Warriors by Denny O'Neil, Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli
One Sentence Overview: An out of sorts Daredevil is angered when he hears that the supposedly reformed Gladiator has returned to his criminal past
So, as the cover infers, ostensibly this appears to be a story all about DD and the Gladiator biffing each other about - and, hey, Melvin Potter turning up is always a good sign - but actually that's a red herring. For those interested in the actual plot, the Gladiator's social worker, Betsy Beatty, has been kidnapped and he is blackmailed to rob stuff for those holding her. In other words, in terms of pure plot, it's not the most original story in the can.
But don't spend too much time worrying about that. The two writers (Denny and Frank! Together! At last!!!) aren't. Rather they use the unhinged and troubled Melvin Potter as a starting point to explore the muddled psyche of Matt Murdock. And, boy, that pays dividends. What has been implied over the years with Matt is made explicit here in a stirring piece of writing.
Not only do we have Matt's thoughts on the matter (and we'll come onto that) but Foggy and Glori spend a good bit of time mulling over their good companion. Glori can't understand him. Referring to the freaky Beyonder issue, she tells Foggy about how he recovered his sight briefly (hilariously and rationally, Foggy doesn't appear to believe her and signals the waiter as she drones on). She frames this with a frustration that she feels that Matt often veers from wild enthusiasm and brightness to suddenly "snappin' and snarlin'... [and] vanishin' for days on end". Foggy can only argues that Matt's a "special kind of guy" but this all hints at a darkness of mood and mind in Matt that is a little disturbing. Frank has previously been bold enough to show a very uneasy side of Matt's character when he appeared to develop a controlling relationship with Heather Glenn. Here, at best, Glori feels that he has a fluctuating mood that she perhaps finds a little frightening at times.
Perhaps the clue is in the title - Warriors. At first, this seems misnamed for a tale that largely dwells on the thought processes of the main character. However, I think that's the point. Frank and Denny are interested in the soul of a man - particularly the uncontrollable, restless and sometimes aggressive masculine psyche. I enjoyed Foggy and Glori's little yarn but it's nothing in contrast with what the reader encounters as they slip into Matt's thoughts this issue.
Matt's not in a good place to begin with - he's still thinking about Heather and now he's realising that he's been neglectful regarding Foggy and his law firm, so the self pity's already amped up. [Interestingly, in the opening sequence, Matt also muses that he's not yet thirty - an intriguing details showing how time has slown since his first appearance as a twenty something back in the early 60s.] Matt reflects on time with his former mentor, Stick, who barely has a good word to say about the young Murdock's character. Stick infers that Matt is somewhat passive - dictated to by his father and the women in his life (I get the first, but I always thought Matt began to back off when he began to conceive of his past loves as independent and strong in their own rights - cf Elektra, Natasha, Karen - and definitely not Heather). Of course that doesn't make Matt feel very good about himself. Later, in the most explicit sequence yet, Matt hurls his nameplate out of his office window, finally acknowledging in a brilliant passage how he never wanted to be a lawyer and that it was all his dad's fault he ended up in this place (very Greek tragedy, when you think about it). Look at the bitter language Matt uses - never wanting to help "husbands and wives who didn't have the nerve to face each other".
On top of this, Matt grumbles about interrupting a poor woman being mugged, concluding "I don't know why I bother". And it's with all this on his mind that he goes and confronts poor manipulated Melvin - look at what he says to the Gladiator when he catches up with him, "I'm here to kick your face in".
DD's stirring for battle - it's the last thing Mr Potter has on his mind - the following confrontation ultimately seems like a bully picking on the small kid in class, something Matt himself recognises once he's floored the Gladiator.
This appears to bring Matt to his senses somewhat. However, having heard Melvin's predicament, he not only tracks the bad guys down but, perhaps a little more unwisely, invites Melvin round for a piece of the action. It's a very male reaction - you can knock seven shades as well - and naturally poor Betsy's horrified to see Melvin return to violence. Except, there's a sliver of bright light at the end of all this. As he's about to land a crunching blow on a poor unfortunate, Melvin catches his social worker's eye and turns away in a wonderfully sweet and quite funny sequence. As Daredevil continues to deal with the thugs, a tunnel vision Melvin makes his way to Betsy - it's gorgeous.
And with this, we end Denny's run. It's clear that Frank has had a significant hand in the writing here but Denny's writing in the title has been very, very good -unafraid to use anti-climaxes and take Matt to places as dark as any Frank dreamed up. Farewell, Denny. Next up, Born Again begins!
Rating: 9 out of 10