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DD Book Club - In the Coils of the Copperhead!

 
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Mike Murdock
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Joined: 08 Sep 2014
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 04, 2018 9:53 am    Post subject: DD Book Club - In the Coils of the Copperhead! Reply with quote

I always like to try and bring in as many different writers and artists as possible in this Book Club rather than just rely on a few go-to people. The first half of this story is by Len Wein, who unfortunately passed away late last year. Wein was an important writer and editor who is probably most famous for creating Wolverine. He also was Editor in Chief at the time he wrote this. The second half is by Marv Wolfman who I'm surprised we haven't managed to cover yet. #125 is also by Wolfman who takes over as regular writer. This is a story that always fascinated me before I read it because Frank Miller had expressed interest in using Copperhead during his run but never got around to it. We covered the character once before in the Spider-Man/Daredevil miniseries, but that was a vastly different context.

Daredevil Vol. 1 #124 - In the Coils of the Copperhead!



Quote:
Foggy is having some trouble with politics, facing re-election for District Attorney. Lucky for him, Murdock may have something up his sleeves…


Due 2/10
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Dimetre
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Joined: 16 Feb 2006
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Location: Toronto

PostPosted: Sun Feb 04, 2018 7:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, this worked out well. The twelfth volume of Daredevil's Marvel Masterworks just came out last month, and I recently finished it. This is about a third of the way in.

This issue dates back to August 1975. Marv Wolfman seems to remember that Len Wein was supposed to take over the series from Tony Isabella, but for some reason Wolfman was brought in to co-plot this Copperhead story. He goes on...
Quote:
This first two-parter introduced the Copperhead, a villain conceptually based on a (not real) 1940s pulp fiction hero. He "came to life" and was now seeking revenge against all the people who worked on the "original" Copperhead stories. Having been a fan of the Shadow, Doc Savage and some of the other 1940s pulp heroes, this was a fun story to write. But since I was only the co-writer of this story I was really looking forward to writing my own stories.

This issue opens with Black Widow leaving Daredevil yet again. I actually think this break-up stuck -- for the most part. I don't think they were ever a couple again. (Heather Glenn would be introduced just two issues later.) I like that Natasha referenced a recent issue of Marvel Two-in-One where she teamed up with the Thing. I always liked it when Marvel would do that. It makes it really feel like a shared universe, and I wish today's Marvel would do more of that. What I didn't like was Matt yelling at the crowd gathered around them. It makes Matt seem like a jerk, and I really don't see what it adds to the scene.

The choice to name the purse-snatcher Chester Chino is cringe-worthy. Why not go the extra mile and name him Billy Bandito? I know this was written 43 years ago, but I still think Len Wein could have been more sensitive.

This is only one of two Daredevil issues co-written by Wein, who is much better known for his work with Wolverine, the Hulk and Swamp Thing. While he was also serving as editor at this point, I suspect he wasn't that invested in Daredevil. He has Foggy state that Matt is from Missouri, and we all know that he was born and raised in Hell's Kitchen. That's a rather big mistake.

Wein is only credited with writing the first half of this issue, with Wolfman taking over for the second half. That's when this issue really picks up. Matt does some research into the Copperhead, and puts on his costume. I liked it when he visited the crumbling tenement where the creator of the Copperhead lived. The way the landlady looked and spoke made me feel we were in an old Bogart movie.

Soon Daredevil happens upon a seemingly generic scene of young men beating up older men for small change, but he soon finds out that everyone there is up to something dirty. That fact made the scene a little more unique. As expected, the Copperhead arrives and proves himself impervious to Daredevil's attacks. He even lays out Daredevil with a single punch. This guy is tough.

The Copperhead is a formidable and lethal foe. We don't know who he is, so there is also an element of mystery. He wouldn't appear again until the turn of the millennium in Daredevil/Spider-Man, and he wouldn't resemble anything we see here.

The first half of this issue is a lot of standing around and talking, and it's the second half that makes this worth reading. Artwise, this isn't Gene Colan's greatest work, but it's still good. He was just doing fill-in work for Bob Brown, who was the series' regular artist at the time.

I give this issue a three out of five.
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Mike Murdock
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 05, 2018 8:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's been awhile since I was reading these stories, so it's hard to remember what exactly set this issue up. I obviously remember Matt and Natasha being together and they seemed to gradually break apart. I distinctly remember Matt moving back to New York and the Black Widow not following. In this issue, it seems like Natasha is leaving Matt. Either way, though, I'm glad to see a relationship end on terms of mutual respect and not the death of the girlfriend. That's partly why I like them as a couple perhaps more than any other.

We cut to a neighborhood and a random NPC character who Len Wein gives as much love and attention to describing as Chris Claremont would. She gets mugged by someone who runs into our titular character. No, not Daredevil - the one in the issue title. To Copperhead, purse snatching is a capital offense and the punishment for capital offenses is ... literally the punishment for capital offenses. So far, the character is interesting. He's basically the Punisher as originally envisioned with a creepier look. In particular, I like that he spends the time to put coins in the eyes of his victims.

The side plot is Foggy running for reelection. I remember a later plot involving political misinformation and the Jester that I might cover one day. For now, he's running against Blake Tower (who can be seen in Daredevil Season Two) and has a secret weapon - a supercomputer that can analyze crime to find the correct suspect. The interesting thing is the technology isn't alien to us today, but there's no real way to make it that precise. Still, centralizing information nationwide or worldwide was probably alien at the time. A google search suggests that IAFIS (the national fingerprint database) has only existed since 1999 and is nowhere near as sophisticated as this (and not as integrated as the acronym would suggest).

The only thing is I would have expected this mystery to be solved through that computer. Instead, Copperhead is apparently an old pulp hero. I love the layout Gene Colan uses for the story, with the panels being replaced with pages of a book. By seeming sheer coincidence, DD breaks up a beating and runs into Copperhead. They fight. Daredevil's fists are useless against his copper shell (is copper really a hard metal?). The issue ends on a pretty solid cliffhanger.

Not going to lie, this issue was a bit sluggish to read. I didn't dislike anything about it and I quite enjoyed it at parts, but it just felt a bit slow with all the dialogue and captions. Normally that doesn't bother me, but the whole thing didn't click. It very much felt like two different issues stuck together. I'm hoping with one writer and a bit more focused on the villain, the next part will come together a bit more. Three and a Half Stars.


Dimetre wrote:
Well, this worked out well. The twelfth volume of Daredevil's Marvel Masterworks just came out last month, and I recently finished it. This is about a third of the way in.


Hooray for good timing Wink

Where did you find that Wolfman quote, btw?

Quote:
This is only one of two Daredevil issues co-written by Wein, who is much better known for his work with Wolverine, the Hulk and Swamp Thing. While he was also serving as editor at this point, I suspect he wasn't that invested in Daredevil. He has Foggy state that Matt is from Missouri, and we all know that he was born and raised in Hell's Kitchen. That's a rather big mistake.


I assumed it was some kind of figure of speech - calling him a hick or something like that.
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Dimetre
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Joined: 16 Feb 2006
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 06, 2018 8:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mike Murdock wrote:
It's been awhile since I was reading these stories, so it's hard to remember what exactly set this issue up. I obviously remember Matt and Natasha being together and they seemed to gradually break apart. I distinctly remember Matt moving back to New York and the Black Widow not following. In this issue, it seems like Natasha is leaving Matt. Either way, though, I'm glad to see a relationship end on terms of mutual respect and not the death of the girlfriend. That's partly why I like them as a couple perhaps more than any other.

Masterworks Volume 12 collects issues 120-132. There are two forwards written for the volume, the first by Tony Isabella. In it he writes:
Quote:
I had three goals for what turned out to be my only major Daredevil arc: I wanted to reunite DD and the Black Widow and then split them up. I loved both characters and felt their love for one another was genuine and really hot. But I felt their partnership was harmful to both of them, made each of them less than they could be.

(His other two goals were to elevate Foggy beyond simply being comic relief, and to patch things up between Foggy and the Widow so they could become friends.)

I do prefer the Daredevil/Black Widow partnership written by Tony Isabella, as opposed to Gerry Conway who introduced it. During Isabella's Hydra arc the Widow speaks of her desire for independence numerous times, and how she doesn't like living in Matt's shadow. So, once Isabella left the book, Wein and Wolfman completed his intentions and the partnership was done.

Mike Murdock wrote:
Where did you find that Wolfman quote, btw?

Naturally, Wolfman wrote the other forward.

Masterworks Volume 12 also reprints F.O.O.M. #13 from March 1976, which contains articles by Chris Claremont among others detailing the developments in Daredevil's life up to that point. I like my Masterworks collection.


Last edited by Dimetre on Tue Feb 06, 2018 8:57 am; edited 1 time in total
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Dimetre
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 06, 2018 8:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

One more thing: I also found it funny that Marvel was releasing a black-and-white Doc Savage comic a month later! Talk about timing and not missing a promotional opportunity!
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Mike Murdock
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 11, 2018 8:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Daredevil Vol. 1 #125 - Vengeance is the Copperhead!



Copperhead finds himself with the upper hand over Daredevil but it is unknown who will find themselves six feet under by the end…

Due 2/17
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I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!
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Mike Murdock
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 11, 2018 4:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The issue continues the exciting cliffhanger of last time to bring an even more shocking opening splash. My only complaint is the very last panel of the second page shows him move when it really might have made more sense to save it for the page turn. Then again, did anyone think he was actually dead? Speaking of art, there's a really cool page where Daredevil is repeated for each motion as he swings with his billy club. While something similar has been seen later with Frank Miller, I don't think I've ever seen it with him swinging like this before where you can see as his line moves as well.

We cut back to Foggy's computer. Matt is skeptical of the computer being effective even if it works as intended. The issue is not catching criminals, but stopping crime from happening. Matt thinks that crime is a broader, social issue, while the inventer of the computer thinks that it can deter crime by scaring them off. In many ways, this is the debate of Daredevil vs. Punisher even this debate is still within the framework of the law. This shows Matt as more socially conscious and, to me, is part of how he can be a vigilante like Daredevil and a lawyer at the same time. Basically, the idea of Matt as being about protecting the victim and society, not punishing the guilty. Regardless, Foggy doesn't care about this debate, he cares about getting reelected when facing Blake Tower. Unfortunately, this isn't going well as his ad involves him getting pied in the face (I won't spoil the reason why; this might be a story worth exploring in the future).

We cut back to Copperhead, who is using such wonderful hard-boiled language mixed with that random hiss, which is quite fun. He's trying to get revenge on a publisher who used the character without paying for royalties. I really wonder what Wolfman is trying to say here. It feels almost like a shot at Marvel and their treatment of creators with work for hire. This is 1975, so I have no idea the timeline of when the major disputes took place. Even the creators being killed said they made no money from Copperhead.

The ending feels very rushed. Am I crazy or is the identity of Copperhead's father not mentioned at all prior to the conclusion? Also, DD's victory is very random even if it technically makes sense.

I liked this one much better despite the ending, so I'll go Four Stars, but that ending was very underwhelming.
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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!
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Dimetre
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 11, 2018 5:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The bulk of this issue is taken up by Daredevil following leads, trying to find out who the Copperhead is. Us readers have been given precious little to follow.

The best mysteries -- and this two-parter is a mystery -- allow the reader to at least seem to have a chance to figure out who the villain is before the sleuth. I don't think we were given that chance. We were not given the name Chesney until late in this issue, and even when we were, we weren't told that he was the cover model for the old pulps. When Daredevil tells us the villain's motivation on the final page -- a la Velma in Scooby Doo -- are we supposed to be impressed that he figured it out? The police would have figured it out after they got the warrant, which Daredevil didn't wait for.

I also feel like Copperhead was conceived to be a one-time villain, and the copper angle was cooked up to be the avenue by which he would die, since it is indeed the very best conductor of electricity in the world.

Also, the opening page shows the dart flying out of Copperhead's gun, and the billy club isn't moving in any way. When we find out how Daredevil survived, it's strains my sense of disbelief.

I expect better mysteries from Marv Wolfman. He probably developed as a writer since this issue. I'm pretty sure he wrote some very good episodes of Batman: The Animated Series, and he wrote a beautiful Man Thing story in Shadows and Fog.

As for the late Bob Brown, I think his work here is a pretty good example of what he was capable. He is far from my favourite Daredevil artist, but he hit some good noir notes in this story.

Having said all that, I don't think any Daredevil fan needs to read this. If you read Daredevil/Spider-Man, and were wanting to find out more about that Copperhead guy, this will be anti-climactic.

I give this a two out of five.
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