Fog by Denny O'Neill and David Mazzucchelli
One Sentence Overview: Matt's response to Heather's cry for help leads to his being unable to intervene in a fatal case of domestic violence
Denny's last issue was offbeat and a little silly. So it's quite something to see him follow that up with a truly wonderfully dark landmark storyline. 'Fog' is very well titled. There may be a literal fog clogging up the city but what is more pertinent is the metaphorical blurring that is occuring in the minds of the lead characters - Matt and Heather.
Yes, Heather Glenn is back - though not for long - and she's in a bad, bad way. In a stunning opening panel by David Mazzucchelli (who is seriously on song this issue), Heather is sprawled out, twisted round, desperate looking and almost dwarfed by the upsided wine glass in the foreground.
We haven't seen her for a while and we can only guess what's been going on since she and Matt split up. Whatever's been going down (and it mostly seems to involve a catalogue of men and serious boozing), it's taken Heather to a dark and lonely place. In one way, she's a long way from the zany, ditzy character who first and relentlessly flirted with Matt seconds after she met him. In another, her codependent need for Matt - a need that has left her vulnerable to him and even led to her being treated really quite badly for him - has never really disappeared. In a few panels, Denny shows us a woman on the verge of a breakdown.
But Matt lacks sympathy. Heather has manipulated his coming to her - saying she is trouble, her life at risk - and, in a common, tragic literary trick, Matt attending to her needs means another woman dies elsewhere. The irony is, of course, that Heather's life really is at risk and Matt was unable to sense that. I'm sometimes a little harsh on Matt's emotional intelligence but I'm not sure one can blame him for being angry with Heather here.
Daredevil disappears into the fog and tracks down the man who has just killed his partner. Not much to say about this other than that it showcases another terrific atmospheric panel of the guilty party, Manny, painted as if from ground level - more gorgeous stuff from David.
The next day, Heather's phoned Nelson & Murdock eight times, eventually prompting Foggy to go visit her. There he calls Matt, who Foggy persuades to come over and is presented with the most awful of sights.
I read quite a few of these issues back in the 80s though I must confess not a lot sticks in my memory. In fact, up until I reached this page, I had forgotten I had read this number. But this is a panel that lodges itself in the memory like an arrow through the brain. And the following close up of Matt is just as brilliant - simple, effective, a study in horror.
I'm not sure how many comics dealt with suicides by a member of the supporting cast at this time in comic book history. Deaths were usually more honourable, being despatched by a vile villain rather than submitting to their own hand. Isn't that how these things should be? Despite all that has occurred previously, this is a true shock. Daredevil the hero who stands up to Kingpin and the underworld cannot prevent an ex-girlfriend from wrapping a cord around her neck. He trembles at his powerlessness.
And we're only halfway through the book. The truth is that there's really not much more to add. At first it feels like we're drifting into the same territory as DD 182, with Matt in denial that Heather's actually killed herself. Then there's a bit of plotting involving some Italian thieves and Daredevil pretending to breathe like a rodent (no, really, he does). It's okay but can't deliver the brutal punch to the gut those first ten pages deliver. It's a bold piece of writing, demonstrating that Denny's in the middle of a purple patch of storytelling that is close to Frank Miller at his best.
Rating: 9 out of 10