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DD Book Club: Underboss
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Mike Murdock
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Joined: 08 Sep 2014
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 21, 2015 8:28 pm    Post subject: DD Book Club: Underboss Reply with quote

I discussed this in the main thread, but I felt we've gone way too long without Brian Michael Bendis, who is usually put up there with Frank Miller for the most influential Daredevil writer. I figured the best place to start is not with his first story, but with his first story with artist Alex Maleev, who I think definitely adds a realistic quality that fits the real world story that Bendis is trying to create. So, here we go:

Daredevil Vol. 2 #26 - Underboss pt. 1


Due 6/28
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Dimetre
Parts of a Hole


Joined: 16 Feb 2006
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 23, 2015 11:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I haven't read this in years.

The positives:

1) Alex Maleev's art. Look at the first few pages. The use of shadow is gorgeous, and it was a nice touch to have Silke wear these Bono shades to stick out with this isolated garish colour.

2) The choice to not tell the story chronologically. The opening scene was shocking enough. So when we (finally) get to the "one week later" heading, you're grabbed. You want to know how we got here. It's a nice storytelling choice.

3) Much of the dialogue shows that Bendis has a good ear. From the first page, Silke's speech is loaded with style. He has a unique voice. Fisk has his own unique voice.

The negatives:

1) The pacing. Holy cow. I could barely tolerate it. This is what drove me up the wall when Bendis was the writer. As I said before, Bendis has a gift for dialogue, but the scenes advance glacially.

I am reading the original issue of #26 I bought back in the day. That first scene? After it ends there is a double-page ad for the Spider-Man 2 video game, then the title page with the credits. Turn the page again and it's another double-page ad for PlayStation2, and that's wear the staples are. We are already halfway through the issue. The second scene just started.

What I find so alarming about the pacing is that it's so easy to see where the scenes could have been trimmed without losing very much. For instance, the stabbing of Fisk could have fit nicely on one page instad of two. Probably you could have even fit the scene of the unconscious Fisk on the same page.

It makes me wonder what exactly Stuart Moore did as editor. Bendis and Maleev handed in these pages. Did he not suggest any trimming at all? Or was the pacing even worse than what we're seeing? Or was his job just to have these issues published so they could be collected as a trade, which was probably the end goal all along? If so, fat load of good that did me, the loyal consumer, buying the individual issues in the first place.

Matt's closing argument takes up four pages. I'm assuming this case involves Mutant Growth Hormone, although I could be wrong. I don't remember zeezees ever coming up again. I don't think this case plays a strong role in future issues. There are so many word balloons, and the writing is fine. But Bendis doesn't know how to do a lot with a little.

After Nitro's explosion, it takes seven pages for Matt to get his head screwed on straight and catch up to him. Then we run out of paper.

2) Shut up! We don't need all these word balloons! We don't need all these captions! It's bad enough that the scenes (which number -- I'll be generous -- four in this issue) take up way too many pages, but did we really need to read all of Matt's closing argument?

When the photographers were snapping pictures, if you're going to have seven word balloons, and you're going to have three pairs of them say the exact same thing as each other, you should maybe think about reducing them to four word balloons. We wouldn't have lost anything.

Perhaps Bendis's end goal with this next thing was to drive me crazy, but the amount of captions about Peter Frampton, and typewriters, and vomit -- it was waaaay too much. Once again, I got the point very quickly, and we should have moved on long before we did.

It's this kind of overwriting that makes me wonder why I never made myself a Brian Michael Bendis inflatable punching clown. The reason for that is because I'm not psychotic, although this writer came awfully close to taking me there.

I rate this a two out of five. I know. So many people consider #26 the dawn of a classic age. I'm not one of those people.
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Mike Murdock
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 24, 2015 8:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Damn, I was hoping the first person would praise Bendis so I could follow it with some criticism. Now I feel compelled to be more positive. To be fair, I actually am more positive about his work even though I absolutely agree with all your criticisms. The thing to keep in mind is it's one very long story. The second Daredevil story I ever read was Hardcore and I didn't like it much at all. However, when I read it again much later after reading everything that came before it, I began to appreciate it. Every little bit builds on each other. The beauty and problem with Bendis is he writes for the Trade Paperbacks. Marvel probably doesn't edit him because they realize this and he can turn out monthly issues efficiently that will sell (in spite of the thin story) and will then sell even better when collected. That being said, I'll turn to the issue itself:

Right away, you get the impression Bendis is trying to make a statement. This book will be something different. Rather than a superhero story, it's a crime story filled with naturalistic Bendis dialogue. Superheroes are derisively mocked by Silke. What's more, Silke succeeds. Having the Kingpin knifed by his own men is a way to make a statement.

I would be remiss if I didn't comment on Matt's closing argument. It's a good trial lawyer speech. Simplifying without dumbing down, repeating key phrases and focusing on the rhetoric that would most persuade. It's a TV lawyer speech in that it's about thirty seconds instead of what sounds like it should be at least a half hour, but I thought it was worth mentioning.

In a Bendis story, the focus is on the dialogue, but the silent panels in the aftermath of the attack are quite effective. You feel like you can hear the ringing silence that follows an explosion. Full credit goes to the layout there and Alex Maleev. It's something that I feel only a comic book could deliver right.

I've read the story before, but I thankfully recorded my thoughts from my initial reading just so I can compare. Back then, I speculated on who hired this assassin. My thought was the story implied the Kingpin, but I also didn't think it entirely made sense - since the Kingpin views Daredevil as a useful tool in keeping the underworld in line under his control. Looking back this time, it's worth noting that marvel this assassin has that his employers told him Daredevil would show up. I also wondered if the lawsuit was a random tangent or if it served a useful purpose (and if they would have hired the assassin for some reason).

Like most Bendis stories, it's an entertaining ride throughout. However, it also feels like half an issue. It ends and you go "wait, shouldn't there be more?" Going from an O'Neil/Miller story to this, it's clear they would have resolved this in the first quarter of the issue. But it's cleverly done throughout. I'll go with Four Stars.
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kentuckydevil
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 24, 2015 10:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

4 stars here as well..

I loved these books.
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The Overlord
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 25, 2015 12:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yeah I think Bendis stories work better for trades rather then single issues, this story works far better reading it all at once, rather then going month to month. A slow pace is less of problem with a trade. This story with its non linear story telling is specially made for trades. Since I got this story years after it came out in a trade, its hard to imagine reading it in single issues when it came out.

I find it a bit odd that Kingpin wouldn't know who Julius Caesar is (maybe he did know and was incredulous Silke asked him such a thing)? I do like Silke's speech and him mocking various super hero tropes (over the top assassins, villains and heroes having a rivalry that never ends, with neither side willing to deal a killing blow) having a gangster from a more realistic setting enter a super hero world, it would make sense for him to react this way. Silke is something of hypocrite, because it is very likely that nitro was hired by him.


Also what type of lawyer is Matt, he is usually a defense attorney, though here and in some other stories, he is practicing civil law. His speech in court was not bad.

I think this story has a very effective beginning and a somewhat slow middle and ending. I will give this issue 3 stars, its hard to judge it on its own, I think I may give the arc a higher rating.


Last edited by The Overlord on Thu Jun 25, 2015 12:14 am; edited 1 time in total
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Dimetre
Parts of a Hole


Joined: 16 Feb 2006
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 25, 2015 12:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I wish Marvel had commissioned Bendis and Maleev to create trade paperbacks, and left the monthly title to creators who were interested in writing monthly installments.
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The Overlord
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 25, 2015 12:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dimetre wrote:
I wish Marvel had commissioned Bendis and Maleev to create trade paperbacks, and left the monthly title to creators who were interested in writing monthly installments.


Fair enough, DC has released some stories that are just trade paper backs recently. Really I think the market has been moving towards trade paper backs for the last decade and I think the digital market will make the individual floppy issues irrelevant, so Bendis writing style may fit the new market. I think the industry will continue to move away from physical single issues. I don't really buy them anymore, I either get trades from the library or comics from digital outlets.

I will say this, Bendis DD run is some his best work. Bendis has obvious flaws that become more apparent over time, but he did a way better job with DD then he did with Avengers. Single urban heroes are his fortay, if he strays from that, he is no good. So even though his various flaws are still present in his DD run, he did enough good things to off set them, IMO.
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Mike Murdock
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 25, 2015 6:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Overlord wrote:

Silke is something of hypocrite, because it is very likely that nitro was hired by him.


I'll talk about this more when we get to the revelation of who hired the assassin, but I do think it would make sense for Silke to do so. The whole point is for everyone to think it was the Kingpin who did it and then bungle the whole thing. It discredits both the idea of hiring costumed assassins and the Kingpin.

Quote:
Also what type of lawyer is Matt, he is usually a defense attorney, though here and in some other stories, he is practicing civil law. His speech in court was not bad.


Matt Murdock is a dying breed - a general practice lawyer. He basically specializes in helping the downtrodden and defenseless. That usually means he's a criminal defense attorney and a civil plaintiffs lawyer (where he'll take on landlord-tenant cases on behalf of the tenant or negligence cases for things like products liability or chemical spills).
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james castle
Devil in Cell-Block D


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 26, 2015 11:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

UNDERBOSS - PLOT REVIEW - PART 1

[One Week Ago]

1. Matt wins a Court case against a pharmaceutical company.
2. On the Courthouse steps some one "blows up" in front of Matt.
3. Matt changes into his Daredevil outfit and catches the bomb guy. Bomb Guy thinks to himself that it's weird that "they" knew Daredevil would show up.

[Today]

4. Silke, who is a gangster from out of town who has been causing problems meets with The Kingpin and a bunch of other mob higher ups. Silke complains about superheroes and longs for the good old days.
5. All the mob higher ups stab The Kingpin (who somehow doesn't know the story of Julius Caesar).
6. Kingpin dies.
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Dimetre
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 26, 2015 12:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

james castle wrote:
5. All the mob higher ups stab The Kingpin (who somehow doesn't know the story of Julius Caesar).

I have to agree with some of the people who previously commented; I think Fisk was taken aback because he could tell what Silke was suggesting with the Caesar reference.
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Mike Murdock
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 26, 2015 7:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yeah, I think Fisk was more generally confused than specifically confused, if that makes sense (and isn't more confusing).
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I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!
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james castle
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 27, 2015 1:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mike Murdock wrote:
Yeah, I think Fisk was more generally confused than specifically confused, if that makes sense (and isn't more confusing).


He should be confused. How did that meeting start? Where are they? Why is Silke sitting down with everyone standing around him in their coats?
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Francesco
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 27, 2015 4:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Don't forget that Fisk was blind, at the time.
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Mike Murdock
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 27, 2015 9:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

That's an excellent point I had forgotten about.
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I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!
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Darkdevil
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Joined: 04 Apr 2009
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 27, 2015 5:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is a good coincidence. I don't like Bendis' style of writing, I think he doesn't perform his due diligence as a writer, either for himself or for the character(s) he may be writing. This issue is one of an assortment that I've read over the years in the hopes of gaining some understanding of why he is considered one of the best DD writers behind Miller. Yet all I've found is the same old flaws....

Francesco wrote:
Don't forget that Fisk was blind, at the time.


Like this. Marking this occasion, this is the third time that I've read this issue and this is the first that I've heard of this. There is no sign nor hint of Fisk suffering from this. Yes, he's wearing shades but for all I know, he's doing his Blues Brothers' impression. It would help explain how he was attacked so easily (how many times have I seen previous shots of Fisk practicing his skills against a dojo room full of opponents and come out on top?) but Bendis offers no clue that Fisk is blind and thus unable to fully defend himself. It's poor execution.

As for the Caesar comment, I don't buy it. One of the most powerful men ever in crime and he doesn't know the story behind the death of the one of the most powerful men in history? Fisk is more careful (and prepared) than this scene lets on, an instance of Bendis foregoing characterization in favor of having a shock moment.

Now, the dialogue does have a nice flow to it but look at what is being said. Silke's dialogue has a Tarantino flavor to it. Matt's closing argument is repetitive to a degree and what is up with Foggy's hesitation and stuttering?

Bendis' overall pacing is atrocious. Lee and Thomas could cover the events in this issue in two pages while maintaining the same level of drama and tension. We have Matt in his DD costume for all of 4 pages and he does little while in it. The attack and resultant confusion was nice, but Bendis overplayed the effects. (How can you hate Frampton? And what was it with all the pop tarts references? What, he was overcome by the smell of them??)

Maleev's art is decent, a tad grainy for my tastes. Silke's meeting looked good (his reflection in Fisk's glasses was a nice touch).

If this is indeed the start of Bendis' golden run, I'm not impressed so far....
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