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DD Book Club - Lady Killer

 
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Mike Murdock
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Joined: 08 Sep 2014
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 27, 2019 10:26 am    Post subject: DD Book Club - Lady Killer Reply with quote

This issue is, in some ways, fairly stand-alone. In other ways, it's a continuation of the Elektra Saga.

Daredevil Vol. 1 #173 - Lady Killer



Quote:
Daredevil is on the hunt for the man who crippled Becky Blake.


Due 2/2
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Dimetre
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 28, 2019 4:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I pretty much consider every Daredevil comic with which Frank Miller was involved in the 80s a classic. This one too, although giving this a fresh read today tested my comfort zone. While it's still excellent, I'm not sure it draws the same reverence as his other Daredevil stories from this period.

The cover is a bit of a curiosity. Over a plain white background Daredevil is wiping the floor with a some S&M types, and over his head are the words "Daredevil goes BERSERK". I think Marvel fell in love with the word "berserk" in the 80s. I remember reading an issue of What If (#45) with the provocative cover "What if the Hulk went BERSERK?" (He's usually so calm.) Web of Spider-Man #13 had a Daily Bugle headline on the cover which read "Spidey Goes Berserk". I wonder if Marvel noticed an uptick in sales when the word "berserk" made an appearance, or if the same focus groups that liked the words "secret" and "war" also liked "berserk". Maybe the next crossover event should be called Berserk Battle. Yeah.

Anyway, Matt, dressed in an orange suit immediately coveted by a mugger in an alleyway, makes short work of three perps who've been terrorizing that particular neighbourhood. It seems he intentionally wandered into that alley so he could test out his new billy club. Sure enough this billy club is white and can be combined to form a blind person's cane, unlike the red club from previous issues. I think this has proven to be the version of the billy club I prefer. But...

That mugger likes the suit way too much, and it's orange! I don't know if fashion was in a really crappy place in 1981, and I suppose the suit would more accurately be called tan, but I think a lawyer would be dressed in a more professional, darker suit. I don't know if Miller specified for the suit to be coloured that way so Matt would leap off the page, or if colourist Glynis Wein chose to make it orange for a particular reason, but I don't know why a thug would fall so in love with an orange suit.

The next page allows us to witness a crime committed by our villain. It's odd that Miller chose this to happen to characters we have never seen before, and will never see again. It takes us two panels for us to figure out the woman is a journalist, and another panel for her to explain that Matt is defending a notorious killer. We never even find out her name, but she's with a guy named Jeff, that quickly is strangled by the villain. We don't know if Jeff is there to take pictures, or if he's dating her, or if he works as a Superman impersonator. (Seriously, I think Miller deliberately drew him to look like Clark Kent. Maybe she was supposed to be Lois Lane.) The villain is quickly onto her. This page just seems like such an oddity, mainly because these characters couldn't be more extraneous.

The rest of the issue is top-notch Miller. A tall panel shows the woman's scream literally travel upward to reach Matt, and the action moves forward at breakneck speed. I love how Miller wastes no time taking us from one scene to the next.

The most uncomfortable scene in this issue is the one where Becky tells Matt about how she lost the use of her legs. It's well done, with Miller switching perspectives and punctuating speeches with skinny panels. It's just kind of shocking how self-righteous Matt gets when Becky says she never reported the crime to police. He grits his teeth in anger and shouts, "What? You didn't report it? You -- you work for me -- and you didn't report a crime like that?"

Obviously times have changed since 1981. There is a lot more awareness to the intangible effects suffered by victims of sexual assault and abuse. There is a lot more understanding as to why so many sex crimes go unreported. It's just kind of surprising to see Matt Murdock, who in my opinion is one of the more noble and thoughtful characters in the Marvel Universe, show such a lack of empathy.

One of the most amusing pages Frank Miller ever produced has to be the one showing Daredevil scour the city for leads about the villain. Obviously Miller is doing his best impression of Stan Lee, with the late legend's flowery prose and gift for generating pulse-pounding excitement, all leading up to "nothing! Not even a lead..."

This latest read-through reminded me how cool Betsy Beatty was as a character. She is obviously very smart and gifted at what she does. When the villain breaks into her apartment she does her best to defend herself, and when Daredevil does show up, she is the one who gives him the information he needs to find the culprit.

The fight at the bar shows off Miller's gift at choreographing action. Miller may not be the flashiest artist, but here he was one of the best at using the page to its utmost in service to the action.

I have mixed emotions about Matt's final line.
Quote:
Becky, he robbed you of the use of your legs, nothing can change that. But don't let him cripple you.

Part of me has always loved it, but now part of me finds it hokey.

Nevertheless, those last two rows of panels again are testiment to Miller's mastery of this medium. Each image is perfectly selected to raise the tension leading up to that last panel.

Miller was at the peak of his powers in this issue, and I think he showed some irreverence on a few pages here, letting loose and having some fun at either Stan Lee or DC's expense. It's not a perfect issue. As for Matt's outburst at Becky, I don't think Matt has to be depicted as a perfect human being. He does learn a lesson by the issue's end. I give this one 4.5 out of 5.
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Mike Murdock
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Joined: 08 Sep 2014
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 28, 2019 8:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dimetre wrote:

That mugger likes the suit way too much, and it's orange! I don't know if fashion was in a really crappy place in 1981, and I suppose the suit would more accurately be called tan, but I think a lawyer would be dressed in a more professional, darker suit.


Yeah, I think it's a tan suit. Lawyers do wear tan suits from time to time, although I think they can look a bit tacky. But I'll wear light gray fairly often.

This issue starts with a fairly light tone given both the subject matter of the scene (Matt being mugged) and the subject matter of the issue. It also does a good job getting everyone up to speed - Matt Murdock is blind, he's still really good at fighting, he protects the neighborhood, he's an attorney, he is Daredevil.

But the issue gets dark very quickly as a female reporter is attacked. Probably the biggest thing is that he doesn't have super speed. The reporter sees the killer in the page before in four panels that slowly zoom in. On the next page, we see Daredevil rushing to the rescue, but the emphasis isn't on him heroically charging in. Instead, it's just how slow he is at getting there. The top panel is the woman being attacked, followed by Daredevil running, followed by more violence, followed by Daredevil jumping, etc. By the time he arrives, it's too late to stop the perpetrator and he chooses to help the victims rather than give chase.

This is a dense issue with panels when it gets into the heart of it and it's a dense subject matter. The issue explores a lot of different themes. I find it interesting that Becky starts very much with the idea of Melvin reforming being wonderful, but when she sees him, it obviously brings back memories and she's not able to feel that way. Then she tells the story about how she had been attacked and how she didn't report it. Matt's sense of justice doesn't seem to let him understand why she didn't report it, but she just explains how helpless she felt. The panel itself echoes the emotions as she's shoved way into the bottom of the panel in an already crowded, 13 panel page.

An even better example is the emptiness that Melvin Potter feels. The accusations against him pretty much have caused him to go unraveled. Even though he's done horrific things in the past, he comes off as completely human and completely vulnerable and when he says he's alone, he ends up looking small in a completely white panel.

Probably the weakest thing for me in the issue is the Foggy subplot. I'm really not sure how I feel about it. However, I do like that Nelson and Murdock work best as a team and without the other, they fall apart. I'll also admit that the "Just like Becky" moment is heavy handed. I get that it's showing his learning from his earlier mistakes in the issue. But they're not really in positions of equal power (and it seems like Daredevil was defeated a bit too easily to get to that point). Still, in the end, it's Becky taking control back in her life. It doesn't mean it'll be easy.

This is a very powerful issue that tries to do a lot in a single one-shot. I don't know if it's expertly handled in every aspect but even in its shortcomings, it tries really hard. 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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