On a couple of occasions, I’ve come across people on message boards who have absolutely loved the character of Milla Donovan, the first and only woman to ever get Matt Murdock to tie the knot. One guy even went so far as to say that she was one of the best characters to be introduced in Daredevil in recent memory. However, when you look at past Daredevil reviews in various fora, the majority opinion seems to be quite the opposite, with people’s feelings for the character running from lukewarm to ice cold.

Personally, I would say that I have liked the character just fine. No more, and no less. I’ve never been attached to her in the way I am to Foggy or even Dakota and Becky, but I have a hard time fully understanding where the considerable amount of hatred is coming from. To me, Milla’s main weakness as a character has been that after her strong first appearance, even Bendis, the very man who created her (along with Alex Maleev who based her appearance on that of his wife), didn’t quite seem to know what to do with her. When Milla was (permanently?) retired from the book in Daredevil #500, she was, in my opinion, an under-explored character, despite her many appearances. The same thing goes for her and Matt’s marriage. I still have no idea what made them click as a couple or what they really saw in each other.

The fact that Milla is blind could have been used to explore the differences and similarities between her and Matt, as far as their perceptions go, but this was never even touched on. Instead, her disability became a weakness. Many female supporting characters in comics have suffered from being portrayed as perpetual ladies in distress, and with Milla’s increased physical vulnerability, that old stereotype became difficult to avoid. I think her perceived helplessness was also the basis for much of people’s frustration with Milla’s character. Many fans prefer to see Matt with women like Elektra, the Black Widow or Maya, rather than the girl next door. When the girl next door happens to be an un-powered blind woman, that certainly doesn’t appeal to the costume-coveting demographic.

With Milla having been such a polarizing character, I’m looking forward to seeing your input in the comments. I know all of you have an opinion, so let’s hear it! The rest of this post will be devoted to looking at some key events in their stormy relationship. Let’s start at…

The beginning

Milla was introduced in Daredevil #41, volume 2, first shown walking down the street with her friend Lori, a character who made frequent appearances in Milla’s introductory arc, but never showed up again after that. To his credit, Bendis is clearly going out of his way to avoid the stereotypes, and makes a point of making Milla come across as confident and independent.

Panel from Daredevil #41, volume 2, by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev
Panel from Daredevil #41, volume 2, by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev

Unfortunately for Milla, that independence doesn’t keep her out of trouble this time, as a close collision with a bus lands her on the floor of a clothing store with a superhero on top of her. The first time Matt Murdock tried to save a blind person about to be hit by a car, he wasn’t so fortunate. This time, things turn out a little differently, and mark the beginning of a love affair.

Panel from Daredevil #41, volume 2, by Bendis and Maleev
Panel from Daredevil #41, volume 2, by Bendis and Maleev

We meet Milla again next issue where she’s having a hard time getting Daredevil out of her head. With the help of her friend Lori, she decides to go after him, in what I suspect is another very conscious choice on Bendis’s part to have Milla act in ways you wouldn’t expect. She’s the one taking charge of the situation, and isn’t content to just sit around waiting for prince charming.

Panel from Daredevil #42, volume 2, by Bendis and Maleev
Panel from Daredevil #42, volume 2, by Bendis and Maleev

It’s not until the next issue, Daredevil #43, that Milla follows up on her plans to seek out Matt Murdock. For Matt, it appears to be love at first (hm, make that second) sniff, and in the panel below he is shown virtually undressing her with his nose. Throughout their conversation, Matt tries to deny that he is, in fact, Daredevil, but Milla catches him in a lie when he accidentally reveals that he knows more about their first meeting than he should, if he and Daredevil were not one and the same.

Panel from Daredevil #43, volume 2, by Bendis and Maleev
Panel from Daredevil #43, volume 2, by Bendis and Maleev

Foggy is not convinced that getting involved with a new woman in the middle of a public relations scandal is a great idea, and teases Matt about his choice of beautiful women, despite his inability to actually see them.

Panel from Daredevil #43, volume 2, by Bendis and Maleev
Panel from Daredevil #43, volume 2, by Bendis and Maleev

At the end of the issue, Matt throws caution to the wind, and goes to Milla’s apartment to meet her. The rest, as they say, is history…

Panel from Daredevil #43, volume 2, by Bendis and Maleev
Panel from Daredevil #43, volume 2, by Bendis and Maleev

The middle

Panel from Daredevil #94, volume 2, by Ed Brubaker and Lee Weeks
Panel from Daredevil #94, volume 2, by Ed Brubaker and Lee Weeks

Many things happen between Matt and Milla over the next forty issues. Milla gets a very intense glimpse into Matt’s life on their very first date, when he is arrested for murder. On their second date, Typhoid Mary sets him on fire. (Is it just me, or does dating a superhero seem like a terrible idea?) After Matt takes over as the “Kinpin of Hell’s Kitchen,” the two experience a time of relative calm, though this time period is not explored in any detail in the book. Somewhere along the line, they get married, but the marriage soon falls apart when it’s suggested that Matt might not have been in his right mind when he married her, and that he has yet to get over Karen Page. Milla asks for an annulment of the marriage, and the two are separated for quite some time until Bendis’s last arc when he surprises both readers and the upcoming writer Ed Brubaker, by having Matt and Milla reconcile. Brubaker has more or less admitted that Bendis threw him a curve ball by bringing Milla back. In fact, she doesn’t appear very often in his first two arcs, the first one being set in prison and the second one seeing Matt hitting the rails in Europe. However, with issue #94 (see panels to the left and below), Brubaker does a great job shedding some more light on Milla’s character. As seen here, he appears to try to take the character back to her cockier roots, where she clearly shares her husband’s fearlessness.

Panel from Daredevil #94, volume 2, by Ed Brubaker and Lee Weeks
Panel from Daredevil #94, volume 2, by Ed Brubaker and Lee Weeks

The End

The happiness, no matter how frail, doesn’t last long. Not even halfway into his run, Brubaker starts to plot Milla’s demise. His third arc, To the Devil His Due, sees Milla become increasingly erratic. Gradually driven insane by Larry Cranston – Mr Fear – she is taken into custody after killing an innocent bystander by pushing him in front of a subway train in a fit of rage. She is committed, and Matt is put in the unenviable position of watching his wife mentally slip away. The panel below, from Daredevil #104, volume 2, sees Matt coming home to find his wife distraught after assaulting her nurse.

Panel from Daredevil #104, volume 2, by Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark
Panel from Daredevil #104, volume 2, by Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark

All of Matt’s efforts are for naught, and in Daredevil #105, which I must say was one of my more emotional Daredevil reads, he learns that there is no cure for Milla’s condition. Unable to care for her, he checks her into a mental institution. While I must give Brubaker some credit for not killing her, I wish Milla had met a better fate. Whatever happened to “Dude, I can’t live like this, constantly waiting to be kidnapped by supervillains”? Daredevil is a mature book; while Spider-Man wasn’t allowed to get divorced, I don’t see why that couldn’t have been an option in this case.

Panel from Daredevil #105, volume 2, by Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark
Panel from Daredevil #105, volume 2, by Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark

Milla shows no signs of recovery, while Matt reluctantly moves on, though still clinging to an idea of responsibility that will not let him completely let her go. When Milla’s parents show up with a mysterious lawyer in tow, to sue for custody, Matt fights them even as he experiences a brief love affair with co-worker Dakota North. Below, in Daredevil #500, Matt finally agrees to meet his parents-in-law’s demands, leaving both his wife and every other aspect of his old life behind to take over the Hand.

Panel from Daredevil #500, by Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark
Panel from Daredevil #500, by Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark

This brings us up to the present, and a very uncertain future for Milla. We may never see her again, or she may be dealt with in some way down the line. I would love to see her recover (and get the hell away from Matt), if only to escape the tired Daredevil cliché of having Matt’s women doomed to death or misery. Still, I can see the reason for removing her from the book. She was not a very popular character, plain and simple. She could have been so much more than she was, and she could have been utilized to actually explore the main character, and shed light on everything from his relationships with women to his perception of himself as a super-powered blind man. In the end, she leaves the book as just another statistic.

Christine Hanefalk

Christine Hanefalk

Based in Stockholm, Sweden, Christine is a die-hard Daredevil fan who launched The Other Murdock Papers in 2007 to share her passion for Matt Murdock and his friends with other fans.

8 comments

  1. Great post Christine. I’ve been thinking about this a while.
    When I look at Milla, at the time she was introduced, she was exactly what Matt Murdock, didn’t need…and in typical DD fashion, that’s what he got.
    The worries he had about the people he loves getting hurt or killed because of what he did were amplified x 50 with Milla. She was more helpless that any of Matt other girlfriends, hero or not, and things always end badly for them.
    I, for one, was still very nostalgic for Karen Page when Milla came along, and to be a bit of a sexist (don’t bash me to hard for this because I know it makes me sound like a dick) she just wasn’t as cute as Karen was (sans heroin days).
    I always felt like Milla was just in the way, maybe this was by design. It’s not that I exactly hated her, but I felt like she was the “step-girlfriend,” forced on me after we lost the real girlfriend. “You can’t make me like her, she’s not the real girlfriend.” Again all of this could have been by design.
    I was excited about a lot of plot stuff that sprung up because of her, the married thing, after years of DD autonomy was unique and interesting. It raised my DD respect level, but, all and all, not the girl I would have picked for Matt.
    Elektra anyone?

  2. I’ve never been attached to her
    Me neither. For all her independance she’s still a pretty passive character and maybe not as exciting as his other women?
    The first time Matt Murdock tried to save a blind person about to be hit by a car, he wasn’t so fortunate.
    Psychologically, being able to succeed in this case was a strong pull towards Milla. How many other past failures could he right when he had a start like that?
    Perhaps that’s why the downhill of this relationship has sent him half crazy himself. It was so promising a start but as usual, it couldn’t last.

  3. I really liked Milla and felt that her character was a little let-down by Brubaker’s run. She went from a major character in the Bendis run to a background character, with nothing new being added to add to her personality.

    I also read the books as trades and so it really didn’t seem like Milla was in the DD world for very long. 40 issues is a long time when reading an issue each month, but as a hand-full of trades, she became a minor blip in the life of Matt Murdock. I thought she deserved better, and a longer run.

    Of course, when I first read about the two of them getting together, you knew it was never going to last and so that probably prevented a lot of people (including me) really becomming *too* attached to her. In the same way that you know that Foggy will always be okay when he’s kidnapped/attacked/stabbed, you just knew Milla wouldn’t be around for too long when she first appeared.

    As a side note, I’ve never really read any of the Elektra stories (I’m not a fan of Frank Miller) and anytime a character comes back from the dead, my interest wanes even further, so I don’t have a huge amount to compare it to. My DD world basically starts with Guardian Devil.

  4. I actually really like Milla, and I’m also really glad with the way things ended. I think from the beginning she was supposed to be the Karen Page rebound. Matt never had the chance to marry his true love so he kind of settles for Milla who we all know probably isn’t going to stay with him the rest of his life. Also, even though Milla isn’t too involved in the Brubaker run she is a main plot piece for basically his entire run. What I really like about her is that she’s still around as an entity. Even if she stays in her deteriorated mental state for every subsequent run she is still there . . . somewhere, waiting for stories to be told. Worst case is that she turns into Glorianna O’Breen. If that’s the case I’m sad, but I think there are still tales to be told about Matt’s unhinged ex.

  5. Although Milla was (is) blind, when she was introduced I thought she was the strongest non-superhero woman he’d met in quite a long time. I thought her feisty independent nature was a true breath of fresh air. However, I was truly disappointed when her character started becoming mousy and dependent, with no real explanation as to why. As you noted Christine, it’s as if Bendis and then Brubaker simply didn’t know what to do with her, and so began her long descent and departure. I actually felt cheated by this turn as I thought there was much to be explored in the Matt/Milla relationship.

  6. I absolutely loved Milla. Not so much Karen. I think despite Bendis making it seem like Matt married her because of a nervous breakdown, I think deep inside he loved her. Loved her enough to fight for her. Those panels of Matt visiting Milla at night in the asylum and teaching her how to meditate and holding her until she fell asleep was some of the most heartbreaking scenes from Brubaker’s run. Brubaker did something to try and elevate Milla rather than her being rebound as Bendis did but unfortunately not enoguh. I’m hoping we can get closure for her.

  7. God I hated this bland whiny character with a passion. Matthew marrying her was insulting, she was by far one of the worst characters ever introduced in DD history right up there with characters like Jonathan Powers. Wish Matt would have married Dakota North. Of course my opinion is just one of many. Nice article though.

  8. I absolutely HATED Karen Page so I was all for Milla! My heart broke for Milla.

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