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They should have stuck the course: Daredevil 12-14

Time to catch up on my Silver Age rereading.

When I blogged about how adorable Ka-Zar and Zabu were in Daredevil #12, I said I’d blog more about the issue, and the time has come! I know you’ve all been impatient for my insights and I apologize for not getting them to you sooner. But life happens.

To put this in continuity, it comes right after DD defeated the Organization in #11 (and may I say there has never been a lazier name for a criminal mastermind than the Organizer?). Matt Murdock realizes Nelson & Murdock’s finances have deteriorated to the point they need to move into a really tiny office, smaller than can fit both men and Karen. Matt’s solution: announce a protracted leave of absence while he takes a cruise to Europe, freeing his friends up to take an office that only fits two.

Of course, no Marvel superhero taking a cruise is going to have a quiet one, and sure enough the cruise ship is captured by the Plunderer. Although he comes on stage in an old-school pirate ship, it turns out to be a high-tech boat that can turn into a submarine at the touch of a button; the pirates’ hand weapons are just as cutting edge. The Plunderer’s a technical genius who gets his kicks cosplaying as an old-school pirate. As he explains to Daredevil, the government turned down his cutting-edge designs so he built them himself; piracy is his way of proving how fricking awesome his concepts really are. He’s impressed by Daredevil’s courage so he takes Hornhead along to his base, where DD must either join the pirate band or die. Oh, and by complete coincidence, his base is an island in this strange, Antarctic paradise the Plunderer has discovered … that’s right, the Savage Land.

The Plunderer is more fun here than he’d ever be again because between #12 and #13 Stan Lee (I assume) decided to change direction. It was a common thing at Marvel, where Lee made Jack Kirby redraw Adam Warlock’s debut after changing his mind about Jack’s story. Rereading the Inhumans’ debut arc, I get the feeling it happened there too. When we meet the Inhumans as refugees they come off like Genoshan slave mutants, pursued by the super-powerful Seeker who plans to bring them home in chains. When they reach Attilan it turns out they’re royalty; the Seeker is just a lackey to Maximus the Mad and never heard from again. The story still works (except Maximus, who ranks down there with Egghead as a Silver Age villain) but it feels like it twisted mid-narrative.

The Daredevil three-parter twisted too. When the Plunderer and his scurvy dogs meet Ka-Zar in #12 it’s obvious the encounter was completely unexpected. In #13 it’s what the Plunderer wanted all along. He’s Ka-Zar’s brother; each of them holds half of a medallion that can unlock a vault in the Plunder family vault. Inside it is an element that can disintegrate any metal on Earth so he who controls the element … controls the world!

What follows is a perfectly serviceable but quite forgettable adventure, including the genuinely daft (no, Foggy is not qualified to work in an English courtroom) and the interesting-in-hindsight (Ka-Zar says “Ka-Zar smash!” before the Hulk had embraced that as his catchphrase). Part of what makes it forgettable is that the Plunderer sinks to a generic villain with a generic costume (see below); even the name is less interesting once we learn the family name is Plunder.

I presume Lee thought that making them brothers would add to the drama; given the Marvel method it could certainly have been artist John Romita but that feels like a Lee concept. But they could have done that and kept the cool pirate version of the Plunderer. I wish they had.

Oh, in case you were wondering, all that stuff about Foggy and Karen moving into a teeny-tiny office is forgotten once Matt gets home. Whether they didn’t move or moved back after Matt returned (“Defending Ka-Zar got us so much press, we’re swamped with clients!”) is a mystery for the ages.

#SFWApro. Art by John Romita

3 Comments

  1. Le Messor

    ‘The Organizer’ as a name may be lazy, but let’s face it: so’s ‘The Kingpin’.

    ———————-

    It always bugs me when they change direction midway through the story, and you can see that they did.

      1. Le Messor

        Good point!
        It’s like when people try to compliment one of my sketches by calling me a good drawer. It sounds like they want to open me up and put stuff inside of me.

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