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DD Book Club One-Shot: Beer with the Devil

 
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Mike Murdock
Lowlife


Joined: 08 Sep 2014
Posts: 1415

PostPosted: Sat Aug 01, 2015 5:40 pm    Post subject: DD Book Club One-Shot: Beer with the Devil Reply with quote

Daredevil Vol. 1 #266 - A Beer with the Devil



I had wanted to do an Ann Nocenti story for awhile, but I was limited by a combination of availability and unwieldiness (in other words, without a clear beginning or end, it would be a story that would drag on and anyone who didn't like it would give up). So I settled on this one-shot story that follows the Typhoid Mary saga where Daredevil is left beaten physical and broken spiritually as he almost dies and, when he wakes, he finds Karen Page has left him.

That brings us to A Beer with the Devil, which is inspired by true events in Nocenti's life. Normally I would post a quick synopsis of the issue, but any one I found was fairly spoilerish and, besides, that link does a much better job setting the scene. So, I hope you enjoy.

Due August 8
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Mike Murdock
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Joined: 08 Sep 2014
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 02, 2015 6:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ah, a good old Ann Nocenti Christmas issue. I last read this one about a year ago fresh after reading the whole Typhoid Mary saga. It very much starts in that frame of mind - Daredevil beatdown and broken (although a watchful observer will notice this has to be several months later, it went from scorching summer to Christmas). And it definitely wallows in the tragedy that had occurred. The main plot is Daredevil nursing a beer while this lady sits next to him. She starts with a story that eerily mirrors his own - about how she had cheated on her husband. It's very much not a superhero comic.

The story has a lot of little side characters, characters who could only exist in Nocenti's Daredevil. They exist for a little bit and you can learn about them and know them, but then they go on their lives and you go on yours and you'll never see them again. There's the old lady who claims she's just waiting for a gentleman caller. There's the guy who left his wife ten years earlier. There's the killer on death row who is unrepentent before death. There's a guy who saw a mugger on the street and decided to do nothing (his passivity reflects Daredevil's). The ones that stand out are the two brothers. They start off squabbling as usual, the good one and the bad one, but there's a brief moment where they start to understand each other. But that doesn't last long.

As the story goes on, it gets weirder. The first guy to see the lady (guy who left is wife) turns pale white, but it isn't explained why (although I suspect he saw his ex-wife). Next, the guy who saw the mugger who seems to see the mugger in place of the lady. The lady starts to hit on Matt too and, as he does, the two brothers squabble intensifies. As the woman tells Daredevil to forget the world and let someone else be the hero, the good brother, in a fit of anger, stabs his other brother who was pleading for him to stop and pleading for help. Matt recovers from his kiss to realize that the one brother is dead and he could have stopped it. Only then it is it revealed that he's been making out with the devil himself, Mephisto. After that, there's no more metaphor. Mephisto literally lectures Matt Murdock on his selfish actions. How he has tried to rationalize his behavior but that, eventually, he will cross the line and belong to him. But don't let it be all depressing. The story ends with two good Samaritans who rescue him and take him to a soup kitchen. So perhaps Mephisto is wrong and there is hope.

I'm sure many will find this story way too weird or not appropriate for Daredevil at all. Others might find it boring because it lacks action. To me, I thought it was a good character study. Matt Murdock is someone who can be very selfish. He can wallow in self-pitty. He can be extremely righteous and extremely hypocritcal. On the other hand, he's also someone who is very moral and very just and wants to do the right thing. This is him at a low point, one he will have to rise out of, so we don't get to see that other half. I think it falls apart a bit at the end (not due to Mephisto, but just with how the scenes in general go), but for what this story tries to tell, I think it tells it well. Four Stars.
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I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!
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Dimetre
Parts of a Hole


Joined: 16 Feb 2006
Posts: 1163
Location: Toronto

PostPosted: Sun Aug 02, 2015 6:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ann Nocenti isn't my favourite Daredevil writer. She created some good villains (chief among them Typhoid), but many of her comics felt like essays. She seemed to always have a thesis she was trying to flesh out.

But this issue feels different. It feels very organic. By opening the issue in a town square full of love and the Christmas spirit, then gradually veering from that and subtracting more and more love until we're inside a bar full of depravity -- Nocenti and Romita Jr. handled that masterfully.

I also appreciate Nocenti's use of this issue's villain. It follows previous depictions in the Bible and in Silver Surfer. (BIG HINT) The method is always temptation, and here it's no different. The seductive guise the villain assumes is effective and interesting in its effect.

There are some mysteries here. Who are the husband and lover to whom the woman seducing Daredevil refers? Who is the man on death row speaking on television? And on what life experience did Nocenti base this story?

I think this issue's strength lies in the fact that Nocenti and Romita Jr. took Daredevil to a very low point, setting him up for this temptation. He says, "I... I don't know anymore. I don't know if I make a difference. That's why I'm here, in this bar." You can believe he reached this point, and that's why he's so close to buying what the villain is selling. And that's why it's so heroic, and such a relief, when he finally rejects it.

Sure, he failed to save someone's life in this issue, and that stings. After this, his resolve will strengthen, and he'll be more careful. That just makes this issue's ending all the more heartwarming. After we've witnessed evil at its most horrifying, we end with the most simple image of good that hasn't been extinguished.

This has to be one of Nocenti's best ever comics. It's not preachy, and very organic. I hadn't read it in a long time. 4/5
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The Overlord
Paradiso


Joined: 22 Aug 2004
Posts: 1095

PostPosted: Sat Aug 08, 2015 11:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sorry for the late reply, but I just read this story off Marvel Unlimted today. I thought was a good character building issue, it didn't have a lot of action or is part of a huge story arc, but these character study breather issues are important from time to time.
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james castle
Devil in Cell-Block D


Joined: 30 Jul 2004
Posts: 1998
Location: Toronto, Ontario

PostPosted: Sun Aug 09, 2015 2:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

10/10

Just because it got published really.
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Dimetre
Parts of a Hole


Joined: 16 Feb 2006
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 09, 2015 2:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

james castle wrote:
10/10

Just because it got published really.

Please elaborate. I was very curious about your thoughts, since you seem to be the biggest Nocenti fan who regularly visits this site.
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james castle
Devil in Cell-Block D


Joined: 30 Jul 2004
Posts: 1998
Location: Toronto, Ontario

PostPosted: Sun Aug 09, 2015 4:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dimetre wrote:
james castle wrote:
10/10

Just because it got published really.

Please elaborate. I was very curious about your thoughts, since you seem to be the biggest Nocenti fan who regularly visits this site.


Fair enough.

You know, half the time I think that my love of Nocenti just comes from the fact that I started reading DD when she was writing it combined with the fact that I was an impressionable 10 year old (whose parents clearly weren't keeping a too close eye on what I was reading). Reading through this again though really reminds me that Nocenti is just magic. Why?

The Writing

From lyrical one liners like “Snow is on the ground, a song is in the air, God is in Heaven” to drop dead dialogue that tells an entire story in a panel Nocenti sure could write. Just looking at the scene setting X-Mas street scene. The "camera" seems to pan over the street as Nocenti tells half a dozen little stories. The kid stealing the present, the other kids getting chestnuts and presents. Sure, the couple making out juxtaposed with the cold homeless person is a tad heavy handed but it just drifts by. And yeah, THIS is dialogue. Not someone wanking on about a picture of a bird for 12 pages.

The Premise

Daredevil having a beer with the Devil in a dive bar on X-Mas. Yes, yes and yes.

The Point

First, it has a point, which is a bit of a special thing in comics.

Plus, in one issue Nocenti manages to touch on the inherent injustice of the world and the immense nature of evil. The consequences of cheating and the notion of drawing lines just to cross them. Plus, none of this is necessarily out of place since she draws it all back to Matt having recently cheated on Karen as well as broader issues of what Matt is actually accomplishing as "a hero". Oh yeah and she mixes in a "what is it all for?"/"heroes aren't rewarded" riff just for fun. And this is one issue.

The Story

The story is simple but soul crushing. The old lady expecting a call. The guy who left his wife. And of course, tragic story of the two brothers. To this day I'm bothered by that scene. Truly affecting stuff.

But then it has a happy ending?

The Art

Art is amazing even though all the women look sort of like men. The sequence of Mephisto getting bigger and bigger is wicked.
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Francesco
Underboss


Joined: 08 Jun 2006
Posts: 1307

PostPosted: Mon Aug 10, 2015 3:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Truly a memorable issue. Outstanding dialogues.
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kentuckydevil
Flying Blind


Joined: 19 Jul 2009
Posts: 79

PostPosted: Wed Aug 19, 2015 7:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It just really occurred to me..despite being a DD fan for over 44 yrs I have yet to read an entire issue written by Nocenti..

I read a short by her somewhere.. possibly in DD 500...

hmmmmm...might be time to go a'lookin..

ky
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Mike Murdock
Lowlife


Joined: 08 Sep 2014
Posts: 1415

PostPosted: Thu Aug 20, 2015 6:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yeah, Three Jacks is the short story she wrote for issue 500. I like that too. There's a lot of similarities in the use of heavy-handed symbolism and ambiguous metaphor, but her old work is a lot more dialogue heavy. I wish there was a group of two or three issues I could draw from for another one. I actually like a lot of her work (although there are glaring flaws in it too).
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Matt Murdock's cooler twin brother

Not sure what to read next? Check out the Book Club for some ideas!

I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!
Thomas More - A Man for All Seasons
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Acerbus
Flying Blind


Joined: 11 Mar 2006
Posts: 96
Location: U.S.A.

PostPosted: Sat Aug 22, 2015 12:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The first several pages are a bit superfluous. We probably would have been fine with just one page establishing that it's Christmas, before moving on to the bar where we see Daredevil. Instead we get three ponderous pages of street scenes devoid of context and ancillary dialogue from characters we're never going to hear from again all repeatedly drilling the "Hey, it's the Holidays but some people are SAD!" premise home with the subtlety of a jackhammer. I get that she has a page count to fill, though. It's a minor nitpick.

I think Ann Nocenti worked best when her high-minded socio-political posturing was put in service to a more grounded story. Her activist naiveté contrasts really well with street-level heroics and questions of urban crime. This story is a really good example of that. The latent weirdness and spiritualism, while initially jarring, becomes thematic seasoning for a simple story about selfishness vs. altruism. Very effective.

Stunning art, particularly toward the end. Some of John Romita, Jr. and Al Williamson's best work was done in this era. You can really see the French influence creeping in with the woodcut-esque cross-hatching a la Moebius or Barry Windsor-Smith.
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