MARVEL MASTERWORKS: DAREDEVIL VOL. 3 (Marvel, 2012; Softcover)
Collects Daredevil Nos. 22-32 and Daredevil Annual No. 1 (cover dates November, 1966- September, 1967)
Writer: Stan Lee
Artists: Gene Colan (pencils) with inkers Frank Giacoia (Nos. 22-27), Dick Ayers (Nos. 22 and 28), and John Tartaglione (Nos. 29-32 and Annual No. 1).
God damn Gene Colan was good! One of the things that I love about these old school comic book artists is that the shading was done in pencil versus using a computer nowadays. There is something more realistic about this technique, even when coupled with the primitive four color printing process of the day. Flatter colors tend to suck me in, while millions of colors and bells and whistles can pull me out when used wrong. This is not a slight against modern artists or colorists at all. I'm just marveling at the artwork and craftsmanship in the same way that a carpenter would marvel at woodwork in an old house.
Stan Lee's writing is great. People bag on ol' Stan, usually out of a misguided loyalty to Jack Kirby. You don't have to hate Stan because of Kirby's bad business dealings. And really, the business side of things has nothing to do with where my head is at as a reader. Of course I want the writers and artists to get a fair rate and/or royalties, but at the end of the day it is really none of my business, and unless you are a family member or heir, it's none of yours, either.
Not everything Stan Lee touched turned to gold here. There are a few lame ideas thrown into the mix this time out. The first bad idea is Matt Murdock's third identity, that of his “twin brother” Mike Murdock, a silly Silver Age story convention if ever there was one. Matt's co-workers, Foggy Nelson and Karen Page, have become increasingly suspicious of his wafer thin reasons why he disappears whenever Daredevil appears, and why things seem to center around their law office for our hero. “Mike” is an obnoxious, arrogant version of Matt who just happens to hang around the office when Matt is nowhere to be found.
One of the more interesting, yet unexplored, subplots is when Matt decides that he is going to propose to Karen Page. He can't figure out whether to do it as Matt or Mike. There are other points where he almost falls out of character, confusing his alter egos with one another. This is a precursor to the more schizophrenic Moon Knight storylines that Doug Moench would write a dozen years later. The worst scene is when Matt is supposedly Mike who is supposedly Daredevil who dresses up as Thor to smoke Mister Hyde and the Cobra out of hiding. This is almost as dumb as what DC was doing during the Silver Age.
Stan's second lame idea is Electro and the Emissaries of Evil in Daredevil Annual No. 1. The story is nothing more than a weak retread of the Sinister Six from Amazing Spider-Man Annual No. 1. Electro was a member of both, but no mention is even made to this story. This has to be one of Stan Lee's laziest scripts ever, as he phones this issue in big time. The issue was more or less a bloated, let's bring new readers up to speed affair. These were done time to time, and I remember appreciating them in the olden days before the Internet made researching the history of any title a piece of cake.
There are jewels buried in this sand, though. The return of the Masked Marauder, and the way that his identity was revealed was very clever. Ka-Zar's trial. The introduction of the Leap Frog. The return of the Stilt-Man. I love how villains talk when Stan Lee writes them. They always return “more powerful, more deadly than ever”. I love it. And of course the Mister Hyde and Cobra story is great, with Daredevil hopelessly outclassed but coming out on top anyways.
So while there are several more volumes available in hardcover, my marathon has come to a screeching halt for the time being. I buy way too many books, and have many more rotting away in my backlog. Since Daredevil is strictly second or third tier to me in terms of overall interest, I will only buy them when the softcovers are released years down the road, or perhaps if an Omnibus comes out. Either way, I can hold out, and I'm sure that the stories will still be great. What's another few years to wait to read 45+ year old comics, anyways?
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4.75 out of 5.
The OCD zone- I love these softcover Masterworks. Not only do they provide state of the art restoration and colors faithful to the original palette at a bargain price, but they lay flat in one hand like a giant periodical.
Linework and Color restoration rating: 5 out of 5. This is like a Blu-Ray disc release. Daredevil in high definition.
Paper rating: 5 out of 5. Dull matte finish coated stock, not too thick but a fair weight.
Binding rating: 4.25 out of 5. These softcover Masterworks have a nice thick band of glue. They are wider than a standard trade paperback because they are printed in the dimensions of the original comic books, which were slightly wider than early '70s-on comics.
Cardstock cover coating rating: 5 out of 5. Nice thick, waxlike coating fills me with confidence that this book will look pretty for years to come.