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DD Book Club - Ultimatum

 
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Mike Murdock
Golden Age


Joined: 08 Sep 2014
Posts: 1711

PostPosted: Sun Dec 04, 2022 10:54 am    Post subject: DD Book Club - Ultimatum Reply with quote

I'm continuing the Black Widow/Denny O'Neil theme for another issue. Next week, I'll go back to Ann Nocenti, but I thought it was nice to cover these little random issues.

Daredevil Vol. 1 #207 - Ultimatum

Quote:
If the fight of his life doesn't prove enough for D.D., he's still got to contend with the love of his life! It's a harried, heroic, hell-of-a-day for the superhero without sight.


Oh wow, that rhymes. Wink

Due 12/10
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I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!
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Mike Murdock
Golden Age


Joined: 08 Sep 2014
Posts: 1711

PostPosted: Thu Dec 08, 2022 7:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

This story starts in media res with Black Widow captured by Hydra and delivering a message to Matt Murdock. At the same time, she is secretly tapping a morse code message to him. This issue is set during the Micah Synn Saga, but is mostly a break from that story (there are some scenes, but not enough to make it worth covering when we did so five years ago). Micah Synn is holding a press conference where he bad-mouths Daredevil. Glorianna thinks Matt will correct him. Matt thinks Foggy will correct him. Foggy's wife Debbie stops him and she gets called a witch. Ultimately, her role in that story is pretty terrible. That being said, correcting a client during his press conference isn't ideal no matter what so I don't entirely get giving Debbie all the blame.

After all the light-hearted moments, we finally get to see Daredevil get the message. Unfortunately, the crappy answering machine didn't pick up the tapping. He goes to Josie's for information and actually pays for it instead of breaking a window. It's a fun and different moment that's unfortunately lampshaded a little too obviously. Yes, we got the joke, you didn't need to actually explain it.

Daredevil shows up to the construction sight, kills the lights, and fights some Hydra goons. The fighting is really well done. There's a really excellent sequence where there's three silent panels of a goon's face to slow down the action before Daredevil appears suddenly kicking him in the face. Unfortunately, DD's unsuccessful and a lone Hydra goon shoots and kills the guy we're trying to find. The main Hydra guy finds out and sets up a trap to kill Daredevil and Black Widow. The rescue attempt and the tension is great as well. Daredevil is only able to deduce the trap based on Natasha's elevated heart rate, which was a very slim hope indeed.

Overall, this issue was a nice little pointless story, if that makes sense. I think the individual elements were very good. It's self-contained. But it doesn't feel like it has any real emotional stakes or long-term consequences. Four Stars.
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Matt Murdock's cooler twin brother

Not sure what to read next? Check out the Book Club for some ideas!

I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!
Thomas More - A Man for All Seasons
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Dimetre
Underboss


Joined: 16 Feb 2006
Posts: 1343
Location: Toronto

PostPosted: Sat Dec 10, 2022 3:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think this is an excellent issue. By this point in his career, Denny O'Neil had long established himself as one of the best writers in the history of the comics medium, and this issue is a good reminder why.

I love how this story plays with our expectations. The opening splash page shows the Black Widow taken hostage by Hydra, and she is leaving a prepared statement on Matt's answering machine, We also see that she's beating out a message in morse code with her foot. Now, would that actually be effective? No matter how fantastic Matt's hearing is, the phone is only as good as it can be. Hearing something over the phone isn't the same as being there. Thankfully, this doesn't end up mattering. The phone connection was horrible, and Matt wasn't able to make out the morse code at all. He's forced to find the Widow through alternate means.

Artist William Johnson may have delivered his greatest Daredevil work in this issue. That half-page panel of our hero swinging past a clock tower is absolutely gorgeous. And Johnson's artwork is key to making one of the most suspenseful scenes in the history of this character.

Alfred Hitchcock said in an interview that the key to building suspense is giving the audience information while withholding it from the characters. This issue's climax is a perfect demonstration. While I normally don't like the Widow being used as a damsel in distress, O'Neil and Johnson rendered the scene with her hanging upside down with paralyzed vocal cords perfectly. Matt has no reason to assume she can't make a sound. The scene is filled with silent panels - close-ups of red boots advancing closer and closer. Panels showing the Widow's agitated heartrate and sweat beading on her forehead. If there's anything that could have been done better, it's the scene's ending. Matt figures out that something's wrong, and that he better free her via the ceiling, and he's relieved her heartrate is calming down. I think it would have been better if we had been shown him going up to the ceiling to free her. Still, the scene is masterfully handled. And I love how Natasha is given the opportunity to get her revenge on that sadistic Hydra agent.

The early to mid 80s was probably the best time for Daredevil, with Miller's defining run along with O'Neil's expert handling of the character. I may be biased, because it was then that I discovered the character. But this issue just made me smile, from Daredevil's visit to Josie's, to Micah Synn's appearance, to the beatdown of Hydra agents.

I would give this issue a perfect mark if they had found a way to do the story without using Natasha as a damsel in distress. I don't know how they would do it, and it's not my job to figure it out. Still, this is fantastic. 4.5 out of 5.
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