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DD Book Club - Death is a Woman Called Widow
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Dimetre
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 14, 2021 9:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mike Murdock wrote:
The ending is the Black Widow killing Scorpion. I know what the reveal will be (and it's hinted at in this issue), but I wonder if this is the first time Natasha has "killed" anyone (later, she seems much more willing to kill as a default, but they had to play this one up as an accident).

I haven't read much early Iron Man. Did she not kill when she was a villain?
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Mike Murdock
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 18, 2021 9:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

^ It's been a while since I've read those issues so I'm not sure, but I suspect she didn't. There was a lot of effort to make her a misguided or sympathetic villain - not to the degree of Hawkeye. She defected from the USSR because they were going to kill her for her failure, but she also often worked for them because they threatened to kill her family (who I think turned out to be a fake family, I'm very fuzzy on the details here).

Daredevil Vol. 1 #83 - All This and Mr. Hyde too

Quote:

The Black Widow is accused of murder…with Foggy Nelson for the prosecution! And if that isn't enough, here comes Mr. Hyde!


Due 7/23
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Mike Murdock
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 21, 2021 7:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The issue starts with Black Widow accused of murder. Outwardly, she says that she's afraid that a Soviet citizen at the height of the Cold War won't receive a fair trial. Inwardly, she also seems to think her "curse" is the reason Scorpion died. Daredevil tells her that running will just make things worse. This is true in the sense that "guilty knowledge" can be imputed from the fact that someone ran. That being said, the fact that she isn't being taken in voluntarily after running still looks bad. At some point, it looks like he's recapturing her because he views it as his duty, not because he thinks it'll help.

Matt goes to talk to Foggy and quickly discovers that Foggy is dead set on prosecuting the Widow. At first, it seems misguided but reasonable. However, we quickly see that Mr. Kline is manipulating him. This is a really bad look for Foggy - one that should have been hard to recover from. However, it does set up (I think for the first time) Murdock v. Nelson. I always enjoy those moments when done right. I still think it was a missed opportunity for Charles Soule not to have done that with exactly flipped from this with Matt as the prosecutor and Foggy as the defense attorney. I also wonder if the Manhattan District Attorney's Office was significantly smaller back then and the DA would actually handle cases himself. The trial happens two weeks later. They very much bring up that it's rushed, but that's ridiculously rushed. I appreciate that Natasha isn't in her prison clothes.

The trial is going poorly, so DD tries to investigate and runs into Mr. Hyde. What I enjoy about this fight is that Daredevil loses his hearing. They emphasize that he has no hearing and no sight and has to rely on even more senses. It's a genuine attempt to bring up his sightlessness without relying on magic "he's better than a sighted man" arguments.

The artist is Allen Weiss. I don't know anything about him, but it looks to me that he's trying to imitate Gene Colan's style. Some of the poses look very similar. But there's also a very cramped, clausterphobic feel to the panels that I thikn Colan can pull off but isn't necessarily good.

My biggest complaint is how rushed this issue is. In some ways, it works because the pace never lets up. On the other hand, it never breathes either. The trial should have been the big exciting showpiece but it only has a few pages. Foggy arguably gets some redemption by agreeing to dismiss the case, but his agreeing is off page. You can sort of rationalize it that he's being pressured into acting but still believes that Natasha could be guilty and, after the destruction of Scorpion's body, no longer feels he can support a conviction - blackmail be damned. On the other hand, you get the impression Mr. Kline wanted the charges dismissed as part of some greater plan and Foggy is just a pawn in either direction.

Four Stars. It's a lot of fun, but never fully lives up to its potential.
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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: Sat Jul 24, 2021 2:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mike Murdock wrote:
The artist is Allen Weiss. I don't know anything about him, but it looks to me that he's trying to imitate Gene Colan's style. Some of the poses look very similar. But there's also a very cramped, clausterphobic feel to the panels that I thikn Colan can pull off but isn't necessarily good.

The bio for Alan Weiss in the back of Marvel Masterworks: Daredevil Volume 8 describes him as part of the "1970s' vanguard of creators who pushed mainstream comics in progressive directions." It goes on to say, "His work gained a new profile with his contributions to two Marvel Comics Super Special issues featuring the rock band KISS." After that, the bio points out titles like Steelgrip Starkey in Marvel's Epic line, War Dancer for Defiant Comics and Tom Strong's Terrific Tales.

I actually found Weiss' art a big departure from Gene Colan. I find Colan's work more distinctive, so I prefer it, but Weiss is fine as a fill-in artist. Colan returns next issue, so that's exactly the role Weiss is filling.

I thought this issue was pretty good. I enjoyed how resistant to help Black Widow is. Her feelings are valid. Younger readers out there probably wouldn't understand the extent of acrimony brewing between the United States and Soviet Union circa 1972. It was tense. Neither side trusted the other to not fire off nuclear missiles, wiping out humanity as we know it. Russians were depicted as cartoonish villains in media of all sorts, so it was kind of gutsy for Marvel, particularly writers like Gerry Conway and Gary Friedrich, to take the Black Widow and set her off on a journey towards heroism.

Matt is acting true to form, promising to help her out in both of his identities. The breakdown between him and Foggy is a great development.

The tantrum Ivan throws in Matt's apartment is infantile, and feels like an excuse to inject some physicality onto a page where conversation would otherwise dominate. It only succeeds in making Ivan look dumb and inconsiderate.

Throughout this arc I've complained about every Karen Page scene in every issue, and I'm not stopping now. To me they serve no purpose but to show how incapable she is with moving on. Thankfully Matt doesn't waste a thought on Karen in this issue. I don't know why Karen scenes seemed to be required for every issue at this time, when she doesn't serve the story at all. At least she only took up two-thirds of the page.

Mr. Hyde is a true threat. I just don't think Conway and Weiss did a good enough job staging the battle at the morgue. And if Kline was going to choose someone to hide in a morgue waiting for Daredevil, why a hulking brute like Hyde? Why not someone more stealthy like Cobra? Also, I don't expect someone like Hyde to work with explosives. I had no idea what he was tossing around. The way Weiss' art was going, I wasn't sure the impact Daredevil was feeling was exposive or a shock. I'm not sure how Daredevil flips Hyde upside-down on page 18. And then on the next page Daredevil thinks to himself about how he has to get to a window, but Weiss never shows us the window. I feel like this battle was a little sloppy, and I suspect Colan might have been a bit better, even though I've had quibbles with some of his panel choices throughout this arc too.

I think this issue did a good job hinting at Matt's growing attraction to Natasha while being subtle about it. There is some nice character work her for Matt, Natasha and Foggy, and while the fight scenes leave something to be desired, I think I have to give this one a 3.5 out of 5.
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Mike Murdock
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 25, 2021 9:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Daredevil Vol. 1 #84 - At Last - The Assassin!

Quote:

The night of the Assassin! And, introducing the creature called- Baal!


Due 7/31
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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: Tue Jul 27, 2021 7:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The opening interspersed action with the Black Widow plot. It's a nice change of pace from the usual formula of action scene followed by melodrama/character scene. It keeps both characters active in the plot even if, technically, the only part relevant is Natasha. She's in Switzerland and has run into "someone" offering to cure Matt's blindness. Mr. Kline doesn't seem to yet have a coherent plan, but his ability to manipulate lives seems very effective. It really does seem like his goal is matchmaker for Matt and Natasha.

Each state has different ethical rules for dating clients. The Model Rules say that a lawyer shall not have a sexual relationship with the client unless that relationship existed prior to representation. I can't speak for New York's rules at the time this was written. That being said, although they had feelings, the story is clear the relationship didn't develop until after the case was concluded.

Foggy was definitely done a disservice in this story. He's just unraveling and comes across as pathetic. He explains himself, but he doesn't even come across as taking responsibility for his own choices. Mr. Kline was controlling the situation, but he still made a choice.

The confrontation with Mr. Kline is probably the weakest part. Even for such a bizarre character, the ending felt out of left field. Suddenly, time travel is involved and the Assassin is trying to prevent some kind of apocalypse. Then, suddenly, an even more future people comes and stops the Assassin because they don't want his timeline to take effect. More importantly, Daredevil does little and Black Widow does nothing. This should have been the culmination of their stories in a team up to save the day, but Gerry Conway just lost the plot there. It is interesting that Kline was going to eliminate Daredevil by curing Matt Murdock's sight (and, therefore, remove his radar sense). That would have been interesting, but it wasn't dwelled on at all. Too much time was spent trying to justify that the story really made sense and not enough time was spent making the story mean anything.

Three and a Half Stars.
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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: Sat Jul 31, 2021 4:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Gene Colan returns for art duties in this issue, and it is a welcome step upward from Alan Weiss' work, but Gerry Conway really rushes to the finish line here. He adds complications into his story at such a late stage, and some plot points from other Marvel stories are thrown in to give this story added significance, but it just ends up turning it into a sprawling mess when all is said and done.

A good example of a needless complication is the reveal that the Assassin (formerly known as Kline) is working under a being called Baal. What does Baal add to the plot? I don't know. Stan Lee's editor captions suggest that the Assassin and Baal were pulling shenanigans in the pages of Iron Man around the same time. I haven't read any of that, but based on what we have here, I don't know why the Assassin couldn't have been the big boss. He's a master manipulator, moving people into positions exactly where he needs them to be to meet his nefarious ends. I think he's an effective villain.

I also agree that the Assassin and Baal's time travel motivations were outrageously convoluted to be introduced so late in the game. We actually have visitors from thirty centuries in the future show up on the penultimate page to wrap up the story. It's hilariously hackneyed, but the entire issue suffers from trying to cram 40 pages of plot into 21 pages. Natasha invites Matt to meet up with her in Switzerland, and he's there on the next page, and they have their first kiss on the one after that. It's so rushed.

Conway and Colan slow things down for Matt to track the Assassin to his secret lair, and that's the one part where the issue picked up for me. Colan's work throughout this issue is some of his best, but some of Conway's storytelling decisions are mind-boggling. At least he didn't cram a Karen Page scene in.

I'm going to give this a three out of five. As for the entire arc, it's significant for bringing Black Widow into Daredevil's world. Kline was a villain with a lot of promise, but it's obvious to me that Conway kept changing his mind about who he wanted him to be. He was Kline, but then he was the Assassin, but then there was Baal. It turned out very sloppy, but it could have been a lot better. I'm giving the entire arc a three out of five as well.
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