Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Daredevil 221

Behold My Vengeance by Denny O'Neil and David Mazzucchelli

One Sentence Overview: Matt travels to Venice to track down the Italian organisation who robbed Heather's apartment

I love covers that 'play' with the book's logo. Instead of just superimposing the image, it is incorporated into the main picture - and here's a brilliant example of this concept with the DD script crumbling and crooked as in the Medieval bridge under which Matt traverses. I think it looks very cool.

But what's Matt doing in a gondola? I hear you cry. Well, he's sauntered off to Europe after a bunch of bad 'uns who quite happily ransacked Heather Glenn's apartment whilst she left herself swinging in the front room. What's good about the set up of this particular story is that it allows Denny to use a frustrated Foggy to comment upon the unlikeliness of the whole scenario - which is a brave piece of self referential writing.

Remember, back when Micah Synn had Debbie Nelson under his grip, Foggy felt compelled to lie to the media. Not a good move when your industry presumably relies upon honesty and integrity (eh? did I really just say that about the legal profession?). Over the past few issues, Foggy's popped up in the background to remind his partner about their current financial standings, even leading him to enthusiastically embrace dodgy Native American baiting white entrepreneurs with bulging pockets over and above any ethical principle the law firm would hold (see DD 215).

Here, it's enjoyable to see him reflect on Matt's merry meanderings to Japan and New Mexico and complaining that he shouldn't set off for Italy. Of course, he doesn't stop him - Matt's out the door whilst the poor Mr Nelson's still arguing the point. Perhaps inevitably the one thing that can be said that even out of sorts lawyers can still charge enough cash to engage in a little globe trotting should it take their fancy (apologies to any readers working in legal professions).

Matt's sojourn to Venice - nicely illustrated by David's panel of Matt gliding along a canal - brings him into conflict with the Council of Ten, a fascist organisation who want to embrace medieval values... Wait a minute, that sounds familiar. Well, that's because it is - formally Denny's villain, Crossbow conveyed a very similar worldview. Which makes me wonder if some of what we have here was originally intended for that character but dropped. I've no evidence to support this but it's clearly a theme important to Denny's heart. The philosophies espoused here are very interesting to read in the midst of a superhero comic, particularly the fact that the bad guys take the time to demarcate the distinct differences between Hitler and Mussolini. I'm always very impressed with the depth Denny brings to his storytelling.

Incidentally there's another great example here of a group of bad guys having the opportunity of finishing Daredevil off but instead constructing a very convoluted scenario whereby they seal him in a room hoping he will starve to death. At least, in this case, the Council has the excuse of a humanitarian Priest being one of their number and persuading the boss, Emilio Reuss, that they should not kill (though naturally Reuss' plan to entomb DD doesn't go down terribly well either).

Ultimately, this is an okay story and whilst a change of scene is interesting, I often feel like Matt's a fish out of water when he's not in Hell's Kitchen. In fact there are two little moments back in New York that reveal a lot of Matt's frame of mind. Firstly early on, a good Samaritan spots Matt at the side of the road and, figuring him to be a blind man in need of assistance, asks for help. Matt's response is fantastic. "Yes I do. But not crossing the street." Oh, you can feel the angst.

Then later the story concludes with a very interesting introspective monologue when he visits Heather's grave. Matt reveals that he had tracked down the Italian thieves partially out of a sense of guilt for allowing Heather to die. And did it help? Listen to Matt's answer. "It didn't. I failed. Guilt and misery and pain are all around me, like the air I breathe." Ultimately, Matt feels his heroics are somehow futile. It's a slightly depressing end to the story but a brilliant snapshot of how he's thinking and why Matt is often, correctly I think, portrayed as a downbeat kind of hero.


Daredevil/Matt Murdock

Foggy Nelson

Ben Urich

Emilio Reuss

Sir Lancelot

Council Priest

Rating: 7 out of 10


kenny said...

Hi Robert, this is my single favourite DD issue which I have read. I know its a strange issue, its not a "big event" issue. It is a perfect one shot issue. Fantastic artwork in a perfect Italian setting (my favourite country). No super villain but a great bit of history delivered by denny. (ive lived in Italy and Mussolini is fondly remembered by a certain segment of the population)

I loved DD's macabre escape from the tomb with a sword taken from a skeleton "one of those stories that will never be told, I guess"

My top DD tale and one of my top ten comics overall.
thanks for the memories.
Kveto from Prague

Robert said...

Hey, Kveto

I can understand how someone who has spent time in Italy would have a deeper appreciation for this story, in the same way the Gael storyline resonates for me. The glimpse into some historical concerns is really well done - with a light touch for a potentially heavy and dull topic.