Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Daredevil 228

Purgatory by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli

One Sentence Overview: Left with nothing, Matt struggles with the demons affecting his mind and tries to motivate himself to go after the Kingpin

One of the things I love about Frank's writing is his instinctive understanding of his characters' psychology and behaviour. Last issue, he accurately understood Karen Page's drug adled desperation. This time round, we find Matt Murdock at his lowest ebb. Yet instead of having him fight back, he's plagued by lethargy and inaction. That extraordinary uber close up cover is a great example of the desperate state of mind Matt finds himself in.

As an example of what's happened with Matt, contrast the title page of this story with that of the previous issue. Previously we see Matt sprawled out in a luxurious bed with plenty of space. Here, however, Matt is in foetal position in a rickety single bed, with every one of his remaining belongings located in the rest of his 'hotel' room with him. What a fall.

So, c'mon, Matt. Sort yourself out! Get up and at 'em! You're Daredevil, for crying out loud!

Hmmm. No such luck. For ten pages. That's right, half the issue, we're treated to Matt stuck in his bedroom, crippled by self doubt. Hey, this could have been written by Samuel Beckett. For my money, Frank again gives good insight into how poor mental health erodes the soul. On one occasion, Matt means to get up. But then can't be bothered. On another, we see him go to turn the handle in the door to go after the Kingpin. But actually he's dreaming. He is just completely unable to kick start himself.

Isolated, paranoia has crept in. He's aware the Kingpin is behind his problems, but that doesn't stop him from thinking that all those around him have betrayed him. Last issue, we saw that this was true in terms of Nick Manolis (who was being blackmailed). However, in his clouded judgement, he believes that Foggy's somehow in league with the dark forces assaulting him. On the very first page of the issue, we're reminded by the writer that Foggy and Glori are "only human" and, whilst they want to help Matt, they're also trying to get on with their own lives. Matt doesn't see it that way and, instead of trying to help himself, turns to making abusive phone calls to his friends. His desperate "I'm on to you, Nelson" (note how he refers to Foggy by impersonal surname) is particularly chilling.

When he finally leaves the rat infested room, he does so by strangling the poor hotel manager. It's an astonishing, amoral scene and, in this issue at least, we don't learn of the poor sod's fate (one assumes he doesn't kill him but, sheesh, he doesn't look too healthy at the end of it).

There's more violence to come in scenes that must have come close to the boundaries of what was acceptable in an all ages comic book. The confrontation with the Kingpin is accompanied by copious blood splatter - look at how much fun Wilson is having, despite taking a beating - his cruel sadism is completely believeable here.

However, before this, there's a worse scene of violence as Matt lays out a bunch of thugs in a tube train and then attacks a cop who tries to settle matters. Hats off to David - you can really feel the sickening crunch of those slugs that Matt lays in to the third poor young soul who holds the subway up.

Afterwards, it seems like Matt is beginning to come to his senses. He stops at a phone and makes a call - supposedly to Foggy - recognising that he's losing his mind. When he walks away, the reader realise he's been talking to the Speaking Clock.

What I love about all these scenes is that the reader can really feel the impact upon them. They're not scenes of mindless violence, we see what has led to them and understand why they've occurred. As such they carry a tragic burden that is heartbreaking as we see a much loved character on the skids. This is some story-telling, folks.

Daredevil/Matt Murdock
Foggy Nelson
Karen Page
Kingpin/Wilson Fisk
Ben Urich

Glorianna O'Breen

J Jonah Jameson

Rating: 10 out of 10

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Robert, wow Karen, i admit i completely forgot about her.
this is a really original idea. usually when a villain uncovers a heroes identity, said villain will die soon.
as much as i like millers writing, i cant help but lament that he ushered in the beginning of the end of good comicbooks, as comics became a gritty realistic reflection of our own world. its not franks fault that the authors who came after him, tried to emulate him (and were less talented).