With respect to Jean Grey, get ready for the most emotionally devastating comic book death of the 1980s… Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of Daredevil #181 awaits!
Writer: Frank Miller
Breakdowns: Frank Miller
Finished Art: Klaus Janson
Colorist: Klaus Janson
Letterer: Joe Rosen
Editor: Denny O’Neil
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $1.00
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $52.00
Previously in Daredevil: When his college girlfriend returned, Matt Murdock’s life changed totally. (It probably helped that she was working as an assassin at cross-purposes to him and that her comeback was acocmpanied by sudden remembrance of the ninja mentor who helped him to focus his radar sense in the days after his father’s death, which essentially created an entirely new status quo.) Even his enemies, like minor league extorionist Bullseye, took on new life, becoming a remorseless unstoppable killer who NEVER missed, throwing everything into disarray. Now locked away in Ryker’s Island prison, having some seriously disturbing fantasies of his enemy’s death, Bullseye plans his revenge.
This whole sequence is just gorgeous, showing off why Miller & Janson’s work is so well-remembered. It reminds me of classic Carmine Infantino in its fludity, but with much stronger figurework and incredibly dynamic movement for a medium that doesn’t actually HAVE any movement to it. We also find that Bullseye is plagued by headaches after his last interaction with Daredevil, leading to him needing special medication when one hits. This allows him to escape Ryker’s when (incredibly foolishly) he is given his costume for an interview with a local new program. Faking an headache, he manages to kill a guard WITH HIS PILL, then escape in an orgy of makeshift violence, escaping into the night in a helicopter that was sent to kill him. Elsewhere in the city, Daredevil’s partner Foggy Nelson takes a cab home, only for the driver to announce that she has been hired to kill him.
The problem is, he KNOWS her…
After letting Nelson escape, Elektra gets waylaid by Bullseye, leading to another beautiful sequence of kinetic violence and an admission from Bullseye that Elektra is ALMOST as good as he is. But a razor-sharp playing card to the throat ends the battle abruptly, followed by Bullseye adding insult to injury…
…by running her through with her own weapon. It’s the ultimate show of disrespect from one hired killer to another, as Bullseye leaves Elektra to bleed out. She manages to keep it together just long enough to find the one man she truly wants to see before she dies.
Seeing this, Bullseye makes the connection that Matt Murdock IS Daredevil, revealing that information to The Kingpin for the first time and almost changing the arc of Daredevil’s heroic life forever. That revelation is negated, though, as Kingpin sends Bullseye to collect the body of The Man Without Fear, with Daredevil setting up a trap that convinces Bullseye that he’s wrong, setting off a running battle across the rooftops of Manhattan. They end up on a telephone wire high above the city, where Daredevil’s reflexes outrank Bullseye’s, and the hero is forced to make a terrible decision.
The villain is left paralysed in a hospital bed, still obsessively planning his revenge, while Daredevil is left with nothing but grief. It’s a really devastating ending for both characters, even if you know what happened next (Bullseye gets a cybernetic spine, Elektra comes back from the dead, Daredevil keeps on Daredevilin’), leaving Daredevil #181 with the rare, but well-deserved 5 out of 5 stars overall. I’m not always a fan of Frank Miller’s work, but this issue is a double-sized scoop of incredible art and effective storytelling, with one of the most effective death scenes in comic book history followed by an even better climax that every creator to follow has to live up to. This is a good one, Faithful Spoilerites.
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There's a reason why every subsequent Daredevil run is measured against Miller/Janson, and this issue is the crown jewel of their run.