Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Daredevil 283

The American Nightmare by Ann Nocenti and Mark Bagley

One Sentence Overview:  Daredevil and Captain America step in when an immigrant inventor comes under attack from a range of sources

Okay, I know I said I was going to review the annual next but actually, as the action takes place back in Hell's Kitchen, I've changed my mind and that review will go up in a couple of issues' time, once Daredevil's actually back in his old hunting ground.

So instead it's DD283 and a perceptive comment on the corruption of the American Dream.  As one can tell from the (cleverly symbolic and not at all reflective of what actually occurs in the tale) cover, Daredevil and Cap meet again and get very cross about the infraction of an immigrant's rights to develop innovative technology that big business is going to frown upon.

Indeed, Cap appears a lot less conservative than I'm used to here - in an early scene, he picks up a magazine (called the Democrats, which tells you all you need to know, I guess) and becomes enraged at reports of America involving itself in the drugs war in South America.  "Can't we leave Latin America alone?" the Sentinel rants.  "Haven't we exploited them long enough?"

I'm not a huge reader of Cap - and Ed Brubaker's recent run doesn't dwell too much on Steve Rogers' political opinions (though Mark Millar clearly identified where he stood on the rights of a person to put a mask on one's face and beat people up) - so it's possible I'm misrepresenting his views.  However, Daredevil is also shocked by Cap's anger at the way the oil industry controls things in his country.  "I would have guessed he'd view such ideas as subversive," Daredevil ponders.

So where's all this pent up frustration come from?  What's turned Cap into a raving liberal?  Well, the letters page here recommends the reader pick up Cap's current run as he apparently has been acting strange over there.  Hmmm. Well, a quick look at blogger Goodman Holiday's Reading Captain America's post on that run reveals that Cap was actually on drugs and therefore more paranoid and wired than usual.  Okay, so being on drugs makes you more left wing, yet articulate?  Interesting...

Cap's drug induced 'paranoid' reasonings don't seem out of step with what's actually happening to inventor Victor Cieszkowska.  Vic's come up with the very topical and foresighted notion of creating a car that runs on an alternative fuel (garbage in this case).  The moment he holds a press release, the IRS write to him suggesting he's in the US illegally, he's mocked by TV reporters, the FBI turn up to ransack his home and a bunch of hoods attempt to wreck his car.  The (perhaps heavy handed) allegory is that the oil industry will crush anyone attempting to introduce an alternative energy source.  Perhaps in 1990 this wasn't such a vital issue and maybe of more interest to environmentalists but, reading this in 2012, the story feels remarkably prescient.

Cap's rants about inequality in the US also feels very contemporary.  His complaints about the growing difference between the rich and poor continues to be a significant problem, one examined famously in the last couple of years by the book, The Spirit Level.  Hmmm, whatever you're taking, Steve, perhaps you could share it with those in power?

Never mind the politics, this is a bit of leap from running around the inner circle of Hell, jaw jawing with the devil, I hear you mutter.  Where's Number Nine and the Inhumans?  Well, in a piece of writing completely consistent with Ann's recent writing of the character, once DD and the gang returned to earth... he cleared off. 

I guess with Brandy dead, there was no-one to make him feel guilty about being committed to other relationships.  It's okay for Karnak and Gorgon - they've got Pope and they're off to Attilan, but what about poor Number Nine?  I don't know if this is the last we've seen of the character.  If it is, that's a darn shame.  We only seem to partially understand where she's at and doesn't it seem a little mean for DD to leave her in the lurch like this.

Men! Huh.

Meanwhile on the letters page  Not everyone's enjoying Ann's recent direction.  Augie Pirente drafts a list of things he's currently not liking about Daredevil.  It includes:  "X-Men crossovers, Inhumans, Number Nine, Blackheart... stories about why we shouldn't eat meat, plots that try to tackle the nature of good and evil".  But don't be downcast, Ann, Damon Frusha says that the writer's scripting borders "masterpiece level".  Hurrah!

Daredevil/Matt Murdock

Captain America/Steve Rogers
Number Nine
Victor Cieszkowska
Nora Cieszkowska

Rating: 7 out of 10


Anonymous said...

Hey Robert, Im back for an issue. I didnt read this issue but i was reading Captain america at the time. Mark Grunwald was at the hieght of his powers during the "Streets of Poison" series.
Basically the whole series was written in response to a reader questioning cap being empowered by a drug, the super soldier serum. In the series, cap accidentally gets infected with ice and becomes a lot more brutal against criminals than he usually is.

DD realizes this and tries to take cap down. Cap really destroys DD in a frighteningly brutal match up, one of the few times in my cynical reading i was nervous for a hero.

the series also has a drug war between the kingpin and red skull. we get some nice insight to their philosophies. the skull at that time had basically become a right-wing businessman dedicated to taking down america with its own system. he introduces drugs to weaken the population. the kingpin on the other hand believes drugs make the US stronger by weeding out the weak (a suprisingly fascist view from mr fisk).

Overall, a highly recommended series as cap feels guilt over his method of empowerment. Oh yeah, lots of great fights. Cap vs DD, crossbones vs Bullseye, Diamondback vs black widow, red skull vs kingpin.

Oh, and in case youre wondering who finally brought in the drug-crazed captain, it was our own Ms Romanoff, who knocks out cap with a brutal widow's sting to the head. When questioned about giving the captain possible brain damage she just says "I know my opponent, i know my weapon." in true badass style.

I cannot recommend this "Streets of poison" series enough.

Kveto from Prague

Robert said...

Thanks for the background, Kveto, and great to hear from you again. There's something in the next issue referring to Daredevil getting a pasting from Cap (which didn't happen here) so that makes a lot of sense.

The Kingpin's view is certainly an interesting one given that, if he's the drug supplier and that drugs weed out the weak, well, that's a kind of contradictory reason for becoming involved in dealing (unless your ultimate aim is to go bust). Guess Wilson hadn't thought that one through ;)


Anonymous said...

hey Robert, yeah i think the kingpin was trying to one-up the skull with a bit of american flag waving "Im a true capitalist" and drugs only corrupt the corruptable making room for the real doers like himself.

bullseye has a nice appearance here, trying to get back his job with the kingpin. he has an amazing prison break using just his tooth. He also defeats cap with a spade and a torch and has a good fight with crossbones.

In general, there's a lot to appeal to a DD fan in this series.

Yeah I still check in occasionally but as i wasnt reading any DD at this time ive got little to say (although you make the stories sound good)


Mark Kardwell said...

Cap's politics do swing like a pendulum depending on who's writing him. Mark Waid's take on the character had him about as far to the left as any American has been since Paul Robeson; Millar's right-wing Cap, it must be remembered, exists in the alternate Ultimate universe, where he posited the character should represent the American reality rather than the American dream.

Anonymous said...

i agree to an extent, Mark. But from the 60s to the early 90s (when i stopped reading comics), Steve Rogers was fairly consistant in what we would now call liberal, or a kind of Truman democrat. in the 50s, cap was quite jingoistic, englehart even brought the 50s cap back to show has his anti-commie bigotry was negative. And I loved Grunwald having cap fight Ronald Reagan, transformed into a serpent-man "the biggest snake of all". Nothing political there, nosireebob:-)

Not sure what happened after that in the last two decades. and ill probly keep it that way.


Robert said...

Hi, Mark

Thanks for the comment - I think I was thinking of Ultimate Cap when I was reviewing this. Though even Daredevil was surprised at the tenor of his views, so it's not just me!

Haven't read any of Mark Waid's Cap, so that's a good insight. Certainly would be interesting to go back to that considering his current run on DD.


AmericanWolves02 said...

I think the payoff was kind of a missed opportunity to pay off one of Ann's minor characters that never got a resolution.

When it was stated that the Inhumans were coming to earth to find a missing child, the first thing I thought of was that the baby the armed robber found in #252 was going to be the missing child. It would have explained the baby being in the trash and paid off the child and robber mini-story.

Not a big deal, but it would have been a nice usage of background characters that Ann used so well.