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DD Book Club - Devils

 
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Mike Murdock
Parts of a Hole


Joined: 08 Sep 2014
Posts: 1180

PostPosted: Sun Dec 02, 2018 10:08 am    Post subject: DD Book Club - Devils Reply with quote

I'm continuing Frank Miller's classic run a bit more with possibly my favorite issue of the whole bunch.

Daredevil Vol. 1 #169 - Devils



Quote:
Bullseye has a tumor in his brain that makes him see every day people as Daredevil, and he starts to kill them all.


Due 12/9
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I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!
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Dimetre
Paradiso


Joined: 16 Feb 2006
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Location: Toronto

PostPosted: Sun Dec 02, 2018 4:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It really doesn't get much better than this. It's amazing how few writing credits Frank Miller had before completely taking over Daredevil one issue prior. Yet, he seems to have arrived on the title as a fully-formed talent with an innate understanding of the capabilities of the comic medium.

The opening page is an early example of what would become a Miller trope -- using television screens as panels. What I find inventive of this particular example is that Miller doesn't connect the word balloons to the heads of those speaking, but the speaker on the television itself. It helps give the reader a layer a removal from the characters we wouldn't have otherwise. We're simply watching a broadcast, from which an interview subject abruptly flees.

Another weird thing about the interview is the reference to the Angel Dust murders. Obviously Miller expected the "Child's Play" arc to already have been published by this time, which surprises me. I didn't realize it was supposed to be published so early into his run. Luckily "Devils" was ready to go, which amazes me. Not only is Miller handling words and images, nothing comes off as rushed.

The thing I like about Miller's art at this time is that it does just enough to show you scene, and not much else. There is not an overabundance of detail or cross hatching. He's not trying to impress you with how good of an artist he is. He is trying to show you a story. If a panel doesn't require a background, he doesn't bother with it. He doesn't bother drawing every contour of every muscle. Instead, he concentrates on making sure every character is perfectly placed in every panel, and that the action flows throughout the comic like water through a stream. Few comics are as much a pleasure to read as Miller's Daredevil work.

As great as the first appearance of Elektra was in this issue's predecessor, "Devils" shows off Miller's strengths in a way that issue didn't quite manage to do. There are three instances where Miller slows down the action by breaking down the scene in a series of panels drawn from the identical angle. The first is when Bullseye, wearing only a lab coat, walks past a sign post and slaughters a series of passers-by he thinks are Daredevil. Not only does the light-post's static position from panel to panel emphasize the small amount of space in which this is all happening, but Miller also counts down from five seconds to one while it's happening.

The next notable instance of it occurs after Bullseye takes one of the moviegoers hostage, and orders Daredevil to drop his billy club. Miller divides the page's bottom row into six panels, all featuring the tops of four theatre chairs and the glow of a projector. The first panel shows Daredevil dropping the club, the second shows him getting hit by Bullseye's dagger, and Miller allows Daredevil's fall to take up the next two panels. The fifth panel just shows the chairs and the projector's glow, as does the sixth but that one is darker.

Such panel layouts help the reader absorb a dramatic action beat more vividly than they would otherwise. Miller later on employs the same tactic when the moviegoer grabs a heavy statue with which to crush Bullseye's skull when the villain is temporarily disabled by one of his migraines. He does it again when Daredevil drags Bullseye off the train tracks. Miller has cited 50s artist Bernie Krigstein as one of his biggest influences, and you can see Krigstein employ this method to wonderful effect in his 1955 story "The Master Race." (http://sequart.org/magazine/57102/frank-miller-krigstein-master-race/)

There are elements present in this issue which mark it as early Miller. Most obvious are the thought bubbles. Ten issues later Miller will have made thought bubbles painfully uncool. Also present is the omniscient narrator, and even these third-person captions were on their way out, I have to say that Miller was among the best of using them. I will always remember the way he wrote that fight in the subway.
Quote:
Desperate now, Daredevil swings wildly, hoping fate will guide his blow.

It doesn't. Flesh and bone collide with unyielding iron and the impact shudders up his arm --

-- to be met, between his shoulder blades, by a still more brutal shock.

Then, he is aware of his body only in patches, each lit by a signal flare of pain.

At his back, linked vertbrae stretch across a sharply thrust knee...

while, at his neck, muscle and tendon strain against hands that twist his head slowly, inexorably.

From the grinding of bone at the base of his skull, he knows that he is near death.

By writing so viscerally and explicitly about an anatomy that every one of us readers share, Miller brilliantly raises the stakes in the battle and makes us feel it in a deeper way than we otherwise would.

There are so many classic moments for me in this issue. I love how Matt defends his choice to save Bullseye in front of a scolding Detective Manolis. I love how Matt combs through an "ocean of noise" to find a single cough. To me, this is everything I love about Daredevil. He pushes himself to the limit of his capabilites, and he adheres unwaveringly to his principles, even if he would be made happier if he abandoned them.

What's alarming is that this isn't even my choice for Miller's best issue. I think he topped it not only with #181 (best comic issue ever) but also with #228, the second installment of "Born Again" which puts Matt's depression on such harrowing display. You could also credibly argue that #179, the one where Elektra threatens Ben Urich in the cinema, tops this one. I truly believe comics fans would do well to concentrate more on Miller's Daredevil work than his Batman stuff, because it's comics like these that better show what can be done with the medium.

I think Miller included a little dig at Roger McKenzie when Daredevil comments on Bullseye's meltdown at Coney Island in #161 by saying, "That did seem odd at the time." I wonder, when drawing #161, if Miller made a comment about McKenzie's script. It wasn't the most believable ending to that story. This jab is something only the most dedicated of us would catch and appreciate.

As if I needed to say so, I'm giving this issue a perfect score. Five out of five.
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Mike Murdock
Parts of a Hole


Joined: 08 Sep 2014
Posts: 1180

PostPosted: Mon Dec 03, 2018 8:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This issue is interesting because it doesn't begin with a big opening splash page as comics were supposed to. Instead, we have a talking head television show thing going on. Matt is being interviewed about the "Angel Dust murders" For those who know Daredevil history at this time, the story is referring to the events of Child's Play. For those paying attention, it means he's referring to events that haven't happened in-continuity yet. At the time this issue was written, Frank Miller didn't know that the Comics Code would not approve the Child's Play issue. So we're left with a minor gaff that doesn't get resolved. The opening, however, has wonderful exposition about both Matt's past and Bullseye and has a fun little chuckle at the end (people forget that Frank Miller's Daredevil could be pretty funny at times).

We turn the page to see a group of panels across the top and a two-page splash on the bottom. The splash seems almost whimsical with young, old, male, female, rich, and homeless Daredevils all running around Times Square. But the humor of the moment is quickly undercut with pretty shocking violent. The contrast is probably what makes it so shocking. The panels count down one second per panel to a page turn with zero, showing a discrete act of violence per second. The last one is a small panel but it seems to rest with that last act of violence.

One of the constant themes this issue is Bullseye's insanity. He's constantly acting out in violence and then breaking down holding his head. The reason is because he has a tumor. The themes of the issue are already being laid down with Detective Manolis thinking it's better to let Bullseye die than operate on him. There's also the scene the movie theater with the Maltese Falcon that arguably touches on Miller's work for the entire series. Like with the Maltese Falcon, there's a romanticization of urban crime and the attraction of violence. Of course, while they're talking about the attraction of violence, Bullseye and Daredevil are fighting. The fighting is dynamic and graceful with each side shown as effective, competent fighters. The fight ends with a wonderful set of skinny panels. This isn't the most memorable of them, but it's also used effectively here.

We get a small moment of Elektra. This is essentially a stand-alone story but there's a small continuation showing that Miller is building a larger narrative. We also get a bit of Foggy, Heather, etc. I think this book was still bi-monthly so the characters need to appear just to remind the audience who they are.

Anyway, back to the main narrative, Bullseye took two hostages and Matt has to find them. We get one of the more interesting and creative pages and Daredevil has to listen to the entire city to find a single caught. I don't think we saw anything quite like this one before - particularly with how it is portrayed with three large panels of Matt meditating in shadow and inset panels of all the different sounds that he hears. It's probably one of the more impressive uses of Daredevil's superpowers without any cheats or copouts to make him "see" better. It's also showing the ability to hear something in an entirely visual medium.

There's so much about this issue I love. That being said, it's the final pages to the end that, to me sum up what make Daredevil my favorite character and why I love this run in particular. Daredevil and Bullseye fight. Bullseye runs into the subway - a place where Matt's senses will be overwhelmed and he won't be able to fight effectively. Matt doesn't hesitate before charging in after this dangerous killer. In the fight, he is completely overwhelmed. But he still perseveres solely through dedication. He holds on and beats Bullseye. As Bullseye is unconscious on the tracks, a train starts coming. Daredevil is forced to make a decision whether to save him. The small panels help break down that agonizing decision as he looks away and then back in grim resolve. Finally, we get five evenly spaced panels on the bottom as Daredevil pulls Bullseye off the tracks. That image - especially as the page gets overwhelmed with the light of the train - has stuck with me since I first read it. It's just so cool!

But we still have one more page to go! The conversation between Daredevil and Manolis sums it up in so many ways. Manolis is a detective who doesn't believe in the legal system. Daredevil is a vigilante who does, who believes that we have to protect the law even if it means letting Bullseye go free. Daredevil gives a great speech but the final words of the issue are that the operation is a success and the patient will live.

Look, I love this issue a lot. I've wrote entirely more than I should have and, frankly, I could have written a lot more. The art is great - especially in the page layouts but also in the use of light and shadow. Even the moments that seem more like filler (or not directly relevant to the story) such as Heather or Elektra don't feel unwelcome. There's some nice humorous moments, there are great action moments, and it just tells a great story about what it is to be a superhero vigilante who believes in the law even when he breaks it. Five 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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Mike Murdock
Parts of a Hole


Joined: 08 Sep 2014
Posts: 1180

PostPosted: Mon Dec 03, 2018 8:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dimetre wrote:

Another weird thing about the interview is the reference to the Angel Dust murders. Obviously Miller expected the "Child's Play" arc to already have been published by this time, which surprises me. I didn't realize it was supposed to be published so early into his run. Luckily "Devils" was ready to go, which amazes me. Not only is Miller handling words and images, nothing comes off as rushed.


I touched on it briefly, but my understanding is Child's Play was intended to be issue #167 (which is why #166 says "next issue, The Punisher"). The thing that caught me by surprise recently was a misunderstanding I had. I thought that issue had something to do with why Roger McKenzie was taken off the book. I had assumed that, when that issue got cancelled and the Mauler fill-in took its place, that it led to McKenzie being removed. But that's apparently not the case and this issue would suggest it wasn't as well. Obviously, Frank Miller wouldn't have assumed the book would have been published the failure to publish it was why he got the book.

Quote:
What's alarming is that this isn't even my choice for Miller's best issue. I think he topped it not only with #181 (best comic issue ever) but also with #228, the second installment of "Born Again" which puts Matt's depression on such harrowing display. You could also credibly argue that #179, the one where Elektra threatens Ben Urich in the cinema, tops this one. I truly believe comics fans would do well to concentrate more on Miller's Daredevil work than his Batman stuff, because it's comics like these that better show what can be done with the medium.


I also think #191 is a candidate as well. I agree with that final point, although I'll confess I haven't read The Dark Knight Returns.
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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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