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DD Book Club: In Mortal Combat with ... Sub-Mariner

 
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Mike Murdock
Lowlife


Joined: 08 Sep 2014
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 24, 2016 5:10 pm    Post subject: DD Book Club: In Mortal Combat with ... Sub-Mariner Reply with quote

How is that for a title! In the earliest issue we've done so far, I bring you:

Daredevil Vol. 1 #7 - In Mortal Combat with ... Sub-Mariner



I think it's what it says on the tin, so no real preview is needed. Written by Stan Lee, drawn by Wally Wood, Lettered by Artie Simek.

Due 1/30
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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: 1175
Location: Toronto

PostPosted: Sun Jan 24, 2016 8:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Re-reading this, I find it amazing how many plot points and story beats managed to get packed into a single issue of an older comic. Among Daredevil writers, I think Miller was the best at that, but, in this instance, Lee hit it out of the park. Obviously Wally Wood did a lot of heavy lifting, considering the Marvel Method being used at the time, but this is almost as good as Lee's Fantastic Four and Spidey stuff from the 60s.

I think the greatest thing Lee accomplished in this issue is establish a key character trait of Matt Murdock -- he never gives up. That's obviously something Miller picked up and ran with in "Born Again," but Lee spelled it out as early as the seventh issue. Prior to this issue, Daredevil was not really overpowered by his foes. (I suppose you can make a case for Electro, but if you can cover him in a drape, you're home free.) In this issue, Daredevil is so out of his weight class, and Lee gets to the essence of the character with the following caption. "Yet, how can one measure the limitless courage of a fellow human? Although on the brink of unconsciousness -- although racked with pain and fatigue -- still the sightless crusader reaches out --!"

Another thing that Lee and Wood did very well in this issue was give both Namor and Daredevil noble goals. I appreciated that Namor spoke to both Krang and Dorma of the importance of employing reason and diplomacy first when dealing with the surface world. It gets the reader on Namor's side right away. I also like that Matt sensed Namor's "great honor," "intense pride and innate nobility." Both Namor and Daredevil respect each other, and that raises the entire story up.

There are some silver age tropes present in this issue that don't stand the test of time. I realize that the fight is the whole point of this issue, but I do find it kind of dumb that while Matt's entire goal is to is reason with Namor, the first move he makes is to bounce off an awning and kick him in the stomach. Why does he think he has to physically soften him up? I don't understand that. That move sets the fight into motion, but from the perspective of the character and his goals, it makes little sense. It would have made more sense for him to land in the Sub Mariner's path and address him peacefully. But, it's hard to complain about the battle we get as a result.

Nowadays, since I have now read every issue of Daredevil that came out in the 60s, I find the whole romantic subplot between Karen and Matt nauseating. To me, she didn't become interesting until Frank Miller turned her into a junkie two decades later. Her entire reason for existing was just to be an object of desire for Matt and Foggy. She has no unique interests of her own, no personality, and is just a weak character. But, for an early issue of Daredevil, Lee and Wood have kept that to a minimum.

I wonder how early Lee got the idea for this issue? Since he was hoping Bill Everett was going to be the artist for the series long-term, and Everett created the Sub Mariner decades before, was this something we would have gotten earlier had Everett stayed on? Was he just waiting for an artist of Wally Wood's calibre to do this story?

Wood knocks this issue out of the park. The first splash page is as good as anything Kirby was doing at the time, and this issue marks the first appearance of the red costume. It looks great, and is such a simple and sleek design, it makes you wonder why Everett didn't do that for the first issue.

This probably is the first true classic issue Daredevil's history. (It's a better issue than #1.) I'm not going to say it's perfect because of the awning bounce and Karen, but I will give it a four out of five.
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Mike Murdock
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Joined: 08 Sep 2014
Posts: 1435

PostPosted: Tue Jan 26, 2016 8:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Now this is the silver age. An awesome title, Stan Lee promising greatness just as it begins. What's not to like?

The issue sets the scene with Namor. The character is well-established but everything you need to know about him, his people, and his goals are set out very clearly in the first couple pages. Now it's done in a very dated style, but it accomplishes its goals. And his goal is, apparently, to seek legal counsel. His wanton careless destruction is played for humor but it also shows his incredible strength. Hopefully, Nelson and Murdock are well-insured. I love that it doesn't stop after he gets into the office. Every time he gestures wildly, he breaks a table or something like that. Then, when leaving, he just goes through a wall and drops to the ground.

Namor's plan is to cause destruction to get arrested and make his claim of the surface world. Daredevil's initial fight is one-sided, which sets up the rest of the issue. Namor turns himself in to stand trial and raise his "counterclaim." This may actually be one of the best representations of attorney-client relationships I've read in Daredevil. Matt understands the process and is trying to explain this is normal, but Namor doesn't care what is normal and is his usual impatient self (with the need to get back to his kingdom). As I'm reading it, I'm hoping he can hold out so he can actually present his case. Of course, he doesn't and the fight begins again.

The fight is fun. It's overly narrated or filled with thought bubbles, but it works well. The important thing is everything Daredevil does is completely counter matched. I think the one that stood out for me was he swung on a lamp post so Namor ripped it out. The scene of a barely conscious Daredevil reaching out to grab his ankle in one final attempt at stopping him is probably the most memorable part along with Namor's speech in response. Of course, Daredevil finally tries, you know, communicating, which would have been a good thing to do all along.

I picked this issue because I think it's better than much of early Daredevil. It's not a masterpiece, but it's well-done. The plotting of the art is probably what stands out since this issue has to rise or fall on the fight. If every story was this quality, early Daredevil might be better remembered and we'd have a different book today. I'll go Four Stars.
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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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The Overlord
Paradiso


Joined: 22 Aug 2004
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 27, 2016 10:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This was a fun Silver Age DD issue, though I would like review something totally bonkers from the Silver Age sometime in the future.

Namor wants to sue the human race for custody of the surface world, feeling using the legal system to serve Atlantis interests would be less costly then using military means, so he causes a ruckus, gets arrested, hires Murdock and Nelson to launch a counter suit against the human race. General Krang launches a rebellion to take over Atlantis and Namor busts out of jail to deal with this situation.

Of course, this is all a back drop to set up a fight between Namor and DD, with DD being totally out of his league, but not giving up, earning Namor's respect for his brave, but ultimately futile efforts. This issue is the first to address DD's never give up attitude, with DD throwing everything he could at Namor and Namor brushing it all off, but DD still giving it his all to beat Namor and stop his rampage.


DD has to borrow an antagonist from another book to make this issue work, because none of DD's Silver Age foes would have been phsyically powerful enough to make this such a one sided fight. This is the first major defeat DD has suffered. I will say something, because DD is older he seems to have more self confidence then say Silver Age Spidey, who seriously considered giving up after Dr. Octopus gave him his first major defeat, I don't think we saw a true showing of Spidey's will power till the Master Planner saga. Actually this story is very similar to a Spidey story from the 80s, where Spidey bravely, but futilely tries to stop the Juggernaut.

This is also the debut of DD's iconic red costume, which Wally Wood designed, feeling that the Man Without Fear should not wear a yellow costume, feeling that yellow is the color of cowardice. Well whatever the reason, we do get a much better costume.

I will give this issue 4 stars, but it is clearly not as good as the next issue, the debut of DD's ultimate villain, the sinister, sublime and stupendous Stilt-Man!
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Mike Murdock
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 28, 2016 7:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I was going to say, if you want bonkers, Silt-Man is a good one. Maybe something with Good ol' Mike would be better, though.
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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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Bullseye11
Flying Blind


Joined: 05 Oct 2013
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 29, 2016 6:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is a great issue. Probably one of the best issues Lee has ever had. It's full of nonsense (shouldn't Namor have some type of diplomatic immunity) but in a good way. Stan delivers silver age craziness in such a great way that all blunders are forgiven. This is when Lee finally figured out daredevil. Instead of disliking matts weakness he finally embraces it. That ending sums up Matt better than anything. And lets not forget the introduction of the iconic red costume. This could be the most important issue of daredevil ever. For all of this I have to give it 5 stars.
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Darkdevil
Humanity's Fathom


Joined: 04 Apr 2009
Posts: 331
Location: The Bright, Sunny South

PostPosted: Sun Jan 31, 2016 11:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Now this is the Silver Age Marvel that I enjoy, when Lee was at his most bombastic. It says it right on the cover, one of Marvel's greatest epics. Inside on the first splash page, the blurb about this being one of the proudest moments in this new Marvel Age of comics. You just can't beat that level of sales promotion.

The plot is a fun mixture of Silver Age zaniness coupled with some terrific action. Namor seeks to sue the human race over Atlantis' rightful place on the surface. So of course, he'll need a lawyer!

It's an interesting way to bring together two disparate characters. It's also a good way to set up the ongoing portrayal of both characters that is seen throughout this story. When Namor bursts his way out of their office after becoming frustrated over the humans' legal system, Karen only notices Namor's arrogance and confidence while Matt intuits Namor's innate pride and honor.

Namor goes on a rampage, expecting his day in court after he is captured (though oddly, given his previous attacks in FF, I wonder why he never considers that the humans may end up trying to kill him instead). Matt fears that Namor will be harmed and that innocents will be harmed during this escapade, so he intervenes as DD.

Which leads to another great Silver Age element that I enjoyed here, during this initial confrontation and later on after Namor escapes from jail, both the police and military acquiesce to DD's commands. When Matt leaps onto a military plane, the co-pilot ensures not to do anything that would throw him off. Later, DD tells the military to desist, to give him time to try and get Namor to stop or surrender. And they do! What?! Why are they taking orders from a costumed vigilante? It's crazy! But somehow it works.

The legal scenes were interesting, though with Namor technically being a head of state/country, you have to wonder about any sort of diplomatic immunity. Would the US or the world even consider Atlantis a 'country'? And shouldn't these proceedings be held under federal jurisdiction or court?

The fight scenes were wonderful. Wood provides a strong sense of grace for both opponents throughout. Look at the way Matt leaps and swings from various objects like the lampposts and wrecking ball. How Namor flies with ease, the whole thing is like a beautifully choreographed ballet, only with punches. An outstanding job.

Lee's dialogue of this fight matched up to Wood's excellence. We see the beginnings of Matt's 'Never Give Up' mentality, facing off against a much more powerful foe. While Namor, though outraged and incensed, continues to admire DD's resolve and determination, finding within Matt a similar sense of nobility as his own. Some terrific characterization all around.

Yes, we have the premiere of the now iconic red costume which is fully displayed, again with Wood's sense of innate grace. I have to think that went a long way towards establishing this new look for fans back then. But we also have Matt's cool gadget skills on display too. Smoke screen pellets in the billy club, a new cable line for him to use swinging across the city. You gotta love it.

Overall, I would rate this 5 stars, a real masterpiece, not only because of the intro of his classic red costume, but also due to it's strong characterization and beautiful art. Wood may not have been on the title for long, but what a powerful impact he had while he was.
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