Monday, May 29, 2017


Story & Art : Frank Miller | Finished Art & Colors: Klaus Janson
Letters: Joe Rosen | Editor: Denny O’Neil | Editor-in-Chief : Jim Shooter

The Plot: Ben Urich meets with an informant in a movie theater, but the informant is killed by Elektra, who warns Urich to back off of the Kingpin. Ben returns to the Daily Bugle and calls Matt Murdock. Soon Daredevil arrives and upon learning of Elektra’s involvement, he heads out to find her.

The next day, Ben meets with mayoral candidate Randolph Cherryh at the gym, and Cherryh’s men rough Ben up. Daredevil arrives and escorts him to safety, then listens in as Cherryh phones the Kingpin and sets up a meeting for the next day in Little Italy -- but DD is unable to attend due to a court date. Against the scarlet swashbuckler’s wishes, Ben spies on the meet, taking photos.

That night, Ben meets with another informant who directs him to a nearby building to find Cherryh’s mistress. But Daredevil shows up and, believing this a trap, goes in instead. As Ben watches, DD emerges from the building battling Elektra. She gets the better of him with the help of a bear trap* and knocks a brick wall down on him. Then, hearing Ben’s telltale cough nearby, she hurls a sai at him, stabbing him in the back.

* Yes, you read that right.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: Cherryh observes that Ben is only around forty years old here. He's always seemed older to me; usually somewhere in his fifties.

This issue features the first appearance of Ben’s wife, Doris.

In Little Italy, Ben spots a bag lady observing the meeting between Cherryh and the Kingpin. He follows her underground, but writes her off as nothing more than she appears. Next issue, however, will reveal there's more to this story.

My Thoughts: Aside from brief cameo appearances, Ben Urich has been more or less totally absent from DAREDEVIL since issue 164, written by Roger McKenzie, in which he learned our hero’s secret identity. But now Miller brings him back in a big way, with a spotlight issue narrated entirely by Urich himself, and the character will remain a major presence in the title for the remainder of Miller’s run.

Side note: I'm pretty sure this has to be one of the earliest examples of present tense, first person narration in comics. Within a few years it would become much more common and, eventually, ubiquitous.

Miller also begins Urich’s transformation here, from so-so reporter to hard-boiled newsman. This Urich confronts a corrupt mayoral candidate and tails him to a meeting with the Kingpin. He also gets close enough to a fight between Daredevil and Elektra to be impaled by a sai. We’ll learn next issue that Elektra really does get to him here, and he ultimately kills his story on Cherryh, but we will also see him get back on the horse, joining Daredevil on a new quest.

So he's not quite the character into which he will eventually evolve, but Urich is taking strides in that direction. That said, it should probably be noted that we won't see the end result of this transformation here. It's in the pages of “Born Again” in Frank Miller’s second run that Urich will become the grizzled veteran he's best know for being.

One last note: is it just me, or does Elektra come off freakishly strong here? She kicks a hole in a brick wall! I know she's a ninja, but c’mon! That's some Thing-level strength she's demonstrating!


  1. My memory of this issue comes not as much from reading it, though I did when it came out, but from a letter in a later issue that discussed how the story of Elektra was interesting in that it allowed us to basically flirt with violence. To find it fascinating and perhaps even alluring.

    And then she turns around and tries to kill Ben Urich, and the flirtation is over.

    That's what later grim and violent comics-and arguably even ones by Miller-forgot, the true lesson of Elektra. Elektra was, in the end, a villain-failing that, she was certainly villainous-and this issue sets up her eventual fate as being justified because of the violent life she lived. Miller added enough nuance to her through her interactions with Daredevil to keep her from seeming an out and out villain, but she was, in the end, an assassin working for the Kingpin.

    As for how strong she was in that one scene-it seemed like, for a long time at Marvel, but especially in the 70s to early 80s, that everyone might as well have been super strong. You'd see people like the Thing, who could go toe to toe with the Hulk, punch normal human villains like most of the Frightful Four as hard as he could, and they'd get right back up. Even peak human normal like Daredevil and Elektra could survive beatings that should kill them. Until, of course, they needed to be hurt. By the time the realism bug bit comics in the mid-80s, this largely went away, even if characters like Batman and Daredevil are far stronger than any human could ever be.

    1. I wish the Omnibus for these stories included the letter pages. Pretty much only Marvel's Silver Age Omnibuses have them. I'd love to see what readers at the time were saying about Miller's stories.

      Good point on the strength thing. Spider-Man suffered that Thing issue as well, to the point that Roger Stern took it upon himself to remind readers exactly what the proportionate strength of a spider could do!


  2. // with the help of a bear trap //

    I had a bit of a hard time swallowing that she’d maneuvered DD to put his foot down on the exact spot where she’d placed the trap under the weakened roof. Possible for an insanely capable ninja assassin, though, one must assume.

    Similarly, I paused at that panel of her kicking through the brick wall, as you did, but chalked it up to her momentum and poorly done work or wall rot or something.

    I really like the sequence of Urich running on the last page. The six panels of him bathed in yellow light and Janson’s bold brushstrokes strikes me as something out of Ditko, Eisner, or Krigstein. As we move from those two tiers to the next, one long panel of him being struck by Elektra’s sai, the Ben-Day background goes from black dots against red to red dots against black, the darkness closing in on him.

    1. Oh yeah, you didn't know about "Luring Opponent Into Bear Trap 101"? It's pretty much standard at every ninja training academy these days.

      Agreed on the final page. Miller was such a fantastic visual storyteller around this point, and it's amazing to literally watch his skills improve with every single issue over this run.