Five stars for this collection of very decent Daredevil stories is more a tip of the hat to an historic moment in comic history than it is to the actual contents. Without the work of Frank Miller represented in this exact book, you would never have seen a Daredevil movie, guaranteed! For a few years before Miller took over the art chores of the Daredevil comic back in the very late 70's, it was a second tier (maybe third) Marvel title and was on the verge of imminent cancellation. The stories and villains had been so lame for so long that the book was on sale bi-monthly and was ready for the ax. That is, until Marvel gave a promising young artist named Frank Miller a shot at the title and it quickly turned into the (STILL) heavyweight champion of comics. It simply doesn't get much better than Frank Miller's work on Daredevil.
This collection features Miller as an artist rather than a writer as his own stories don't appear until Visionaries Volume 2. And what an artist. Back in the day, the gritty realism and innovative design work accentuated by the inking of Klaus Janson rocked all of us young comic geeks to our collective bones. Quickly evolving from standard comic fare to eye popping visuals, Miller began establishing himself as a cornerstone of modern comic creators.
While Miller's amazing art style dominated the page and quickly won him a shot at writing the title, the scribe of the stories in this volume was the current DD writer of the day Roger McKenzie. When Miller turned up the art a few thousand notches, McKenzie answered back with some great writing of his own. McKenzie gets lost in the shuffle and often gets no credit, but as these stories attest, it was he who was a key figure in establishing a number of things Miller used so well in his run on the series. In these stories, Bullseye becomes the front-runner for making DD's archenemy list, the mob captures a major portion of Daredevil's attention, DD and the Black Widow finally end their long-standing on-again-off-again relationship, reporter Ben Urich becomes a major player in DD's life, Turk and Grotto begin their unfortunate association with old Hornhead, and the Gladiator becomes a tragic rather than a ruthless bad guy. McKenzie also worked with Miller on a duo of stories that made the Punisher a major comic player, but these tales appear in a later volume due to the Comics Code Authority's stand on drugs back in the early 80's. Although Miller had a hand in some of the stuff that went on here, you can't neglect giving McKenzie his due for getting the ball rolling in high fashion. Daredevil #164 which is re-printed here and written by McKenzie is one of the top ten Daredevil stories of all time and possibly the best Daredevil origin story ever.
Miller is and always has been an innovator. While many of his generation have spent much of the past decade churning out the same old thing, he has continued to evolve and experiment and blow the socks off of the comic world (sans the Dark Knight 2 fiasco which simply seemed to be a very fat paycheck). This volume is where Miller really began the ride (he did some earlier and mostly forgettable work for Marvel re-printed in The Complete Frank Miller Spider-Man if you are a completist). The stories presented here aren't the best around, as Miller got very adept very quickly with his own writing, but they are still better than most comics of their day to this one. Daredevil #163 which is re-printed in this volume speaks to Miller's absolute tenacity. Although written by McKenzie, the concept was his--"What if Daredevil had to fight the Hulk?" When this was posed to his editor, comic apocrypha claims that the editor laughed and said, "So what happens in the second panel?" Needless to say the story runs for the full 18 pages. Daredevil fights the Hulk. So what happens in the second panel? How does a blind lawyer with moderate super abilities go one-on-one with the jade giant and survive? Well, you'll just have to buy this work and let Roger and Frank tell you themselves.