Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Daredevil: Cruel & Unusual

Daredevil Vol. 2, #107 to #110 containing the story "Cruel and Unusual"
A Marvel comic.
Script: Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka
Art: Michael Lark and Stefano gaudiano
Color: Matt Hollingsworth
Covers: Marko Djurjevic

Spoiler warning: Review of "Daredevil" Vol. 2 #107 to #110. Plot details are dealt with here, so beware if you haven't read this issue and the previous ones as there are spoilers ahead. Major spoilers in the last two paragraphs.

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 de #107 a #110 se destripan elementos de la trama, que podrían alterar el disfrute de la saga que justo ha comenzado en la edición española. Avisados estais.

Last time we saw Matt Murdock he was pretty depressed. Well, here's the latest news: he still is.

But then when your wife has been taken from you, driven mad by the cunning plot of one of your enemies, and her smell is still around the house, and you have enhanced senses, and that includes your olfactory senses, well... you are pretty screwed up. Matt may hoover, scrub with bleach, whatever... the smell just won't go. So Matt puts on his bright-red devil suit to get some fresh air, and vent his rage on whatever minor truant he finds on the streets of Hell's Kitchen. An old friend of Matt, Luke Cage meets him and suggests an alternative course of behaviour, such as helping him with a case, but Matt won't listen.

"Luke sure is a friend!" Nelson thought to himself

But Luke's got another friend he can talk to: Miss Dakota North, Private Investigator, who happens to work for the firm Nelson, Blake & Murdock. She agrees to bring the case to Matt's attention. At the offices of the firm, Dakota tells Matt's partners about the case of Big Ben Donovan , a well-known criminal (and a frequent foe of Luke Cage in the past and... no, not related to Milla) who will soon sit in the electric chair for the murder of three children, and has confessed to be the author of thaose ghastly murders: Foggy Nelson thinks is a though call, and maybe not the best of cases to put Matt through, but Becky believes that, If Donovan is innocent, he has the right to be defended.

Dakota goes to visit Donovan in prison, but Donovan admits his guilt and is not interested in being cleared: he doesn't care if he dies, as he thinks that he fully deserves it. Dakota, however, convinces Ben to repeat his confession for her recorder. When Dakota gets out, an unknown attacks her: she warns her not to snoop into Donovan's case. Now this really smells fishy. And that's the last drop for miss North. The bruised red-headed P.I. storms Matt's apartment, and angrily urges him to listen to the recording of Donovan's confession, and take the case. After listening to it, Matt senses something wrong and decides to take Donovan's case.

But Matt will not only have to investigate what happened, but overcome Donovan's utter reluctance to be defended, avoid the thrusts of a certain Federal Bureau, and a certain Government Agency which are not in the least interested in anyone investigating the case.

Big Ben Donovan lets Matt Murdock know, in no uncertain terms, that he is not interested in having a lawyer

Is Big Ben Donovan guilty of Innocent? What does Dakota's estranged dad (who used to work for an Agency) know about the case? And what is Eric Slaughter, and old "acquaintance" of old Hornhead, doing around?

Matt sure's going to have his mind occupied for the next days.

So far, this is how our story starts. For this arch, Brubaker has been assisted by his old Team-mate from the memorable DC series "Gotham Central", so, with Michael Lark we have the old team back. Not unlike they did in that series, the authors have aimed at making a street-level story, with believable, down-to-earth characters, trown in the middle of an intriguing plot, where all the efforts of our hero and friends seem doomed to failure, being, as they are, a small group of people facing forces that not only outstrength them, but who, unlike them, don't have moral barriers to pull punches. Daredevil's enemy is mighty and ruthless... And yet he won't surrender.

I am of the opinion that all the stories Brubaker has written in Daredevil so far were intended to wrap up the Bendis run. Brubaker has been leading the stories to a point where he could wrap up all the loose ends left, and be able to start anew and write his own stories: this has included what someone referred to as "reset" button, but was actually something more sophisticate than a mere return to Status Quo: Matt's outing was never obliterated, just legally neutered, but the "Murdock is Daredevil" just hasn't been wiped out from people's minds, and Matt has to live with that, as well as the consequences of his being constantly targeted. Matt has been on the receiving end of the stick for too long, and Brubaker/Rucka illustrate well his frustration and blind rage when they make Matt do something as silly as punching the invulnerable Luke Cage. Daredevil is certainly at a low point, but the writers make this story the one in which the hero will react and climb back upwards: the fallen hero is never more heroic as when, though badly beaten, he rises again to keep on the good fight.

If you ever wondered why they call him "Daredevil", this pannel should give you an answer

As they dwelve further in the case, it is obvious that Donovan has been framed. In fact, one thinks that a case like Big Ben Donovan's is the last thing Matt needed, but our hero, in this back-to-the -wall situation reacts splendidly, and, against considerable odds, wins. While the denouement has been considered by some readers as a bit hasty (but then we wanted less de-compressed storytelling, eh?), it is not unlikely. The missing link in the equation, the missing father of the three kids supposedly killed by Donovan, was actually a weak link in a castle of cards built by shady deals between Government officials and a minor crimelord gone -sort of-legit: one shudders to think that Federal agents now condone Eric Slaughter's activities... Seemingly trading weapons is OK, as long as your trade is meant for foreign countries in which some government agencies have hidden agendas. The hideousness of it all is beyond grasp, and we only sense the tip of the iceberg. Luckily, Matt and his friends are not inclined to turn a blind eye to that, even if that means taking chances. Daredevil is never a greater hero as when he resolves to serve justice even if that means fighting with windmills. Luckily, our team will find out why Donovan stubbornly wants to be a scapegoat, in spite of his innocence. Donovan is certainly no little lamb, but we see a side of him which tells us that he is not beyond redemption.

Miss Becky Blake reveals to his partner Mr. Murdock, that there's a whole big world beyond his navel

I love seeing the supporting cast growing stronger, each one with his/her own concerns. Foggy may look like a heel, by opposing Becky's idealistic views about defending Donovan... But this is consistent with previous developments: It is not a complicated, desperate case that concerns him, but possibly his fear of it being yet another booby-trap engineered by another enemy of Matt. This is not the case, but Donovan is acting as a front to a real can of worms. It is worth remarking that our man Nelson, once he has expressed his dissent, sticks loyaly by Matt (and I must add that Foggy sticking on in spite of the FBI being involved is noteworthy). Becky pluckily sticks to the cause, too, even though she provides a good contrast with Nelson: against Foggy's empathy, and his patient and caring attitude to Matt's gloom, she's there to kick some ass, and give Murdock the proverbial cold shower when she gets fed up with Matt's self-pity. Becky may seem a bit harsh, but she's essentially right, and her scolding makes Matt react.

It is also good to see Ben Urich around, as well as inspector Kurtz becoming a regular. As for the return of Slaughter, a minor crimelord of the first Miller run... It's quite a wink to old fans to see him, and also Turk and Grotto being around, too.

"Take me out to the ball game,/Take me out with the crowds": Dakota scores a home run

Still, the character which really shines here is Dakota, we see her in action and we get to love her unsentimental, no-nonsense and determined ways. She's got guts, too, and doesn't wait for a gentleman to strike back in her defence: she can fend for herself quite efficiently. Like Becky, there's a moment when she is really pissed at Matt's depressive attitude and, as with Becky it is her reproaches to Matt make him react. Her uneasy relationship with her father plays a pivotal role here, for Samuel North will play a relevant role by the end of the story, revealing that he is not the thoroughly cold-hearted bastard her daughter believes. Though one understands that she may harbour resentments for her daddy naming her just to make a geographical pun.

You know that Mike Lark has stolen this fan's heart ever since he became the series' artist: he's not only an excellent draftsman and a topping narrator, he also gives here and there a wink to past Great DD artists: we get frequent homages to Gene Colan's spectacular Mantegna-esque forced perspectives, or Frank Miller's elegant pannel compositions. And, of course, along with inker-finisher Gaudiano, he manages to make us dream how would Daredevil look it it had ever been drawn by Alex Toth.

I've definitely liked to see Matt going back into action, and not merely to act defensively at the event of any supervillain willing to have a go against the Crimson Avenger. Here Matt swings his billy club to save an innocent man from the chair, and, hey... that makes him feel so good, we see him actually SMILING at the end. We look forward for further Murdock smiles.

Even though with the coming of Lady Bullseye, one suspects that won't be easy


Ulin said...

No he leido el post porque sigo la edición española... pero el título de la saga ya me interesa ^^

Esperemos que Matt no resulte ser un Skrull xD

Francesco said...

Nice to see you're back to business with DD, Gloria (inside reference).

Gloria said...

Ulin, respecto a lo que me comentas... lo que sí te puedo decir es que, por fortuna, Brubaker "pasa" bastante de los "grandes eventos" editoriales, que, aunque mencionados de pasada en alguna de sus historias, no alteran el día a día del cuernecitos.

Exceptuando el asuntillo ese de su ex-novia, claro... ;P

Gloria said...


I can assure you that Lady Guroriya will keep tracking the Crimson Avenger's footsteps. Even if she has to do it on TPB basis for a while.

I have to re-work the sidebar when I have the time and add thd DD RSS feed link (What an stupendous idea!)

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