Sunday, 13 September 2009

Daredevil 109

Dying for Dollars by Steve Gerber and Bob Brown

One Sentence Overview: Daredevil and the Beetle team up to battle against the new fascist organisation, Black Spectre, who are operating in New York and beyond

With all the intense plotting going on in the last issue, I completed missed the fact that the Widow had lost her billing on the cover. This issue's cover implies that our favourite Russian may be about to lose more than her co-starring role. Let's see how this all pans out...

This issue immediately continues the fight between DD and the Beetle that commenced last issue - and actually it's a very entertaining little scene as the two are evenly matched and there's some cracking banter between them. Perhaps most interesting is the fact that the two are briefly interrupted by the police who are convinced that DD is an imposter (because, d'uh, he lives in San Franscisco now) and it's the Beetle who actually vouches for our hero being the real deal. It gives the Beetle a shade of grey and makes him suddenly more interesting for this peculiar touch of honesty. Much later, the two basically team up against the 'Spectre due to the mutual antipathy of the fascists. All this is nicely unexpected characterisation from Steve Gerber.

However, battle over, there's a strangely clumsy transition to the next scene with Matt and a convalescing Foggy (who, as Dickens might have it, "did not die"). As revealed a couple of reviews back, DD's bimonthly at present and, oddly for the medium, Steve Gerber's trying to maintain real time (the story mentions that it's the tailend of 1973 right at the start). Therefore, when addressing Foggy he begins by telling him, in effect, "Well, that happened two months ago and I still haven't been able to track down Black Spectre." It's a little uncomfortable and it's not surprising that most comic book writers don't bother these days with such exposition or framing their characters to a specific moment in time.

From Foggy we're learning that the Black Spectre are an intriguingly dark, explicitly fascistic organisation. I've written before that the most successful storylines in the past, in my view, have been those with overt political themes. And that's certainly the territory that Gerber's moving into here. We have mentions of race riots, swastikas on national monuments and, most shockingly of all, the addition of Adolf Hitler's visage to Mount Rushmore! For an undercover movement and considering the amount of time that would have taken, that's a bit of a coup. And rather sloppy work from the authorities meant to be guarding the place, don't you think?

Last issue Matt couldn't decide between the Widow and Moondragon. This time round Matt's an eager puppy responding positively immediately to the offer of a date from Foggy's sister, Candace. It's a good job we're two months on or our Mr Murdock would be coming across as a Seventies Casanova.

Before romancing can begin though, Daredevil has to deal with Black Spectre dropping thousands of dollars all over the city. DD thinks they must be counterfeit so picks one up to examine. And we have another little example of our hero detecting colour. Feeling the bill, Matt observes, "They even got the right colour ink, judging from the heat is absorbs!" Just thought I'd include that for Christine's benefit ;)

Elsewhere Natasha's taken out very effectively by the mysterious Nekra who seems to be empowered by hate. And we've not only got Commissioner O'Hara on the scene but, in the final scene, it's - blimey! - his niece, Shanna the She Devil. An issue that's setting up a lot but quite piecemeal in some ways too. And the cover falls into the category of being pretty unrepresentative of what's going on inside. Still, it's all quite intriguing and looks like it's going somewhere quite interesting...

Billy Club Update This issue has a two page sequence with probably the most comprehensive overview of DD's billy club yet. Unlike the very early days where the club seemingly contained every contraption under the sun, Steve's simplified things considerably to the extent where we now have the familiar blind man's cane doubling for a grappling hook and cable. Phew, feels like it's taken over 100 issues to get to the now familiar club that we're used to in today's comics.

Daredevil/Matt Murdock
Foggy Nelson
Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff
Commissioner Ironguts O'Hara

The Beetle
Candace Nelson
Shanna the She-Devil/Shanna O'Hara

Rating: 5 out of 10


Christine said...

He he... Yes, again with the color sensing based on different colors absorbing different amounts of heat (when they don't).

What really surprises me is how often Daredevil writers "cross the river to fetch water," as the Swedish saying goes. It would make much more sense for him to be able to tell real from counterfeit bills - including the ink itself - by how they smell rather than coming up with some pseudo-scientific nonsense.

grifter said...

one thing that kind of annoys/amuses me are those covers from the '70s/early '80s where the hero either thought-balloons or screams his inability to do something. i mean, these things happen and are measured in heartbeats, and i'd say the most your brain can muster as it processes the danger/filters through options, is a string of profanities, not a 40-word analysis of the whole situation. LOL

Robert said...

Yeah, now that I look at it again, that sure is one heckuva wordy cover. Weirdly, the cover basically tells you everything you need to know about the story within, rendering the comic itself almost redundant. There's far too much going on there.

Harry Sewalski said...

In the cover artist's defence, that's nothing compared to Claremont having Wolverine recite an entire speech all whilst leaping across the room to stab someone.