Obviously, I don’t know any more about who the mastermind is than anyone else. But based on the discussion in the comment section of my Daredevil #24 revisited post, I think I’m ready to call it. I know, I know. I said in the follow-up post to Daredevil #25 that the most recent issue didn’t make me any wiser as far as the big secret villain was concerned, but that was because I hadn’t done my homework yet. After I decided to explore that lead from last month in light of Daredevil #25, it seems pretty convincing. If you don’t want to know where I’m going with this (and I may be dead wrong), don’t continue reading past the image below.
I hereby nominate… Death-Stalker!
First of all, credit where credit is due. While this set-up smells of classic villain and Death-Stalker is on a short list of classic villains who aren’t either laughable (Stilt-Man) or over-used (Kingpin), I didn’t initially think of Death-Stalker. I was leaning more toward Purple Man or Mister Fear. It was regular commenter Dan Without Fear – and what a great alias that is – who got the little gears in my head turning by making a really good case for Death-Stalker. His initial comment was this:
“I’m now wholly convinced that the mystery villain is Death-Stalker and his female assistant is actually the second iteration of the character! Exhibit A: The condition the original Death-Stalker was left in after his last fight with Daredevil would explain the need for the casket. Exhibit B: The silhoutte of the female assistant perfectly matches the outline of Death Stalker II without her hat and cloak. Exhibit C: The original Death-Stalker got his powers via a TIME displacement ray and for those of you really paying attention you’ll notice that the scene with the mystery villain in this issue takes place inside a CLOCK tower.”
You can read the rest of our back and forth here, but after doing my homework, I think I’ve found even more evidence that supports Dan’s (and others’) initial hunch. Here’s the full list:
Death-Stalker really hates Daredevil
In order to go to the trouble of orchestrating this plot, you have to carry a massive grudge. This isn’t some simple revenge plot against the guy who made you look back in last week’s battle. We are talking years of obsessive planning. Few characters from Daredevil’s rogues gallery actually have sufficient motive to go to these extremes. Death-Stalker, however, had tried to kill Daredevil repeatedly even before Daredevil made sure he made close contact with a tomb stone. In his own words, from Daredevil #158, by Roger McKenzie and Frank Miller:
Mister Fear probably feels that he already got his revenge on Daredevil during Brubaker’s run and I can’t honestly think of a reason why various other characters of interest would be this angry at Matt.
Death-Stalker has a history of working with and through others
One of the reasons I’ve been suspicious of the Bullseye hypothesis (aside from his being even more dead than Death-Stalker), is that he’s really not a team player. He’s worked on orders from others, but he’s not the big master plan type. If he wanted Daredevil dead, he might play with him a little, but not go to these extremes. He doesn’t really have the attention span for it.
Death-Stalker, on the other hand, has a history of hiring henchmen to do some of his dirty work. He has teamed up with the Gladiator and the Unholy Three (never a wise choice, if you ask me). More importantly, if the current mystery villain is in fact Death-Stalker, this wouldn’t even be the first time he “created” a super-human. In Daredevil #138 (vol 1), by Marv Wolfman and John Byrne, Death-Stalker takes on the identity of Death’s Head and sends the suitably named Smasher to go after Daredevil.
Another “Smasher” appears in Daredevil #149, by Jim Shooter and Klaus Janson (yeah, Death-Stalker killed the first one in Ghost Rider #20 which tied into Daredevil #138), talking about how the Death-Stalker gave him strength and that all he has to do to pay him back is kill Daredevil. Interestingly, this issue also contains a reference to rain messing with Daredevil’s radar sense.
Craziness and elaborate death traps run in the family
Daredevil #208 (vol 1), by Harlan Ellison and Arthur Byron Cover, with art by David Mazzucchelli, is a very entertaining issue. The story revolves around the Death-Stalker’s mother who has set up an intricate trap for Daredevil to be activated automatically after her death. The scope and insanity of this house of horrors suggest that the Death-Stalker himself wasn’t the first in the family to be more than a little nuts. And, if my working theory is correct, they both shared a flair for the ridiculously elaborate.
It is also interesting to note that inducing fear seems to be a main objective of Mrs. Sterling. There is even a scene where Daredevil makes a comparison to Room 101 in George Orwell’s 1984 (and a reference to Stick!)
Death-Stalker is very wealthy
Okay, so his mother blew up his childhood home and probably spent a great deal of the rest of the family estate on turning it into a deathtrap in order to avenge her son’s death. Still, the Sterling family likely had other assets and we can assume that Death-Stalker had some stashed away or invested in his own ventures prior to his apparent death. Whatever this mystery villain is up to, we can assume that he needed a lot of money to do it.
There are actually more things that stand out to me while re-reading Daredevil and Death-Stalker’s past encounters, but time won’t allow for me to recount them all. As Dan also pointed out, the Celtic cross pattern seen in Daredevil #24 might be highly significant. It was the type of tomb stone that Death-Stalker ended up in, but not before tying Matt Murdock himself to it, as seen below from Daredevil #158.
So, what do you guys think? Let further speculation begin!