOW I get it. . . !
Thanks guys-


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