Monday, 21 January 2013

Daredevil vs Vapora 1

A Season for Tears by Mindy Newell and Mike Harris

One Sentence Overview:  Vapora just loves how careless New York citizens are when it comes to using gasoline as a cleaner

Like many adults lurching towards middle age, I grew up watching public information films warning of the dangers of such things like trying to rescue someone drowning in a lake or retrieving a frisbee from deadly power cables. Some of the advertisements were pretty grim and it's surprising to think of how they were screened, uncensored, during children's TV with the very purpose of trying to scare the crap out of young viewers so that they didn't get up to such dangerous pursuits.  No doubt, You Tube has a record of the worst offenders as there seems to be a rather macabre interest in these old things.

I say all this because, towards the end of volume one, Marvel entered into a rather unusual enterprise with an organisation called the Gas Appliance Manufacturers Association in order to publish a comic with seemingly similar aims of those frightening mini-movies.  I'm not sure if this was a one off or if Marvel published a range of adventures featuring, say, Spider-man tackling the horrors of bleach or Captain America recovering a group of mangled children from a grim jay walking incident.  However, it strikes me that something dirty and dingy like the misuse of gasoline in tenement buildings is actually right down Daredevil's (garbage strewn) alley.

The story features DD rescuing a poor girl called Angel Jusko from a fire.  The landlord who owns the tenement building approaches Matt Murdock shortly afterwards asking for representation in court, it being suspected that he's tried to burn down his own building for insurance money.  However, when Mr Rutkowski, the landlord in question, tells Matt he's not guilty, Matt does his old heartbeat trick and ends up believing the man.  

Instead, of course, gasoline is to blame - specifically individuals (Angel's father in this case) using it to clean things rather than putting it in their cars.  This is later illustrated by a couple of lads cleaning their motorcycle in such a way and ending up nearly torching their sister.  Their carelessness draws the attention of 'Vapora', a gasoline ghost who likes to feed on the victims of such foolishness.  Vapora's a bit silly, obviously, but she's the 'villain' required to make this a superhero book.  To emphasise the point of the polemic, we're treated t Vapora swooshing around the city looking out for similarly thoughtless acts.

As one might expect of such a comic the story is dominated by scientific banter related to the issue.  A police officer talks to Matt about how gasoline is heavier than air, one of the careless kids knows enough not to throw water on a gasoline fire because the two substances don't mix and, best of all, there's a nice heavy handed panel of Matt hoping that the fire extinguisher he reaches for is a 'B' type i.e. the kind required to tackle such a blaze.

So what are we to make of this all?  Well, it's obviously all done in the right spirit and Mindy Newell doesn't do a bad job of mixing elements of a DD tale that wouldn't be out of place in some of the first volume with the restrictions of getting across a list of important, life saving points.  Its very peculiarity, its mixing of genres, is what makes it interesting.  In truth, though, both Vapora's unlikeliness as a character (Daredevil, of course, working best when the villain is believable) and the necessity of the task do inevitably undermine the storytelling.  But a strange little diversion, all the same.

Daredevil/Matt Murdock

Abraham Rutkowski
Officer Pacifico
Angel Jusko
Mr Jusko

Rating: 4 out of 10

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