One Sentence Overview: Matt takes revenge on his father's killers, then goes to college where he rooms with a fellow law student, Foggy Nelson, and encounters a mysterious woman with similar talents to his own
I didn't really comment on the packaging of the 'Man without Fear' mini-series last time but it deserves a mention as there is a significant attempt here to present this series as a high quality product. There are no ads, for a start, and each episode with some reverential editorial reminding you of how special the saga is (again, no wonder DG got annoyed). The covers are a harder card than usual on comic books and there is some peculiar embossing going on. Actually, this works well with Daredevil, as it helps emphasise for the reader the way Matt 'reads' details himself. So, here, I can run my finger over the snowdrops and feel them bump off the cover. That's not all though. To my surprise and wonder, the appearance of Elektra allows other 'details' to be enhanced here too. Yes, really...
But never mind all that. The story continues exactly where we left it - editorial helpfully telling us that the original idea for the comic was that it would be one graphic novel rather than split into five parts - meaning we're straight into the action with little recourse for catch up (though it's not unfamiliar with the way comics are now, the aim being to collect five or six episodes into trade paperbacks from the outset).
With Jack's death at the end of the first episode, that means it's time for the Fixer's comeuppance. Like before, though, what we know is embellished with some new details. First off, some 'new' underlings get thumped in the alleyway before Matt takes on Slade in the ring. This particular episode is striking, to say the least, in its violence. Not only does Matt hammer the Fixer's henchman hard with a fistful of coins (incidentally, the same trick I grumbled about in DG Chichester's DD312), one particularly effective kick to the lower leg is gruesomely effective.
Yes, the change in comic books allows this little sequence leading to the Fixer's demise to be considerably grittier and darker than what we read before. It also leads to perhaps the most controversial moment in the saga (well, in terms of what future writers would do with it). One of the Fixer's gang escapes to a house of ill repute, until Matt tracks him down. In perhaps a rather unlikely scenario, the female residents of said establishment take umbrage with this and attack Matt, leading to our hero accidentally kicking one of the girls out the window.
It's later established (though I think it's still up for grabs as to whether it's official Marvel lore or not) that this is Typhoid Mary (see the Daredevil/Deadpool annual). However, the supposed death unsurprisingly impacts Matt in an important detail that ensures that his character can never really morph into a Punisher style character. Thinking he has killed someone, Matt realises that he needs to be more responsible in the style of vengeance he exacts. The actions, though, do not escape the notice of Stick, who expresses to Stone, in one of those hifalutin zen warrior scenarios, that he's obviously made a mistake with the young Murdock. Well, if that means Stick disappears from the story, then I'm not disappointed in this conclusion...
Now that particular episode in the life of Matt Murdock is out of the way, he can go off to college. Here, he meets his room-mate, Foggy Nelson. It's a bold writer who can change perspective from something so dark to the quirky humour of Franklin Nelson but, of course, Frank Miller does so effortlessly. I like the use of strange little arrow boxed to introduce Foggy, immediately returning comic readers to the early days of Daredevil and it's more larger than life style.
There's also a funny scene of an insomniac Matt listening to how Foggy's snoring changes in tone throughout the night, which helps capture the character well. Better again, though, is a throwaway panel that describes succinctly the entire legal relationship between the two throughout the whole DD canon. It's Foggy who summarises it all so well: "I don't know how you do it, Matt. Here I study till I'm pooped to make the grade... and you just seem to breeze through." Indeed, the hard working hound and the charismatic genius who can spend most of his spare time in the city's alleyways and still come up with zingers in court.
Of course, another key DD character first turns up at college - our cover star, Elektra. Here, Frank introduces her in typically enigmatic, though somewhat slyly humourous, fashion, with Matt encountering her whilst he's pounding over rooftops at night and following her into a nearby park, where she gradually sheds her clothes. Soon Matt's just left with her (very skimpy) knickers at which point the cops turn up.
Hilarious. Elsewhere, we see Elektra's managed to redress and get away, though presumably she's going commando under those sweat pants.
So there's lots of fun here, mixed in with violence and intrigue. There are a few unlikely moments, though - a lad who has bullied Foggy apologies in a way more typically associated with a second rate American comedy show of the time, whilst Elektra's reckless driving at the end of the episode appears to a little over-egged. But, like I say, a lot of fun.
Battling Jack Murdock
Lt Bert Rose
Rating: 9 out of 10