Daredevil #168

Daredevil_Vol_1_168

When 20th Century Fox lost the rights to Daredevil not many people cared. While the Daredevil movie wasn’t the worst comic book movie ever made, it was also one that didn’t have much in the way of passion. It was a by the colors movie that just had no soul. While the studio was able to push out a spin off based on Elektra, no one really cared. (Even though they wasted the talents of both Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner in doing so.) While there were attempts by others to get another Daredevil film off the ground, including a sizzle reel by Joe Carnahan to attempt to generate interest from the studio…

…Fox chose to let the rights go back to Marvel.

Marvel announced that Daredevil, alone with Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist would not only have their own individual shows on Netflix, they would also come together similar to The Avengers in a show called The Defenders. Again, not many people really cared. Sure, Marvel Studios had earned a lot of good will and people were definitely interested in seeing what the studio would be but speaking for myself, I didn’t expect much.

Then the show debuted and blew everyone’s expectations as to what made a comic book show great out of the water. Similar to Batman, it was a superhero story about a guy with no superpowers. His powers simply occurred due to exposure to radioactive material. It was a show that even my wife would end up enjoying. It had a love of the source material without solely relying upon that to give us a good story. Soon after the first season hit they announced there would be a second season. In that season we would be introduced to Frank Castle, The Punisher, and one Elektra Natchios.

As readers of the comics will know, much of the Daredevil show has been taken from Frank Miller’s run on the comic. One such issue involves the debut of one Elektra. She met Matt Murdock in college. She was the daughter of a Greek ambassador, he a bumbling law student. They start to date and fall in love. About a year into their romance, Elektra and her father are held hostage. During the crisis, Matt ends up saving her but in the melee, cops murder her father. She is understandably upset and chooses to break up with Matt. Years later, well after Matt has become Daredevil, he is tracking someone down only to be knocked unconscious by a woman. That woman? Elektra.

When he wakes, he gets info on where Elektra may be headed. He discovers that she was in over her head and about to be executed. He drives an airplane at the bad guys and ends up whipping ass, saving her in the process where she, after realizing he is Matt Murdock, breaks down in tears.

The story was understandably amazing. This is comic book storytelling 101. The character of Elektra, while we don’t get too much of a grasp of her history, is fully fleshed out in the pages that Mr. Miller puts together. We not only see why Matt would have such strong feelings for her, we see that even as an international bounty hunter and killer, she still has heart and loves Matt Murdock. Frank Miller, from every story I’ve ever read from him, has always beautifully written characters in wonderful shades of grey. Take Batman: Year One. Jim Gordon, the future Commissioner of Police that for years we as readers have held in high esteem, has an affair with his wife and ends up getting caught. While that is a disgusting act, we still see him as very much a hero in the story.

If you think about it, what hero doesn’t have moments where they could be considered scum by others? No one is perfect. Everyone I have ever held in high esteem has ended up doing something stupid that made me doubt everything they’ve done. But after reflection, I’ve been able to sort the bad from the good. Because in the end, good people by their actions will always end up redeeming themselves. Some make take longer than others but they will. Hell, if Anakin Skywalker could do it, anyone can.

With Elektra, we see in this story why she chose to end up in a life of crime. With her father being accidentally murdered by the police, who child wouldn’t have issues with authority after that? It’s understandable that she would take the actions that she does. It doesn’t make it right of course but you understand it which makes her arc in this issue a thing of beauty. Too often in comics even today, women don’t have much depth. They’re either really good people or evil bitches. There’s no grey to their characters. Frank Miller though finds a way to find the proverbial diamond in the rough. Like Nancy Callahan from Sin City. A stripper by trade, she’s still someone you would have no issue taking home to mother. (Maybe after a few drinks first but still.)

The art for this issue was good but I think it did suffer from one thing. The color. Maybe it’s because I’m used to his work on Sin City but to me Frank Miller’s best stories, including this one, work best in black and white. If Humphry Bogart were alive in the 1980’s, Frank Miller would have written a movie just for him. Each panel is like a caterpillar compared to the butterfly his later work visually becomes. You can see how the visuals in Sin City came about from issues like this but the color in the story ultimately is just not needed.

There’s a panel near the end that explains what I mean. It’s just one panel where Matt discovers the main bad guy has a gun to Elektra’s head. With color you see the emotion in his face but it almost takes you out of the mood. When I turned gray scale on my iPad, the emotions went from blunt by muted to almost exploding off the page. Again, maybe I’ve been exposed to too much late era Frank Miller but I really think this would have worked so much better in black and white, not that it is bad now.

Bottom Line:

Yet another Mighty Marvel story from the early 80’s golden age. It’s also a great read to get under your belt before the new season of Daredevil appears in February. The show has used so much from Frank Miller’s run with the character so far, it only goes to suspect they may use this story pretty much verbatim. Even if they pick and choose what they use, it will be great to see what they ultimately use and what they don’t. You will be doing yourself a favor to read this issue.

Daredevil #183

Daredevil_Vol_1_183

Summary:

http://marvel.wikia.com/wiki/Daredevil_Vol_1_183

The Good:

Frank Miller. Frank Miller, along with Alan Moore and others, are responsible for comics as they are today. How so you may be asking? Well, people like Mr. Miller are responsible for taking comics from the adolescent adventure stories that Stan Lee and others created to the hardened adventures that adults could enjoy and love without looking creepy doing it.

This story is about Matt Murdock investigating who was responsible for selling a little girl the drug angel dust. The girl thought snakes were attacking her and decided she would rather jump out of a window than deal with them. During his investigation his crosses paths with The Punisher who tries to enlist his help in taking down criminals in Frank Castle’s very special, tender way.

Much like the tv show that Marvel produced for Netflix, the great thing about Daredevil in this particular story at least is the fact that the story is based in a realism you don’t really get in other comics. Daredevil is like Batman in a lot of ways in how he cares for his city of Hell’s Kitchen and does what he can to clean up the place from the top criminals down to the lowliest scum that he crosses paths with. Matt Murdock is someone you could imagine could actually exist whereas someone like Iron Man or Captain America, while great heroes and characters you love to read about, come across as more idealized versions of what someone imagines a hero could be.

I like the fact that the story deals in a somewhat realistic was the issue of drug abuse. The fact that a comic that came out in 1982 was dealing with such a heavy issue is pretty amazing in and of itself. The fact that it didn’t come across like a very special episode of a 1980’s sitcom is even more amazing. Back in the 80’s, the entertainment industry was a little ham handed to say the least in how they presented drugs and drug abuse. For the most part they were unrealistic in how they presented it giving people the impression that the issue of drug abuse was much more of a black and white issue than it is in real life. In real life good people take drugs not necessarily to escape life because they have such horrible lives. They try it for fun and get hooked without realizing it. While this issue was a little on the formulaic side I think it was as realistic as 1982 comics could be in regards to this topic.

The art work was pretty good. It was simply designed, showcasing the shadows and the darkness of the streets the blind hero is trying to change. When the little girl’s brother is caught on the roof with a gun in his hands the expression on his face is priceless. You feel the kids pain. You see he feels horrible his sister died at the result of remorseless drug dealers and while it is later revealed that he did not kill the drug dealer, you see that he is not quite sad the guy is dead. While there could have been more depth to the scenery when the art required the scene to be emotional it brought its A game.

The Bad:

The cover for this comic is quite famous and rightfully so. It says a lot about the two characters that words would fail to express. But one thing the story did not do was give us the real Frank Castle. While The Punisher was fighting people who know are bad guys, not once is he ever shown to be the sympathetic character he is. The Punisher sympathetic you may ask?

Yes. The main pull about why we care about The Punisher is the WHY of his crusade against crime. If we are not given the why than Frank Castle is just as much a thug as the people he kills. No doubt about it the people that The Punisher kill are bad people and deserved death a long time ago. This is not about trying to feel sorry for people that have intentionally made bad choices in their lives. But we need to care about Frank and the fact that due to his family’s death he’s making the wrong choice for the right reasons. Yet this comic does nothing more than portray Frank Castle as just as much a thug as the drug dealers in the story. It would have been nice to have Matt dig a little deeper into The Punisher’s history and discover what happened with his family. While the two would still be at odds we would at least see that Daredevil understands the motivation for what makes Frank Castle tick despite the fact that what he does sickens him.

The story also suffered from the fact that it didn’t feel self contained. A number of things happened that had no relevance to the main story of this issue, the main issue being Matt Murdock proposing marriage to Heather Glenn at the end of the issue. It’s great and all that Matt has found love but this came out of nowhere especially for someone like me who picked up the story at this particular issue. While I should feel impelled to want to know more of what is going on to the point that I investigate the back issues to read more about what is going on, the story itself should have been much more self contained than it was.

I also didn’t like the fact that what started as a story about the dangers of drugs quickly turned to murder. Granted, this was 1982. I can imagine this story would have come across much different if it were made today. It just made the story seem silly and trite when you barely talk about a twelve year old girl who girls herself while high on angel dust but you have no problem deal with page after page of the consequences of her brother who is not much older than her having to deal with being accused of murder. This country of ours, America. We can show people getting killed and maimed left and right but when it comes to dealing with serious issues like drug abuse and heaven forbid sex and boobies, we must cover our eyes and ears while yelling LALALALALA as loud as we can. We have certainly evolved enough over the years in that I think we can now deal with issues like drug abuse and what not but we’re still quite prudish and ignorant on other issues. I won’t blame the comic for failing to get into more detail about the drug use because frankly that is our society here in America even today. We ignore shit like this until it affects pretty young white girls than it’s a BIG FUCKING DEAL that we must deal with yesterday.

The one complaint I have about the artwork is that it is too minimalist for my tastes. Now being that this is a Frank Miller story, the guy who in Sin City had quite the time with black and white drawings, I should have expected it. While it does have its moments of brilliance, there are times where I wanted more, especially in the external location shots. It comes across like the play Our Town were filmed as an action movie. Too much is going on in such stark empty locations. It was distracting more than it elevated the story.

Bottom Line:

The cover is brilliant. This is like album covers from bands you may never have any interest in listening to but still put out amazing album covers. The violence implied in this cover is great but it really isn’t addressed in the story. The story itself is all right but it’s lacking in the sense that the story is not self contained in any way, shape, or form. I guess that’s how Frank Miller wanted to present the story but I did find myself lost in regards to what was going on. Too much was going on that required you to know enough back story to really appreciate the story. If you didn’t read the previous issues than you really can’t appreciate what this story was trying to do. For that I have to give the story a 4.

The art work could have been better. Being that it was 1982, we’re dealing with a young Frank Miller here. He hadn’t found his style yet, the style that exploded in your face with The Dark Knight Returns and Sin City. While there are moments of brilliance in this issue the art does more to detract from your enjoyment than anything else. I have to give it a 3.

Again, another harsh review. Don’t let that keep you from reading this comic. It’s great to see how great artists evolve. This is a great example of early Frank Miller work. The worst of Frank Miller is better than a lot of great work that is out today.