When I first started collecting comics, I often saw references to Frank Miller’s Daredevil being a ‘legendary’ early run from the early-1980s. Unfortunately, reprints were not yet readily available and the original issues would have cost a small fortune on my modest comics-buying budget.
Fast-forward twenty years and I was able to score some deals on eBay for the hardcover Graphitti Designs editions of “Daredevil Visionaries: Frank Miller” volumes 1-3 that reprinted “Daredevil” #158-161, #163-191 and “What If?” #28.
The first ten or so issues that were collected were not written by Miller and, while they are passable, they did not necessarily serve as predictors of greatness to come. Miller’s run as both writer and penciled started off with a bang in the second collected volume, where he told the origin of Daredevil’s first love, a woman named Elektra. Their story of love lost drips with tragedy, as Elektra – transformed into a hardened assassin – re-appears in Daredevil’s life years after their college romance went bad.
Miller also brought back classic Daredevil nemesis Bullseye, who had previously gone insane after suffering from a brain tumor. The wheels of irony were set into motion when Daredevil’s principles forced him to save Bullseye’s life. That decision would come back to haunt Daredevil.
It makes me depressed to know that Miller was only in his mid-twenties when he was creating what would be such groundbreaking work. Simply put, his art was amazing. The energy and small touches in the panel composition reminded me how good he is. He literally defined what would be the best artistic ideas of most of the 1980s. Sadly, it has become easy for overlook that now, given how his more-recent, bloated work in “Dark Knight Strikes Again” sits in start contrast to the energy of his youth.
After reading that initial run of issues, I later read the “Daredevil by Frank Miller Omnibus Companion,” which contained his additional stories featuring Daredevil in “The Spectacular Spider-Man” #27-28, “Daredevil” #219, #226-233 (the “Born Again” storyline), “Daredevil: Love and War,” and “Daredevil: The Man Without Fear” #1-5.
The later stories, when Miller returned to Daredevil after his success with Batman at DC Comics, didn’t hold my interests in quite the same way as Miller’s original run. The “Born Again” storyline starts out strong but sort of peters out. “Love and War” was a graphic novel that was a bit too ‘experimental’ for me. And “Man of Fear” seemed like an afterthought, being more of a re-purposed retelling of Daredevil’s origin that Miller had originally created for a potential Daredevil film that never happened.
That said, there were nuggets of gold in the later work. As a whole, these stories still featured the Frank Miller who hasn’t been around since the last “Sin City” ‘yarn’ came out in the late 1990s. I miss that Frank Miller.