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DD Book Club One-Shot: Ground Zero

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Mike Murdock

Joined: 08 Sep 2014
Posts: 1402

PostPosted: Sun May 29, 2016 10:26 am    Post subject: DD Book Club One-Shot: Ground Zero Reply with quote

Daredevil Vol. 1 # 252 - Ground Zero

New York is in a blackout due to the assault by Apocalypse's Horsemen, and Daredevil and crew have to keep Ammo and his gang away from the ordinance they are trying to steal.

This is in honor of the new movie that just came out X-Men: Apocalypse. One thing I like about Ann Nocenti is, as an X-Men editor, she wasn't afraid to bring Daredevil into the X-centric events going on. On the other hand, she never lost sight of who the character was. One of my favorites is this story, which was a tie-in for the Apocalypse-focused Fall of the Mutants storyline. I thought it was appropriate to have.

Due 6/5
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I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!
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Parts of a Hole

Joined: 16 Feb 2006
Posts: 1156
Location: Toronto

PostPosted: Sun May 29, 2016 5:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wow. I forgot about this issue. It's so dark.

There is so much going on, and it feels like too much to me.

When the spaceship flies overhead, if you haven't been following the X books you will have no context. I didn't have any. But these people exist in the Marvel Universe, so it feels like a bit of a stretch for the entire city to leap to the conclusion that this is nuclear war.

The scene in the subway train didn't end up adding anything to the story from my perspective. I don't think we need it. It's very wordy as well, and just feels like filler.

I enjoyed the scene in Matt and Karen's free clinic. It was around this time that I think Matt and Karen's relationship was on its most solid footing. That moment when the clinic finds out they won their first case is a great one. It's a victory for the little guy. But the issue quickly leaves that moment and doesn't return.

I like Bullet and his son Lance. Nocenti had a great sense of who both these characters were, and Romita Jr. does a great job drawing them. I love the image of Lance in the hallway crying out after his father. But these Bullet scenes don't lead anywhere either. Maybe they set up a future issue, but this issue feels a little too long as it is.

Is that Arkangel? I'm not really into X-Men, but I find it difficult to believe that a civilian in the Marvel Universe would mistake a winged man for a rocket. I guess Fall of the Mutants is the Apocalypse story, correct? I'm not planning on watching the movie, and I never cared to familiarize myself with that story in the past few decades.

The main antagonist in this issue, Ammo, doesn't appear until page 13. When he does, the scene is chaotic, and I found it hard to follow. Actually the whole issue jumps from location to location haphazardly. But in Ammo's first scene a kid wearing warpaint asks Ammo, "What will the others eat?" Another punk answers, "Who cares. Let 'em die." And another says, "Victims..." That's one panel. The next panel has Ammo's response to all that, and he says, "I know you, punk. You a bad seed." I had a problem determining to whom Ammo was referring, because three different people spoke in the previous panel, and the one with the warpaint, who ends up being called Bad Seed, wasn't the most recent one. But Ammo was talking to him. It just felt sloppy to me.

Also, I found Matt's evaporating patience kind of surprising. He knows it's not a nuclear war, but he's faced with massive civil unrest and a dire situation. Even with all that, I was caught off-guard the first time he told Cain to shut up. I can buy that Black Widow has no patience with kids, but not Matt. I realize that he's human and his patience has its limits, but I think he seemed to have the situation in hand just a few panels before when he was speaking with Karen.

I liked the scene with the escaped prisoner and the baby, even the the image of an infant in a garbage can is so heavy, but the effect the kid has on the convict ends up rescuing the scene. I thought where it ended up leading was beautiful.

I think everybody in the comic thought Daredevil was going to beat Ammo to death, even though he clearly had Ammo beaten. I think we were supposed to wonder whether Daredevil was going to kill him too. He was certainly beating him savagely. So when Daredevil says, "No. It's never over," I guess Nocenti's intent with that line is to show that Daredevil has been so pushed past his limit that he might kill Ammo. I don't this story took me to a place where I would accept that was enough to push Daredevil to a place where he would violate his "no killing" rule. He knows this isn't nuclear war, and he clearly incapacitated Ammo. The very next page he chastises Cain by saying, "Shut up. You disgust me." That was very jarring.

When everyone finds out it wasn't nuclear war, we get a nice exchange between Daredevil and Black Widow, and I really like his line where he says, "How sad. I guess... somewhere in our unconscious minds, we all feel like a nuclear disaster is so inevitable -- that when it does hit... we won't even be surpised.

I grew up in the eighties, and we discussed the arms race in school and watched documentaries like If You Love This Planet (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7FjgBBQFmGs), and TV movies like The Day After. I remember a teacher flat out telling us that he feels bad for our generation because ours was going to be the last. Nuclear war, for a while, was accepted as an inevitability, even though everyone knew that it was impossible to survive. This issue is clearly a product of the eighties.

Cain is stabbed by a girl who isn't introduced until the very end of Daredevil's fight with Ammo. Cain's death takes this issue to an even darker place, and this is already a very bleak issue. Thank god for the final glimmer of light provided by the escaped convict and the baby.

This issue is much too chaotic for my taste, and there is some cynicism here that rubs me the wrong way. But it's a solid mix of good and bad. I respect Nocenti for always trying to deliver a message with every issue, even if she doesn't always do a good job in conveying it. I give this one a 3 out of 5.
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Mike Murdock

Joined: 08 Sep 2014
Posts: 1402

PostPosted: Mon May 30, 2016 9:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I like how this issue begins, with just ordinary people on the subway with their own thoughts. During Nocenti's run, Hell's Kitchen was very much a character (Beer with the Devil is another example where she does this effectively). That's why this story seems to focus on many minor characters rather than the lead. This is a story about society. Ammo is the nominal bad guy, but he isn't a major threat. Instead, it's just about how society reacts when they think it's the end of the world.

One of the characters they focus on is Cain. Cain is one of the kids at Matt's clinic where he is "ghost lawyering" (or, as it is also known, committing the crime of "unauthorized practice of law.". I like that Nocenti does acknowledge that in another issue and here they're dealing with the fallout of that). I do like that Matt's clinic has turned into its own little community center. There's a wonderful sense that he's part of these people's lives and a source of inspiration to them. Cain is the focus because he mirrors society. He has good parts and bad parts. You could see him succumbing to the madness but for Matt being a source of inspiration.

This is a tie-in to Fall of the Mutants, so we see the fight from a distance. Having finally read that story, I appreciate the little touches. But the big thing is it causes New York City to panic. I especially like that Pestilence makes them think of nuclear fallout. Matt continues to be a (metaphorical) beacon of light, inspiring people and being heroic without needing to be Daredevil. However, it's clear that the fear of annihilation brings out the worst. Like Cain, though, it isn't black and white. There's someone on Ammo's side who is called a "bad seed," but seems to have sympathy to the people being hurt (even though he looks to follow Ammo anyway).

Things go from bad to worse as a lady who commits suicide rather than live crippled in this new world (and Cain, who helps her do it). And then the "good guys" in the story want to turn and rape one of Ammo's followers (and Cain goes along with that too). Finally, it ends tragically, as the girl (having been rescued by Daredevil) stabs and kills Cain. Cain's last words are full of shame with what he almost did, but his priorities still seem screwed up ("tell Matt I was a good soldier"). There's a random story involving an escaped convict and a baby. In a story filled with grim darkness, I like that it's the one that's the most inspirational. It's a bit of a farce, but it works so well and helps show some optimism among the darkness.

This is one of my favorite Daredevil stories. My biggest complaint is it can be a bit hard to keep track of all the characters in it (many of whom don't go anywhere in the story). Still, it doesn't detract from it too much. IMO, it's Nocenti at her best. I'm going to give it Four and a Half Stars.
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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Humanity's Fathom

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

PostPosted: Thu Jun 02, 2016 10:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is a very unusual tie-in issue and a busy one at that.

Credit to Nocenti for focusing on the street level effects of this event. The setup scenes of the subway and Matt's clinic were good, portraying the random life of a citizen. The overall theme here seems to be the mob mentality, for good and bad. Once the attack happens, this sets in as we see with Ammo, who gathers up a remnant of criminal elements and polarizes them with talk of being victors in this moment of crisis instead of victims.

This is counteracted by Matt's leading of his clinic group to a nearby hospital for support and needed resources. Whereas Ammo sees the same hospital as an opportunity to give his gang more support to continue their chaotic efforts.

The boy Cain would seem to represent the everyday person, capable of both right and wrong but dependent upon the surrounding influences. He wants to do right, tries to do right but still gets caught up in the mob fervor when he's swept up with the group attempting to rape that girl. (I'm more disturbed by his helping the old woman commit suicide. He tells her what he thinks is correct only to find out that he was wrong and he helped her die for the wrong reasons. Very disturbing).

Matt and DD are the only seeming lights of sanity here. Along with Natasha, he attempts to quell Ammo's march (I like how he keeps repeating, "I'm not a killer" when asked how they should deal with Ammo and his gang). But that seems to fly out the window when Ammo apparently murders a pair of young kids (it's unclear if he actually did or not). This sends DD into a rage, seemingly intent on putting Ammo down permanently. While I think this is a bit of stretch, I think this reaction is due to the huge pressure of the events and being caught up in the mob mentality of his own group. DD tries to handle it best he can, unfortunately taking some of his frustration over this outbreak out on Cain.

Which of course, backfires when Cain is stabbed by the girl. He dies in Matt's arms and a dark scenario becomes even bleaker.

I liked Romita Jr's art, while he didn't have much chance for action scenes here, it's still a strong piece of work. I think the coloring and lettering is what hurt as it is unclear at some points who is whom and who is talking.

My main nitpick however is something Dimitre pointed out. This is the Marvel Universe and I find it very strange that when something like occurs, the people's first reaction is fallout from a nuclear war. It's not a mutant attack, it's not another alien invasion, it's not another super-villain running amok, it's just a regular expected nuclear war. Very odd. And yes, if you weren't reading any of Fall of Mutants, the nature of the attack would be confusing. More explanation (or footnotes) would have been nice.

But again, being Nocenti, I really can't blame her for focusing on the nuclear war option and it's effects on society. It was a big concern back then and this story shows the unusual reactions to such an possibility. (DD's last quote to Natasha was pretty good). This is definitely an issue of the 80s. (And the escaped con with the baby looks a lot like the undercover cop character from Hill Street Blues).

A dark issue indeed but with quality. Three-and-half stars.
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