First Published: August 2005
Contents: Daredevil #49 (February 1969) to #74 (March 1971); and Iron Man #35 (March 1971) and #36 (April 1971)
Key Creator Credits: Roy Thomas, Gene Colan, Barry Windsor-Smith, Gerry Conway, Gary Friedrich, Don Heck, and others
Key First Appearances: Starr Saxon/Mister Fear (Machinesmith), Stunt-Master, Turk Barrett, Thunderbolt,
Story Continues From: Essential Daredevil Vol. 2
Story Continues In: Essential Daredevil Vol. 4
Overview: Welcome back to the continuing adventures of Daredevil, the Man without Fear. In this volume, we say goodbye to writer Stan Lee, as he gives up the reigns to Rascally Roy Thomas and, later, Gerry Conway. Most of the art in this volume comes from the talented Gene Colan, although we do get a taste of early Barry Windsor-Smith in this collection.
This volume starts off with Matt suffering from a crisis of conscience. Foggy Nelson has been elected District Attorney and has gone his separate ways from Matt. Matt wants to ditch his red union suit and try to settle down into a reasonably normal life with Karen Page. Sadly, circumstances force Matt back into costume, as Daredevil has a city to protect.
One of the early villains introduced is Star Saxon, a genius who builds killer robots. (Saxon later appears in this same volume as Mister Fear, but his fame would eventually peak when he takes the name Machinesmith, being a foil for Daredevil, Captain America, Spider-Man, and others.) Long time foes Gladiator and Jester make return appearances to take on Daredevil, as well as Cobra and Mr. Hyde coming over from the pages of Thor.
The volume concludes with a crossover between Iron Man and Daredevil, as they battle the Zodiac. It makes for a nice change of pace to see Don Heck’s take on Daredevil for these issues.
What makes this Essential?: Once again, the artwork steals the show with this volume. I’ve praised Gene Colan’s talents many times in this blog, and there is not much else I can say to convince you on his art. This volume is no exception. In terms of the stories themselves, the tales in here are generally forgettable, quite honestly. This feels like a time in the character’s history where the primary concern was just to get a monthly book out, and any character development was a secondary concern. By all means, get this volume for Colan’s art. Just don’t get your hopes up if you are getting this for the Daredevil stories.
Footnotes: Daredevil #73 and Iron Man #35 & #36 are also collected in Essential Iron Man Vol. 3.
If you like this volume, try: the Daredevil run from Frank Miller. In the late 1970s, Miller came onto the book as the artist and eventually took over the writing chores as well. During his run, Miller took a throwaway character introduced in Daredevil #69, Turk Barrett. Turk made that one appearance and then did not appear again for nearly 10 years until the Miller run. Turk was a two-bit thug that had dreams of bigger jobs with greater rewards, but he always seems to make the wrong choice. Daredevil would crash into whatever bar Turk was drowning his sorrows in, smash everything (and everyone) up, and then question Turk, who would squeal and give Daredevil whatever info he was needing.
Notwithstanding the use of Turk, the Miller run on Daredevil is the first one mentioned when people talk about the best Daredevil runs. Miller pushed the boundaries for a monthly newsstand comic and helped set the tone for comics to come in the 1980s. This has been collected numerous times as both hardcovers and trade paperbacks. If you haven’t read this yet, you are missing out on one of the all-time great Daredevil stories.