Robot 6

The Fifth Color | Less Dare, More Devil

Daredevil334It must be a little disheartening to be a roadie for a magician.  Don’t get me wrong, magic is really cool and even better when you see it live.  No one goes into a magic show and thinks, “Oh this is all real, and this man has some sort of sorcery!”  No, we go in knowing we’re going to be fooled, and are delighted or disappointed by the results depending on how good the performer is.

But if you were a roadie traveling around the country with this elaborate and really good magic show, I could see how it’d take a little something from you in the process.  Every night when the magician would go to perform, you’d set up his mirrors, hide his playing cards, even simply stand on the other side of the curtain, and night after night, you’d have the show ruined for you.  You never doubted this was fake, but there’s only so many times one can be reminded of that so boldly before a sort of resentment would build up.  This performer is lying to people every show and they buy it because they’ve never seen it.  And while they’ve all convinced themselves this is new and exciting, you’ve seen it all before.

I stopped reading Daredevil awhile ago.  I quit lugging around Matt Murdock’s failing law office, setting up his girlfriend for disappointment, and standing in the wings while he got pushed to the edges of morality only to yo-yo back into place to do it all again in so many months.  Another new writer would take the stage, and comic buyers would eat it up while I swear I’ve read this story before.

WARNING: We’ll be talking Shadowland #1 and Daredevil #508 this week, so grab your copies and read along!

Before Shadowland, Daredevil got this amazingly bad idea that taking over the Hand could fix all of his problems.  The Hand have been after him to join or die, expecting option no. 2, and got option no. 1.  Along with a mysterious old man with fantastic martial arts skills and a shady sort of background, they build a skyline-breaking fortress in Hell’s Kitchen.  A sort of crazy-ninja martial law is enacted, and criminals are hung from lampposts Spider-Man style, only a lot more gruesomely because this is Daredevil, and we are very serious in Daredevil.  The other heroes who live in New York City sort of eyeball the big castle in the middle of things and figure that Daredevil’s a pretty good guy and he’s got this one, but send Iron Fist and Luke Cage just in case.  Surprise, things have taken a turn for the worst and, going over the line, Daredevil stabs Bullseye in homage to Elektra’s infamous death with a sai through the chest.  Foggy Nelson, Matt Murdock’s long suffering partner, and Dakota North, his most recent romantic attachment, rush to Daredevil’s rescue only to be put in peril and really, sing along if you know the words!

Hold up a sec, we need to talk about this:  Daredevil stabs Bullseye through the chest with a sai and everyone believes that Bullseye has been killed.  Gaping chest wounds with stabbing weapons can do that to a guy, and it’s not like he’s going to be up and about like nothing happened, but if you think he’s really dead then I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you for a steal.  First and foremost, this is Bullseye, one of the most popular villains around for the past few years.  From his own mini-series to his time in the Thunderbolts, there’s no way he should have been a power player in Civil War (hired on as a Thunderbolt) and in Siege (same job), but here he is in the big leagues.   He’s a general all-purpose cleaver use of murder and a visual cue to the reader that someone can and will die, it’s just a matter of how important they are.  He’s too long running a nemesis and, honestly, too good of a character to lose in issue #1 of an event book.  His death or incapacitation comes at the end of a story for better flow, but I am certainly no Marvel editor.  Maybe this is to show you how amazingly serious this book is when we lose a prize-winning villain right off the bat.  Well, in the same issue he’s stabbed, Bullseye himself talks about how he can control his heart.  A faked death?  Daredevil is also working for the Hand, and they have a pretty nifty little ceremony in the back that can clear this death thing right up.  A resurrection?  Or maybe some third thing we haven’t even seen yet, but I hate it when a story tries to sell you on a major plot point you know is false from the beginning.  Even if this is truly the end for Bullseye for now, there’s going to be a certain amount of disappointment.

shadowland-NewDDBecause I’ve seen Daredevil beat the hell out of Bullseye.  I’ve seen him take over a criminal organization because he thinks he can do it better.  I’ve seen superheroes try and talk him down, only to be rebuffed until Matt Murdock loses everything.  I’ve seen a mysterious old Asian man withhold secrets while putting Daredevil on a path to danger.  I’ve even seen him sport a new costume with extraneous bits attached to it.  Comics are not always fresh and original every issue; it’s a comic fan’s delight to see a hero or villain return from obscurity to be re-imagined or remind us of some previous story.  Over in Amazing Spider-Man, there’s a smorgasbord of Kraven the Hunters.  At the end of Second Coming, we’re teased with the maybe-possibly-kind-of return of the Phoenix.  Who doesn’t like an old tune with a familiar melody that we know the lyrics to?

Daredevil wasn’t always this story.  He wasn’t always a man gone too far only to retreat back because the last steps don’t jibe with his sense of morality.  That’s a pretty heavy storyline, and one that should have deep ramifications on the character — he’s shown the Abyss, only to have it look back at him.  Frank Miller really did set the standard on a character he didn’t create, and we’ve been following his pattern for a long time.  Sometimes very badly, sometimes so well that you have to check the front cover just to make sure Miller’s not there.  And no matter what’s taken from him, no matter how crushed he is at the end of the line, no matter how many times Foggy Nelson has to cover for him, Matt Murdock is asked if he wants a nice Hawaiian Punch and he says “Sure.”  Certainly, as Steve Wacker said in an interview with USA Today, this presents Daredevil with a certain amount of naivete, the “purest soul.”  On the other hand, he figured taking over a demonic death cult would be just beating some people up.  Stopping crime for him has been beating people up and hanging them on signs.  Defeating Bullseye once and for all is beating him up and stabbing him.

This is issue #1 and really, it’s only the start of things to come.  There’s going to be a cast of thousands here, other major events that won’t even have to do with Daredevil (hear we’re getting a new Power Man?) and, like “Curse of the Mutants,” it’s got a broader appeal to non-comic readers.  Wacker said, “Any character who was optioned for a movie I tried to get in here” and that was in USA Today.  So new people are coming to the show.  In the pages of Daredevil #508, it looks like there might be some sort of evil  influence on Matt Murdock’s mind, since the Hand has shown to have sway over such things.  From early shots and solicitations, it looks like every street level Marvel hero is going to charge into Hell’s Kitchen to try and take it back, so this is one very big battle for one man’s soul.  It would be arrogant and silly of me to read the first issue of anything and lay judgment on the whole story.  But that’s what happens when you schlep for the magician; you see all his tricks and you know the show by heart.

Sawing a lady in half or pulling a rabbit from a hat is standard and cliche.  If you see those tricks over and over again, the thrill fades away.  If you know how it’s done, the tricks become shoddy and worthless.  But, if your dress those tricks up in a new context, switch up the steps or distract the audience from the familiar routine, it can delight the crowds once more.  I’m not saying Daredevil shouldn’t be a faithful man on the brink of his own destruction, I’m just daring him to do better.

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23 Comments

“Who doesn’t like an old tune with a familiar melody that we know the lyrics to?”

Me.

When I started reading comics 2 years ago, I hated reading the argument of “its been done before,” because for me it hadn’t been. Some people will want completely fresh stories, and others want that same tune, different beat motif as you mentioned. For new readers, though, the only thing that matters is the quality of the story, and ultimately that’s all that should matter to old ones as well. I’ll admit that the “Luke Cage comes to tell him taking over a criminal empire is bad scene” feels a little too close to the Bendis arc (which I always thought DD succmbed to pretty shit logic), but that was along time ago for newer readers, where this premise seems sparkling new and accessible (see USA today). It could be a little more original, but I’ll take well written and derivative over unique but terrible any day.

I completely agree with your Bullseye analysis though. Total red herring.

But, see, that’s superhero comics for you. And, no, I’m not being condescending. I love superhero comics, but the genre (at least, the more mainstream elements of it) have generally been in a cycle for years now. Daredevil (as interesting as his history’s been) is not immune to this. And it’s not necessarily a bad thing.

As MC_Nedelsky said, it’s new to new readers. Comics aren’t as major an industry as movies — new fans aren’t going to take the effort to go back and read the old stories (hell, most movie-goers don’t even do that nowadays). They want something that’s fresh to them now. And that’s what they get. It may not be new to us older fans, but to a certain extent, we’re not the people that Marvel or DC should be targeting.

And, at the same time, the concept isn’t as important (for me personally) as the execution. Have we seen DD go over the brink and declare himself lord of Hell’s Kitchen before? Yes. But that doesn’t mean that Diggle can’t still craft an excellent story behind this familiar idea.

If you’re reading something from Marvel and DC, you should generally be expecting the familiar. That’s not a slight to these stories. The familiar, when reworked by new creators, can still be just as impressive and fresh. But if you want something new and interesting, as an older fan, mainstream superhero books should only be a PART of your comic diet.

I figure they tell the same stories over and over until it’s shined up enough to make it a movie. Iron Man has armor wars, Daredevil gets all dopey and depressed, yada-yada-yada. Same story, different number on the cover.
But it doesn’t stop me from reading it. Guess I’m a sucker for repeat punishment. “I’m telling ya, he made that frickin’ rabbit disappear!” ;-)

Andrew Collins

July 17, 2010 at 11:16 pm

I started reading Daredevil again for the first time in years when Kevin Smith and Joe Quesada “revived” him back in 2000 or so. It was okay, but didn’t blow me away. Then Bendis and Maleev got hold of the character and really excited me every month with interesting twists and storylines that constantly had me wondering “Where are they going with this?” When they left and Brubaker took over, he still managed to keep me gripped with the DD In Prison storyline.

But then after that…something happened. The spark seemed to disappear and I soon realized that I had just been burnt out by all the angst and grit and grime of every single issue. There was depressing and then there was Daredevil, which began to veer into Soul Crushing territory. I know superhero comics are circular in their own way, and I never expect Matt to get a ‘happy ending’ anymore than I expect Batman to, but reading DD by the time Brubaker ended his run just became a chore, made so laborious by every issue being an exercise in seeing who can kick Murdock the hardest while he’s down. I need more balance in my superhero melodramas then DD had been providing. So, when Bru left the book so did I. And it sounds like I may have jumped ship just in time because it seems as if the storyline carousel for DD has just kept turning to the same old tune…

I understand how, on a basic plot level, this is “the same old Daredevil story”, but, it’s really not. Sure, all this has happened before. Daredevil being pushed to the brink was the plot of virtually all of Miller’s arc, and most of everyone else’s. Shadowland, until the whole aspect of his mind being controlled, shows Daredevil to have taken charge, not in reaction to outside manipulation from a villian, but in a proactive attempt to establish an army to defend Hell’s Kitchen, whose means are generally criminal. And whether he killed Bullseye or not, he certainly meant to. So he hasn’t been pushed to the edge, he’s already gone over, and that’s not something we’ve seen.

On a side note, I don’t think anyone would give a shit if Daredevil killed Bullseye- especially Foggy. The guy’s a psychotic mass murderer who would have been put to death for his crimes during civil war anyway. I don’t like that comics create an anti-killing stance, and then convey that general attitude on everyone in comics. Not all people are against the death of murderers. I just think it’s kind of antiquated at this point.

This May Contain Spoilers

Am I the only one that thinks the important part of this storyline is that Matt is controlled by The Hand? And that his life has been that since the Lady Bullseye arc? I kind of like the story, cause they did it by using his one missstep – his affair with Dakota – and then just drove him into the ground until he lost all judgment and did what they wanted him to do. And now he is under magic control. I don’t care that Bullseye’s obviously not dead, because that’s not the point of the story. And yeah, he probably deserves to die, but the point is that Matt didn’t usually agree with that.

And yes we have seen this story before. It’s kinda like Secret Invasion, with a hero who is a villain because he is actually not the hero anyway. Or that’s what I think is going to happen.

I’m not a constant Daredevil reader – I’ve read both Bendis and Miller – but I think I’ll check out Shadowland as soon as Franken-Castle (already dead – can’t be killed. How cool is that!) shows up.
@ WR – I absolutely agree with you.

so this gets trashed without seeing where it goes but X-men 1 being utter shit can be defended by saying “its just the first issue, lets see where it goes.” your all hypocrites, at this story doesn’t have any god damn vampires in it!!

I can see where you’re coming from but I must admit that with the Bendi-fication of the MU since Avengers Dissembled there’s been a lot of spit and polish applied to old ideas.

I mean Siege was almost pure action but you got some utterly breathtaking concepts and ideas, Thor casually floating in front of the sun, the actual take down of Osborn (as opposed to Lex Luther just giving it toes when he was deposed as president) an actual new Cap’ (you know I think he may actually be permanent) Steve Rogers as the top cop with his world view you can see the ‘Heroic Age’ being plausible, and so on.

Some things do hang about for a long time, some don’t. I kinda love it all to be honest :)

Maybe what DD needs is a shot of Moondragon, Mandrill, Nekra , and Ramrod?
Strangely, that might be fun..
an antidote to this oppressive Hell’s Kitchen funk.
Don’t city kids get a week in the country anymore?

The new costume is pretty cool though, except I don’t see the need for the wrist-thingies. Even Hawkeye has ‘em now. DD’s look pretty sharp, and I mean “sharp” like a knife, and if I were a super-strong enemy, I’d be sure to put those things through the back of his hands. Ouch!

While I’m on the topic, same thing with Thor’s Helmet nose guard- I don’t think that would be much good for the bridge of the Thunder God’s nose if he got punched in the face by Ulik or someone.

Functionality? The Age of Heroes could be renamed the age of Rococo designs.

Frank Rodriguez

July 18, 2010 at 12:37 pm

These comments are very interesting. People seem not to mind that it’s a repeat, or else make excuses for it.

I think if you’re Marvel, you say Okay, Andy this sounds good. In your head you think it sounds familiar but you trust his talent to keep up sales. yet in the back of your head you know–this is just another storyline. Thing is, it will not be a classic. it won’t be up there with Frank Miller’s Daredevil. Not in a million. It’s up to writers to make everything that came before obsolete. They can’t listen to fans, and they can’t listen to editors. And when you put that shit out everyone will know what they’ve been missing.

the thing is–maybe Andy Diggle is even attempting that, but it’s hard. Would higher standards among fans make really GOOD stories more common? Probably not. But heads up.

I think both sides have some good points, at least on the topic of whether this story has any potential left (and yeah, it is only the first issue). When it comes to if this story is derivative, I don’t really partake in that discussion much because as far as I know, Daredevil’s never tried to take over the Hand. The most recent comparison, Daredevil as the Kingpin, wasn’t nearly the same and a lot more benevolent than this turn; admittedly, it’s been awhile since I’ve read those issues so correct me if I’m wrong.

As for just being a good story, I think this might have the potential to make or break the future of Daredevil for some time. I say that because after this, where do you go when what most of us agree if the most familiar arc for Murdock? Now that he’s been taken over the edge, I don’t think stories about him moving closer to the edge will work that well. Even then, this first issue didn’t have a whole to it besides Bullseye being killed (supposedly and I didn’t think about the Hand bringing him back). I normally don’t say this about artists but Billy Tan’s art was horrible for most part. So, I don’t think I can see this through at $4 an issue unless I hear it’s getting a lot more interesting. Not to mention, I heard there might be some kind of out and it seems like the Hand and their magic or whatever might be it.

I haven’t read a DD comic since Ann Nocenti left, and really not any Marvel books in years.
But, the current compartmentalization of the diff’ MU scenes, coupled w/ the good press for the last decade of DD stories has made this look interesting to me.
But, to stand on your side, I agree, I don’t see this going in any surprising directions.
I really really wish it would, lead to a major status qua shift the way Secret Invasion and all that did.
I can even see ways this story could do that, in a some really great ways, but it won’t.
Wait for the trade? No, wait for the library!

” Another new writer would take the stage, and comic buyers would eat it up while I swear I’ve read this story before.”

In this quote is the author saying that she is smarter then the Daredevil comic buyers and/or comic buyers in general? I’ve really enjoyed Bendis and Maleev’s run on the book. Born Again is my Favorite DD story if not comic storyline. Brubaker’s and Lark’s run was good as well. I don’t believe the stories were very repetitive in that time. The tone and mood may have been, but not the story. I dropp DD after the first Diggle story arc. De La Torre’s pencils brought me back and was curious about the storyline, cause I didn’t read the Daredevil run thats posted in the pic above. I do not know what the rest of the article was about, because I stopped reading after that quote I posted. I’m pretty sure I’ve read a review like this on comics in the past. Try being a bit more original and try not to insult your audience while doing so.

“In this quote is the author saying that she is smarter then the Daredevil comic buyers and/or comic buyers in general?”

Nah, she’s really describing more of a perspective thing. I think she’s saying that some fans focus on the new, but she focuses on the patterns. I don’t think she’s arguing that one approach is inherently better than the other.

With all due respect, if you’re specifically looking for the parts of the story that we’ve seen elsewhere in Daredevil’s history, that’s exactly what you’re going to find. Even the most creative stories won’t succeed for a reader who sticks to preconceptions.

Well, you have to keep in mind that this very closely mirrors recent history. It wasn’t that long ago that Daredevil took over ANOTHER criminal organization to change it for the better. Moreover, Bendis and Brubaker were also interested in seeing how far down they can bring Matt; Bendis exposed Daredevil’s ID, while Brubaker had Mr. Fear ruin his love life and Lady Bullseye try to ruin his professional career (although if I remember right, Matt got himself fired in the end).

I get what Carla is saying because I was thinking about it myself this past weekend. I’m enjoying the story, but it’s become quite clear to me – having read Daredevil from the early days of Frank Miller – that far too many writers have the same general theme to their Daredevil stories. They come in, they bring Matt / Daredevil to his knees by systematically dismantling his life, and then eventually build it back up. Sure the details may change, the supporting characters may shift, but the basic structure is the same. Tear down, build up, tear down, build up, tear down, build up ….

Remember when DD was a Defender!? For a change I’d like to see a repeat performance of a different sort. Angst is good in doses but can be pretty wearisome as a constant diet.

Duff McWhalen

July 19, 2010 at 8:35 am

Hey, remember when they killed Sabretooth?

Maybe I am the only one, but I am so hoping this story pans out like the ads state and we are watching the start of the next super villian. I want to see Daredevil fall from grace like Hal Jordan did in Green Lantern. I like the idea of a once noble hero becoming consumed by his need for justice so much that he becomes the one that justice now needs to be served to.

My concern is that Marvel will treat this like another flash in the pan ‘epic’ and not a chance to set-up years of interesting stories. What if DD, and the shadows pushing him, become powerful enough to establish such a foothold in Hell’s Kitchen that the heroes cannot remove him from power and are forced to simply contain him. There is potential here, so for now, that is enough for me to keep reading.

a few things:

1) thanks for pointing out that Bullseye is not dead i think we all needed to be reminded that no one stays dead in comics, thats not really news it doesn’t even need to be said
2) “I stopped reading Daredevil awhile ago.” that was the beginning of the 3rd paragraph and also the beginning of my wonderment as to why you wrote this article at all. Do you feel compelled to write about every book that comes out? if not i would stay away from the book that count on you being invested into the characters
3) the Hand is a GLOBAL organization and Matt Mudock is the head of it, this is not the same thing as him taking over as Kingpin of New York.

while i might not know whats going to happen i have read enough comics to know not to judge a book by it’s first couple of issues, thats just come off as inexperienced comic book reading.

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