Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Daredevil 380

Just One Good Story by DG Chichester and Lee Weeks

One Sentence Overview:  Matt Murdock defends a man accused of being a terrorist, whilst Daredevil's investigations into who's setting him up brings him into confrontation with some old foes

And so volume one of Daredevil concludes with, the title page tells us, "a tale from Daredevil's past" spread out in a double issue, only five issues since the last one.  One would expect a renowned comic book to end with something of a bang (or a 'boom', if the cover's to be believed) and Marvel have sought out Dan Chichester and Lee Weeks to deliver something perhaps more indicative of when the book was held in higher regard.  After 'Flying Blind', 'Just One Good Story' is the kind of title we need.  With Lee Weeks illustrating, there's hope, too, that we just might get that, if the tale echoes the kind of storytelling that he and Dan came up with at the beginning of the Chichester era.

Therefore it's not unreasonable to wonder when exactly this story's taking place.  My first thought was that, given the artist involved and the Kingpin apparently in the ascendancy that we're pre Last Rites - indeed Wilson Fisk is being sought out by an unnamed third party interested in provoking American antagonism to events in the Middle East (a storyline one could link to the Gulf War but also prescient in terms of the rise of Al Qaeda).  However, all that's put into touch when Daredevil - briefly - decides to dress up in everyone's favourite costume...

Given the slating the threads got, 'Deathdevil' seems almost a parodic comment from Dan (and who's to say it wasn't).  Anyway, you're no doubt wondering what the two nemeses are squabbling over this time.  Well, as I say, the Kingpin's been given the heads up about some Soviet weapons being shipped into New York waters and decides to link this to - seemingly - a randomly chosen man of Arabian origin, thus stoking up fears of terrorism in the city.  He does this by having a Hand ninja plant some uranium (or other dodgy substance) from the boat in Parlan Farhoody's apartment and then sets about poisoning the water.

This has particularly unpleasant consequences with over 20 New Yorkers being poisoned and dying.  Daredevil's senses quickly pick up on what's going on and there's a nice scene of him bursting into an office block to stop some workers accidentally drinking themselves to death.  I did like the line from the jaded employee, annoyed about Daredevil bursting through the office window, complaining that Thor blew the power in his block the week before ("Don't you people have lives?").

Realising that someone's up to no good and that Parlan's being set up, it's Matt Murdock's time to step up and defend the innocent man.  Dan and Lee narrate the courtroom scenes in black and white with text rather than speech bubbles, I guess as if they are a news report.  Part of this involves Matt invoking prejudiced perceptions of who or what Parlan represents.  I must confess that I thought some of Matt's language, whilst being used deliberately to confront stereotypes, was quite near the knuckle, indicative of the earthy and direct Daredevil that Dan likes to write.

Indeed, as is quite typical of Dan's run, Daredevil takes a joy verging on sadism in taking down Wilson et al, blowing up the boat not caring whether or not the Kingpin gets out in time.  Odder than this is a scene with Daredevil holding a rocket launcher at Kingpin and his comrades, Bullseye and Bushwacker (hey, the gang's all here), leading to these villains cowering before our hero.  

Hmmm.  The Kingpin and Bullseye, in particular, have always struck me as individuals who would remain resolutely sober even in the face of death, not wishing even their final moments to be perceived as conceding victory to their opposite number.

Despite Lee's presence, in terms of writing style, Dan's closer to 'Fall from Grace' rather than his earlier tales, deliberately using a complicated chronology that switches back and forth between 'three weeks earlier', 'last night' and 'today'.  This leads to Daredevil's battle with his foes to be particularly complicated - at one point he's in his red threads, then in the armour costume; at one point pointing a rocket launcher at the Kingpin, then setting off a trail of dynamite or fighting the villains on the dock.  It's not terribly coherent.

In its favour is a technique reminiscent of Frank Miller's Greek chorus.  Part of the story is told by ancillary characters, whether gangsters, ordinary New Yorkers or Daily Bugle staffers, dropping in occasionally to pass comment on what's going on and stoking the paranoia about how and why New York's being attacked.  This works quite well.

And it concludes in quite a strange way with Matt making a peculiarly social visit to Sister Maggie and taking her for ice cream.  This benign little scene is however given added resonance by the very last panel of the book, that explicitly echoes the very famous cover of Amazing Spider-man 50.  

It's quite a nice moment but odd to see that it's Maggie rather than Foggy, or even Karen, who shares the limelight with Matt here.  If Maggie's not Matt's mother, then he chooses to spend this seminal moment with a random nun.  Which I find hard to believe.

Okay.  Volume One.  Done.  Thanks for reading.

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

Sister Maggie
J Jonah Jameson
Kathy Malper
Hand Assassin
Parlan Farhoody
Miss Portal
Dr Tricia Solaro

Rating: 3 out of 10


Dermie said...

One wonders why they didn't just end volume one with issue #375. It would have been an anniversary issue, it was wrapping up an existing storyline. It just seems to me that it would have felt like a more natural endpoint than stretching things out for an extra five issues, with an off-format four-parter and an odd standalone finish.

Robert said...

Hi, Dermie

The interviews I've read on the Man without Fear website help give perspective on this (props to Kuljit). From what I can glean, there seems to have been uncertainty as to when exactly Kevin Smith and Joe Quesada would be ready to publish the first issue of their run, thus leaving the editorial and creative staff somewhat in limbo as to how long volume one would end up running. This appears to have had a knock on effect on the quality and, perhaps, even the motivation of those involved. Thus we end up with 380 issues when, as you suggest, 375 might have been better. I can only think that Marvel was reluctant that the news-stands be free of Daredevil comics for a period of around six months, even if the quality was ultimately pretty poor.