DOUGLAS: On to Daredevil: Black and White. I also don’t entirely understand the impulse behind publishing these pulpy b/w one-shots with filler-y comics stories and fake-aged covers and a prose story in each one. Does what Marvel saves on printing costs (for a vague impression of their old overstuffed black-and-white magazines) make up for what can’t be particularly significant interest in the scaled-down version of the format?
MIKE: The impulse is just to get more Daredevil on the racks while Shadowland is in full swing, no? Same reason there was a miserable Shadowland: Bullseye book out this week.
GRAEME: Is Shadowland really enough of even a faux hit for this? I just assumed it was because DD was enough of a ground-level character to earn one of these B&W specials, which have for the most part been for the less superhero-y superheroes (Shang-Chi, Doctor Strange, Hulk).
MIKE: Outside of Doomwar, it’s the only ‘event’ that Marvel really has going right now. It’s the Heroic Age!
DOUGLAS: I was interested in this one because it was advertised as having a story by Ann Nocenti and David Aja, and the last Daredevil story they did together was the amazing “3 Jacks” back in Daredevil #500. (Nocenti, for those of you who don’t know her, wrote a very interesting four-and-a-half-year run on Daredevil back in the ’80s and early ’90s.)
Anyway, the Nocenti/Aja piece turns out to be the prose story-plus-spot-illustrations that takes up the final four pages of this issue; I’d been hoping for some more actual comics from them, but it’s a worthwhile if minor experiment. (I particularly like the free-associative blur of words in the fight-scene paragraph.)
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As for the rest of the issue… I’ve read enough superhero comics that if my interest in a particular story’s form or content is minimal but there’s some aspect that’s particularly well-done in it I can just concentrate on getting enjoyment out of that, so I’ll just note that Jason Latour’s artwork on the lead story makes very nice use of zip-a-tone effects, and that it’s fun to see yet another talented young artist taking his cues from ’80s-era Mazzucchelli (he talks about Mazzucchelli here), and that I love the joke of the painting we see Matt looking at in an art gallery. (Although “Matt has a chance to get his sight back but he has to make the decision right away” is a Mort Weisinger-level corny plot.) I was not able to make any such allowances for the Kingpin short story.
MIKE: This What If… story feels like it takes place during Matt’s early career as a vigilante. I feel like it’s a non-specific time that many creators like to go to with Matt (although it’s usually in the yellow costume). I don’t know if it’s nostalgia, or just a disdain for the general angst spiral Daredevil has been riding for the last 20 years. At one point in this book he’s shaking hands with a cop. Just your friendly neighborhood Daredevil.
GRAEME: I really hope that there is disdain for the general angst spiral that Daredevil’s been stuck in since, what, Frank Miller? If there’s one character who seems completely stuck in the same storyline all the time, it’s Daredevil. I can’t get my head around the fact that so many well-respected storylines have pretty much come from the same plot of “Things go really bad for Matt Murdock, he’s pushed to his limits” all the time. (Yes, internet, this means that I wasn’t a big fan of the Bendis/Maleev run. Sorry.)
This special was… okay? I guess? It felt entirely weightless, as much as I liked both the Milligan/LaTour piece – which looked spectacular – and the Nocenti short story. I’m not excited enough by the character to care that much about this book, to be honest. Bits of it were pretty, but nothing in it really stood out, or made me want to read any more Daredevil stories. It felt very insular.
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EVAN: The problem I had with both this week’s books was one of contrast. If you don’t get enough distance between the characters’ behaviors and the worlds they operate in, everything seems kinda flat. The Daredevil Black and White stories did a little bit of that, but mostly they were all about angst.
The Jason Latour piece was a big exception, but I have a special place in my heart for Daredevil #223, the best “Matt Murdock gets his sight back” story ever. It’s a great example of that contrast thing, too. Even though there’s all this existential grim stuff going on, there’s a big chunk of the book that just about Matt and then-girlfriend Glorianna O’Breen just enjoying New York City. So, when the inevitable happens, it means something. And to top it all off, this was a weak tie-in to Secret Wars II, but it isn’t weightless in the way that Graeme pegged the B&W stories.
The angst spiral is part of the problem. There’s gotta be another way to go with Matt Murdock. The self-destructive Catholic guilt stuff can be part of his behavior, but shouldn’t be all of it.