The Man Without Fear Part 4 by Frank Miller and John Romita Jr.
One Sentence Overview: Newly qualified, Boston based lawyer Matt Murdock is sent to New York by his firm where he finds a vulnerable young girl living in his father's abandoned gym
There's that old phrase, familiarity breeds contempt. In the case of the Kingpin, it's almost the opposite. His near ubiquitous presence as Daredevil's nemesis actually sometimes renders his threat level as negligible, especially as so much of what he does he leaves to others. He's never exactly cosy but sometimes his implacable distance means we forget how downright horrible he can be.
The reader, however, is left in no doubt in this issue as to the fact that Wilson Fisk is a nasty immoral piece of work. The previous episode ended with Fisk killing his own boss in order to gain power. How he exerts this is now shown to be thoroughly ruthless, not only through the traditional gangster roots of extortion, drug sales and violence but the exploitation of children. Whilst this is not exactly new territory for Daredevil (and DG Chichester will soon attempt to shed some light on the more heinous nature of this kind of exploitation in new technology before the story is left hanging, forever, without resolution), it's never been made explicit that the Kingpin would stoop so slow to involve himself in such a degrading crime. However, it is here.
The story centres largely around a child, who calls herself Mickey, who has run away from home and turns up, hiding out in Jack Murdock's old gym. [Incidentally, does that make this Fogwell's? If so, it's completely abandoned, which is peculiar as the events here takes place before what occurs in DD119, for example.] Matt, on a sentimental trip down memory lane, finds her and Mickey spins him a story about how she's an orphan. What's interesting - and what demonstrates why Frank Miller is such a good writer - is that this is all a lie.
Mickey is really called Dominique and her parents are alive and well and worried sick about her welfare. We don't know why exactly Dominique has run away from home - when we meet her parents, they're worried sick and seem nice. Frank cleverly doesn't explain this. Perhaps there's something deeper and darker, perhaps it's just adolescence. Who knows? But a situation like this sometimes does occur for a kid from a nice background.
However, if she has run away from something bad, it's going to get a lot worse quicker as a pornographer, Clay, has been instructed - indirectly - by Fisk to lower the costs on his film production. One way is not to pay the actress leading Clay to inform his own underlings to get hold of a girl who "can't be older than twelve". We're in pretty sordid territory here. How much Fisk actually knows is, I guess, debatable but it seems unlikely that a meticulous businessman like the Kingpin would be unaware of the exact details of the produce he's promoting and that, at the very least, in my mind, makes him absolutely and unequivocally complicit. Next time you think that Wilson may be, to some degree, a lovable rogue, just remember that. I sure will.
This shocking discovery is a key moment in the issue though, despite that, there's still lots going on here to admire. The plotting is tight and cinematic as we see Matt attempt to rescue the young girl and chase the villains. The violence is, as we have seen already in this mini-series, much more explicit than what one would normally expect in the ongoing.
One other little note of interest is that we learn that Matt's first job is with a law firm in Boston. In fact, he's only in New York on instructions from that firm to do some work there. I'm not sure we've been told this before and it's a noteworthy little detail given extra resonance when Matt meets up with Foggy and finds out that the work he's involved in is somewhat similar to what Matt would later do in Hell's Kitchen with the Storefront. Ironically, Matt has found employment in business law whilst Foggy's is closer to pro bono work, trying to prevent exploitation by a slum landlord.
It's like they should swap. But, hey, doesn't that happen sometimes? We end up in areas of work that we can get rather than those we're necessarily most gifted or passionate about. But you can already anticipate Matt worming his way into Foggy's portfolio rather than sit back comfortably in a more secure scenario in Boston...
Battling Jack Murdock
Rating: 9 out of 10