Monday, April 3, 2017

DAREDEVIL #171

"IN THE KINGPIN’S CLUTCHES"
Writer/Penciler: Frank Miller | Inker : Klaus Janson
Colorist: Glynis Wein | Letterer: Joe Rosen
Editor: Denny O’Neil | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Daredevil awakens in the back of a garbage truck and heads back to his brownstone. Meanwhile, the Kingpin begins a war against his former lieutenants, spreading the word that he wants his kidnapped wife returned. Elsewhere, the crime bosses concoct a plan to deal with the Kingpin and send Bullseye out to invite him to a meeting.

Undercover as a hit man, Daredevil convinces Turk to take him to the Kingpin’s underground lair with the intention of stealing the Kingpin’s files. Kingpin hires him but locks him up for the night after learning of the meeting arranged by his ex-lieutenants. But when DD escapes the Kingpin’s “vault”, he winds up fighting the man himself, and loses.

Kingpin arrives at a construction site to trade his files for his wife, but instead he uses a hypersonic device to knock out everyone present before they can kill him. As he approaches the unconscious Vanessa, however, a mysterious party launches an explosive which demolishes the unfinished building, apparently killing Vanessa. Kingpin is led to safety by his right-hand man, Lynch.

Meanwhile, Turk and his partner Grotto drop Daredevil, tied up, into a water main to drown.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: Matt and Heather have a date in the park, during which Matt explains the situation with the Kingpin.


As New York’s crime lords squabble over their course of action, Bullseye begins to consider that he's thrown in with the wrong side of the gang war.

Daredevil hooks up with Turk at Josie’s, costing her another plate glass window (that's three total so far since Miller came on the title). We learn that, following his dismissal from Eric Slaughter’s gang as described last issue, Turk now works for the Kingpin.


One of the Kingpin’s men is killed by Bullseye, prompting Daredevil to recall saving the assassin's life not long ago. In the same scene, the Kingpin’s aide, Lynch, thinks to himself that his love for Vanessa has made the Kingpin soft.


Foggy is still in an unexplained funk.


My Thoughts: This is an odd period for Daredevil: the Bronze Age is in full swing, very close to becoming whatever we call the grim and gritty era that supplanted it, but even so, a great deal of Frank Miller’s work here smacks of the Silver Age. The whole thing comes across kind of incongruous as a result.

For example, we have this incredibly noir-ish atmosphere with tons of shadows, as the Kingpin orders a late night hit on one of his opponents’ men, and we see the guy brutally gunned down inside a telephone booth. Later, one of the Kingpin’s own men stumbles into his lair, dying thanks to poison from Bullseye.


But at the same time, the Kingpin lives in a secret underground complex complete with a “vault” which can only be opened by his own brute strength. (And that vault had, in fact, previously appeared during the Silver Age, in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 69.) He uses a James Bondian sonic briefcase to take out all his opponents during the story’s climax! It's hard to imagine any later iteration of the Kingpin — including Miller’s own depiction later in his run — doing stuff like this.

And it's not just the Kingpin, either. Daredevil is very Silver Age-y here, leaping into battle with his enemy spouting off a long-winded, jaunty introduction better suited to Spider-Man. And while it's true this was DD’s characterization once upon a time, it just feels out of place in this otherwise dark crime epic.


Heck, even the issue’s title is a tribute to the Silver Age! AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #51, the Kingpin’s first full appearance following a cameo in issue 50, was called “In the Clutches of the Kingpin” The more I think about it, the more I wonder if this could be Miller bidding farewell to the Silver Age in his own way. One last hurrah for this slightly hokey (but totally charming) stuff before he goes full on into the realm of hard-boiled crime fiction. I guess we'll find out soon enough,

3 comments:

  1. So I had to go and give a read to the ASM #50 (I've own a black&white pocketbook that printed a run with that issue in it since the 90's though), and laughed at someone calling himself "Patch" while wearing a disguise with an eyepatch and a fedora.

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    1. That's Frederick Foswell, right? He had a really nice character arc in the Lee/Ditko/Romita issues.

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  2. The immediate return of Bullseye to type after his release is hard to swallow, even though it pays narrative dividends both soon and later for Matt, because it feels manufactured to provide narrative dividends. I’m a staunch adherent of heroes — superheroes in particular — having moral codes, but there are certain scenarios in which I would support those heroes taking a life through action or inaction. Given his day job as a lawyer, most often a defense attorney at that, Matt gets a more understandable pass than many others in terms of his compulsion to save the life of a mercenary serial assassin whom he then delivers to the justice system; I just don’t quite feel sold on it here.

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