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DD Book Club - Fear is the Key
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Mike Murdock
King of Hell's Kitchen


Joined: 08 Sep 2014
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 21, 2022 1:04 pm    Post subject: DD Book Club - Fear is the Key Reply with quote

This is a real grab bag of issues, but I wanted to finish up Gerry Conway's run as the book transitions into Daredevil and Black Widow.

Daredevil Vol. 1 #90 - The Sinister Secret of Project Four

Quote:

The mysteries of Project Four! But, what happens when the Man Without Fear becomes…a coward? Cold fear seizes Black Widow- but why?


Due 8/27
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Dimetre
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 22, 2022 9:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The artwork by penciller Gene Colan and inker Tom Palmer in this August 1972 issue is gorgeous, but I'm afraid writer Gerry Conway is the weak link here.

I've never included Conway in my list of favourite Daredevil writers, but I don't really think of him as the worst either. We have him to thank for bringing the Black Widow into Daredevil's circle, something that has remained a mainstay until recent years. But I find his work sloppy in this issue.

The cover of this issue shows Daredevil falling from the ledge of a skyscraper. The opening splash page shows Black Widow falling from a great height. On page 11, Daredevil is swinging at a great height when he tenses up and starts falling. The cliffhanger of this issue is Daredevil falling from a great height (pretty much the scene shown on the cover). It's as if Conway didn't have very many ideas for action scenes for this issue.

I think Conway's main goal for this issue was to tell the backstory of Natasha and Danny French. To be fair, it's the best part of the comic, even if it doesn't really match up to her first appearance fighting Iron Man. Nowadays we think her as a hardened spy, willing to do what it takes to fulfil her mission. Yes, she's regretful of the "red in her ledger," but she'll do what she has to in order to atone. In this issue, she seems unrealistically broken up about how she killed enemy combatants, or about how not gentle she was when when taking out a guard. I suspect that was in an effort to keep her "feminine". We've come far in the past 50 years.

But I meant it when I said Conway's work here is sloppy. In a flashback scene beginning on page 6, Colan draws French and Natasha driving along a hilltop road. A bullet rings out at them, and the following panel has Conway write, "We careened down the hillside, swerving from right to left as Danny glanced back in search of our attackers---". Except Colan doesn't show their car flipping down the hill at the side of the road; French is still driving the car on the road while trying to evade their enemies. To me Conway's words didn't match Colan's images. When Colan's pages were sent in, I think editors Stan Lee and Roy Thomas should have gotten Conway to reword that passage.

There's also the matter of abrupt location changes. Daredevil smashes through a window and is found by a cleaning lady, then in the next panel is being questioned in a police precinct, without so much as a "Later..." caption. I would have liked to have seen how he got to the precinct. Before that we had the uncomfortable meeting with Jason Sloan, which is followed by a panel showing Daredevil swinging through the city, "toward a destination that will never be reached!" We're never told what that destination is, or why he's in costume swinging through the city. The scene simply exists because Conway needs him to fall... again. It's not hard to give characters motivations for their behaviour.

Matt is unusually hot-headed this issue, coming close to blows with Ivan, and punching a friendly cop in the face. Both of those altercations were needless, but we were probably running low on our punch quota, so there.

I just see this as a shoddy writing job from Conway. I mean, three falls.... Come up with something else -- anything else. I give this a 2.5 out of 5.
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Mike Murdock
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 25, 2022 7:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

This issue is by Gerry Conway with art by Gene Colan. We're immediately treated to a splash page followed by a double splash page. The action starts right away with Natasha falling to her death. It's certainly a surprise opening without context. Given that the attack is one of fear, I do think the team has to be extra creative to show it since it's non-visual. Someone freezing up out of fear is a natural reaction, though, so I think it works with a little bit of explanation.

The big Black Widow story that's been simmering is about Danny French and Project Four. Natasha comes clean to explain what it's all about. Well, at least part of it. The story's suspense continues because she can't go any further. Luckily, we're interrupted by a pair of lawyers offering Matt a job - Larry Cranston and Jason Sloan. Given that I know where this is turning out, it's hard to place myself in the shoes of the original reader. It's clear that Matt doesn't trust Sloan and believes him to be evil. It's a pretty straight-forward attempt at redirection. It arguably works too well. Cranston falls almost entirely into the background.

Daredevil goes to investigate Project Four and gets hit with the same terror. The story is genuinely building a case that Project Four is the cause. He is met by a friendly police officer, Paul (I forget his last name) who calms him down but then tries to arrest him so Matt does the apparently only sensible thing of punching him out. There's a whole lot more baggage today than back then, but I can't imagine an era where that doesn't read weird.

The final part is the rest of the Project Four explanation. The strength of the issue is in its flashbacks. It does a great job making Black Widow a strong character by showing her naivite and strength at the same time as she's learning the art of spycraft. Since then, her origin has been completely retconned so she was a child spy-soldier, but I think it worked out really well here. It also feels like a reverse From Russia with Love. Danny French is the James Bond character who thinks he can seduce the Russian spy and save the day, but Natasha is the one who was the most effective in carrying out the plan, overpowering the guards, etc. - to the point that he has to be extra aggressive just to keep even. The main story is certainly weaker. I said before that bouts of panic attacks are hard to show and it does get repetitive where the only real peril can be in people falling while swinging (maybe they should walk on the ground until the problem is solved), but I do think the two work together fairly well.

Four Stars.
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Mike Murdock
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 28, 2022 2:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Daredevil Vol. 1 #91 - Fear is the Key

Quote:

He's back from the dead! Mr. Fear, the only man who knows Daredevil’s true identity. Matt Murdock better watch his back.


Due 9/3
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Dimetre
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Joined: 16 Feb 2006
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 30, 2022 7:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This issue has a pretty good fight between Daredevil and Mr. Fear, and artist Gene Colan does some nice work, but there are some aspects of this story I find a little bit cheap, and other things I think could have been executed better.

I liked the way Colan showed Black Widow's rescue of Matt right off the top. The way she wrapped the billy club cable along the length of her arm and across her shoulders. It's what she would have to do to pull it off. I'm not going to get into the physics of it, since I'm ill-equipped for that, but I appreciate the work Colan and writer Gerry Conway put into it.

I'm reading this from Daredevil: Marvel Masterworks Volume 9. Black Widow storms away from Daredevil on the roof of a building. I had to turn the page after that, and suddenly their inside a stairwell, and then an office. Conway mentions nothing about whose office this is, and we spend more than a page inside of it. Then Natasha walks through the office as the secretarial pool gawks at her. Apparently it was the office for Doyle Imports. Oh well.

I liked the fight between Widow and Danny French. It was probably one of her finest moments under Conway's pen. However, it's revealed that the lead she's been chasing was false, and in less than a page we're told that Matt has a better idea who's behind their problems, and he's correct. Natasha can't even get a win when she wins.

Last issue when Matt met Jason Sloan, he compared his evil to Killgrave -- a super-villain. It turns out that Sloan is simply a jerk. He's probably a bad jerk, but that's still all he is. That Killgrave thing was a pretty big mislead. Also, how was I supposed to interpret Cranston's "Ah, Matt -- Good to -- ah -- see you again," as him panting and being out of breath? Why is Cranston so much stronger that Matt expected? Also, Matt knocked Sloan, who wasn't guilty of anything, unconscious simply to protect his secret identity. Conway had Matt hitting people for superficial reasons often.

There is some good action here, but some panels were hard to follow. The story had promise, but didn't add up to much. I give this a 3.5 out of 5.
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Mike Murdock
King of Hell's Kitchen


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 31, 2022 7:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Last issue began with Natasha frozen in fear falling to her death as Matt rescued her. This issue is the exact opposite situation. It's repetitive, but I appreciate that it's at least flipped this time. It very abruptly changes to Tasha being upset that Matt doesn't respect her. Honestly, I appreciate the sentiment being called out - they're pretty close to getting equal billing at this point, but it feels very abrupt and out of nowhere compared to what came before.

Black Widow confronts Danny French and quickly discovers that he's not responsible for the fear attacks. Instead, the next page reveals it's Mr. Fear. This might have been a bigger surprise if he wasn't on the cover. The bigger surprise is he knows Daredevil's secret identity.

They confront each other and Matt is on his A-Game. He has prepared an antidote to the fear gas. The interesting thing is they figured out each other's identities. I think there was supposed to be a bit of a misdirect with Sloan seeming like the evil one, but it's too abrupt of a reveal for that to sink in. It is hilarious that Larry Cranston figured out Matt is Daredevil simply because it's that stupidly obvious. He shows up in San Francisco with the Black Widow the same time Daredevil does. It really raises questions why more people don't figure it out, though.

Overall, I've always thought this story was a waste. There's a ton of potential in a supervillain who was a Law School buddy with Matt and is a lawyer. They could definitely drag out the idea of having Matt not know. I think the idea works even better if they're not on the same firm but going against each other (which would allow their conflict to work on multiple fronts). Instead, Cranston is just a pathetic loser who hates his boss and also doesn't like Matt either. He gets redeemed later by Joe Kelly and even later by Ed Brubaker, but there's so much potential that just doesn't get explored before it's all lost and he seemingly dies.

Three and a Half Stars. There's genuine potential here, but none of it is realized. After that, it feels like it's just going through the motions and retreading last issue quite a bit.
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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: Sun Sep 04, 2022 8:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Daredevil Vol. 1 #92 - On the Eve of the Talon

Quote:

Black Widow has left Daredevil without a word and our horned hero is furious about it! DD prowls the streets of San Fran looking for clues to Black Widow’s whereabouts. Little does he know, Widow’s been captured by Damon Dran, and is being prepped for torture!


Due 9/10
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Dimetre
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Joined: 16 Feb 2006
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 05, 2022 1:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

So here we are: the first issue of Daredevil and the Black Widow! We made it! Now that the Black Widow is the full-fledged co-star of this title, what does she do in her first issue?

The issue opens with no one knowing where she is. When she finally shows up, she's lying in a La-Z-Boy slipping into a coma. In a flashback she puts up a fight against someone named Charles, but is knocked out by Danny French. She's still comatose when we last see her with nearly half the issue to go.

I like the fight against the muggers who are hassling the shopkeeper. In a way I can sympathize with the one mugger who is trying to avenge his brother who the shopkeeper shot and killed, even though I know that their actions are only making things worse. So I thought that Daredevil was perfect during this fight. He chastises the mugger for being a poor example for his brother. When he has cleared the muggers away, Daredevil thinks to himself that the shopkeeper is just as bad as the mugger, and I totally see from where our hero is coming. I personally hate guns, and see their proliferation as one of our biggest problems.

This issue marks the first appearance of Damon Dran. Aside from the ruffles of his shirt sleeves and collar, Dran quickly shows promise as a villain. He seems to have a sizable lair and a wealth of resources. One of those is the Blue Talon, who is introduced with a Gene Colan panel showing him busting through the wall, but then writer Gerry Conway follows that up quickly saying he "stalks catlike into the near silent lab." So, catlike, he blasted through the wall making sounds like "KKKRASH! BANG!" but the lab was near silent? That's just sloppy.

Such a dramatic introduction doesn't amount to much, since Blue Talon is taken out in just a few pages, and not even by our hero. In this fight T'Challa, the Black Panther, disguises himself as Daredevil so Matt can squelch a news story about revealing his secret identity. T'Challa gets two panels to explain why his sudden appearance, and why an African king would deign to get involved in this caper. I can't say I'm satisfied.

So, as admirable as Matt came off in the fight against the muggers, elsewhere he comes off as insufferably self-absorbed. The issue opens up with him hurling a figurine at a mirror, in the full throes of a self-pity party. At least Ivan is around to be the voice of reason, calling Matt out for nursing his bruised ego. "'Cause if you really cared about 'Tasha you'd be out lookin' for her instead 'a bustin' up this place like some sorta lovesick punk."
(I don't know why Ivan talks like a Bogart character instead of the Russian ex-pat that he is.)

When the issue ends, Matt is out there protecting his secret identity instead of looking for Natasha, even forgoing the fight with Blue Talon. Matt doesn't come out of this issue looking very good, especially with Ivan being so much more proactive in his search for Natasha.

As usual, I find Conway's work sloppy. I don't know why he had to squeeze the secret identity plot into this already busy issue. That forced T'Challa to fly in out of nowhere. The handling of the mugging was good, Colan is excellent as always, and Dran had a strong introduction, but there was a lot here that didn't amount to anything. I give this one a 2.5 out of 5.
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Mike Murdock
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 08, 2022 6:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

This issue is officially Daredevil and Black Widow! Of course, the issue starts with the premise that she's left for good. Thankfully, Ivan is there to convince Matt to look for her. On the way, he stops a mugging that has it's own little backstory. I don't need to comment on it in detail since it seems to be a throwaway, but it's interesting they spent as much time as they did delving into it.

The villain of the story is Damon Dran. He has a very Bond-villain demeanor about him. He's got an air of always being in control. I think the reveal followed by the flashback is well-paced. Danny French is an idiot. Black Widow could have won the day but he decided to knock her out so he could do it and then quickly lost. It feels contrived, but this story also existed in a more sexist time. I'm glad to see the book plays up Black Widow's fighting ability, though. As someone who shares the title of the book, that's definitely needed.

The final part of the issue feels more about closing the plot hole that anyone can figure out Matt Murdock and Daredevil are the same based on the fact that they both went to San Francisco at the same time and hang out with the Black Widow. Dran decides to send Blue Talon to defeat him, but "Daredevil" quickly defeats him. The fight itself is very quick and feels like an afterthought. The main fact is that Matt Murdock wasn't doing the fighting and has established an alibi. Instead, it turns out that T'Challa was the one in the costume. It's a cool idea, but it's completely out of nowhere. I like that Black Panther is a super good fighter that can save the day without breaking a sweat, but there isn't much else there.

Three Stars. There are a few moments to like, but the story doesn't hold together at all.
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Mike Murdock
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 11, 2022 5:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

A two-part story of the Indestructable Man

Daredevil Vol. 1 #93 - A Power Corrupt

Quote:

Haunted by a nightmare of nuclear holocaust, and given the location of the Project Four sphere, Damon Dran suits up and becomes…the Indestructible Man! Elsewhere, Black Widow is under some kind of mystic control and turns on Daredevil. The couple duke it out, but can Daredevil subdue his romantic partner without causing her harm?


Due 9/17
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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 Sep 14, 2022 7:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The issue starts with Black Widow attacking Daredevil out of nowhere. We quickly learn that she's been brainwashed. Everything happens so suddenly that it feels like we're playing catch up, but we are given the information. I don't think the fights are as exciting as they could be. They could have been played up as more equals, but Matt ends up winning pretty convincingly (there's also a lot of violence against women that makes logical sense in the story, but still makes me feel uncomfortable).

The bad guy, Damon Dran, works well as a supervillain. His casual cruelty and overall ability to be in control work well. Visually, as the Indestructible Man, I don't think the Larry Stooge hair style does him any favors, though. I do like the revelation that he was always behind Project Four. It really does feel like that story is going full circle.

All that being said, even for the middle part of a story, this just feels incomplete. Everything feels very rushed, so it's hard to feel satisfied. Three and a Half Stars.
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Dimetre
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 14, 2022 9:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

In her second issue as the star of Daredevil and the Black Widow, Natasha begins the issue under Damon Dran's control and attacks Matt. He renders her unconscious by the second page. She wakes up a few pages later, giving him a good fight, but on the next page she passes out again, and that's all we see of her for the rest of the issue. Writer Gerry Conway says she's one of his favourite characters ever. You'd never know it.

The villain, Damon Dran, is really cool. He's just as ruthless as Wilson Fisk would prove himself in the pages of Daredevil a decade later, grinning as the operatives who brought him the energy globe are executed for their trouble. Dran racks up quite the body count in this issue, which is surprising for the 70s.

Daredevil handles himself well against such a powerful villain, relying on his radar and his speed. He flips and swings a lot in this issue, and normally artist Gene Colan and inker Tom Palmer make the action easy to follow, but I feel either one or both of them have cut corners here, and at times I can't figure out where the characters are.

An example: when the Widow wakes up and attacks Matt, the backgrounds disappears. It looks like she forces him back against a wardrobe changing screen, but in the next panel he has somehow found his footing and she's the one in trouble. I can't figure out what happened. Then there's Dran's murder of the scientist Pauls. It looks like Palmer didn't bother inking at least 3 panels in that sequence.

This issue is wall-to-wall action, which requires a more consistent effort throughout the issue from Colan and Palmer. Dran and Daredevil make this issue worth checking out. It's too bad Matt's co-star is being written so pathetically. 3.5 out of 5.
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Mike Murdock
King of Hell's Kitchen


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 18, 2022 4:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Daredevil Vol. 1 #94 - He Can Crush the World

Quote:
The Indestructible Man’s tearing through San Francisco and nothing can stop him! It’s up to Daredevil and Black Widow to try, but how do you defeat the Indestructible Man?


Due 9/24
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I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!
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Mike Murdock
King of Hell's Kitchen


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 23, 2022 7:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I feel like this issue does a sense of dread very well. It moves at a fairly brisk pace with Dran as an unstoppable force. Having other people fight him while Daredevil, Black Widow, and crew watch on the news at first helps add to the sense of helplessness. I think it's very well done.

Eventually, Daredevil and Black Widow do join the fight. They look cool doing it and Natasha gets to have a few moments where she again asserts that she's her own woman (which is very forced but I always still appreciate in this era). The big issue is Danny French's hero moment. I get the idea that he has to make up for his sins and save the day but, based on the art, I have absolutely no idea what happens. I guess he destroys the sphere that is Project Four, but there's no visible indication where it is or how it's vulnerable. It just looks like he throws a random sphere and saves the day. Even his death didn't seem a likely outcome based on the panels in question.

I actually liked this one, but the ending (especially visually) undermined everything before. Four Stars.
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I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!
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Mike Murdock
King of Hell's Kitchen


Joined: 08 Sep 2014
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 25, 2022 6:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Now a two-part Man-Bull story

Daredevil Vol. 1 #95 - Bullfight on the Bay

Quote:

Hell-bent on exacting revenge, Man-Bull charges to San Francisco! The Bull and Daredevil paw the ground, lower their horns, and buck heads!


OK, I do like that solicit.

10/1
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I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!
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