Thursday, 28 April 2011

Daredevil 229

Pariah by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli

One Sentence Overview: Whilst Matt tries to pull himself together, Ben Urich hounds Nick Manolis for information about how Murdock was set up

I read an interview with Mark Miller the other day where he said that he felt that one of the strengths of comics, over novels, was that medium's abilty to deliver a lot of visual ideas quickly onto the page in short, sharp bursts. Well, I guess that's debatable. But, three issues into the seminal 'Born Again' storyline, one thing that's clear is the extraordinary amount of activity occurring with Matt and his supporting cast.

By now, it's very clear that Matt is on a serious downward spiral. The term, 'Pariah', described in my dictionary as something that is despised and avoided, relates to Matt and how he has become a broken shadow of his former self. As explored in my last post, the last two issues' title pages contrasted two beds. But even last issue's squalor is luxury in contrast with where Matt's last bedded down - in an alley, with other tramps, and squashed up into even more of a foetal circle than before.

The foetal thing is particularly pertinent as, whilst Matt lies in the filth and dirt of the alley, he recalls how he previously woke up in hospital, following the incident that blinded him, and was comforted by a mysterious woman. Not just any old woman, but a nun. It's not made explicit here, yet, but we soon learn that this is Matt's mother. What's impressive about this sequence is that it's told in a long series of black panels, giving the reader a tiny insight into the change in Matt's own circumstances.

Having hit bottom, there's a modicum of hope, when Matt finally rises, in that his state of mind, if not his physical condition, is a little more balanced than the desperate angst last issue. He seems more determined. However, Frank's not finished with him yet. His poor body seems shattered. Then two further incidents leave him almost completely destroyed. First, he ambles carelessly into traffic and is knocked over. Then, he bumps into a couple of low lives mugging a poor, charitable Father Christmas. But these aren't any old bums - it's Turk and Grotto! Cue much laughter and hilarity. Er, maybe not. Turk, reminding the readers of his origins, doesn't take to kindly to Matt's interruption, and stabs him. Hey, think of all those deadly bad guys that Matt has tussled with and who is that knives him in the gut? Only the pesky, pathetic Mr Barrett. It's been one of those days...

The incredible story of Matt's descent would be enough to make this incredible. However, what really pushes these issues into classic territory is the consideration and development given to the supporting cast. The new, somewhat unlikely, relationship between Foggy and Glori and their Christmas shopping seems, at first, light relief. However, for the second time in about 10 issues, Glori is mugged but this time Foggy sorts the fracas out by landing a bowling ball he's bought as a Christmas present for Porkchop Peterson in the poor thief's face. The detail in the incident is quite amusing but the sudden violence - from Mr Nelson, no less - is somewhat shocking. We are reminded of the dark, unsafe territory in which our characters reside.

However, two other characters are also really struggling. A long way from home, Karen's trying to go cold turkey from her heroin addiction and stumbles across a guy called Paolo, who's willing to help her back to New York (in her own desperation, she wants to return to the one man she believes can help her - Matt). However, even here, Karen has to swallow a bitter pill (er, is that a euphemism?). Paolo knows her from her film-work - it's by no means explicit, but the inference is certainly that we're not talking Hollywood blockbusters here - and agrees to help for payment, ahem, 'in kind'. Karen agrees. There's no redemption here yet. No Daredevil to swing in and rescue her honour. No, she accompanies Paolo back to New York and, whatever happens between them, happens. This is a comic book, remember. You know, for kids.

I haven't yet mentioned Ben Urich's role in the story but he's been hovering in the background, the only character seemingly surprised by Matt's disbarment and the circumstances behind that. He knows Matt's innocent and, veritable newshound that he is, he tracks down Nick Manolis, who is watching over his very sick son in hospital, indecently posing the distressed old cop a question about how he can afford the treatment his son is receiving.

Poor Nick. There's no redemption for him, either. He's sold his soul to the Kingpin but his boy's heart can't be saved. When he dies, Nick sees the error of his ways and agrees to spill the beans to Ben. What neither man is aware of is that the brickhouse nurse looking after the boy is actually in the employ of Mr Fisk (actually, with her build, she's kind of a female version of the crime lord). Poor spindly Ben is no match for the behemoth carer, who wrecks havoc with the journalist's right hand (though that's nothing to the trouncing she gives Lt Manolis). It's a painful humiliation for Ben to be treated in such a way - and something from which, as we'll see, he struggles to recover (hey, a sai through the chest from Elektra is one thing, but to be beaten up by a middle aged nurse...?).

So nobody on the good side of the fence is in particular hot shape by the end of the issue. At least a worn out Matt has managed to fall into the lap of redemption at just the right time. On the penultimate page of the story, we're treated to a stunning panel from Mr Mazzucchelli, which is basically and intentionally a pieta. More explicit religious imagery next issue!

Daredevil/Matt Murdock
Foggy Nelson
Karen Page
Kingpin/Wilson Fisk
Ben Urich
Glorianna O'Breen
Turk Barrett

Sister Maggie
Lt Nick Manolis
Paolo Scorsese

Rating: 10 out of 10

No comments: