The Man Without Fear really has been heavily on my mind these past two weeks or so. An issue of the ongoing here, news of the film rights negotiations there, and this coming week will have yet another issue of the ongoing. Was this series always double shipped? Might as well talk about the DAREDEVIL ANNUAL #1 while I’m at it. This one gets complicated, so sit tight.

Apparently within the pages of the Annuals themselves, Marvel decided to create a multi-part epic spanning through many unrelated books. Known as the “Clan Destine” arc, the Marvel universe and its heroes seem to be interacting with a family of mystically endowed individuals of the titular Clan Destine. And that’s the full extent of my knowledge on the subject, because DAREDEVIL ANNUAL #1 isn’t even the first part of these loosely connected works.

So the plot of this issue is that Daredevil – not currently bummed about the events within his ongoing – swinging around his home city, before investigating several murders by what appears to be a monster. The monster is actually, and I quote: “a ghost in a robot”, which is being chased by two separate individuals from the Clan Destine.

Ghost in a robot. So, normal day for a superhero?

Naturally Daredevil ends up fighting basically all three in this issue to a greater or lesser degree. He has a mental battle with the enigmatic Cuckoo, a woman with telepathy and mind control powers who sees the robot (a Plastoid if you’re curious, a type of killer robot Daredevil encountered in the past) as having been possessed by an evil elemental. He has a much more physical fight with…a guy with supersenses whose name we’re never once given. Anyway, he’s a master of all classic fighting styles, and he thinks the ghost inhabiting the robot is their brother Vincent.

It’s a whole lot of intrigue and stuff that probably would have made a lot more sense had I read the Fantastic Four Annual that came before this. I know about that because this issue was kind enough to end by telling me what other annuals to read, including the FF one and the upcoming Wolverine annual. However, this issue wasn’t kind enough to say on the cover (which is what I usually look at only before buying) that it continued an ongoing story.

DAREDEVIL ANNUAL #1 desperately wants to seem like a stand-alone adventure, yet so much backstory ties into other books at the time that the reader is bound to be left confused. Especially if the other annuals participating in the Clan Destine business happen to be ones for ongoings that the reader doesn’t normally read. It seems as though the cover to the FF annual has the same eye designs as this one, but if I never looked at the FF books I wouldn’t know that. And I don’t, so I didn’t. Marvel is so good at this too, telling us readers where we need to go to read the rest of the story if it spans across multiple ongoings or what have you.

Oh, before I forget, this annual also guest stars Doctor Strange. Makes sense, given he’s the Marvel universe’s resident expert on all things cryptic and bullshit. He’s also decked out in his classic costume as opposed to his current ensemble as worn in the Defenders and other books. Which leads me to two possibilities: either a) this takes place sometime in the relative past, or b) Strange just decided to sport his blue shirt and cape instead of his black and red costume. The latter seems truly odd considering right about now Doctor Strange should be either fighting the Phoenix Force alongside the Avengers, or trapped in an alternate universe fighting Frankenstein Hitler.

What, you don’t believe the Defenders fought Frankenstein Hitler in an alternate universe? You haven’t been reading The Defenders then, because it’s glorious!

Coming back from a massive tangent, what do I think of DAREDEVIL ANNUAL #1? Aside from requiring the readers to read other books they didn’t even know were out to get the full backstory, it’s a decent one-off tale. Daredevil fights a robot made of plastic powered by an angry ghost, and then things return to normal. It’s nothing one would regret reading, but it’s not going to make the ongoing series unreadable either. If you are following the Clan Destine business, obviously you need to read this one.

Personally, I feel a little cheated since Marvel didn’t bother to advertise that it ties into other things on the cover. Really Marvel, you couldn’t just slap a logo on the cover telling me it follows up on something? I don’t want to have to scour every end of an issue before I guy it just in case I end up reading a story already in progress.

What do you people think? Should every crossover and tie-in be marked as such, regardless of the the strength of the connection? How do you feel about such cross-series storylines in the first place? Leave a comment on your thoughts.

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