Well, this is all a rum do. I bought Essential Daredevil Volume 2 a few years ago - along with Volumes One and Three - and thought it was complete and total rubbish, filled with lame villains, a hopelessly tiny supporting cast -- and Mike Murdock.
But, of late, in the absence of anything better to fill my time with, I've been re-reading it.
This time, I did it differently. Instead of greedily devouring it in one long sitting - as is my habit when it comes to such collections - I decided to read it one story per day.
And what a magical difference it made. Suddenly, instead of a feeble hero fighting lame villains it was...
...well, OK, it still seemed like a feeble hero battling lame villains - but the drama of it all and Stan Lee's sense of fun shone through far more than it had before and I found I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Strangely, when read in bite-sized chunks, the uselessness of the villains becomes oddly charming, the tininess of the supporting cast seems cosy and even Mike Murdock becomes more-or-less bearable.
Of course, what does come across is that Matt Murdock is completely and totally mad. There's no other explanation for why he should adopt the eminently punchable persona of his non-existent identical twin brother Mike - especially when he at one point contemplates marrying Karen Page in that identity! As for his plan to bump Mike off with no regard for how Foggy and Karen might feel about his death...
Highlight of the collection has to be Dr Doom swapping bodies with DD in order to launch a surprise attack on the Fantastic Four.
It's a tale that makes no sense.
For a start, it follows straight on from a story in which the Trapster disguises himself as DD in order to launch a surprise attack on the Fantastic Four. Dr Doom somehow fails to notice he's now blind, DD finds himself in trouble fighting Doc Doom's goons, despite wearing a suit of armour that's weirdly unprotective against their bare fists, and Doom doesn't tell his lackeys his plan, meaning DD can order them around and plunge Latveria into a war that forces his adversary to completely abandon his scheme before he's even managed to reach the Baxter Building. Somehow, you can't help feeling Doom didn't put an awful lot of thought into this plan.
Despite all this, there is something about the sight of our hero alone and up against a villain he's totally outclassed by that means the tale lingers in the mind more than others do.
Another highlight is Daredevil's battle with a bunch of aliens who want to send everyone blind. It's a stupid tale - let's face it, if there's any menace DD shouldn't be fighting it's aliens - but it has a certain charm, and possibly highlights the difference between him and the superficially similar Spider-Man. Whereas Spider-Man fighting aliens seems wrong, for Daredevil it doesn't. Possibly this is because it's such an odd series - even when he's fighting more terrestrial foes - that it can get away with such eccentricities in a way that Spider-Man's strip couldn't.
Probably the weakest story is the character's first King-Size Special, where Lee redoes Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1 by having Daredevil's deadliest foes team up against him.
So undeadly are they that Electro has to be drafted in to give them some semblance of menace and, even then, Daredevil manages to beat the lot of them all in one go.
The book is, of course, dominated by Gene Colan's artwork. It could be argued his style wasn't best suited to super-heroes but there's a non-stop dynamism, flow and organised chaos to it that few artists can match.
So, there you have it, proof that comic book tales don't have to knock your socks off to be enjoyable.
And proof that the tales in compendiums are best read as they were originally meant to be read and not as impatience might dictate they be read.
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