Issue(s): Daredevil #319, Daredevil #320, Daredevil #321, Daredevil #322, Daredevil #323, Daredevil #324, Daredevil #325
I bought the variant, and i remember feeling a little put out that i wasn't in-the-know enough to have bought the "real" issue when it first came out, and so i made sure to keep buying the rest of the series even though i wasn't all that taken with it. I nonetheless took advantage of the fact that Marvel offered a regular variant of the issue with the glow-in-the-dark cover. Sean Howe in his book Marvel Comics: The Untold Story identifies the fact that Marvel offered the regular priced, non-gimmick variant as a sign that fan fatigue with the gimmicks was reaching a tipping point. It's mentioned in the Daredevil lettercol (issue #320) this way:
"Fall From Grace" will continue next issue with a glorious, wrap-around radar POV, glow-in-the-dark cover. (See art under type!) But wait, there's more! If you're one of the die-hard comic fans who loathes special covers, then don't despair - we're also printing a regular $1.25 edition! In this day and age of sales gimmicks and overpriced incentives, we'd like to think we still publish great ideas!
When the (published) reaction to the cover is positive, they take a victory lap in issue #324's lettercol:
We have noted that our fans seem to be "displeased" with the glut of special cover enhancements. Thus when we say we were reluctant to use a special cover during "Fall From Grace", we are telling the complete truth. But we had this idea...
I'll describe the "idea" further down. And it is a good use of the glow-in-the-dark effect. Whether it was worth the price increase is another story.
By the way, the "art under type" attempt was a disaster. Around this time, not only on this book, Marvel was experimenting with placing artwork under the text on the letters page. The result was that both the art and text were indiscernible.
In general, despite high ambitions, the story is plagued with problems. Marvel definitely screwed the pooch with a decision to give Daredevil an awkward new costume. That costume and the decision to revive Elektra over the wishes of her creator Frank Miller overshadowed any positive buzz.
From Sean Howe again, here's a quote from Frank Miller:
It stings like hell. But I can't bellyache too long and hard, because a generation of Kirby and Ditko didn't have the ground rules spelled out the way I did, and they got ripped off a lot worse than I did. So Marvel can drag that corpse around the block all they want.
It should be noted that Ralph Macchio was the editor that originally promised Miller that Elektra wouldn't be returned without him, and Macchio is still the editor here. But, per an interview with assistant editor Pat Garrahy on the manwithoutfear website, the order to return Elektra came "from above". It's also worth noting that Miller did bring Elektra back in the Elektra Lives Again graphic novel. In response to letters published during this storyline, it's confirmed that Elektra Lives Again is not in continuity. A fan suggests that this is because it killed off Bullseye (it also re-killed Elektra), and the responses don't contradict that. But the only explicit "reason" given for it being non-continuity is that it was published with the Epic imprint. And yet this story heavily references Elektra: Assassin, which was also Epic.
Whatever you think of the return of Elektra, and even if you can look past the costume change, this story suffers from more basic flaws. As we saw with the Calypso storyline (Daredevil #310-311) Scott McDaniel had been getting ambitious with his artwork and was producing very fancy page layouts that only serve to muddy up the storytelling. That continues here. On another interview on the manwithoutfear website (h/t to commenter gfsdf gfbd), D.G. Chichester and Scott McDaniel provide a retrospective of this storyline, and McDaniel gives an honest appraisal of his artwork at the time that acknowledges some of the clarity problems.
And the truth is, scratch the surface of this story, beneath the big "event" stuff and the ambitious art, and what you really have here is a dressed up Maximum Carnage. The story features numerous guest stars, all of whom feel majorly out of place and several of whom will be real head scratchers for people picking this up in trade form without having been immersed in other books from the era. Venom's appearance won't surprise anyone but will make plenty of eyes roll. Silver Sable and Morbius are, in absolute standards, fairly low tier but not totally unknown. But then we have an appearance by the Crippler (of the Wild Pack, but appearing separately from Sable) and a surprisingly prominent role for Siege (a second-rate Deathlok spinoff/clone, if you're coming to this entry cold). And "Hellspawn", a Daredevil doppelganger left over from Infinity War, plays a crucial role in the story as well.
In a sense i have to appreciate the use of these characters. Characters are only obscure because they don't get used, so the attempt to raise the profile of Crippler and Siege is kind of admirable. But - as with all these characters - their integration into the story is not handled well, and they feel like they serve no purpose. In the interview, Chichester acknowledges that Crippler contributes to the story's "bloat" and says that the character was included because Chichester was infected by the enthusiasm that the character's creator (and Silver Sable writer), Greg Wright, had for him. I'll note that Siege was also a Wright creation. Wright was also the Deathlok writer, and the writer for Morbius. It's kind of weird how much influence Greg Wright seems to have had over this storyline considering he wasn't involved in it (and, again, on the other hand, one creator using another creator's characters is what helps the Marvel universe feel solid). But the bigger issue is just that there are a large number of guest characters who don't have much relevance to the plot.
You'll also note in that interview that it's said that in order for anyone in Marvel's marketing department to pay any attention to Daredevil, Frank Miller had to get involved, and Chichester and McDaniel talk like they were trying to escape that perception. I think it's admirable the way they generated buzz for this series without the support of marketing, but there's no doubt that they did it by glomming on heavily to Miller concepts. The return of Elektra herself may have been dictated by executives, but the use of Frank Garrett and the Hand go beyond that, and other elements of the story, like the secret identity subthread, are echos of Miller plots. You can contrast that with Ann Nocenti and John Romita Jr.'s run, which definitely had a voice distinct from Miller and got a fair amount of buzz thanks to the art and the introduction of new characters like Typhoid Mary and Blackheart. The book managed to chug along at a mid-tier sales level (~170,000), never nearing cancellation territory. You can see at the bottom of this entry what the sales were like at about this time. The book actually jumped to over 200,000 briefly for Chichester's Fall of the Kingpin storyline, but it's now dropped to an average of 125,000, with the "closest to filing" number getting into real danger territory. (I'm never sure how close to publication the "closest to filing" number is, but the SOO was published in issue #325, which means that the 106,000 number was likely for an issue during this storyline, which would be really alarming.)
Ok, the story.
Back in "1963", the SHIELD ESPers (telepaths) were used in an experiment involving a virus called About Face that would allow people's DNA to be re-programmed telepathically. Gas that would serve as a medium for the virus were broken in New York's subway system, but the one containing the virus did not break. That vial was dropped by an ESPer, Eddie Passim, who knew that the other ESPers, including his girlfriend Theresa, were being killed by the manager of the program, a General Harry "TNT" Kenkoy. Eddie was in Theresa's mind when she was killed, and he went crazy and joined the city's homeless population. Nick Fury found out about the program when he became the director of SHIELD, and the program was ended. Kenkoy later joined the "Snakeroot" sect of the Hand under the name Budo. Today, the Hand is attempting to locate the unbroken vial. And Eddie is using his telepathy to drive other homeless people crazy, perhaps as a way to warn people. That's how Daredevil starts to find out what's going on.
The Hand is interested in the virus because they want to resurrect Elektra. To that end, they also capture John Garrett. When we last saw Garrett he - and we - were under the impression that he had been mind-swapped with Ken Wind, who was elected president. We now find out that that was all in Garrett's mind, and he's really been kept in a SHIELD storage facility.
The idea is that Elektra put some of her mind in Garrett's head before she died (and before she was "purified" by Daredevil), so they intend to use that as part of the formula that brings her back. The portion of Elektra's mind is put into an Elektra lookalike named Erynys.
The Hand also retrieve more data on the virus. This is done by a ninja named Osaku (who only appears in issue #319 of this story).
Osaku will appear in future stories and will turn out to be female, but note the use of the male pronoun above.
The Snakeroot, through Kenkoy, also hire Silver Sable to locate Eddie. Crippler is given that assignment. And somehow, even though this is a deeply buried secret, Morbius and Venom (all the way in San Francisco!) get wind of the virus and decide that they want it for themselves, to cure their condition or (for Venom) improve their powers. Siege is sent in by Nick Fury to retrieve Garrett, but he is also tempted by the virus, since he's trapped in a cyborg body.
Daredevil's costume gets torn to shreds while he's fighting Crippler (to keep Eddie from him). So that's the reason Daredevil needs a new costume. Crippler.
The funny thing is how fast it happens. Daredevil is put through the grinder more than any other hero this side of Black Panther under Don McGregor, and his costume mostly remains intact. But put him up against the Crippler and his costume is in tatters by page 2.
When Daredevil beats Crippler, Silver Sable comes after him herself, but he's able to convince her that her client is not on the up-and-up.
Instead of just repairing his costume, Daredevil breaks into several facilities (including the Advanced Materials Institute, whose acronym anagrams into something suspicious) and constructs an armored suit made from enhanced fiber. It's supposed to be soft and flexible, but still hard as body armor.
Not only does it look goofy, but the idea of Daredevil wanting or needing body armor, even with the caveat that it's supposed be just as flexible as his old suit, is antithetical to the idea of a "man without fear". I saw it at the time as a post-Michael Keaton Batman thing, which at least puts the decision in some sort of context.
Meanwhile, the Chaste realize that the Hand is up to something, and someone - who prefers a sai as a weapon - is sent to deal with it.
So first Stone shows up, using sais.
But then Elektra really does turn up (entirely separate from Erynys).
It turns out that Daredevil really did manage to resurrect her back in the Frank Miller days, but since then she's been with the chaste. She's returned now to get back the part of herself that Erynys got from Garrett, and she teams up with Daredevil to fight the Snakeroot.
Elektra is able to kill Erynys and absorb her missing essence. Garret is put back in a SHIELD detention cell. The rest of the Snakeroot run away, having lost the virus.
A distraction from the plot is when Daredevil is attacked by Hellspawn, who is developing sentience (and narrates issue #321 in annoying Cajun dialect that makes me long for Gambit). Because he's a doppelganger (i.e. because "magic), Daredevil's radar sense is unable to see him, making the fight against him difficult.
That idea was the inspiration for the glow-in-the-dark cover, where the doppelganger is not glow-enabled, so when you look at the image in the dark you only see what Daredevil sees and Hellspawn is invisible.
Daredevil manages to fight off Hellspawn and it disappears until the end of the story.
One subplot mostly unrelated to anything going on in this story is the Hydra agent Garotte, still using his "Strang" identity to pick up the pieces of the media empire that Hydra invested in with the Kingpin. Garotte also tries to strongarm his way into owning a piece of the Daily Bugle. J. Jonah Jameson refuses, noting that he owns the Bugle fully. Garotte threatens to get the unions to work against JJ. But it turns out JJ has a decent enough relationship with the unions that that threat fizzles. So that plot is basically a bust. But it's important because it provides a backdrop for the story about Daredevil's secret ID. During the union threat, Ben Urich is briefly locked out of his files. So he has his intern, Sara Harrington, hack into the Bugle. And while she's getting Urich's files, Harrington notices a reference to the story about Daredevil's secret ID that he buried back circa Daredevil #164 (in that story, he burned his notes, but apparently he had a back-up). Harrington later breaks into Urich's apartment to steal his story, and she brings it to another paper, a "bottom of the barrel" small paper called the Big Apple Advocate, who uses Betteridge's law of headlines to cover itself.
But when reporters are invited to take a tour of Matt Murdock's apartment, they find it blind-proofed, which seems to disprove the idea that he could be Daredevil. However, the idea is "out there", so Murdock needs a more permanent solution. So at the end of the book, Matt - in the grand tradition of bizarro Daredevil secret identity ploys - fakes his death, leaving the remains of Hellspawn (killed in the final fight with the Snakeroot after it used the virus to give itself a human body) behind since its DNA is identical to Matt's. Matt also changes his name to Jack (actually, his mom gives him the name). And of course he's now in a new costume, but it's worth reiterating that the costume change happened before he faked his death, and he was already introducing himself to others as the same Daredevil (e.g. Morbius initially attacks Daredevil unaware that he's the guy that he 'knows' (not that they'd ever met before).
Harrington is arrested for hacking Urich's files, and she won't be seen again.
Also on the secret identity front, it becomes clear that Foggy Nelson is aware of Matt Murdock's ID.
This i like. But Foggy and Karen Page are not let in on the secret of Matt's "death".
I tried to summarize the whole plot up front, but part of the reason why the story is seven parts is that the details unfold slowly. That in itself is fine. The problem is that the series is a cluttered mess. It's extremely overscripted, with way too much narration and expository dialogue. And as noted, McDaniel was more concerned with creatively laid out pages instead of telling a clear story. There are too many disjointed elements, with characters coming and going willy-nilly. The costume change feels arbitrary; it's not in reaction to the events of the main plot (except in the tenuous sense that Crippler destroyed the old suit). The secret ID plot has nothing to do with the main story in either a literal or thematic sense. All together, it's a chore to read, in service of a plot delivering elements that readers were pre-disposed to dislike (in fact the lettercols are full of people reacting in advance to the events that were going to happen, and not positively).
Statement of Ownership Total Paid Circulation: Average of Past 12 months = 125,292. Single issue closest to filing date = 106,100.
Quality Rating: D+
Chronological Placement Considerations: Major status quo change for Daredevil - identity and costume - which affects his appearance in other books.
Stone is able to detect Morbius' heartbeat in this story. As a result of Midnight Massacre, Morbius will cease to become a "Living" vampire and it's explicitly said that he no longer has a heartbeat. So this story should take place before Midnight Massacre, which begins in Nightstalkers #10.
I should note that the Fall From Grace trade paperback seems to have added a few extra scenes that, per Chichester in the interview, "clean up the act somewhat". I'm reviewing from the original issues, so those scenes aren't covered.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (4): showBen Urich, Crippler, Daito, Daredevil, Doris Urich, Eddie Brock (Venom), Elektra, Flame (Chaste), Foggy Nelson, Garotte (Hydra), Genkotsu, Hellspawn, J. Jonah Jameson, John Garrett, Karen Page, Kingpin, Morbius, Nick Fury, Osaku, Siege, Silver Sable, Sister Maggie Murdock, Stone (Chaste), Tekagi, Venom Symbiote
Oh yeah. This. I remember a guy at the comic shop I was buying from at the time giving me the hard sell on this arc, trying in vain to convince me Daredevil was "cool again." I flipped through a few pages and politely declined. Years later, when I was enjoying McDaniel's work on Nightwing, I finally read the whole thing and wasn't impressed.
Posted by: Robert | February 6, 2017 3:15 PM
McDaniel's work on Zot was interesting and he literally wrote the book on comic art, but his big company super-hero work has always been dull, dull, dull.
Posted by: Red Comet | February 6, 2017 5:32 PM
Erm...,that's Scott McCloud who created Zot, not Scott McDaniel.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | February 6, 2017 6:10 PM
Zot! is Scott McCloud. This is Scott McDaniel.
Posted by: Andrew | February 6, 2017 6:10 PM
Posted by: Andrew | February 6, 2017 6:11 PM
(though I stick by what I meant to say for Scott McCloud)
Posted by: Red Comet | February 6, 2017 6:26 PM
Regarding Foggy, this story makes it seems like he knows Matt's identity but when he next meets Matt during deMatteis's run, he learns that Matt is Daredevil and is completely shocked by the revelation. I guess deMatteis didn't read this story.
Posted by: Michael | February 6, 2017 8:00 PM
As with much of the 90s worst, Wizard Magazine hyped and praised this dreck like it was on par with Eisner
Posted by: Bob | February 6, 2017 8:22 PM
"The funny thing is how fast it happens. Daredevil is put through the grinder more than any other hero this side of Black Panther under Don McGregor, and his costume mostly remains intact. But put him up against the Crippler and his costume is in tatters by page 2."
Perhaps it was one battle too many for that particular costume?
Posted by: D09 | February 7, 2017 2:07 AM
It's also worth noting that Miller did bring Elektra back in the Elektra Lives Again graphic novel. In response to letters published during this storyline, it's confirmed that Elektra Lives Again is not in continuity. A fan suggests that this is because it killed off Bullseye (it also re-killed Elektra)
Miller didn't bring Elektra "back" in Elektra Lives Again, he already resurrected her in Daredevil #191, at the end of the Chaste/Hand storyline. Elektra Lives Again simply follows from that story, with Elektra having been alive the whole time. That's why I've always been puzzled by the idea that other writers bringing her back is somehow sacrilegious, since Miller had already done that her towards the end of his DD run. He must've know that he wouldn't be working on DD forever, and that after he was gone Marvel had the right to do whatever they want with the character. So if he truly didn't want anyone else to use the character, why bring her back from the dead to begin with?
Posted by: Tuomas | February 7, 2017 12:04 PM
@Tuomos: Here is my interpretation of Miller's intentions for the ending to DD #190. Elektra has been resurrected, but she is now purified of the darkness in her soul, she is at peace, and outside of flashbacks this is her very last story, she will never ever be seen again.
Of course, as I've pointed out before, the inevitable problem with writing a "very last story" at Marvel (or DC, for that matter) is that you do not own the characters. Six months or a year or ten years after you leave the book, there's a really good chance that another creator is going to decide to bring back your character, your intentions be damned.
I wonder why Frank Miller believed that Marvel was somehow going to treat him differently than they did Kirby and Ditko and every single other creator who ever signed a work-for-hire agreement.
Posted by: Ben Herman | February 7, 2017 12:58 PM
This arc lost me not so much on the shredding of the old costume but on the making of the new one. How exactly did Matt Murdock know about all these materials? And how did he know how to make them into a new suit if body armor? And why was he okay with stealing it all?!?
Posted by: Matt | February 7, 2017 2:42 PM
Bob - Did Wizard hype up the story itself or just the fact they were "hot" back issues (Daredevil 319 and 320 went up in price)? I recall from over the years of reading Wizard they barely mentioned "Fall From Grace" and basically didn't start paying attention to DD again until Karl Kesel's run.
Posted by: iLegion | February 7, 2017 3:39 PM
I bought all of these issues and don't remember ANY of them.
Posted by: a.lloyd | February 10, 2017 2:48 AM
@Ben, Miller was particularly aggrieved that Macchio brought Elektra back into circulation, because Macchio had personally promised him that as long as he (Macchio) was editor, only he (Miller) would be allowed to write Elektra.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | February 12, 2017 8:43 PM
Comments are now closed.
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