This post came about after a request from regular reader Aaron K (yes, I absolutely take requests) who, after reading Daredevil #118 (vol 1), found it to be such a bizarre issue that he wanted me to take a stab at it. Never having been one to back down from a challenge, I decided to do just that. And before we go on, I should say that I wholeheartedly agree with Aaron who had this to say about the issue: “Plotholes abound, the storyline is laugh-out-loud ridiculous, the dialogue is cheesy to the nth degree, and, overall, I spent more time gaping in open-mouthed disbelief than actually enjoying it.”
Well, it does get off to a promising start. Naw, who am I kidding? The name of this issue, printed right on the cover, is “Circus Spelled Sideways is Death!” What the hell? The start of the issue is anything but promising, and as we’re about to find out, the time spent coming up with a plot for this issue is directly proportional to the time spent coming up with a title for it. Oh well, let’s see if I can’t guide you throw the plot. If it will let me, that is…
The issue starts with Daredevil catching a couple of costumed goons robbing a bank. They look a little like HYDRA agents actually, or maybe like that shot of Homer at the nuclear power plant from the opening sequence of The Simpson’s. The thing is, they’re annoyingly talkative and, sadly enough, so is Daredevil. Gerry Conway, the writer of this issue, must have been channeling Stan Lee on a bad day when he wrote it. The scene is also far too long and, as it turns out, has nothing to do with the rest of the plot except to remind our featured bad guy, the Ringmaster, that Daredevil is still around.
After Daredevil has knocked out the bank robbers, leaving them for the police to find, the reader’s attention is directed to the television van and camera man that have (presumably) quickly arrived on the scene. We follow the television camera and the reporter back to the studio and continue to where the segment is broadcast on the news. This is where the Ringmaster gets his inspiration to go after Daredevil. That’s right, seeing a superhero stop a couple of robbers on TV just rubbed him the wrong way. Apparently he’s planning something he doesn’t want Daredevil getting in the way of. Dude, don’t you think laying low is the better way to go? Even his own crew, the Circus of Crime, are wondering what all the fuss is about. When Princess Python asks the very legitimate question “Daredevil? But why, Ringmaster — Why him?” this is the answer she gets…
The story cuts back to Daredevil who swings over to Foggy’s office (Matt has recently moved back to town after living with Natasha in San Francisco and Foggy is the new district attorney). He gets back in his civvies and does some thinking:
“From real super-villains like the death-stalker to half-witted gadget freaks like those two I fought today. Both ends of the spectrums, and who’s to say which is more deadly? If you’re killed by either end, you’re still dead. Still and all it’s been a quiet day… an introspective day. I keep wondering how the Black Widow is doing in San Francisco. And whether I should be there, or here with my old school buddy Foggy. It’s hard to say…”
Wow, that’s deep. Or just horrendously bad writing, take your pick. The whole issue reads like this, I’m afraid. It’s the nonsensical masquerading as the profound, and pieces of plot being forced together in ways that don’t fit. Next, Matt launches into a conversation with Foggy which covers things like Foggy’s recent shooting (presumably to bring new readers up to speed, though I doubt any new readers stuck around after this issue). Outside, Princess Python and the Gambonnos are waiting. They saw Daredevil enter the building and are now ready to attack the only room with a light on, which brings us this ridiculous scene:
“Hiiiiiii Yo!” Really? And how does Foggy end up sprawled across the desk like that? And are those two men actually bouncing? Anyway, since they obviously can’t find Daredevil anywhere, they simply keep on bouncing. Matt changes to Daredevil and goes after them. He also has the pleasure of getting acquainted with Princess Python and her lovely snake. Oh, boy. No real animals were killed in the production of this comic, or so we think.
The fight continues and it’s not looking good for Daredevil. Luckily, Foggy comes to and starts calling out for Matt. Afraid of being caught, the Circus of Crime decide to take off and Matt sneaks off to change his clothes again. He meets up with Foggy, and a very strange scene takes place. Foggy starts talking about how he’s never believed in coincidences and how he just caught wind of the Circus of Crime doing a benefit(!) at Shea stadium that same night. However, this apparent coincidence (having someone looking like a circus freak break into your office the same night some serious circus freaks are performing at a televised event) has nothing to do with what just happened.
As is explained by Matt later on the same page, Foggy never made the connection between the Circus of Crime and their attackers. Okay, so what coincidence is he talking about, and why did he decide to talk to Matt about a newly released band of criminals? Oh, and why would anyone hire the Circus of Crime, all of whom have newly been released from prison, to perform at a benefit? I’m not saying you shouldn’t be allowed back in society after you’ve done time in prison, but this is just bizarre.
Daredevil hurries over to Shea stadium where the performance is about to begin. Ringmaster is, of course, wearing his hypnotic hat which he was apparently allowed to keep after his release and before long, both television and live audiences are in a trance. Everyone is instructed to give their money and valuables to Blackwing’s bats which are sent out across the city and soon the riches are raining down on the Ringmaster and his gang. Now Daredevil shows up and tells them that he’s called the police, and the police quickly arrive on the scene. The End. Yup, that’s it, that’s the whole issue and the final scene is such a snooze fest that the rest of the story seems exciting by comparison.
To make matters worse, the artist for this issue, Don Heck, seems just about as inspired as Gerry Conway. Angles and perspectives are off in places and some panels just look weird. Even the lettering, by a certain Karen Pocock, is bad, with at least one word balloon pointing at the wrong speaker. Daredevil #118 is an insult to comic book fans everywhere. ‘Nuff said.