Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Daredevil #105: The winner takes it all

Spoiler warning: Review of "Daredevil" Vol. 2 #105. Plot details are dealt with here, so beware if you haven't read this issue and the previous ones as there are spoilers ahead.

Nota a los seguidores de la edición en Castellano de Panini: para los que sepais inglés, recordad que hay varios números de diferencia entre la edición USA y la española de Daredevil, eso quiere decir que en este post sobre "Daredevil" Vol. 2 #105 se destripan elementos de la trama, que podrían alterar el disfrute de la saga que justo ha comenzado en la edición española. Avisados estais.

A Marvel Comic.
by Ed Brubaker (Script), Michael Lark, Paul Azaceta & Stefano Gaudiano (Art) and Matt Hollingsworth (Colors)

So here's the final showdown. The climax that's been building from #94 onwards, and it is a masterful wrap-up: It is hard to be Matt Murdock, indeed.

In the beginning, we get a conference with Mr. Fear and The Hood, where Brubaker skillfully illustrates the very differing personalities of both crimelords. The Hood is more bussiness-like, and finds difficult to understand that Cranston started a war in Hell's Kitchen against him just to screw Matt Murdock: when Cranston relinquishes the territoire to the Hood (for his objective has been already accomplished) The Hood, practically-minded, takes both the terrain and Fear's men with him. If all Cranston wants is to win his petty grievance-driven war over Daredevil, he won't interfere.

Old Hornhead says: It's clobberin' time!

Matt's been trying hard to locate Cranston, and is surprised to find that he is just waiting for him without hiding: he even taunts him laughing loud at Milla's misfortune, and here Matt jumps towards him, and probably most readers at this point hate Fear's guts as much as Daredevil does. We see -as we suspected- that Cranston's watered-down training makes him hardly a physical match against Matt. But Cranston still smiles as Matt punches him out to get Milla's antidote from him: you see, Cranston has already won. There is no antidote at all: that's why he killed Dante Govich, his chemistry whiz. Matt cannot even get too rough with Cranston: he needs his confession in order to have the charges against Milla dropped.

I DO hate that smirk

Cranston gleefully tells the tale of his misdemeanours to Dakota North's cop pal, detective Kurtz, and you can see in Matt and Foggy's bleak faces who the winner is. Milla is interned in an asylum. Lily Lucca just disappeared from the surface of earth.

Beyond the reach of any soothing comfort: a dismal day for Matt and his loyals

Life at Ryker's is hardly a punishment for Cranston: thanks to the pheromone perfume he tried on Lily , which now is using himself, everybody at the prison (cops and convicts) are eager to please him. He'll stay there comfortably for a while, and leave when he pleases to screw Matt's life again. Dammit.

The Hood watches the results of Cranston's coup with admiration, and resolves to leave Hell's Kitchen quiet for a while: he wants Matt to fool himself with the notion that, at least, he has succeeded in keeping Hell's Kitchen free of crime.

This is one sobering issue. The villain goes to jail, but the hero is the one vanquished, wounded badly in the softer of spots: his soul. Well, I just hope that Matt is able to rise from the ashes: one of the good things about Matt's vertiginous fall in "Born Again" was that he was victorious and standing on his feet again at the end of the saga. I think -earnestly hope- that Brubaker will give Matt a chance to win something in the near future: chiaroscuro works fine for the character, but for that you need the light as much as the shadows.

This having been said, this has been a gripping saga. I don't agree with those complaining about it being overlong: reading all the issues in a stretch, I wouldn't eliminate a single one: every of them gradually builds for the very effective ending, in everyone of them we get a greater grasp and insight about the way characters act and behave. In short, and just to put one example: Cranston's appearance in #99 was saluted with indifference and derision by people who is, by #105, convinced that he's one of the top badass villains in the Marvel Universe, the ultimate nemesis of Murdock, aSalieri-like villain moved by pettiness to make the hero fall

Matt's pyrrhic victory makes a good story, but I sure hate Cranston's self-satisfied smug at the end of the issue: I'm waiting that Matt will be able to erase it from his face in the near future, and hope some of Larry's teeth gracefully land in the ground during the process... I guess this speaks a lot of the writer's skill, who has succesfully turned a C-list villain into a menace the reader can truly hate and boo loudly whenever he appears.

I've seen complaints in some places, during the time this story arch has been going on, and attacks on Brubaker's story on the grounds that the plot was suffering the women in refrigerators syndrome. I disagree with that, as I believe to be an unfair judgement.

To start with, having Milla leaving the series by insanity, while less civilized than a simple divorce, is a far better fate than the one suffered by other women in Matt Murdock's life so far. Let's recap: Elektra was killed by Bullseye in a great story by Frank Miller, Heather Glenn commited suicide in a fine one-shot by Denny O'Neil. Both these deaths, sad as they were, had a previous, and fairly sustained build-up: Elektra's dalliances with evil forces -The Hand, the Kingpin- were bound to end in tragedy, Heather's slow descent into alcoholism didn't predict anything good, either... But it was worse for Karen Page and Glorianna O'Breen, who were offed in a sudden decision in a couple of pages, just for the sake of a cheap shock, in bad stories.

Milla's current state, bad as it is, leaves a door open: she's alive... and what does tell us that there is no cure for her condition at all? Milla's internment allows Brubaker (or any other future writer of DD) to bring her back eventually.

Also, it is not only Milla who gets the tough treatment for being someone close to Matt: we saw Foggy brutally beaten and stabbed to near death in a previous saga of Daredevil, in another collection, we've seen Captain America killed in his own series: so male longtime sidekicks and male lead characters aren't spared a thing, either... And Brubaker has written a very resourceful and heroic Selina Kyle in "Catwoman", so before accusing him of being a WiR or misogynist writer, please notice that he's the man who has introduced the very effective P.I. Dakota North in the series, as well as bringing Becky Blake, a good, brave and determined lawyer who doesn't allow her being confined to a wheelchair to stop her.

Matt's current state is pretty complicated: with Milla in an asylum, he can't just move forward as other authors had him in the past (the blunt "dead girlfriend? well... New girlfriend!" approach). It's hard to consider any new love interest for our hero in the immediate future: any new, or returning woman to Matt's life will find herself in a Jane Eyre role, with Matt as a gloomy Mr. Rochester.

I definitely look forward for further installments of Brubaker's narration of our hero's life and adventures. I hope Cranston will eventually get a payback from his evil actions: people, after all, is not genuinely loyal to him, but just induced by his fear drugs... without them he's just nothing. Matt, on the other hand, has the genuine, unflinching loyalty and love of his little band of friends: I have no doubts about who will win in the end

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