On the Eve of the Talon by Gerry Conway and Gene Colan
One Sentence Overview: Unknown to Matt and Ivan, Natasha has been kidnapped by villain Damon Dran, though Matt has other things to worry about when a TV reported outs him as Daredevil
First things first: after Natasha's plea for equality last issue, she's given co-billing on the cover this issue. In fact, she's barking orders at Matt. "This is the Widow's show!" she calls out from the cover image, our creative team desperate to show that she's her own woman. What a change from the early appearances of Karen Page nearly 10 years ago.
Even an old square like Matt Murdock, whose attitude to date to both Karen and Natasha could be described as paternalistic, is coming to terms with West Coast values inside. Like Karen before, Matt's having problems with coming to terms, though, with Natasha having her own life, making her own choices, instead of having to manoeuvre her life around the wishes of her Lord and Master. Not only is he having to accept the Widow as his equal, he's beginning to dress down a little to the fashions of the time - hence on page two of our tale, we find him in a denim shirt and rather fetching orange and black cravat.
Early on in his run, Gerry Conway made it clear that he had sympathies with the post 60s flower children generation. A short, seemingly superfluous, scene here reminds the reader that he's still thinking about the younger generation and their opportunities. Daredevil witnesses a gangster beating up a shopkeeper and intervenes. The mugger, Willie Boy, complains to DD that he's only attacking the shopkeeper because he shot and killed his brother when he tried to rob his store. Daredevil duffs up our mugger and his friends, which is what you might expect. However, his reflection afterwards is quite revealing. Thinking about the shopkeeper, he muses "In a way... he's as bad as Willie," perhaps reflecting some sense of disquiet that Gerry has about those in power, those in control, or even perhaps a comment on the gun regulations in America. I'm not entirely sure of the significance of this scene other than Gerry's deliberately made room for it and he's unafraid to present the both parties involved as ambiguous, which strikes me as quite a brave thing to do.
Daredevil's on the street trying to track down Natasha. But he won't find her because both she and Danny French have been captured by some posh and dodgy type called Damon Dran. Mr Dran, naturally has taken hold of the two because he'd quite fancy the Project Four bomb, thanks very much. French tells our new fiend that he's telling him nothing. Unfortunately for him, Dran being rich and that, he has a mind probe. An essential accessory for any millionaire, don't you think?
Danny's memories are soon being displayed handily in comic book frames for us all to see. And this includes a splendid car crash by new Captain America artist, Mr Gene Colan.
What's revealed doesn't show Mr French in a particularly good light. Tyre successfully punctured by Dran underling, Charles, the Widow indulges in a bit of fisticuffs with the aforementioned valet. But wait, here comes Danny behind her. Ah, good, he'll soon lend a hand. Unfortunately the first punch he throws connects with Natasha's face. Really. The number of times that Danny's had the opportunity to act chivalrous and what does he do? He really is a charlatan and a cad. A charlatan and a cad, sir!
Never mind all that - Dran's just introduced this issue's main villain. (Just in time too because the pages are thinning towards the back of the book.) It's the Blue Talon. He and Daredevil are soon tussling and the Talon is impressed. "Many years have passed since I found an opponent worthy of battle," he tells Murdock. Well, that's because you're hanging out in San Franscisco, mate. If you wanted a 'worthy battle' you should have fetched up in New York and looked up Thor or Iron Man or some such. Either that or stay where you are and wait for the X-Men to arrive.
Well, as if Natasha disappearing wasn't enough, a long night's rummaging around the city is followed up by Matt catching a newscast where the reporter on duty has put two and two together about Daredevil's sudden appearance in San Francisco. As the Black Widow is associated with both DD and Murdock, the newscast confidently announces that they are one and the same. Huh, trust TV journalists to always make sensationalist assumptions... Oh, wait, they're right.
This, naturally, is something of a dilemma for poor Matt. What will he do? Well, get another hero to stand in for him, of course. But who can stand in for caucasian Matt Murdock? Why, none other than the Black Panther! Eh? Wait a minute, because obviously he's... er... never mind. It's only a comic.
The Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff
Commissioner Ironguts O'Hara
T'challa/The Black Panther
The Blue Talon/Yamura
William (Dran's chauffeur)
Charles (Dran's valet)
Rating: 5 out of 10