He dwells in a world of eternal night -- where the blackness is filled with sounds, scents, tastes and textures other men cannot begin to perceive. For though attorney, Matthew Murdock is blind, his other four senses function with superhuman sharpness -- his uncanny radar sense guides him past every obstacle. He stalks the street at night, a relentless avenger of justice -- he is Daredevil: the Man Without Fear.
Daredevil: The Man Without Fear
Issue 1: "Beginnings"
Written by Hoang Thai
---- New York City -----
New York is a wonderful place on a midsummer's night, even for a blind man. The congested late night traffic, the noise of people chatting away in the city's many Cafés, the constant movement of people moving from place to place, the sounds of commuters heading home via the underground subway, the late-night street bands, and the smell of rich cuisines from the diverse range of restaurants in New York's many districts mingle together to create a relaxing atmosphere; one where you can float adrift amidst the endless ocean of vibrant life around you, one where you can release all your troubles
Troubles... I've got one too many at the moment. Foggy's mom, the exclusive Rosalind Sharpe, invited us to become partners in her new firm in New York. Strange when I think about it, Foggy never told me anything about his mother, or even having one for that matter. It must be hard for him knowing that his mother's been a high time lawyer all these years and yet she's never once offered him any kind of support.
Foggy wants in, bad. I remember hearing his heartbeat increase rapidly, his sense of anticipation and excitement rising when Sharpe made that offer. The sweat forming on his palms, like that of a child eagerly waiting to open his Christmas presents. It would mean so much to Foggy, we'd no longer be the small time 'Nelson and Murdock: Attorneys of Law'. We'd have elaborate suites and offices, exclusive clients, endless numbers of secretaries and chauffeurs, and everything else that you could buy with money. The question remains though, what do I do?
I keep moving across the New York skyline, with the moon's silver glare reflecting off my costume. It's a wonderful feeling, just to loosen yourself up and flow amidst the life of New York's many districts, one of those things money can't buy. I stop atop the Chrysler building and look towards the business district; my radar sense maps out the glamorous suites and apartments while my enhanced sense of touch feels the intensity of the bright lights emitted from that exclusive area of New York. The 'high-life' they call it. Once you're there never look back they say. Foggy and I have been presented with the once-in-a-life time opportunity to work with an elite law firm and to have the 'high life'. I know Foggy would like -- wants it; but what will it mean for me? Matthew Michael Murdock, Daredevil -- the Man Without Fear.
Sure, materialistically, I'd have everything my dad ever dreamt we'd have since my days at the University of Columbia. Those days were some of the best... and some of the worst. But through it all Foggy's always been one constant in my life. Yet, I've hurt him so much recently. My... say it... identity crisis and some of the things I've said to him recently has really damaged our friendship. He's been a good friend, probably the best I've ever had, will ever have, but on this matter there's too much at stake. Although by working with Sharpe we'll find ourselves in the major league, we'd lose our connection with the other parts of the community, the people who need us. We'd be viewed as exclusive, big-time players with our eyes on the money. Is it worth it to sacrifice my sense of self for all this? As lawyers we've compromised so much in the past, but this would change our image, and the public's appreciation of us. Upper class, elite, and exclusive like Slater & Gordon, Winston & Case, Hidetoshi International and so the list goes on.
How many people pass up on an opportunity like this though? How many people would actually need to think twice about joining in a partnership with the exclusive Rosalind 'Razor' Sharpe? Not many, but there's always an exception. Guess old Matthew Murdock has to be always an exception. The distinctive smell of marinated roast chicken from the streets below tells me I'm hungry. I haven't had anything to eat since we left Sharpe's office. I head towards the Marlin Café, the place where Foggy and I have always hung around since our college days. They say 'Things change, people change', well; at least this place is an exception.
I slide into the back alley beside the Café, it feels like coming home on a rainy day, you just feel a sense of warmth and security. I change out of my costume in an almost instinctive fashion, paying more attention to things around me. Guess, I was wrong about this place being the same as it's always been. My heightened sense of smell detects traces of heroin and gun-powder, while my radar sense tells me the adjoining building to the Marlin Café has several weak structural points courtesy of the gang warfare it has suffered in recent years. Everyday the world seems to become a more dangerous place, everyday it seems there is so much more for Daredevil to do.
I walk to the front of the store, and stand there for several moments. I remember the first time Karen went out with Foggy and myself. Foggy and I were like schoolboys on our first expedition to the playground. She was our new secretary and Foggy and myself had invited her out with us to the Marlin I remember Karen's perfume telling me she and Foggy were already there, and how my heart thumped against my chest as I rushed in there to meet her. Foggy and I would vie for her attention, and her heart, but in the end both Franklin Foggy Nelson and Matthew Michael Murdock lost, Daredevil won. It all seems so long ago. So much has changed in the space of a couple of years.
"U gonna come in, Matt, or stay out dere all night?" a familiar old Hispanic voice calls out to me...
Good old Antonio, he's been running the Marlin since I was running around in diapers. He's sort of like become grandpa at times, always cheering you up and keeping an eye out for you. Life's been tough on him though, his wife left with his daughter so many years ago, but through it all he's always found a way to go on and see the best in life. I admire him for that.
"Oh, just reminiscing about days gone by, Antonio. Sort of happens at this time of night." I reply as I walk in and smell the typical beer and wine and the usual steak, pasta dishes, pizza, souvlaki, hamburgers fries and so on. Reminds me of how my dad use to take me out after working out at the Fogwell Gym when I was young.
"Ah, dat happens a lot doesn't it, muchacho. Just wait till y'get older like me, an' it gets really bad," Antonio chuckles cheerily. "So wat's it gonna be t'night, Matt? Karen's not 'round so maybe y'want some of the Alaskan whisky I been storin' down back."
"I'll pass," I decline. "She'd probably find out anyhow, women have a way of 'knowing' if you know what I mean. I'm hungry tonight, haven't had much to eat. How about your Roast chicken special with fries and a Danish croissant?"
"Gimme me 20 minutes" he smiles throwing a prepped chicken into the oven. "Make y'self welcome, muchacho, I'll bring it 'round when it's done."
"Thanks," I reply as I make my way to the table by the window. Weird for a blind guy when you think about it, I can't see anything, so what's the point.
I sit by the window, picking up snippets of conversation in the bar. It's not a conscious thing; it's just something that came along with my heightened senses. It's one of those gifts that are a luxury and burden at the same time; being able to listen to everyone's conversations as if you were sitting next to them. It gets worse when sitting next to someone who has indigestion -- sounds like Fin Fang Foom tearing through Tokyo. But I've gotten use to it now. I hear the ticking of a clock amidst the chatter in the Café and my radar sense locates its position on the back wall. Antonio must have recently got it, nice addition, quite elegant, Victorian architectural design, I think. Strange though, Antonio never did like that style, he's always expressed a preference for the more explicitly extravagant Venetian designs. It must be a gift then, wonder who from? Still, it would be nice to see the design of the actual clock though; I'd imagine it would be a fine piece of craftsmanship.
I sit there and remember Sharpe's offer. "The fact is that he's (Foggy) merely adequate and you're (me) astounding! I don't get you, I drop him in a heartbeat." It's double or nothing for Sharpe. I never thought that any mother could utter such a remark in front of her son, so direct -- so harsh. It must be hard for Foggy, to know his mother's been out there all these years, yet she's never been there for him, not once. Foggy's had it tough over the years, even in our friendship has he always had it tougher. The offer, as attractive as it is though, demands far too many compromises from us, me. One thing my dad taught me was that the measure of a man was --
Gunshots! Something's going on outside, five blocks west from here and it doesn't sound pretty. I rush out of the Marlin, hearing Antonio ask me where I'm off to, but I pretend I don't hear him. I move swiftly, using my radar sense to navigate myself to an empty alley. Within seconds, I'm in my DD costume. As I approach the scene of another one of those street-gang wars, the heartbeats get steadier. The gunshots stop. Wonder if webhead's playing hero in Hell's Kitchen tonight. Probably not, would have smelt that distinctive odour of those webs of his by now, plus those goons would have had their heart rates pumping by now.
It gets more and more curious as I approach the scene. The exchange has stopped entirely and my radar sense indicates there are two camps. One set of heartbeats are thumping, while the other set is beating fast but at a relatively steadier pace. I position myself atop a residential building and pinpoint all involved with my radar sense. The smell of gunpowder tells me these kids are playing with M-61s. Wow, these kids do mean business. I evaluate proceedings to see what's so 'important' here for a bunch of Arnold Schwarzenegger wannabes to be shooting it out.
A long haired kid, no more than 17, yells "You too scared, wimps? Get on wit it, or else shaddup and hand o'er de leadership to us."
Some other kid, bald with a grazed shoulder, whose sweating hard, chips in "You heard the man, you blokes don't deserve to be the brothers here; we do. And we gonna ace you just to prove it."
God, of all the things to be shooting each other over, this is the reason? This world just seems to be getting crazier everyday. Tribal warfare in suburbia? Makes the Savage Land look civil. It's funny though; the kids talking the tough talk are actually wetting their pants. Their heartbeats thumping and their bodies are sweating all over. The other troupe are relatively steadier, they're not as scared. They're in better control, waiting on someone else's word. I listen to the heartbeats and I there's one kid, wearing an oversized bandanna, who's registering close to no signs of panic at all, his body relaxed. Pretty good for a kid, wonder what he's got up his sleeve.
The kid takes off his bandanna. "Look, Joey, you and co. know that we been having rough times lately, man. The Avengers, Fantastic Four, Spiderman and all those costumed geeks been real involved with de police since that mutie left a hole de size of Jupiter in Central Park. This ain't gonna help the gang, an' our families much."
The kids not bad; calm and collected. The long haired kid, Joey I assume, tightens his sweaty grip on his pistol, which has four bullets left "De whole reason we doing dis, Mike, is 'cause our families need de money. We don' like doing dis, none o' us do, but we got to get by each day of de week. You ain't doing nothin' for us. T'ings are gettin' desperate, man, and you too scared to do anything. Give it up to someone who's got guts, and gonna do something for all o' us'
"We gonna lose a whole lot more if you blow the gang apart, Joey," Mike replies coolly. "You know all those heroes are patrolling the streets more now. You ain't gonna do much for nobody if we all end up the cage"
The others around Joey remain silent, they start sweating less, concentrating their thoughts on something, obviously what that kid, Mike, was saying. Wonder what is it these boys 'do' for a living.
Mike continues. "Don't have an answer do you, Joey? That's why I lead, man. I know how tough t'ings been after that mutie wasted most of the Big Apple. But we ain't gonna be helping our families much by blowin' each others heads off. We gotta play for time."
Joey can't take the lecturing anymore; he knows Mike's got all the angles covered "Shut the hell up, man! I'm telling you once, and once only. I'm gonna waste you, Mike. You don't want Sarah looking' after de kid by herself do you? All 'cause you wanted to play hero!"
Joey holds his pistol up, and points it at Mike. The kid's sweating it bad. He's not sure if he wants to pull the trigger or not. This could end up pretty ugly, and be an adrenaline thing. Mike's registering heavier breathing, his heartbeats more rapid than previously, and he's tightened his grip on his Colt. Joey must have hit him where it hurts. They could both end up losing here. The other kids aren't sure either. They're scared -- inexperienced -- so they're waiting for someone to make the first move, then follow suit. And that proposition could turn out to be quite unpleasant.
For some reason I know I should be down there right now, bringing these kids in or playing Captain America - teaching them a lesson in life. But I'm not. Why? I don't know.
Mike's heartbeat is steadying; he's collecting himself which means he's reached a resolution.
He draws a deep breath "Joey, listen, man. We been pals for the best part of 10 years. I know that you're mother needs the money for her operation, and thats why you're acting like this. The roads they we walk down ain't easy, Joey. You gonna find dat out, trust me. You gonna haveta look at the bigger picture, and that ain't gonna be easy in our line o' work."
Mike hesitates, taking a deep breath, "I'm gonna hand you the leadership of the clan."
Joey's heartbeat steadies, considerably. He's relieved as can be, loosening his grip on his gun.
"You a wuss, Mike. You an' de rest o' your boys. You got no guts, man. In our line o' work, we gotta walk down a road none o' us like. But at de end of de day, we all still gotta walk down dat line. Dere ain't no turning back." Joey sniggers.
Joey turns away from Mike to his boys "Come on fellas, we got what we wanted, we got no beef wit dem. Dey're still our friends, but now we lead, and 'morrow fellas, we gonna set t'ings straight."
All of the gang members put away their firearms. They start leaving, heading off in different directions towards their homes. In seconds only two lone figures remain in the dark alley lit by a solitary streetlight. Mike hasn't moved. He watched them all leave, almost sad. His heartbeat slow and steady, his muscles relaxed, he had just stood there as they left. The expression on his face sad, yet strong in resolve, almost a sense of doing what he knew had to be done. Only one friend remains standing by his side, a short kid, with spikey hair in ragged shorts.
The kid breaks the silence "Mike? Man, you alright? You ain't said not'ing since they left"
Mike lifts his head up, looking his friend eye to eye "I'm fine, Tyke."
"Mike, man, you know Joey ain't got no clue 'bout runnin' t'ings in the clan. He's gonna screw t'ings up for all o' us. I know you ain't no chicken. You never been scared o' not'ing. I known you long 'nough to know that Joey wasn't scarin' you. Not e'en what he said 'bout Sarah. What's the game you playing, man?"
The short kid named Tyke waits for a response, but Mike remains indifferent, offering no response. Tyke looks at his friend; he doesn't understand why Mike's allowed for Joey to assume leadership. They both know the potential consequences that could arise from this, yet, why does Mike remain so indifferent? Tyke finds no answer on his friend's face.
Tyke places his hand on his Mike's shoulder "You know, man, me an' all the others are still behind you. You give us the word, and we walk through hell wit you an' put Joey out o' his misery."
Tyke waits for a response. He stands there in the black of night, anticipating a response. After moments that seem like years, he sighs and begins to disappear down the alley.
Mike turns to his friend, who stops and turns around "Tyke, 'ppreciate you're offer, but there are times when a man's gotta take a back seat. This is one o' em. We all deserve chances, even Joey as much o' a hothead he is."
Mike walks up to his short friend. They put their hands on one another's shoulders and disappear out of the alley into the streets.
Strange isn't it that through all of that I stood there as a bystander. I really don't know what to think. Funny? Sad? Tragic? Ironic? Kids shooting each other over being 'big brother' of some petty small-time street gang. But that kid, Mike, he's pretty special. Unique in a certain type of way. I've never seen such resolve in a young kid. He's got the inner strength and poise of a man.
I make my way back to the Marlin; dinner's probably cold by now. As I move across the New York skyline I can't help but think about that kid. About what he did back there. Why did he hand over the leadership? It wasn't because he was scared. It wasn't because Joey deserved a chance. It wasn't because he was worried about his girl and child. It wasn't that simple. Nothing ever is though, isn't it. I slide down the side of the adjoining building to the Marlin, and into the dark alley dimly lit by the heavens above. I quickly change and re-enter the Marlin.
As I walk in I feel Antonio's eyes on me. "Where'd you go, muchacho? Y' left quicker den Quicksilver."
"Sorry, Antonio, I left something back at the office that I promised to bring home to Karen, so I had to rush back and pick it up. You know the Mrs. they get real angry when you forget things" I reply.
Antonio laughs "Oh., you muchachos,. In me day, none o' dat was important. Only t'ing dat mattered was we date we were happy together. Leanna and me use to..."
A tear runs down his face, I know he doesn't like talking about the old days. Memories come flooding back, and you feel rudderless amidst it all. I know that feeling all too well. I put my hands on his shoulder "Don't worry, Antonio, I understand, it's been hard all of these years"
Antonio wipes the tear away "S'kay, muchacho. I haven't told y' yet dough have I?"
"No you haven't, what?"
A smile forms across his face, "You r'member little Clara?"
"You mean your daughter?"
"Si, muchacho. Me little nina called me a coupla weeks ago. We've been talking since. Dere's an antique clock on de back wall. Y' probably can't see it, but it's one o' dose English style ones. Not my style, but little Clara sent it to me. She a sweet girl now it seems, and she be comin' down here soon"
Tears of joy run down Antonio's eyes. I put my arm around his shoulders and we sit down by the window seat that I had earlier vacated.
"Oh, Matty, it's so strange. After all dese years, I'll be seein' me precious little nina once more." He collects himself, wiping the tears from the side of his face "So sorry, muchacho, you shouldna seen me like dis."
"Antonio! You're like a father to me, there's nothing to be ashamed of. If I were you I'd be telling the world now. You've had it tough over the years, Antonio, and now the storm clouds are clearing and you've got every right to embrace the sunny days ahead of you."
"Oh, Matty, it's jus' so overwhelming really. I never thought I'd see her again. The way Leanna walked out o' me life, I'd never talked to no one 'bout it, 'cept you father. But he's been gone so long now, and in all dat time I never had nobody to talk to 'bout it"
He looks at me, like a father does a son. He hugs me. "Oh almost forgot you dinner. I kept it warm for y'u."
He gets up and goes behind the counter to pick my meal up. He returns with it to my table and serves it to me "I don' know. I been thinking so much about me little Clara. I don' even know how she looks. I don know whether t' be scared or t' be happy. I don' know how I'm gonna explain t' her how her mama and me split in de first place."
Reminds me a lot of the things I've been through. What do you say when the woman you love walks out the door, turns 'actress' then discloses your secret identity to your greatest enemy. What do you say?
"Antonio, don't worry. I'm sure she understands otherwise she wouldn't have contacted you. The one thing I've learnt is that you take one day at a time. Take in the moment, live it and embrace it," I say comfortingly. "Besides. I'm more worried she'll steal my Freddo again."
Antonio chuckles "You still remember dat? You and she we're like four at de time. Y'u had a Freddo and she wanted it. I said no, but little Clara kept crying fer it and y' dad took de Freddo off o' you and gave it to her. Y' cried fer like an eternity. Ah, dis seems just like yesterday when you were a kid."
"Still am, Antonio, and I'll be sure to remind her of that too." I joke.
Antonio looks down at me as he stands up, placing his hand on my shoulder. With a warmth that I haven't felt since my father passed away. "You ain't a kid no more, Matt. Funny as it been, I've seen you grow from a boy to a man. You gone a long way, Matt. Take pride it dat, muchacho. Through it all y' stood up and got counted for. You one o' de men I will always respect Matty. You a fighter, who knows his measure. If you father we're still alive today, he'd be a proud man, 'cause dat's de feeling I get when I look at you, Matty"
Antonio takes his hand off my shoulder as he begins to leave "I gotta serve de other patrons now, muchacho. Enjoy dinner, it's on de house t'night."
"Thanks," I reply.
I sit there and start eating, slowly, his words still ringing in my head. So much has happened tonight. I've, we've, been offered a chance by Foggy's mom to be partners in an exclusive legal firm. Then I've seen the extreme on the other side of the scale of that. I've seen kids shooting each other for a leadership of some petty street gang, fighting to live the next day of their lives, to take control. Then I've seen a man, who's seen me grow from child to man, tell me that I'm a man, a fighter.
A fighter, that's probably why I feel so reluctant to accept Sharpe's offer. I'm not a ^Ńlord of the manor' like Tony Stark. I've fought for everything and everyone I've ever loved. I'm a lawyer because I stand up for those who can't. It's the other side of the same coin of why I chose to become Daredevil .To fight for justice for those who cannot. To ensure that justice prevails where the law cannot. As much as it's going to hurt Foggy I know I can't accept this offer. Can I?
I remember Mike, the kid handing over the power to a no-brainer.The question comes back, why did he do it? He knew the implications of such an action, yet he decided to go through with it. Why? I look for an answer, a logical one. A complex one. But I find no answers. Then it hits me, as clear as day.
Mike stood down not because Joey deserved a chance. There was something on the line more than just his sense of self, his pride. It was friendship. Stepping into the ring was an option, but it would have been at the cost of friendships forged since childhood. He placed himself behind others, prepared to sacrifice what others would think of him -- that he was a coward; unwilling to stand amidst the currents and eddies of time, unwilling to stand and fight. But he wasn't. He stood tall, firm; allowing the waves to crash against him. Yet never once complaining. He's the one with the courage, the guts.
His words ring clearly through my ears "there are times when a man's gotta take a back seat. This is one o' em."
I think of him and then look at myself. A kid could put his friends before himself, no matter the cost, can I? But I needn't ask myself that question. I already knew the answer.
---- The Next Day ----
As I take the elevator up to Rosalind Sharpe's suite, I smell Foggy's distinctive aftershave in the elevator. His sweat on the buttons tell me he's been nervous waiting on a reply, my reply. He's up there already. My radar sense locates him on level 23 walking backwards and forwards, impatiently. I hear his heartbeat beating fast. He's acting as if Galactus is coming to lunch.
The elevator door slides open, and I step out,
"Matt..." Foggy begins.
Sharpe cuts him off. "Ah, Franklin, perhaps you should let Matthew come in and take a seat first"
I walk slowly, deliberately, and sit down opposite Sharpe. "Thank you" I say.
Foggy's heart is beating fast. He hasn't had a chance to talk to me about this yet. He's not sure what I intend to do. He tightens his sweaty palms on his coffee mug, unsure of how things will unfold.
Sharpe starts to get to the point "I trust that you spent last night evaluating my proposal, Matthew? Would you care to enlighten Foggy and myself as to whether or not you intend to accept this offer?"
She's quite direct isn't she.
But before I can offer an answer, Sharpe reminds me. "You do remember though Matthew, that you and Foggy have been friends for many years. I'm sure you know how much this would mean to him."
She's pressuring me, but I made my choice last night.
"We accept your offer, Rosalind. There is but one condition." I say, keeping her hanging onto my last word. One of those things you are use to doing as a lawyer
"And what's that, Matthew?"
"Call me Matt." I smile.
Sharpe isn't impressed, but she's pleased I've accepted the offer. She's almost smug, thinking she's forced me into this. But what she thinks doesn't matter. I did this for one person. And that person's reaction is what matters to me, not hers. Foggy is jubilant. He's got a grin across his face that I don't think will be disappearing anytime soon.
"If you'll excuse Foggy and I, Rosalind, we have other matters to attend to." I say.
Foggy looks at me "We do? I mean, we do."
"Once the paperwork is ready, Rosalind, you can send it up to our old offices." I continue, eager to leave; if not for my sake, then for Foggy's. He really is uncomfortable around his mom.
Sharpe's got what she wanted, and she smiles smugly "Certainly. I'm sure this is the beginning of an excellent partnership for the three of us. I'll see you and Liz Osborn later tonight, Franklin. I will see you later."
Sharpe turns to me "And I will see you later too, Matthew"
I smile; and Foggy and I make our way down to the foyer down below after further exchanging goodbyes with Sharpe. As Foggy and I walk out of the building, Foggy stops.
"Something the matter, Foggy?" I ask.
"What else are friends for?" I smile
We place our hands around one another's shoulders and walk towards the world outside as one, where a whole world awaits us...
---- The End ----
Next issue: Guest stars galore as Daredevil deals with the aftermath of Onslaught in devastated New York City! Be there!
1. This issue continues from Daredevil vol. 1 #353, where Rosalind Sharpe has just made an offer to Foggy and Matt to form a partnership with her.
2. Resulting from the now classic Fall From Grace and issues leading up to 350
3. Yep folks, check it out in the Daredevil: Yellow #3. It's the hangout of Foggy and Matt since their college days
4. For Matt and Foggy's first outing with Karen check out Daredevil: Yellow #3. Yeah, I know, I use it often but the limited series is an excellent read for new and old Daredevil fans!
5. Seriously, Karen didn't know Matt was Daredevil at first. She fell in love with ol' Hornhead, before Matt revealed that Matthew Murdock and Daredevil were one and the same
6. Check out Daredevil Yellow for good ol' Antonio. Good ol' fella has been around since Matt's college days
7. The gym where Hornhead's dad, Battlin' Jack Murdock, spent much of his time training as a boxer, and where our beloved Crimson Avenger trained too.
8. Yep, from Daredevil vol. 1 #353
9. Yep, again from Daredevil vol. # 353, Sharpe sure is one mean mother, eh?
10. It's a pistol designed by Samuel Colt for those curious, not a character.
Daredevil (and other related characters appearing) and the
distinctive likenesses are Trademarks of Marvel Characters, Inc. and are
used WITHOUT permission.