BHOC: DAREDEVIL #142

I bought this issue of DAREDEVIL out of the local drugstore’s Big Bin of Out of Date Comics, a place that I was visiting with increasing regularity. I had previously seen the following issue, #143, in the bin as well, but when I went back for this one, all copies of #143 were gone, so I never did get to read the wrap-up to the adventure until decades later. This was an occupational hazard of being a comic book reader in the 1970s, when there wasn’t easy access to the books you might have missed. That’s partly why I find it such a wonder that so much vintage material has been collected and reprinted and is readily available today.

I don’t think it’s any great secret that DAREDEVIL was a struggling title by the 1970s. Frank Miller would soon after this come along and rescue it, steering heavily into noir elements and ninjas and the work of Will Eisner. But before that, and for a long time, DAREDEVIL was a bit directionless. Nobody, it seemed, could quite decide what the tone of the series should be, and so it vacillated between playing like a cut-rate Spider-Man and doing things more bizarre and off-beat, such as DD’s involvement with Moondragon and the Thanos mythology. At the point of this issue, writer Marv Wolfman was steering back towards the Spider-Man, with a little bit of the 1966 TV Batman thrown in for good measure–this issue opens with Daredevil in a ridiculous death trap, and closes with him in another one.

Given how dark and homicidal a character Bullseye would become, it’s almost shocking to see him here, in the hands of his originator, coming across like a Batman TV show villain. But that’s the nature of a shared universe–you never quite know where things are going to go! Anyway, last issue Bullseye captured Daredevil and tied him to a giant crossbow he had lying around on a rooftop, and this issue, he launches DD into the river. As death traps go, it’s kinds basic, as Daredevil proves by surviving the trip and then struggling free of his bonds. Marv also takes the opportunity to cameo and plug his new creation, Nova, who turns up to help give Daredevil a lift back to shore.

Elsewhere, we follow as two of Daredevil’s old enemies, the Cobra and Mister Hyde, escape from prison and link up once again. The pair were originally conceived of as Thor villains, but they proved over time to be more Daredevil’s speed–it’s difficult to think of the God of Thunder having difficulty with these two turkeys. Having effected their escape, and arguing like an old married couple, Cobra and Hyde resume their career of looting, breaking into a bank and drawing the attention of both the law and Daredevil himself.

But Cobra and Hyde are able to overpower their pursuers and escape into the sewers. Daredevil half-heartedly tries to follow, but he opts instead to head back to the Storefront law office he shares with Foggy nelson in time for his date with Heather Glenn. We get some shenanigans with Foggy and Heather for a page–despite trying like crazy, Marv was just not able to make either of these characters interesting, and Matt Murdock becomes a bit of an ass in their presence. Elsewhere, Hyde is using one of the gems they stole in an improved version of his Hyde formula, intended to make him more powerful than ever before. The Cobra watches as he works, perhaps considering whether he could take the formula for himself and dump the irritating Calvin Zabo.

From here we move into the endgame of the issue, where Daredevil, in his search for Hyde and Cobra, comes across the penthouse retreat of the wealthy William Rotsler, who has turned the entire rooftop into his own personal jungle, complete with a wild lion. Don’t ask me how he got the zoning permits for this. Rotsler was a tribute by Wolfman to the similarly-named science fiction author and cartoonist, and I presume this was done wit his knowledge–for all I know, he had his own private jungle, too. Anyway, Hyde and Cobra attack Rotsler with the intent of stealing his valuable rare book collection of all things.

Daredevil shows up to have a quick fight with the Cobra and Mister Hyde, but he once again doesn’t fare too well–this just isn’t DD’s issue. In short order, he’s been knocked unconscious–and rather than killing him outright, the Cobra convinces Hyde to stake Daredevil out like a character in a jungle film, and then wait for the hungry lion to maul him. Seems like a lot of extra work to me, but what do I know? But that’s the state of play as the issue ends wit the obligatory To Be Continued!

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