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DD Book Club - Gangwar

 
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Mike Murdock
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 09, 2018 9:46 am    Post subject: DD Book Club - Gangwar Reply with quote

I decided the best thing to do would be to continue along with the Elektra Saga. Among other reasons, next weekend, Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse will be released in theaters. It features Miles Morales, who doesn't have any significant ties to Matt Murdock, but it also has the Kingpin. So it felt like time to do the first time the Kingpin was introduced to Daredevil.

Daredevil Vol. 1 #170 - The Kingpin Must Die



Quote:
Retired in Japan, Kingpin sends his wife, Vanessa, to New York to hire Nelson and Murdock. Kingpin's plan is to turn state's evidence against the East Coast crime bosses.


Due 12/15
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Dimetre
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Joined: 16 Feb 2006
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Location: Toronto

PostPosted: Sun Dec 09, 2018 5:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

As always, revisiting issues from Frank Miller's Daredevil run always provides thrills. The amount of plot contained in a single issue is astounding.

The opening pages focus on how much Daredevil is in peak physical form. This is stressed more than his hyper-senses are. I haven't really thought too much about whether Miller focused more on Daredevil's strength, stamina and fighting abilities than previous writers. Perhaps he did, but that's not what I remember about his run. If he did, then maybe that's why the issues contain so much movement and why they're so much fun to read.

The scene where he confronts Turk is a joy. Is this the first time we have seen lowlifes in a bar called Josie's? I like how confident Matt is that he can catch up to Turk after he steals the cab. Sure, his kick through the windshield would have killed the guy for sure, but we have to suspend disbelief. I also love how calmly Matt reaches up and grabs hold of the lamppost. It's a thrilling demonstration of Daredevil's abilities, and Miller manages to spend three pages on it before advancing the plot with Turks' intel. The only thing in this scene I didn't like was whatever Miller drew over Daredevil's mouth as he sat behind Turk in the bar. It looks like a mistake that he couldn't erase. I honestly don't know what he was trying to draw.

Otherwise, everything in this issue is great. When I read through the issue today, I was struck by the way Vanessa is characterized. Ayelet Zurer's depiction of Vanessa in the Netflix show is still fresh in my mind, and you can draw parallels between Miller's comic depiction and the show. Both women motivate every action the Kingpin is taking. Both women demonstrate tremendous influence over his behaviour. However, Miller's Vanessa makes it very clear that she has no tolerance for violence or criminal activity. Zurer's Vanessa doesn't mind what he does. She simply wants to be let in to his life and that nothing be kept from her.

For narrative purposes, I kind of prefer Miller's Vanessa. Her kidnapping makes Fisk's reentry into crime somewhat tragic. It's as if she were only kept safe maybe he would have turned state's evidence and lived happily ever after with the love of his life in Japan.

I'm a little unsure about some aspects of her kidnapping. Matt left her, her security guards and Foggy alone at the law firm so he could go after Bruno. When he came back, Foggy was in the office, but Vanessa is gone. Some of her guards seem to be there, but they, along with Foggy, have nothing to give the police. Foggy's presence there is weird. I don't know how he has no information to give the police about her kidnapping, because Matt didn't seem to be gone too long, and she had to be kidnapped out of the Nelson and Murdock office. I realize that at least a few of the guards had to be in on it, but Foggy being present is just puzzling.

I don't remember if Miller is going to try to explain that bit of weirdness in upcoming issues, so I'm going to dock a half a point because of it. Otherwise, this is a bonafide classic. 4.5 out of 5.
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Mike Murdock
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 10, 2018 7:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This issue has a fairly long start to it with some nice moments in it. DD's showing up at Josie's for information. This one might be my favorite interaction because it essentially involves Turk tossing himself out the window. These moments are often as humorous as serious and Daredevil isn't shown as overly violent. The scene reminds me a lot of #168 in that it sort of just starts in media res with Daredevil being aware of information and acting and we never see how. Still, the big reveal is six pages in that the Kingpin is going to be involved in this book.

The cut to the Kingpin is very cinematic. The mention of his name cues the change of scenery while Turk's narration continues. The Kingpin is shown to be a ferocious physical fighter. But he's also shown to have a pretty big weakness when it comes to Vanessa. Vanessa goes to New York to hire lawyers so Kingpin can become a snitch. Interestingly, Matt is fine with representing Fisk under these circumstances. Sure, part of it is because, as Daredevil, he knows there's a hit on Fisk, but it's also because he finds the case itself to be an interesting one. He's not taking a holier than thou attitude towards being a lawyer. If Fisk genuinely wants to reform and testify against others, he wants to be a part of that.

The other gangsters have other ideas and attack the law firm. The hitman accidentally falls to his death in a very well-designed panel on the left side of the page. Panels like this one are common in Miller's run and really emphasize the height of New York City. Other artists use them too, but never as effectively, imo. Speaking of page design, the next page over has a nine panel grid, which I don't recall Miller using much. I'm sure someone smarter than me can point out why each panel has meaning, but it's clear to me that the middle three panels have a different closeup - first Manolis, then Bullseye, then Daredevil. A few pages later, Daredevil and Bullseye fight and Daredevil gets kicked out the window. We are treated to two parallel pages, the first has a thin panel up top as Daredevil shoots his billy club and then five skinny panels as he falls. Then we get five skinny panels as he falls and one thing panel on the bottom.

The final two pages describe significant violence without holding back while the Kingpin lands. His actions demonstrate that he outsmarted all his enemies and is far more ruthless. Finally, we're treated to the bottom three panels where Fisk lights a cigarette. The cigarette light changes the shadows so he went from being drawn in his traditional Spider-Man way a la John Romita Sr. to being drawn as a Frank Miller character.

I'm giving this issue Four and a Half Stars. It's an expertly-crafted story that I enjoy a lot. My only quibble is it does seem to take a bit of time to get going.

Dimetre wrote:

Otherwise, everything in this issue is great. When I read through the issue today, I was struck by the way Vanessa is characterized. Ayelet Zurer's depiction of Vanessa in the Netflix show is still fresh in my mind, and you can draw parallels between Miller's comic depiction and the show. Both women motivate every action the Kingpin is taking. Both women demonstrate tremendous influence over his behaviour. However, Miller's Vanessa makes it very clear that she has no tolerance for violence or criminal activity. Zurer's Vanessa doesn't mind what he does. She simply wants to be let in to his life and that nothing be kept from her.


I agree. The two make for an interesting comparison. I think the Netflix Vanessa is less of a cliche, while this version absolutely serves this story and helps humanize Fisk in a way we don't otherwise see. There were people after Season One who complained about how infatuated Fisk was with Vanessa and I wanted to ask them if they read these stories.

Quote:
I'm a little unsure about some aspects of her kidnapping. Matt left her, her security guards and Foggy alone at the law firm so he could go after Bruno. When he came back, Foggy was in the office, but Vanessa is gone. Some of her guards seem to be there, but they, along with Foggy, have nothing to give the police. Foggy's presence there is weird. I don't know how he has no information to give the police about her kidnapping, because Matt didn't seem to be gone too long, and she had to be kidnapped out of the Nelson and Murdock office. I realize that at least a few of the guards had to be in on it, but Foggy being present is just puzzling.


You know, I didn't give it a lot of thought. Obviously, the big thing from our perspective is that Matt was away chasing after the badguy when this happened, but you're right that a lot obviously happened we're not privy to.
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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 Dec 16, 2018 10:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Daredevil Vol. 1 #171 - In the Kingpin's Clutches



Quote:
Matt goes undercover and joins the Kingpin's gang so he can steal the info Fisk has collected on the underworld. Kingpin catches him in the act and beats him senseless. During the Kingpin's exchange with the men holding his wife, someone is apparently killed.


Due 12/22
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I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!
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Dimetre
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Joined: 16 Feb 2006
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Location: Toronto

PostPosted: Sun Dec 16, 2018 8:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The cover isn't that great -- it's Daredevil kicking the Kingpin in the head against a plain black background -- but it's notable for the phrase "At last... monthly!" According to Wikipedia, Daredevil was down-graded to bi-monthly status starting with #147, so that lasted for 24 issues, meaning four years. I wonder if that allowed Miller time to plan out all of his own stories once he took over the series writing chores?

This is, of course, another classic issue. Matt meets Wilson Fisk in person for the first time. There is the scene where Matt pulls on the heavy door of the vault. There is the scene in which Wilson thinks he's lost Vanessa forever. It's all great stuff. This issue appears to be flawless.

Reading it with a fresh lens today, some things popped out. The shooting of Quin on the second page was especially brutal. It was like something out of The Godfather. Then Lynch says, "He's still alive, boss." I'm pretty sure murders happened regularly in comics in 1981, especially between gangsters, so I'd be surprised if Quin's failure to die from multiple gunshots to his chest was due to regulation by the Comics Code Authority. Still, it seems like a strange thing for him to survive, so maybe CCA did demand it, and Miller tried to make it less awkward by having Fisk say, "Tell them I want her back, Quin." I don't think he'll be talking to anyone ever again, Wilson.

I like how many panels Miller uses to get Matt from Josie's to the Kingpin's stronghold. It starts with Grotto lifting up a manhole cover, then multiple flights of stairs downward amongst the city's sewage pipes. When Matt finally gets to the Kingpin, Miller gives us probably the perfect explanation of who Fisk is.
Quote:
I've heard tales of this man... this near legend in the history of crime.... of how he gathered the hundreds of disorganized, distrustful gangleaders... of how he ended their territorial battles, and taught them to work in tandem... of how he forged a structured, multi-billion dollar criminal empire -- an empire he ruled with a tyrant's disclipline, and a book-keeper's precision. I've heard tales of his genius... his power... but no one ever told me how big he is! What freak of nature produced this creature... put such mass and strength at the disposal of a criminal genius? His presence seems to charge the air around him, commanding attention -- and obedience. It's almost hypnotic...

Miller succeeds in establishing the Kingpin as someone to be feared in this issue. Ever since this issue, Fisk has been taken seriously. The way he threw open that massive door and withstood every hit Daredevil could dish out was something to behold, but it's also the no-nonsense way he words his sentences. He articulates his thoughts very clearly. The following sentences always stuck with me:
Quote:
I believe I have heard of you, Daredevil. From time to time, I came across your name in my secretary's reports. As I recall, you were a minor interference in several of my enterprises, never worthy of my personal attention. You shouldn't have gotten so far out of your depth. For my plans require a careful understanding of every element in this struggle, and I cannot allow a monkey wrench to remain in such delicate machinery. I cannot afford to let you live.

The Kingpin is clearly a detail-oriented individual who will not allow himself to be distracted from his ultimate goal, and if anyone does distract him, he will make them pay dearly for it. Miller brilliantly conveys this through seemingly minor choices like Fisk's refusal to use contractions. (Okay, he uses "don't," but he says "will not" and "cannot." That's very Kingpin.)

I'm glad that readers at the time recognized the greatness Miller was achieving so early into his run and that the series reaped the benefits too. I give this a perfect grade. Five out of five.


Last edited by Dimetre on Thu Dec 20, 2018 6:00 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Mike Murdock
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 17, 2018 8:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

According to the cover, the book is now being released every month. Hooray for that!

This issue begins where the last one leaves off. This might be the first time I've actually read it after a pause rather than immediately continuing. It doesn't start with a full page splash but instead has panels where Matt wakes up to realize the predicament he's in. The best part of this opening is Matt's other senses, not his sight. He smells the garbage around him. He feels the air and hears the radio DJ to figure out the time. It's a good attention to detail that shows how much thought Frank Miller is putting into this character.

I like the little aside with Heather. It feels like it's addressing the people who think Daredevil's gotten too grimdark. It really demonstrates his corny sense of humor, although it doesn't add a ton of development (mostly just exposition to get people up to speed). Matt's decision to go undercover, while more serious, has a certain flamboyance about it - especially when he walks into Josie's and stops the whole bar cold by saying he's looking for Vanessa.

The meeting between Matt and Fisk is very solid. It's noteworthy how Matt is more or less overawed by the Kingpin. So far in this story, he's a larger than life figure - neither a hero nor a villain, but almost a godlike figure. The fact that he more or less overwhelms Daredevil shows he's not to be trifled with. In the end, Daredevil is defeated and the Kingpin describes him as never worthy of personal attention.

I know the reveal next issue, so it's hard to comment on whether the foreshadowing for who is responsible for Vanessa is too much or not. But I will say that the art in that sequence is really good. It also ends on a really good cliffhanger.

Overall, this story has kept up the pace, continues to be thrilling, and never lets up. This, to me, is the introduction of the Kingpin to Daredevil's world and the dynamic is wonderful. Five Stars.
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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 Dec 23, 2018 12:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Daredevil Vol. 1 #172 - Gangwar



Quote:
Thinking his wife is dead, Kingpin takes control of the mob and hires Bullseye as his assassin.


Due 12/29
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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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Joined: 16 Feb 2006
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 24, 2018 2:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This one is epic.

This has to be one of Frank Miller's best-ever issues, meaning it's one of the greatest Daredevil issues of all time. It is certainly highly-regarded -- Marvel reprinted it in Bring Back the Bad Guys to showcase the Kingpin.

I love the opening, but I just have a quibble. The way Matt fought back against Grotto as he was being shoved in the watermain suggested he was conscious. Here, on the title page, he thinks to himself, "I wake up in the strangest places," suggesting he had just come to. I can easily forgive this. I kind of like the idea of him snapping to consciousness in the pipe and using his senses to figure out where he is. It's a great way to demonstrate his powers to a new reader, as well as his determination.

Turk is a great stooge in this issue. The five panels showing a red-gloved hand appearing on his shoulder are fantastic. Miller uses Turk to bring new readers quickly up to speed, and once that is done, we're off to the races.

I have long been puzzled by the page-length panels with the type-written captions. They feature the only lengthy narration in the entire issue. The only other narrative captions are nothing more than "Soon..." and "Later...." I wonder if those shorter captions were added at editor Denny O'Neil's insistence, or if we're supposed to infer that the same voice describing New York's dark underbelly is the same voice sparingly guiding us through the story. I don't mind this long panels -- they help amp up the noir feel of the story with their Dashiell Hammett-esque musings, but they also feel oddly separate from the proceedings.

The best thing about this issue is how both Kingpin and Daredevil are at the top of their games. It seems like it's impossible to put anything over the Kingpin. He sees through every gambit and strategy. At the same time, Daredevil doesn't know the meaning of the word "quit." Nevertheless, you never feel like the Kingpin views Daredevil as much more than a fly in the ointment. Daredevil seems to be nothing more than an annoyance that his underlings are failing to eliminate, and even when they don't Fisk is so self-assured that he's never worried about what Daredevil can pin on him.

Bullseye is also better than ever this issue. As we know, the tumour has been removed, so he is less crazy than he was in #169. But under Miller's pen he is very capable of murder, and his hatred for Daredevil is tangible. His climactic battle with Daredevil in the basement is top-notch. Daredevil seems strengthened by his anger towards Bullseye, causing the villain brief moments of surprise. However, you can't help but worry when Bullseye gets his hands on the billy club with the ninja stars embedded in it. You believe that he could make even better use of it than our hero, so it comes as a relief that Daredevil fires a bullet at it, and I love that Miller has him do it with his head turned away.

Their battle is so primal. You can tell that both of them intend for this to be the last one between them. When Bullseye grabs a brick and utters "Mash your face..." it really feels like both of them are operating at an animalistic level. Neither of them speak a complete sentence the rest of the fight. Readers can't help but get absorbed into their ferocity.

Did Daredevil go into the basement intending to kill Bullseye? I don't think so. I think he wanted to hurt him. That's for sure. But I think he only started strangling Bullseye because he had no other option at the time. And, as the Kingpin noted, he didn't strangle him to death. When the Kingpin invited him to finish the job, he refused to.

The scene showing Fisk's murder of Lynch is another classic. The entire scene is shrouded in black, and Miller's use of shadow is masterful. You can tell that Vincent D'Onofrio studied this scene closely. Again, Fisk's every move throughout these three issues has been motivated by his love for Vanessa. He was going to turn state's evidence for her. He assumed control of the mobs initially to get her back. Now that he believes she's dead, he is returning to being Kingpin for good as revenge. Now that he realizes Lynch is directly responsible for Vanessa's demise, he directs all of his rage towards him. He is a force of nature in this scene. And this scene is made all the better by having it immediately follow one that shows Fisk at his shrewdest and most unflappable. He is an extraordinary character.

Two moments leap out at me for being less than wonderful. The Kingpin's choice to fill Turk's briefcase with newspapers seems puzzling. It ends up working because Daredevil is blind, but at this point Fisk didn't know that. What if a sighted hero had gotten the briefcase and opened it up before going to the police? That hero wouldn't have been fooled. Still, it works out well, because it shows how Daredevil is unique, but when you think about it, it doesn't really make sense from Fisk's point of view.

The other one is the information Daredevil gets from Joanie. She tells him that all of her dates have been cancelled with no explanation. From this he guesses that there must be a major conference among the gangleaders in the works. That seems like quite a leap. From nothing more than this, he knows where to go and when to be there. It's great that it sets up an amazing scene, but I think we could have stood to get some more details from Joanie.

Those are really nitpicks, and I don't think they're reason to give this issue anything less than a perfect score. Five points from me.
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Mike Murdock
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 25, 2018 12:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

This story starts off with some of the most wonderful dry humor I've seen. There's a nice balance here, a character who can laugh at his bad situation without it undercutting the tension of the scene. Matt is in control of his situation throughout, never panics, and gets the job done. He then goes to confront Turk. The story starts at such a brisk pace that it's almost forgivable to be bogged down in exposition. They didn't have recap pages back then so things like that were needed for people who missed the previous weeks, although it's certainly a drag to read.

The next bunch of pages have a wonderful parallelism that I think is lost in the trades. It's worth taking a moment to talk about it because it's just a fun visual design. Each page has the exact same layout with a long column from top to bottom on the right side. In it is a shot of the city and a noirish narrator describing what's going on. On the right hand side, we see the Gang War. It's a series of vertical panels that are basically the strategizing of the group followed by three vertical plans where the action takes place. On page one, is the Kingpin's side where we see how smart he is. On the opposite side, the gangs are falling apart. Bullseye stands out as an interesting and intimidating character. Page three changes it up a bit as Daredevil enters the mix and page four is a cool silhouette fight between them. Page five is back to the same format with the tall panel and Bullseye on the right (nothing on the right page in the original because it was an ad) followed by another of that format when you turn the page.

Honestly, I could keep going, but you get the point. Probably the best moment is when Kingpin enters and unflinchingly presents himself so Bullseye could kill him, knowing that Bullseye has seen enough to change sides. This is followed by the confrontation with Lynch that was a powerful reveal shown in full brutality. Likewise, the fight with Bullseye is perfect. It's a great follow up to #169. Daredevil wins this one (he technically lost their last fight in between) but just barely. But the real winner is the Kingpin, who manipulated the situation. Even if Daredevil had gotten what he wanted, Fisk would have as well.

This story is a great complete story from beginning to end but also seeds more stories to come as we see we're not done with Vanessa. As far as talent goes in design and storytelling, this might be Miller's strongest. It's a great conclusion. Five Stars.
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I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!
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