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DD Book Club - A Grave Mistake

 
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Mike Murdock
King of Hell's Kitchen


Joined: 08 Sep 2014
Posts: 1698

PostPosted: Sun Oct 09, 2022 9:34 am    Post subject: DD Book Club - A Grave Mistake Reply with quote

I really want to finish up the Roger McKenzie stories and introduce Frank Miller. Since it recently arrived on Marvel Unlimited, it feels like the perfect time (sadly, it's not out in Epic Collection format, yet).

Daredevil Vol. 1 #155 - To Die in Darkness

Quote:

Daredevil infiltrates the Avengers mansion and confronts the Black Widow!


Due 10/15
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Dimetre
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Joined: 16 Feb 2006
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 11, 2022 1:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think my biggest problem with this issue is Frank Robbins' pencils. There's a cartoonishness to his work that seems better suited to something like Not Brand Ecch than Daredevil. I think it's the length of Matt's face and the curve of the mouth -- there's just a goofiness to it. There's also a cartoonishness to Chris Samnee's art, but I was able to embrace it because he followed Paolo Rivera on pencils, and Rivera's art wasn't overly detailed, so it was a smooth transition. Here, Robbins is following none other than Gene Colan, who is known for his shadowing and his realism. It's a jarring shift.

Storywise, it's an odd issue. We start with Matt suffering a migraine while swinging through the sky, causing him to lose control and fall. I like it when Matt has to think quick to save himself in mid-fall. It shows how clever and resourceful he is, and it happens here too. I just think it would be better with an artist other than Robbins, especially since writer Roger MacKenzie includes the passage, "Daredevil is -- and must remain -- a loner! Of necessity I must operate far from the madding crowd! Much of my effectiveness as a crimefighter stems from my image as a 'creature of the night'!" Robbins' whimsical art and Bob Sharen's bright colours don't back up MacKenzie's words the way they need to.

This issue marks the debut of one of my favourite supporting characters in Daredevil history. Becky Blake should still be in the series in 2022, and it's a crime that she's not. Her debut is probably the most notable thing about this issue.

Otherwise, what we have here MacKenzie starting a new story, and he's laying down a large number of characters on the board. To his credit, he's trying to be very economical about it, using the opening splash page to immediately establish that Matt isn't well. We're left to wonder why, and to trust that the next issue will shed more light on the situation. We know the Death Stalker has something to do with it, but we don't know how. The issue ends with Daredevil attacking the Black Widow, and taking out Beast and Captain America with little problem. (Unfortunately for Matt, Hercules is present and hasn't begun fighting yet.) The bottom of the final page promises the return of Colan next issue, which should have raised readers' spirits in November of 1978. It's not a bad issue, but it's not much more than set-up.

Robbins was 61 when he drew this, and was much better known for his nostalgic style on The Invaders. I don't think he was a good match for the look established by Colan, or the mood for which MacKenzie was shooting. I'll give this issue a three, but I have higher hopes for the next one.
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Mike Murdock
King of Hell's Kitchen


Joined: 08 Sep 2014
Posts: 1698

PostPosted: Thu Oct 13, 2022 7:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Reading this issue, I'm actually not sure the title. I think "The Man Without Fear?" is technically the title. Oh well, no point in changing it now. Part of the confusion stems from Roger McKenzie's way over the top narration to start. I enjoy a good purple prose and this is definitely the era of it, but it's still a lot and worth commenting on. The opening is Matt falling from a high height and saving himself. There doesn't appear to be any reason for it and the whole thing is confusing. When he arrives, he turns into Matt Murdock and we see Deathstalker is watching him.

The next scene, we see that they're hiring a legal assistant. Matt continues to suffer from dizzy spells. But we get the introduction of Becky Blake - and what an introduction it is. First off, as someone introduced to her when Frank Miller penciled her, she looks nothing like the character I remember. Second, they're laying on the disability aspect a little thick. I know prejudice against the disabled happened and certainly still happens (this is before the American's with Disabilities Act was made law), but I couldn't imagine thinking someone who couldn't walk would be a terrible legal assistant. I think they're obviously setting up some kind of parallel with Matt's blindness and, either way, I love the inclusion of someone different in the book, but it does feel like more work needs to be done. Side note: It mentions that she's done two years of Law School. It's a nice touch when she finishes her JD and becomes a lawyer in Brubaker's run. It's less of a change than I remembered.

The issue ends with Daredevil seemingly gone crazy and is fighting the Avengers. It's cool seeing him as an effective fighter. On the other hand, it doesn't help the confusion I've been seeing. I get that the confusion is deliberate and will be revealed in another issue, but I still don't love it.

The art is a bit odd. Some parts work (especially seeing Daredevil in shadow). But I don't like the way Frank Robbins draws Matt's face either in or out of the costume.

Three and a Half Stars. This issue is improved by the introduction of Becky Blake, but there's a lot that seems confusing or underbaked - especially the action scenes.
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Mike Murdock
King of Hell's Kitchen


Joined: 08 Sep 2014
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 16, 2022 10:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Daredevil Vol. 1 #156 - The Ring of No Return

Quote:

A comatose Daredevil must fight for his life against…himself?


Due 10/22
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Dimetre
Underboss


Joined: 16 Feb 2006
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 16, 2022 11:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

So I was a little puzzled by Hercules being on the ground to start this issue. So I flipped back and noticed he was taken out by Captain America's ricocheting shield. I know it's made of vibranium, but would that take Hercules out of the fight so quickly?

I find this story confusing. In the last issue there was no explanation for Matt's sudden mind shift when he went after Natasha and attacked the Avengers. It was inferred it was all the doing of the Death Stalker, but I can't figure out how he would have been able to do that? So when Matt snaps out of the craziness, it's too much for him and he suffers a concussion and goes into a coma. I suppose I can buy that.

So he's comatose in a hospital, and the issue gets padded out with an internal battle against death itself. He beats death, comes out of the coma and falls asleep. It's now that the Death Stalker appears in his room to take out our hero for good. Why now? Why wouldn't he do it when he was comatose? The Death Stalker's moves make no sense.

Hercules' presence here doesn't amount to much, except to be a battering ram smashing through the wall of Avengers mansion. (It's a cool splash page I guess.) The Beast's weirdly perverse behaviour wouldn't be published today, but it all amounts to finding a flower for Black Widow, which is a sweet end goal.

Gene Colan's return is a huge upgrade from Frank Robbins' art last issue. The fight between Daredevil and the Widow starting the issue is great, but everything that follows seems like padding. And it's setting up a battle with the Death Stalker which is guaranteed to be anti-climactic.

I give this a three out of five.
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Mike Murdock
King of Hell's Kitchen


Joined: 08 Sep 2014
Posts: 1698

PostPosted: Thu Oct 20, 2022 8:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's a good change of pace to see Daredevil with the Avengers, but this is definitely an odd story to do it in. It's definitely not a team up. I'm sure I have forgotten something, but the whole concussion thing seems out of the blue (despite him talking about headaches last issue) and the idea of him trying to kill Black Widow more so. Also, Gene Colan's penciling of the Avengers looks very much off model (especially Beast). At this point in Daredevil, I would consider Gene Colan to be the definitive Daredevil artist (I think an argument could be made that he is overall as well). But his art here feels very loose and a little bit sloppy.

The first half of the issue is tonally very weird, switching between gravely serious and almost a slapstick comedy. The second half of the issue is when we get to the meat of the story (although obviously still very trippy). Unfortunately, it doesn't really go anywhere. I'm used to Daredevil #177 or #347 where the dream seems to really represent some issue Matt Murdock is battling with his internal conflict. This seems to be flirting with the idea, but doesn't go very far. Honestly, the only real redeeming quality is the cliffhanger. Matt unconscious with Deathstalker inches away ready to kill him is a true peril moment. Plus, we're promised that we'll be told who Deathstalker actually is (obviously, I know the answer, but that feels like a big deal for the time).

Three Stars. This is a pretty poor issue that doesn't make a lot of sense.
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Mike Murdock
King of Hell's Kitchen


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 23, 2022 8:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm excited for this issue for the weirdest reason. I, like a lot of people, only know it for part two that follows since I was introduced to this story as part of a Frank Miller collection. It's good to compare the part before Miller with the next issue that follows.

Daredevil Vol. 1 #157 - Death Stalks the Shadows

Quote:

Daredevil and the Avengers attempt to fend off Death-Stalker, and the Ani-Men cause chaos!


Due 10/29
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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: Thu Oct 27, 2022 6:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've read this issue a handful of times. Never realized Mary Jo Duffy scripted it. I wonder if this is among her first work. The issue starts with the Avengers rescuring Daredevil from Deathstalker (honestly, I can't remember many other times Daredevil is with the entire Avengers beyond the issue against Magneto, this one, and Born Again). It leads to a very nice scene with Black Widow. You really get the sense that they do well together. She stays a reoccurring character going forward (especially two issues later when Bullseye shows up) and it's good to see her back. But it's also good to assert that they do well as independent characters as well.

One of the things I've noticed is the dialogue does feel different and I end up liking all the characters. Heather, especially, has this honesty about her that feels sympathetic. I have to credit Jo Duffy for this, but I appreciate it. Maybe they should have a woman write Daredevil more often (obviously, Nocenti's run being the best example of this).

The final action scene is, in many ways, a typical Gene Colan rushed affair, but I think its abruptness works well. The bad guys are after Matt himself, not Daredevil, and he can't do anything without revealing his secret identity. Luckily, Natasha is there to fight and she jumps in, only to be quickly taken out. Then, surprisingly, Foggy jumps in as a hero before getting taken out. It all leads to a dramatic cliffhanger. The caption at the bottom promises the introduction of a new artist next issue. I wonder who that could be?

Four Stars. I liked this a lot more than I was expecting.
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Dimetre
Underboss


Joined: 16 Feb 2006
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 29, 2022 5:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This story is called "The Ungrateful Dead." Funny!

The Avengers rescue at the beginning is thrilling, starting with a cool panel of Captain America's shiel ramming against the Death Stalker's hand. Everything about that page is cool. I like the way Gene Colan drew the Stalker's beady eye underneath his hat. The only problem I had is that I thought Hercules' dialogue at the bottom of the page was Cap's. I mean, Colan drew Cap in the foreground, and the word bubble is pointed upward towards him. Cap is hiding a lot of Hercules face and body behind him, so I presumed the dialogue was his, but two panels later Beast says he agrees with something Hercules said, so that was needless confusion. It forced me to backtrack.

It was a good choice to have Matt rescue Beast.

I agree with Mike that it's nice to see the chemistry between the Black Widow and Daredevil is still there, to the point that they share a full kiss upon his coming out of the coma, but it's also good that this issue stresses that they're best working independently. It's a little weird that Matt makes out with two different women in this issue, but hey, the man's got game.

As for Becky Blake, it's somewhat annoying that so shortly after her introduction she's depicted in back-to-back issues pining after Matt and thinking to herself that she doesn't have a chance because of her disability. I'm pretty sure that hasn't come back after this issue, and good riddance. We don't need every woman out there having the hots for Matt. There's more to woman characters that that, and she would grow into being one of my absolute favourite supporting characters Daredevil ever had.

The sloppiest thing in this issue is the fact that Daredevil doesn't detect a mugging or the presence of Cat-Man as he passes by. I suppose his physical and mental state having just awoken from a coma might explain that, but I would have liked it if either Roger MacKenzie or Mary Jo Duffy had bothered to explain how Matt, with all his sensory powers, would miss these details.

The cliffhanger is pretty strong, with Foggy critically hurt, and Natasha knocked down, as the Ani-Men storm through Nelson and Murdock.

I honestly didn't notice Duffy's credit at the start of this issue. I wonder why MacKenzie needed the assist?

It's a fine issue, but it's hard for me to excuse Matt's inattention to the mugger and Cat-Man. I'm giving it a 3.5 out of 5.
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Mike Murdock
King of Hell's Kitchen


Joined: 08 Sep 2014
Posts: 1698

PostPosted: Sun Oct 30, 2022 8:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Introducing, Frank Miller! I think we've covered that guy before.

Daredevil Vol. 1 #158 - A Grave Mistake[/i]

Quote:

Matt is being kidnapped by the Unholy Three. The Black Widow tries to stop them, but only manages to take down Bird-Man while the other two escape with Matt.


Due 11/5
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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
Posts: 1698

PostPosted: Fri Nov 04, 2022 7:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

This issue immediately has a very different art style than what came before and the captions make it clear as well. I kind of feel bad for any new artist that didn't get this much praise. Still, it's obvious from the splash page that it's a bit different - with Natasha in the foreground with a bloody lip it's just a dynamic panel combined with Klaus Jansons' dark inks to really sell the scene. That being said, I don't think I realized quite how much all the women look the same aside from their hair in Miller's work here.

The opening scene is really dramatic. There's a lot of chaos going around, but Black Widow gets to kick ass. Unfortunately, she's convinced to stop her pursuit because they need to help Foggy (although all they do is call 911, which I think the other three women could have handled fine). But it's a great moment between Heather and Natasha as they both know Matt is Daredevil and will be able to take care of himself.

Next, we're treated to the retconned origin of Deathstalker. This deep dive continuity is what makes Marvel great. If there were many long-time readers who read all the way back, they probably would have been thrilled. For most, they just know that there is a reference they hadn't gotten to yet, but it'll sure be a story worth reading one day (spoiler alert, it was an OK story). I like that the Ani-Men were brought back essentially as a callback to the earlier story. They don't serve a significant purpose otherwise and Deathstalker callously kills them off.

The action scene that follows is really good. Its tense and exciting. Daredevil and Deathstalker seem evenly matched in their own way. Even his final death is cleverly handled. Just really well done.

Four and a Half Stars. I think the art, obviously, is the big advantage here. Otherwise, it's a fairly routine story noteworthy for the death of a longtime villain. But I still found it to be very entertaining.
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I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!
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Dimetre
Underboss


Joined: 16 Feb 2006
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 04, 2022 2:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Obviously this is an historic issue from May 1979. The arrival of Frank Miller on the title was the dawning of a new era for Matt Murdock. Miller may have only been doing pencils at this point, but he was already pulling tricks that Gene Colan simply wouldn't. We all love Colan here, but the difference between Colan and Miller is similar to the difference between classical and rock. There is a modernism to Miller's pencils that isn't there in Colan's.

Miller is already giving Hell's Kitchen some noir personality in this issue with the Unholy Three carrying Matt over rooftops, with smoke from chimneys obscuring the images. But I think the most Milleresque trick in this issue is a row of four skinny panels at the bottom of a page. The first shows Daredevil kicking Death Stalker into a stone monument. The second shows the exact same perspective, but Daredevil is perplexed by Death Stalker's phasing out of time. The third shows Daredevil turning towards us, but Death Stalker's hands rise out of the monument, and the fourth shows Daredevil bracing himself for action, but Death Stalker is right above him. It's a powerful device that increases tension while slowing down the action, and it's one that Miller learned from his mentor Bernie Krigstein in his legendary 1955 piece "The Master Race" from EC Comics' Impact #1. Of course, while this is an impressive debut for Miller, this would only be the beginning.

This issue was my introduction to the Death Stalker, and he has been sorely under-used since 1979. He is an absolutely lethal villain, and a great threat to Daredevil. So he dies in this issue. Why should that prevent him from returning? I was thrilled when he returned in 2008 in Daredevil/Captain America: Dead on Arrival, but that proved to be a one-shot where he again died, and he hasn't returned in the fourteen years since. I would love a writer like Chip Zdarsky to bring him back. The danger that Death Stalker provides is this issue's greatest strength.

This issue ends with a forlorn Becky Blake moping about how she isn't half the woman the Black Widow is, but that she'll always be there for Matt. I'm glad that writer Roger MacKenzie dropped this aspect of Becky's character following this issue, and I like how Becky hit Bird-Man with a paper weight. Even though MacKenzie was the one who created the Becky character, he would barely use her after this issue, and it would be Miller who would flesh her out when he would take over writing duties.

I like MacKenzie's script in this issue. It's wall-to-wall action, and everything is tightly paced. Each character has a nice moment, from Natasha to Heather to Cat-Man. I'm giving this a four out of five.
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