Trumps! is the name of this issue, and the main villain, but it is hardly the fight between Daredevil and the Trump that people remember from this issue. I suspect that even those of you who have read it might be wondering who the heck the Trump is, as he is one of those easily forgotten characters with an equally forgettable MO. But if I mention Stymie, does that ring any bells?
Starting at the beginning of the issue, we find Daredevil interrupting a heist carried out by the Trump and his men. Daredevil narrowly escapes being shot by evading a bullet in classic DD style but is incapacitated by the sound of the gun going off. In the ensuing confusion he manages to force an incoming truck, driven by an accomplice of the Trump’s, off the pier and the band of thugs disperses. Daredevil, who went into the water himself, gets himself and the driver of the truck back on dry land. Looking for more information, Daredevil seeks out Ben Urich to see if he has any more information on the Trump, whose real name turns out to be Carlton Sanders, a magician and a children’s television host. Sort of like the Marvel Universe version of Sideshow Bob from The Simpson’s, minus Krusty the Clown.
The next day, we find Foggy talking to a Stewart “Stymie” Schmidt, arrested for his involvement in last night’s heist gone awry. Matt comes by, and (oddly enough) doesn’t recognize the man as someone from his childhood, until he hears him call him Daredevil. It turns out that Stymie was one of young Matt Murdock’s tormentors, and for reasons yet unknown Matt immediately decides to take the case, against Foggy’s wishes. Matt explains his decision by saying, “A lot of what I am today is due to that man. I owe him more than you’ll ever know. This may be my one chance to pay him back.”
Thus begins the more interesting subplot of this issue, but before we get to see what Matt is really up to, we pay a visit to the Trump again who is busy planning his new heist and informs his men that he will deal with Stymie before he decides to spill the beans. Matt, meanwhile, is throwing himself into Stymie’s case and has both Foggy and Becky worried about his obsession with it. When Matt tries to get a deal with the D.A., Foggy points out that he’s handling the case as if he wanted Stymie to get the worst possible sentence. He realizes that there’s something going on and rushes out to find out what it is.
Matt visits his client in jail and recognizes the heartbeat of a passing prison guard as belonging to the Trump. When he reaches Stymie’s cell he finds that his client’s heart has stopped beating and resuscitates him (is there nothing this man doesn’t know how to do?). When the doctor shows up, Matt rushed out, changes into costume and goes after the Trump. The two of them have a magic-enhanced fight that leads them into the subway, but the Trump eventually gets away.
Foggy does some investigating of his own by going to Max’s Candy Store (presumably located in Hell’s Kitchen) and shows the owner a picture of Matt as a child. Max does indeed recognize the boy and he remembers Stymie as well, and how cruel he was to Matt.
Matt, meanwhile, is still in costume and pays a visit to Turk and Grotto for some standard information gathering and catches up with the Trump who’s busy robbing the mob. A fight erupts between the two of them and the Trump appears victorious when he immobilizes Daredevil with some fancy ribbons and hits him with a jolt of electricity. In a very nicely done scene, the taunts of the Trump as Daredevil tries to get to his feet are echoed in Matt’s mind by the taunts he heard as a child, and he forces himself to get up and fight back, stripping the Trump of most of his costume which apparently fuels some of his magic. In a last attempt at getting the upper hand again, the Trump tries to blind Daredevil with a flash of light (always with the blinding rays…) to no effect. The fight is over and the Trump is left for the police.
We then see Matt rush over to Max’s Candy Store where Foggy and Max are waiting. He has received an urgent message from his partner, and Foggy confronts him with what he knows. He says that it’s unethical to do what Matt is doing, and while Matt initially refuses to see that he is deliberately trying to take down Stymie, the past soon catches up with him and he rushes into an alley and has something of a breakdown. Foggy plays the part of the loyal friend and walks him home. The next day, Matt turns the case over to a public defender and confronts Stymie one last time. He asks him why he treated him the way he did, and Stymie appears surprised that Matt even still thinks about it, talking about his past bullying as if it were nothing. Matt walks away and thinks to himself that the past does matter, at least to some people.
This issue manages to be both deep, and thought-provoking on the one hand, and a little silly on the other. The Trump is not a particularly intresting villain and he doesn’t seem to have an agenda outside of stealing guns and doing magic tricks. However, this issue isn’t really about the Trump, who is almost like the alibi villain thrown in by the writer so he can tell a different and better story in parallel. I find the exploration of Matt’s past to be quite interesting, and the suggestion that his demons are still very much alive is quite intriguing. As a fill-in issue, it is really quite good. The art, just to mention it briefly, is very good in places, but strikes me as a little uneven with some scenes being very rich in detail and others just looking a little off, with strange proportions and angles in some panels.
Look this issue up if you haven’t read it. Chances are you’ll remember it for years. But, let’s face it, you won’t remember the Trump. Oh well, no loss there.
Further reading: I recommend Kuljit Mithra’s 1998 interview with Steve Grant which specifically talks about this issue.