Over his crime-fighting career, Daredevil has been in his fair share of brawls and has received more than his fair share of brutal beatings. The Hulk put him into the hospital without breaking a sweat in Daredevil #163. He was beaten to within an inch of his life by Typhoid Mary, Bushwacker, Bullet, Ammo, and the Wildboys in Daredevil #260. Typhoid Mary set his whole body on fire in Daredevil (Vol. 2) #47. (Worst ex-girlfriend ever?) Yet, none of this truly compares to his greatest defeat in Daredevil (Vol. 2) #19 by Brian Michael Bendis and David Mack.
Things start off innocently and promisingly enough (in flashback) for Daredevil. Leap-Frog collapses in a pile while being pursued by Matt across rooftops. His frog-head helmet pops off. Figurative stars swirl about his head like a cartoon. Matt looks down on this “goofball” with amusement and contempt.
Leap-Frog grabs a lead pipe (conveniently located on the roof) and goes to town on Matt. Daredevil would have died that day had Leap-Frog’s son not come to Daredevil’s defense and knocked his father off the roof with an electric shock.
How did Daredevil lose this fight? The easy answer — indeed, the one the story attempts to provide — is that Matt is distracted by the sudden appearance of Leap-Frog’s son on the rooftop. This gives Leap-Frog the opportunity to catch Matt offguard. Once he gets in a lucky strike or two, Matt is understandably at his mercy. (Maybe Matt would have recovered from this setback without assistance, maybe not. Leap-Frog being a comic book villain, it seems likely he would have stopped prior to killing Matt to monologue and/or yell at his kid some more, giving Matt that crucial moment to recover and outwit him.)
The problem is that that explanation makes no sense and that is why this is truly Daredevil’s greatest defeat. While superheroes can certainly be distracted by a young child appearing on the scene during a tense moment — and have been countless times — consider what that would mean for Matt. His attention is drawn to a particular location, but his omni-directional radar sense is still functioning. He has, in effect, 360° peripheral vision. How could anyone ever sneak up on him when he’s just standing there and there’s no rain or snow or wind (huh?) or chaff or leafy trees (wha–?) or whatever else to interfere with his senses? It would be like someone sneaking up on a normally-sighted individual from six inches off of his direct line of sight. Matt turns his head and “stares” at the boy, but that will affect his perception only very slightly and serves no purpose other than to let the boy and Leap-Frog know that Matt is aware of him. And this is Bendis writing too! Was Matt unaware of anything happening within a one block radius at any other time during Bendis’ run?
To add insult to injury, this isn’t even the original Leap-Frog! This is Leap-Frog II. Who would ever willingly take up the mantle of a villain like Leap-Frog except someone who is clearly nothing but a big joke.
The only explanation that really makes sense is that Matt just ignored the furious, desperate man coming at him with a lead pipe in favor of appearing to look at a boy. This has to be in the running for the worst decision in Daredevil history — and that’s saying something — and he paid the price for his stupidity. Matt himself shoulders all the responsibility for this incident when relaying it to Ben Urich. How could he not? He got beaten senseless by a guy in a stolen frog costume who he saw coming at him with a lead pipe, only to be saved by a little boy. That is the hallmark of a truly great defeat.