Sympathy for the Devil

a blog devoted to comic books in general and Daredevil in particular

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Volume 1, issue 98 "Let There Be-- Death!"

"Let There Be-- Death!" April 1973
Writer: Gerry Conway/Steve Gerber
Penciler: Gene Colan
Inker: Ernie Chua
Colors: George Roussos
Lettering: Shelly Leferman
Cover: George Tuska

Last issue (also plotted by Conway and written by Gerber) ended with this startling panel:

Depicted above are the vengeful lackeys of The Dark Messiah. Their powers are very unique and exceptional. From left, we have Josiah, Macabee, and Uriah. Josiah is capable of creating sonic vibration with his hands. Macabee can bend the earth and elements to his every whim. Uriah can control and alter reality. Each villain on his own would be a formidable opponent for our hero, but together they are The Disciples of Doom!

Who each person was before they received their powers from Mordecai Jones is never stated. It doesn't really matter much, I guess. What matters is that Steve Gerber has gotten his run started with a mighty roar, creating not just one kick ass villain, but four.

Some would say this storyline is a odd territory for a comic book such as Daredevil. They would be right. It is a risky gamble for a new writer, but I think Gerber pulls it off with considerable skill. This is not the last time theological themes will come up in this comic. All of the writers who approach these issues owe Steve Gerber a debt for paving the way.

Right where we left off...Daredevil has entered through the force field surrounding Golden Gate Park to find himself confronted by The Disciples of Doom.

At first, they are no match for Daredevil. He is able to flip and tumble and, basically, stay out of their way. It's all pretty impressively rendered:

Mordecai Jones appears from out of nowhere and congratulates Daredevil on such superb acrobatic techniques. Daredevil thanks him by punching him in the chest. Uh oh, no good. No one is allowed to touch The Dark Messiah without repercussion. Repercussion in the form of a swift backhand across the face. "I have claimed Golden Gate Park as my holy land," he states. "No man may assault me here."

With a flick of his hand, the Disciples of Doom disappear into the ether, off to do whatever work it is they are assigned to do. He also makes the force field disappear and vanishes himself. Daredevil is left to ponder this metaphysical question: "What was our battle for?"

Once the force field is gone, Commissioner O'Hara rushes in and congratulates Daredevil on a job well done. "You did it, boy! I knew you'd come thru (sic)!" Uh, well...crap. Daredevil has to sheepishly admit that he might have actually kinda sorta made things worse. With that, he swings away.

It's off to work. Daredevil sneaks in through the window of his offices. Back into his civilian garb just in the nick of time. Jason Sloan enters with the briefs for Matt's new case. Their can't be a brief yet! Matt hasn't interviewed anybody! "They were sprung from jail by The Dark Messiah this morning," Matt reminds Sloan. Doesn't matter. The client belongs to senior partner Kerwin J. Broderick now and he says the cliens are pleading guilty. Please note that Broderick is spelled differently. Again.

Back at home. Matt ponders why Broderick would want a bunch of costumed teenagers put in jail. Natasha points out that the real issue that should be on his mind is what happened to Mordecai and friends. She says she's going out to look for them with or without him.

Cut downtown. Josiah has used his powers to melt apart a trolley car. Macabee is using his powers to crack a hole in the ground and consume the survivors with hellfire from underground. Daredevil and Black Widow show up just in time. DD punches Josiah. Black Widow shoots a widow's bite at Macabee. Both are down for the count, but the strain is too much for Natasha, who is still injured from the attack by Man-Bull. It's up to DD now, and the only villain left is Uriah.

Uriah uses his abilities to make Daredevil's world go all wonky. Reality twists and bends and shifts and Daredevil can't tell up from down. All he can really do is focus on Black Widow's crippled form and make sure that she stays safe. Uriah's abilities require some frequent recharging, though, so when reality momentarily shifts to normal, Daredevil makes his move. One quick punch to the neck and Uriah is down.

Now...there's just Mordecai Jones to contend with. This is not an easy fight for our horned hero. It's kind of like battling face to face with God. But Daredevil perseveres. However, this battle is not won with fisticuffs. It's won with logic and an able mind. While the two duke it out in a drugstore, Daredevil recognizes the heartbeat of his antagonist (I have issues with this-- I've gone into it before) and reflects that The Dark Messiah is nothing more than a kid with a talent for acrobatics. He puts two and two together: this must be Mordecai Jones. Daredevil reminds The Dark Messiah who he is. At first, The Dark Messiah resists, but as Daredevil forces him to remember, the memory of his days as an acrobatic street artist come to the fore. The Dark Messiah's brain can't handle it. The Dark Messiah explodes.

In the end, Daredevil ponders how The Dark Messiah was a man who realized what he had become and couldn't handle the truth. Could any of us handle that?


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