Marvel’s newest Epic Collection is out this week, featuring Daredevil and Black Widow’s move to San Francisco. You don’t typically make a locale change such a big deal, but writer Gerry Conway and artist Gene Colan emphatically remind readers many times per issue during this run that the hills are roller coasters and the Golden Gate ain’t anything special. It’s just a bridge. Also collected here is an Avengers team up with the heroes facing off against Magneto and some of the most ’70s comics you’ll ever read.
Reprinting Daredevil #87-100 and Avengers #111, this collection features comics originally published from May 1972 to January 1974. This collection certainly shows its age — Black Widow is straight out of a soap opera cliche, always rushing to cry, and Daredevil somewhat chauvinistically talks at her. Aside from this, you’ll note the clothing of the time on bystanders too. There’s also the fact that Magneto is a wildly evil villain who, in this story, makes his daughter dance for him.
What we have here, aside from Daredevil reflecting on the San Francisco area left and right, is a superhero beat-’em-up with an ongoing mystery revolving around a secret Black Widow can’t seem to tell anyone. One can see the soap opera style, will-they-or-won’t-they vibe between Daredevil and Black Widow as each plays cat-and-mouse out of costume while literally catching each other from falling in costume. The romance never reaches past Daredevil getting frustrated and Black Widow being coy, but Colan certainly makes you believe there’s a chemistry in the way they touch and move.
If you’re looking for supervillains, there are a few familiar and unfamiliar faces here. Electro is the main antagonist at the start of the collection. Just his luck, he moves to San Francisco the same day as Daredevil! Other familiar villains are Stilt-Man, Kraven, and Man-Bull with rather unknown baddies like The Dark Messiah and the Indestructible Man popping up for multi-issue attacks. The villain gracing the cover, Mr. Fear, is also an otherwise underused villain who rears his head. It’s an eclectic mix of villains shaking things up and never going for the wider known name simply to prop up sales. Spider-Man pops up for a single issue near the end, but with the new locale, it makes for a different experience.
It’s funny to see Hawkeye show up and both Daredevil and Black Widow incredibly frustrated at the mere sight of him. He acts as the agent of information to move things along in Avengers #111 crossover. A big deal at the time, seeing Daredevil work with the Avengers and the X-Men is quite fun. Written by Steve Englehart and drawn by Don Heck, both make sure to show off Daredevil’s abilities and how they might function with the team, too.
When compared to other Epic Collections like Root of Evil and Dead Man’s Hand, this is by far a much more pleasing read. That might be because instead of shaking up Daredevil the man, they shook up the location in which he fought crime, making it feel new yet not straying from what worked at the time. Like most Epic Collections, the reading experience is more about discovering what Marvel creators were trying at the time and seeing how these stories influenced the future.
Daredevil Epic Collection: Going Out West is an interesting read since it’s like a time capsule from the ’70s. It shows its age for better or worse, but overall the work by Conway and Colan is a good melodrama with plenty of solid art and an exploration of the Man Without Fear in a fish-out-of-water story.
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