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DD Book Club - Tree of Knowledge
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Mike Murdock
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 28, 2021 6:34 pm    Post subject: DD Book Club - Tree of Knowledge Reply with quote

I wanted to do something Captain America related for the Falcon and Winter Soldier Disney+ show coming up. The most logical choice is one with Baron Strucker and Hydra. This means we are finally doing the next long running D.G. Chichester story arc: Tree of Knowlege.

Daredevil Vol. 1 #326 - Tree of Knowledge, Part I

Quote:
Matt Murdock's "death" means a new beginning for Daredevil! But it's a new beginning for evil as well, as the assault team known as System Crash makes its move! Before they can strike, however, they'll have to take out the man standing in their way- the Sentinel of Liberty himself, Captain America!


Due 3/6
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Dimetre
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 01, 2021 12:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This issue is dated March of 1994, and immediately followed the heavily hyped, and heavily flawed, "Fall From Grace" story. There are some things I liked about this issue, and there was a whole lot I found puzzling.

The first part of this issue is dedicated to "the funeral of Matthew Michael Murdock." It's played very solemnly, perhaps with the exception of the one page of Johnny Storm burning someone's hand, which seems to exist to fulfill the superpowers quota. For four pages it's played so serious, it's as though D.G. Chichester and Scott McDaniel don't want us to remember that the #325 ended with Matt detailing his plan to have the deceased Hellspawn pose as him for his burial. If we didn't know that, those four pages would have much greater impact, although I thought that the one page with Wilson Fisk was great. Minimal text. Gorgeous layout, and a single loogy spat upon the open grave, along with two words: "Rot slowly." It's a fantastic page.

There were three pages dedicated to recapping Eddie Passim's story from "Fall From Grace," and other than the Hellspawn plot, I'm not sure how much of it the reader needed to get into. What we are given feels like much too much, and I can see a lot of readers putting this issue down with so much of this exposition.

The scene between Nick Fury and John Garrett was well done, with Garrett accusing Fury of hypocrisy over breaking protocol. That tied in nicely with a later scene when the Chaste attack Elektra after she absorbed Erynys' dark essence, and she fires back with some cutting remarks about their idle judgement and inaction. Unfortunately it seems like inker Hector Collazo forgot to do any work on those Elektra pages, because the art looks completely unfinished.

As for the story which is actually kicking off "Tree of Knowledge," which seems to be about the abuse of technology, it's kind of ridiculous. I don't know how the crooks could go unseen when installing a gigantic machine to take the place of an automatic teller machine that was taken away. As for Daredevil bursting out of that machine, it's comical to imagine him squeezing behind the service panel, and waiting for hours for the crooks to come back. I wonder how many people used that fake machine while Daredevil was hiding behind it.

The part with Captain America is just bizarre to me. I don't know why Cap was brought in. Why not have Daredevil show up at Knowbot's hideout? I don't think Cap is needed in this scene. You probably just need Kill-O-Byte to rebel and slaughter Knowbot the second the file transfer is complete so you can get to the Hydra reveal. That whole Cap section was incompetently executed.

Like "Fall From Grace" I fell like "Tree of Knowledge" is trying to set to many balls into motion. There is too much unnecessary rehashing of the previous story, and there is nothing to suggest that the Garrett and Elektra stories are going to tie into the technology plot at all.

I pointed out some positive aspects of this issue, but overall I think this is a pretty sloppy start to "Tree of Knowledge." I can't imagine this issue getting anyone excited in 1994. The ad on the back for NBA Jam probably got more people excited than the contents within. I give this a three out of five.
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Mike Murdock
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 04, 2021 8:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

So Fall From Grace ends with Matt Murdock faking his own death to avoid being implicated as Daredevil. He also weirdly suggests that there is a new Daredevil, which still seems like it would cause people to believe Matt Murdock was the old Daredevil, but I digress. I know there's an Annual where Black Widow gets to mourn a bit more, but even with this funeral, it feels like the grieving process is too quick. It also still feels cruel for at least Karen (although I know they weren't entirely together at the time). I actually felt more emotion for Matt burying Eddie Passim, although the art there makes it practically impossible to understand what's going on.

The new Daredevil is explicitly more violent to sever him from the Daredevil of old. Although he doesn't kill, he's going to look like he's coming close (I'd argue the Daredevil of Bendis and Brubaker is similar, though). There's a nice Elektra moment. I wish we got to see Matt's personal life as well, but the issue is arguably packed.

The last couple pages set up the bad guys. First off, Kill-O-Byte is a pun that really only works in print. Second, the art once again makes it impossible to follow anything. Overall, it's not a very impressive introduction to these characters, but I like the idea of villains using cutting edge real world technology to do crimes that couldn't have existed before. I also think it makes for a nice contrast with Captain America who is as old fashioned as they come.

Three Stars. I think there's a lot of setup and wrap up to juggle so I can't really blame it, but nothing gets its due and the art is ugly.
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Mike Murdock
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 07, 2021 8:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Daredevil Vol. 1 #327 - Tree of Knowledge Part Two: System Crash

Quote:
System Crash strikes! The target: The Staten Island Ferry! And the Avengers taking over the rescue means Daredevil has to take his investigation "underground". Meanwhile, Captain America does some investigating of his own!


I have no idea why they started to get subtitles when they didn't have them after part one, but I digress.

Due 3/13
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Dimetre
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 07, 2021 5:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mike Murdock wrote:
I have no idea why they started to get subtitles when they didn't have them after part one, but I digress.

It's kind of like how Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope was simply titled Star Wars until the film's theatrical re-release in 1981, and every subsequent film has had a secondary title. Unlike Lucas, though, the team behind "Tree of Knowledge" knew that there were going to be numerous parts to this story going in, sooo.......

I don't understand what's going on with the art in this series. I don't know why editor Ralph Macchio is satisfied with the washed out look provided by artist Scott McDaniel, inker Hector Collazo and colourist Max Scheele. The effect makes so many panels and entire pages so difficult to decipher, and that makes the story a real slog.

With that detriment already in place, writer D.G. Chichester has decided, once again, to introduce brand new characters into a story that probably didn't require them. Now we have COBOL Charlie, Bitmap, Phone Phreak and Wirehead. Amongst those characters, one of them beat up another of them, and I have no way to tell who did what.

This issue introduces Matt's Jack Batlin persona. He seems to be a street hustler that hustles other street hustlers. That honestly seems to be a persona that will draw the attention of the wrong people, so probably not the wisest move.

Karen appears with a friend named Jillian, and they publicly shame consumers of pornography. Public shaming is not a phenomenon that has aged especially well, but social media wasn't a thing back in 1994, so I can excuse this. Still, the guy they're shaming isn't doing anything illegal, so Karen and Jillian are kind of being the moral police, and who chose them for that job?

There was a trace of human drama in the scene between Elektra and Matt, from what I could make out. That scene could have used more attention and better art.

So far "Tree of Knowledge" isn't absorbing me at all, because the art is so hard to decode. There's such a deliberate lack of detail that you have to look over panels numerous times to check if you got what you were supposed to get from them. Add to that all the new unknowable characters, and it seems we have an issue that is going out of its way to make every wrong creative choice possible.

With a different art team, this issue might be better, but as it is, I'm giving this a 2 out of 5.


Last edited by Dimetre on Tue May 18, 2021 11:52 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Mike Murdock
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 10, 2021 8:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Even at this point in the 90s, people shouldn't have been strangers to terrorism. These bombings would have mirrored those of Ireland or Israel. Even New York City had the first World Trade Center attack. But I can't help but think of September 11 when I read this. There's something surreal about the real world transposed with the make believe that emphasizes the seriousness of this more grounded attack. I actually think it works quite well - at least until the Avengers start yelling at Daredevil for being fake Daredevil.

Karen as anti-pornography crusader is an interesting idea. It's a logical direction for the character to go. It ends up making her feel harsher and more condemnatory, though. I think it would have worked better if she was a counselor for victims of human trafficking or at least focused her emphasis on helping the victims instead. Don't get me wrong, the book does make the case that the consumers are fueling the exploitation of women, but the emphasis is "shame on you dirty man," which makes her seem very judgmental. With reason, perhaps, but still a less fun character.

I would say the worst part of this story is the M.U.D. concept. It seems to present itself as some hyper-realistic and hyper-addictive adventure that gives them some kind of advantage. It ends up looking really cheesy and not immersive from our perspective. Plus, the advantage the bad guys have is in their super advanced tech suit. The MUD just seems to be a way to get suckers to play along with killing people.

We finally get a sense of Matt Murdock's new life as Jack Battlin'. The first thing I'll note is he's spending time with the resurrected Elektra. I find it interesting that they don't put them in a relationship. I tend to think that Matt and Elektra work best as a thing of the past but with new, edgier identity, it makes sense to give him a more violent girlfriend. It also makes sense to keep her in the book since they spent so much time bringing her back. The main thing is his new life as a street hustler, though. It doesn't come off as convincing because he's too "good." He essentially has to pretend to steal from people while actually helping them, which is an odd tightrope.

The ending is extremely abrupt. Superhero misunderstandings are supposed to be in the first third of the issue, not the cliffhanger for the next issue. I think part of it is just how dense this story is. It's trying to juggle so many plot lines it can't do much with any of them. Despite that, I actually liked this much better than the first issue. I thought there were some interesting moments Chichester took the characters and despite silliness and confusion, the terrorism stuff rang true. I think it'll wear out its welcome quickly, but I'll give this issue a generous Four Stars.
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Mike Murdock
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 14, 2021 8:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I feel like this would be a good time to emphasize that this is advertised as a seven part story as we get an interlude story in the middle. This is actually written by Gregory Wright and penciled by Sergio Cariello.

Daredevil Vol. 1 #328 - Tree of Knowledge - Extra: Apprehensions

Quote:

Wirehead enters the game! This techno-menace thinks the whole world is a video game, and Daredevil is his final boss! Can the Man Without Fear take down the delusional hacker before it's game over?


Due 3/20
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Dimetre
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 14, 2021 5:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's been many years since the only previous time I read "Tree of Knowledge." So far I'm not enjoying the reread. I am however, thankful for the break we're getting from D.G. Chichester and Scott McDaniel. This interlude is brought to us by writer Gregory Wright and artist Sergio Cariello.

Immediately, Cariello's art is way more comprehensive than McDaniel's. There is shading and detail, and Ariane's inks give the image a finish that Hector Collazo's don't for McDaniel. Still, there's something a little big off about Cariello, like his art is better suited for a parody of superheroics in Mad or Cracked. There's a kookiness in his work that I don't usually expect in a Marvel book.

Wright has chosen, thankfully, to focus this issue on Wirehead's siege of the Empire State Building. Already I prefer that to Chichester's approach of having 7 different conflicts happening simultaneously. Because of this singular focus, we get to see more of what Wirehead's all about; he approaches terrorism as if it's a video game. That's at least a unique personality.

What I didn't understand is bringing in Silver Sable and the Wild Pack into the book if we're going to spend so little time with them. Silver Sable is the only member who's named in this issue. The others don't even get that, and I would have expected at least that for the sake of cross promotion.

I don't think this is a great issue, but it's competent. I can tell what's going on, even if Cariello could have done better with the flow of action from panel to panel here and there. Wright does a nice job showing how Daredevil is able to track Wirehead better than anyone else could. Still, the issue is of no long-term consequence. I give it a three out of five.
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Mike Murdock
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 17, 2021 5:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've made the argument before that Scott McDaniel's illegible art can obscure just how boring this era of Daredevil can be. This is especially true later when Chichester returns for his final arc, but I thought it was worth noting. Of course, this is essentially a fill-in issue so it's hard to judge by normal standards. I will say, I do like the way Sergio Cariello draws DD's new costume. It's much easier to at least see it as the successor to the original with clearer horns and more pronounced red.

This story starts out by depriving us of essentially the fight promised last issue. I'm not sure how I feel about it. I do like that the "US District Attorney" (still no such thing) shows up to work something out, which feels like a clever solution, but it's barely played up so I'm not sure how clever it really is. I could see this actually done well where they posture for a little while before agreeing to let the US Attorney's office negotiate some kind of deal in exchange for testimony. Matt could have used his knowledge of the system while professing ignorance of the system and it really could have been interesting. Or we could have had a superhero misunderstanding fight, which might have been fun if done well but often isn't. We really got neither.

Most of the issue is Daredevil infiltrating the building to take out the terrorists. I'm not sure if it's the third-person narration or what, but it doesn't feel engaging. Silver Sable is apparently there as well, which is definitely a very 90s thing. I did like how the main antagonist used his control over building surveillance and security to his advantage to essentially even the fight with Daredevil.

Anyway, this issue feels mostly as a missed opportunity. It's a more useful fight against the bad guys so it should be more exciting, but it really isn't, which is a shame because I really want anything without Scott McDaniel to be better. Three Stars.
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Mike Murdock
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 21, 2021 11:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Daredevil Vol. 1 #329 - Tree of Knowledge - Part 3: The Chernobyl Packet

Quote:
Daredevil and Captain America join forces to face off with the tech-based terrors known as System Crash! But when the battle takes a vicious turn, a surprising but welcome ally enters the fray- Danny Rand, the Iron Fist!


Due 3/27
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I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!
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Dimetre
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 22, 2021 9:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Was this story occurring in Captain America at the same time? Was it a mini-crossover?

I've read comics, long after the fact, where the super-soldier serum had turned toxic and was destroying Steve Rogers, but I don't recall Steel Collar, Technospike or Infomorph in any of those issues. However, here we have Steve talking about how he's seen Steel Collar perform a disappearing act before. So it occurs to me that "Tree of Knowledge" could have been transpiring in Captain America at the same time. That would explain some things. However, if it wasn't.... then these creative decisions make no sense to me.

I have no idea what the benefit is to setting up a fight between Daredevil and Captain America, and have the story pick back up with that fight having happened off-panel. D.G. Chichester and Scott McDaniel elected to do this type of thing over and over during "Fall From Grace" and have kept it up here.

I have no idea how it benefits anything to open an issue with Daredevil fighting villains with whom we have no familiarity. Infomorph is kind of a cool idea, but you'll notice she isn't around anymore. There is no better way to kill a character than to introduce her in a way that makes nobody care about her.

The various scenes comprising this issue don't seem to fit together. Spectrum spends a few pages telling Malper a story about some Illuminati meeting in a room on the internet with the power to wipe a town off the map. An interesting idea for a story, but the past few issues have been setting up Hydra, not a bunch of businessmen and judges. Von Strucker has been closing each issue, and he hasn't mentioned having Hydra operatives running double duty as corporate heads or politicians. Does Spectrum's story indicate that she's not even aware that System Crash are serving Hydra's aims?

It's hard to tell. This story is being told in such an incomprehensible way in both narrative and artistic terms, that it's really hard to get invested. Why doesn't Captain America believe Daredevil about the cloaked aircraft? No reason; it's the 90s and he's gotta be pissed at our Hornhead. What destroyed Technospike's computer on the penultimate page? Who cares? It made a "SZZRAAK" sound. Isn't that cool?

It's clear that the tumeric leaf is the clue that is going to lead Daredevil to foil this operation. It can't come soon enough.

I think "Tree of Knowledge" is turning out worse than "Fall From Grace." It's so hard to get invested in this. I have to guess that a lot of people were dropping Daredevil from their pull lists during this time, but probably Marvel didn't care. This was the 90s, and a lot of people who were buying comics weren't even reading them -- they simply saw them as investments. Too bad for them that this comic is close to worthless.

It really doesn't get much worse than this. I give this a 1 out of 5.
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Mike Murdock
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 24, 2021 7:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

^ Chichester did some stuff with Strucker in his SHIELD run, but that's about the extent of crossover. He was off that book by then, so this was probably his attempt to continue that story. System Crash is new, iirc.

If Iron Fist had a Season Three, I had originally planned to use this story. I didn't realize that the Lady Bullseye story works even better. That being said, I can't imagine a fan of Iron Fist even being excited by McDaniel's vague and washed out depiction of him either. Chichester's dialogue gives him some personality, but he doesn't add much.

The story starts with an extended action sequence of Daredevil, Cap, and Iron Fist. It does introduce a really cool design for a villain with Infomorph. Her 2D nature actually seems cool and different compared to fairly generic villain designs for most of them. I do like the one guy who gets mad when they call him a robot. The villains never come off as particularly menacing, but I like it when they have personality.

Regarding Karen's story - I'm glad "teledildonics" never caught on as a term. I do like the attempts at projecting technology in the story. In many ways, it feels similar to what we have now. In other ways, it feels like a funhouse mirror version. Definitely similar (I'm posting on a BBS right now), but also very different. The plan, however, is basically to get everybody to panic and it appears the Avengers are playing into their hands.

Three Stars. Another Ok-ish issue. It moved fairly fast at first because of the extended action sequence, though
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Mike Murdock
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 29, 2021 6:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sorry for the delay

Daredevil Vol. 1 #330 - Tree of Knowledge - Part 4: Disinformocracy

Quote:
Daredevil's war against System Crash continues! Every step takes him closer to the man pulling the strings- but little does Matt know that man is none other than Baron von Strucker, of the sinister organization Hydra! Guest-starring Captain America and the Ragin' Cajun, Gambit of the X-Men!


Due 4/3
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I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!
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Mike Murdock
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 31, 2021 7:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

And the winner of the most gratuitous cameo is ... Gambit!

Daredevil is fighting the Silicon Pirates. He's doing fairly well, I think, and then Gambit shows up. I know in the 90s, Gambit was the epitome of cool. I'm pretty sure that he was up there with Wolverine as my favorite X-Man in the cartoon show. And that pretty much feels like the justification for including him here. He's on the cover but barely in the issue and barely has a reason to be in it at all. I know Chichester's run recently has been filled with guest stars, but I think this takes the case. He does provide DD with some info, I guess.

Karen's story is far too brief each issue, imo, but it looks like it's developing and not just spinning in circles. There's a connection between the virtual pornography she was being recruited for and child exploitation. There's also the Elektra plot. This one does feel like it hasn't progressed much. I don't think Chichester knew what he wanted to do with these characters. It feels to me like this is the only real opportunity to bring back a Matt/Elektra romance with a potential love triangle. Instead, it feels like cold water is thrown all over the idea.

We get another speculative projection of where the internet will lead us from Cap and DD. Cap takes the optimistic approach, DD the cynical one. It's another projection that's close to reality, but the details seem to differ. We start to see Strucker's plan develop - stealing the NSA's line eater. I believe the Line Eater is still officially a myth that was part of significant rumors in the technology world. That being said, the concept behind it - the NSA having a system to copy all the data usage of the internet (including email messages, etc.) is very much real and was part of litigation and controversy in the mid-2000s.

This story still has a ton of moving parts, a ton of guest stars, a ton of side plots, and it's hard and boring to follow. There's a whole Foggy plot I didn't even bother to comment on. It just slows this story down to a crawl. There isn't even much here to pick it up. Two and a Half Stars.
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 31, 2021 3:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The two pages showing the conflicting visions of Captain America and Daredevil were this issue's high point for me. I'm not comfortable with Daredevil's cynicism, but I guess that's the direction they were trying to take the character in the edgy 90s.

I'm not sure if the intel they picked up at that night club gave them any new leads. I'm sure the next issue is going to begin with Daredevil inexplicably in a fight that wasn't set up here at all. This issue ends with the introduction of a brand new villain called Pnambic. The next issue ends this story, so it seems like a very weird time to introduce a new character.

Pnambic seems to be the only new character introduced this time, making this issue feel like an improvement. The pointless introduction of generic new characters has been what has been killing "Tree of Knowledge" for me. I felt like I was able to get to know everyone a little better this time around.

But Mike Murdock is right -- there are simply too many plots running at the same time, and none of them advance far enough. Karen's discovery of child pornography is actually the one that feels most compelling, but instead the amorphous System Crash plot is the one taking centre-stage. I'm ready for Baron Strucker to do something already -- anything, but we're still not there.

Artwise, McDaniel's sketches of Matt's radar outline of Gambit would have been better if colourist Joe Anderson had shown a smidge of creativity and used anything other than black and grey for those panels. Otherwise I think the art was slightly better than last issue, and easier to decipher. I still don't like it very much though.

I give this issue a 2.5 out of 5.
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