BHOC: DAREDEVIL #126

As I’ve mentioned previously, all throughout this period I would semi-regularly check back in at the Big Bin of Slightly-Older Comics that my local drugstore chain kept, pretty much any time my family went there. The way this would typically work is that I’d have developed an interest in a particular title, and so I’d go to the bin and pull up whatever issues of that book they happened to have. This was the case with this issue of DAREDEVIL, which was one of two that I bought that day. The other was #134, which also featured the Torpedo–this gave me the erroneous impression that he was an important character in the series.

At the time, DAREDEVIL was a book in transition. For the longest time, it had been among Marvel’s lowest-selling titles (at one point, it had been announced that it was going to merge into a split book with IRON MAN, another poor seller in this period) and Frank Miller hadn’t yet come along to infuse the series with a noir sensibility. Instead, DAREDEVIL was a bit like a more serious and less interesting AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. The first step towards changing that impression was already in place in this issue, however, as it was inked by a young Klaus Janson. Klaus was the secret sauce in the later Miller DAREDEVIL issues, and he already began bringing a bit of a sense of grit and realism to the title even this early on.

The issue was written by Marv Wolfman, who brought a strong sense of character to the stories. In this particular issue, after opening with a sequence establishing both Daredevil and his friend the now-beleaguered District Attorney Foggy Nelson, Wolfman shifts the narrative over to Brock Jones, a former pro football player turned insurance salesman who longs for the spotlight he once had as a pigskin champion. As he comes across a kid about to be struck by a car, Jones springs into action–but he’s beaten to the punch by Daredevil, who swoops in and saves the kid, admonishing Jones that he should leave the heroics to the professionals.

Later that evening, a strange figure in blue rockets down the deserted streets of Manhattan and breaks into a bank, stealing a sheaf of papers from a safe deposit box. This is the Torpedo, of course, the guy we see on the cover–tough what he’s doing is a mystery. And it’s one that Matt Murdock wants no part of, at least until he can get some rest from his recent adventures. Sadly for Matt, as he beds down for the evening, the Torpedo strikes literally right outside of his apartment, blasting his way through a police cruiser that’s attempting to capture him. Matt reaches for his Daredevil costume…when he suddenly realizes that there’s somebody else in the room with him.

This turns out to be the introduction of Heather Glenn, who would go on to become Matt Murdock’s girlfriend and who would eventually commit suicide many years later. Here, she’s a flighty Mary Jane Watson type whose previous boyfriend gave her a key to Matt’s new apartment when he used to live there. Matt and Heather have a quick exchange that’s clearly a set-up to her coming back into the series again later, and then, seconds later, Daredevil is out the window and in pursuit of the Torpedo.

What follows is a big old multi-page Marvel battle between the Man Without Fear and his fast-flying quarry. The Torpedo identifies himself and tries to get Daredevil to back off, but to no avail. And as Daredevil and the Torpedo go at it, a few stories up, Brock Jones is working late and hears the ruckus outside (the second time in this story tat somebody got involved because the Torpedo just happened to be outside their window. Hey, Marv was a young writer at this point.) He heads for the elevator to check out whatever’s going on downstairs.

As fate would have it, by this point the more powerful Torpedo has Daredevil on the ropes, his back pressed up against the elevator doors. The Torpedo trows what is meant to be a death-blow at DD just as those doors open–and as Daredevil dodges the attack, it’s Brock Jones who is in the firing line! At the last instant, not wanting to harm an innocent person, the Torpedo twists away, sending his rocket punch into the side of the building itself, causing an explosion and a cave-in.

It’s a cave-in that proves fatal to the Torpedo, but Brock Jones is still alive. With his dying breath, the critically-injured Torpedo begs Jones to complete his mission and whispers to him the details of what he’s been doing–details that we, the audience, aren’t privy to. Seeing is chance for a return to glory, Jones strips the Torpedo costume off of te dead man and puts it on himself, intending to use its power to complete his benefactor’s assignment. Unfortunately for him, Daredevil is still alive as well, and when he crawls free of the rubble, the exchange has been made–causing DD to think that Jones had been the Torpedo all the time, and that he was responsible for the murder of the guy in the elevator, which Daredevil assumes was the guy we now know as the original Torpedo. So the new Torpedo has been a super-guy for all of 30 seconds and he’s now got a murder rap hanging over his head, To Be Continued! But not for me, I didn’t get to read the wrap-up of this storyline for something like fifteen years.

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