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The Assassination of Matt Murdock
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Mike Murdock
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 03, 2019 11:53 am    Post subject: The Assassination of Matt Murdock Reply with quote

Continuing with Miller's Elektra Saga with the introduction of the Hand with this sort of hodgepodge middle issues #174-177. We'll take a bit of a break after that to cover for the fact that I did 178 a long time ago when I didn't plan on doing this whole arc in order. I also wasn't sure what to call this one. I thought about calling it "Where Angels Fear to Tread" because it has such a cool poetic vibe to it, but I figured this was as good a title as any.

Daredevil Vol. 1 # 174 - The Assassination of Matt Murdock



Quote:
Kingpin hires the hand to eliminate Daredevil. Plus, Murdock loses his radar sense!


Due 2/10
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Dimetre
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 03, 2019 4:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Without a doubt, this is a classic.

Throughout his initial Daredevil run, Frank Miller explored the title character by toying with his power set. Later on he would amplify his hypersenses to the point where they paralyzed him. Here, Matt loses his radar sense -- and not just for a single issue. He doesn't get it back until four issues later.

By doing this, Miller shows us the real reason Matt wins his battles, and the real reason he's special.

The cover is great, but I have always found it weird that the Gladiator was included, as if he was popular enough to warrant a spot in the title. I get that Elektra became a star the moment she arrived on the scene, but I certainly didn't think that the Gladiator was even Daredevil's most popular villain. By this point in the comics history, certainly Bullseye must have eclipsed him. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe Marvel had numbers that proved Melvin Potter's popularity, and maybe they were considering giving him his own title. Maybe this issue was a trial, which would be hard to believe since he showed no ability to fight.

The opening scene is great. Elektra is stalking someone. Miller takes the time to show that she was intending to take Alphonse deChanteaux alive. Efforts are clearly being made to keep Elektra somewhat less deadly and more empathetic, and I'm not sure those are Miller's efforts. I think it works. By doing this, it makes the Hand feel like a greater threat than her.

When she finds out they're going after Matt, we're given everything I love about the relationship between Daredevil and Elektra.
Quote:
Matt!

It is Matt.

There can be no doubt. The Hand has expanded its operation to Europe and America --

-- and have been hired to slay the only man she has ever loved.

How many years has it been since her father's death drove her from Matt -- to become a mercenary, a bounty hunter, an assassin?

How many years since his own father's death inspired Matt to become Daredevil?

They are enemies now.

She hates him. She does.

And she will not imperil her own life to save his.

She will not.

And yet, she finds herself on the next flight to New York.

Combined with Miller's beautiful artwork of Elektra alone and contemplative on a ledge, this entire page is beautiful in every way. I find it poetic that to someone so cold and methodical in her work and life, it would be best to deny how she feels about Matt after all these years. It would be best for her if she really did hate him. She tells herself that she does, but her actions show that she can't lie to herself. It's still the most compelling romance, in my opinion, that Matt has ever had.

As for Matt's first encounter with the Hand, it's somewhat odd. They are obviously really good at what they do because they are able to hold their breath to conceal their presence, and are able to hide from Matt for a few moments. I'm not sure how his radar sense took a while to kick in and show him their locations, but I like how their puzzled by his awareness of them.

In this, the first appearance of the Hand, Miller establishes that "when on of the Hand is fallen -- he is no more." They dissolve into a noxious gas. I wish more writers took note of this. It kind of drove me crazy that this fact seemed to fall by the wayside during Charles Soule's run. Plus, some artists are able to do neat things with plumes of smoke. I love what Miller did with it in that tall panel with Elektra on a rooftop across the street from Matt's brownstone.

Miller's mastery of layout is on full display in this issue. On three consecutive pages he has the tops and bottoms dedicated to Elektra interfering with the Hand, while the tall narrow panels in the middle deal with the simultaneous conversation between Matt and Foggy. It works fantastically, especially when the Hand's explosive travels from the top of the page into the middle, and I love Elektra's expression of concern for Matt's well-being.

There are three black panels, and that was somewhat shocking to see since Soule's run ended just two months ago with an issue featuring a number of plain black pages representing the amount of time Matt flatlined. Here, Miller describes a void "that is as dark and silent as death." It's clear that he suffered some sort of trauma, since his radar is gone.

Another thing I like about these early appearances of Elektra is the way she uses her sai. She'll use the the handles to grab onto a railing. She makes complete use of the weapon. Still, I find it a little puzzling that she goes out of her way to free Melvin Potter. I don't think she would be that concerned for Matt's professional interests. I suppose she may want to be on hand and help Potter because she knows Matt is going to show up and try to fight his kidnappers. I also find it somewhat amusing that Miller forgot to draw Elektra's hand in a red glove in the panel where she drops tear gas into a truck.

Matt proves to be a formidable fighter even without his radar, but clearly imperfect. He would have died had Elektra not been there, and it takes him a while to figure that out.

While the Hand were an important feature of this issue, the main aspect of this comic that drives it forward throughout is clearly Elektra's efforts to preserve Matt's life without him knowing. The Hand are the threat, but they're not driving the narrative. That's what I think a lot of writers don't understand. The Hand doesn't really have a personality, so you can't really make it the main feature of a story and expect it to be compelling. In this issue Miller stresses how ruthless, shadowy, cult-like and relentless an organization it is, but he doesn't do much more than that, because the story is really driven by Elektra. Someone else has to be front and centre in Hand stories in order for them to work.

Still, obviously this was an important issue. In the 80s kids went nuts for ninja, and I think this issue played a big part in sparking interest for ninja in North America. It's no secret that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles came about largely because of Miller's Daredevil run, and this is undoubtedly the inspiration behind the Foot Clan.

Perfect score. Five out of five.
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Mike Murdock
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 04, 2019 8:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The opening page helps demonstrate that Frank Miller is really coming into his own as a lawyer. When he started, he might have peppered that opening with dialogue. Instead, we're left with nothing until the final panel and that panel has just enough of a sting to hook you for the next page. Still, the next page turns page one on its head as Elektra ends up afraid and the third page is the hook for the whole issue (I'm reading this in floppy for the first time and it's noteworthy that the three pages are together followed by a two-page ad break that cuts it off from the rest of the comic).

This issue brings Elektra back to the forefront when she has been in the background for a while. But it also keeps other threads running with Melvin Potter and Foggy's disappearance. The Gladiator stuff was obviously a big deal the previous issue. It's good to see resolution to the Foggy plot this issue. That being said, it's definitely among the weaker plots Miller's done. Honestly, I was racking my brain throughout these issues trying to even remember what it was. It definitely falls in the background of everything else that is great.

The Hand are the cool addition. They do what ninjas do well, which is be silent and kill. They appear very subtlety in Matt's home with just the heartbeats first, then the faintest silhouettes. It's not until the final panel of the page that they appear in full and, by then, they've surrounded Matt. I also love Matt without his radar sense. He's a character defined by weakness and this helps emphasize just how great he is at dealing with it. That being said, looking at the art (and not the dialogue, which is, uh, blind to the full picture, he definitely would have died but for Elektra). And the issue ends on a cliffhanger. The Hand are still quite scary and quite exotic and their story is not done yet.

Five Stars. The Foggy story feels a bit weak, but is very brief and, other than that, its paced well with lots of great action. It also does a great job exploring Elektra's character. There's still an ambiguity, but they're laying the groundwork to see her as a hero. I would argue its a bit of a feint. Whether she's a hero is still yet to be determined but she's behaving heroically here, which makes her far more than a villain.
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Mike Murdock
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 10, 2019 1:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Daredevil Vol. 1 # 175 - Gantlet



Quote:

It's Daredevil and Elektra against the Hand and the Hand's master assassin Kiringi! Will DD be able to give it his all with his radar sense on the fritz?


Due 2/17
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 11, 2019 4:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

If any readers didn't care for Elektra before this issue came out in October 1981, this issue surely won those last hold-outs over.

I don't think the cover is great. While it promises that we're going to see Daredevil and Elektra go toe-to-toe with a horde of ninja, I find the scrawling of "The End?" kind of cheap. Who is worried that this is going to be the end? Nobody could have bought into that. I think the cover would have been better off without those words.

I suppose there are those who would accuse the opening page with objectifying Elektra. Sure, it's a sexy image, but I think, when paired with the narrative captions, she isn't being played up simply for her looks. From those opening boxes, we find out that she is done being conflicted over her feelings about Matt, and that she is ready to take on a threat. Did she have to be dressed in a thong to tell us this? I suppose not, but it is a beautiful drawing, and I love the expression on her face in the close-up. What I'm saying is that Frank Miller isn't making Elektra's sexiness the entirety of her character, so why shouldn't she be sexy?

Elektra spends the entirety of this issue pushing Matt away, and denying that she cares about him. She is focused on defeating the Hand, who are out to kill her and anyone who is connected to Matt Murdock. She is cold and efficient and very good at fighting and killing.

Matt is still dealing with his lost radar sense, but is focused on keeping Foggy alive, and then switches his focus to making sure Elektra doesn't die at the feet of the Hand. He shows no concern for Melvin Potter's trial, but I found it notable the nonchalant way he receives Heather Glenn's note. She wrote that she never wants to see him again, and thinks to himself, "Heather's left me.. for the third time this month. Scratch one problem. Visible as she'll be at that party, the ninja won't try to kill her there." He's not torn up at all by her anger and hurt. Yes, he has bigger problems, and the most important thing to him is that she's safe, but I think we can already feel him moving further away from Heather, and I think Elektra's reappearance in his life has a lot to do with that.

I love Miller's trademark series of small panels with identical layouts, emphasizing a small movement. The three panels laid out on top of each other showing a ninja aiming a bow and arrow are particularly great, with Daredevil's hand reaching in and plucking the bow. Similarly the panels with Foggy's face in the taxi window are fantastic, with only the hands of Daredevil and a ninja visible at the top of the panels. The inane chatter of the cabbie just emphasizes how oblivious the rest of the world is to what's really going on.

Those fantastic panel series got me wondering if Miller would have gotten to use those tricks if he hadn't also wrote the script. I remember complaining about one of Soule and Noto's last issues, when Daredevil is trying to stop the Vigil from killing Wesley but fails. I suggested that the moment would have carried greater weight if it had broken down into a sequence of thin panels that would have slowed it down. Would Noto have been able to do it if Soule didn't suggest it in his script? Perhaps Noto could have suggested it, but maybe there wasn't space. I just think that Miller was able to play more with layouts and the limits of the medium because he was both writer and artist.

It's a little funny watching Elektra play a ditzy character. I don't think she would ever do this again. You can kind of hear Arlene Sorkin's Harley Quinn voice speaking this dialogue.

I don't know where Miller developed his fascination with ninja, but he is very much in his element once Daredevil and Elektra enter the Jonin's hideout. I'm assuming he must have seen a lot of old samurai movies, but there also must have been some comics, since he's so attuned to the medium's capabilities. If he was influenced by certain comic titles, I'm curious what they would be.

I love the details about each weapon. Even though Kirigi has put out the tetsu-bishi to harm Elektra, she sees them as protecting her front and side, leaving him with only one avenue of attack.

The sequence of her caught in his rope knife while reaching for the sword is beautifully executed. At the bottom of one page is Kirigi pulling on the rope, but the top of the next page is a beautiful silhouette of the curling rope, with Elektra's form crashing into his, with the sword sticking out of his back. It's thrilling.

I'm not an expert on manga, but I do recognize some elements. When Daredevil is fighting the ninja and grabs hold of the sword, we have two panels which focus on two perspectives of his face without going forward in time. If I remember correctly from reading Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics, that is a device popular in Asian comics called aspect-to-aspect, while traditional North American comic panels tend to move from action-to-action and scene-to-scene. I feel this panel sequence really helped slow things down and build anticipation for the moment when Daredevil shattered the ninja's swords.

I liked how Miller didn't show much at all about how Elektra left things with Daredevil at the end of this issue. She has a choice to make. She could let him bleed out and die, or she could minister to his wounds. "And Elektra would finally be free of him, as well..." The sad look on her face is all you need. That's the last we see of her in this issue, and Matt's appearance lower down on the page makes clear her choice. She is still burdened by her feelings for Matt. She is not as heartless as she wishes she were.

Foggy is a bit of a puzzle in this issue. On the one hand he is set up as comic relief, being oblivious to the danger he's in. The way Miller draws him in the when he asks the judge for a moment to talk to Becky makes him look like something out of Mad Magazine. However, it's important to note that Foggy wins the day. Whether or not you like Foggy being used for comic effect or not, it worked for what Miller did. It was important to have these moments of levity during these stories.

However, it did remind me of something that drove me crazy during the second season of the Netflix show. While Matt was busy helping Elektra fight the Hand, Foggy and Karen were left holding the bag with the Punisher trial. It really upset me watching Matt be so irresponsible with his legal practice and deserting his friends while helping Elektra, but here it is in Daredevil #175, an issue I've read countless times before! I guess this issue is easier to take since it's so compactly packed, as opposed to dragged out over a few episodes.

What can I say? It's another Miller classic. Rarely has there been better action drawn in a comic. Perfect score.
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Mike Murdock
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 11, 2019 7:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is the first issue colored by Christie/Max Scheele. I know of her mostly from Nocenti's run (and from letters pages where she is referred to as Mr. Scheele and everyone has to correct the fan by saying that "Max" Scheele is a woman. I really like the warm colors as Elektra relaxes (?) or meditates with the New York skyline in the background. The color pallet back then was fairly limited, but I like what she was able to do in this page. I did notice some coloring errors later in the issue (at the ninja star shop, Elektra's hand alternates red/gloved and ungloved. I also some day would love to know what color eyes Elektra was supposed to have.

I just realized that Elektra's introduction in Daredevil season two where she's waiting in his apartment and throws her weapon is likely to be a reference to this scene. The scene that follows shows the complexity of their relationship. Elektra is completely at ease with him, even to the point of changing in front of him. On the other hand, she says she's his enemy. When Matt tries to say they meant more, she kicks him out the window. Seriously, she's not getting her deposit back on that hotel room. Wink

Matt finds out Heather is angry at him and going to a party. It's quite odd that Matt's only real reaction was to show Matt as relieved that she wouldn't be in danger there. It definitely showed that Miller didn't really have a good sense of what to do with the character and certainly wasn't interested in showing them in a loving relationship. I also kind of wonder what kind of party is taking place at the same time Foggy is going to court. Is this party in the morning on a weekday? I love the shots of Daredevil stopping the Hand ninjas from killing Foggy. Almost every shot has him as almost a background character. The focus is on Foggy followed by the ninja and only tangentially on the action in question. In fact, there's a completely unnecessary conversation between Foggy and a cab driver that serves to draw the attention as well.

The scenes fighting Ninjas are quite fun. I noticed that they don't come off as scary fighters. The biggest thing they have going for them is their stealth. The moment where Elektra throws the stars and reveals a whole score of them is really cool. During the fight, we encounter Kirigi (I apologize for the little solicit misspelling Kirigi's name. I copy and pasted from ComicVine and I don't know where it came from). He's absolutely scary and you can feel the tension and violence on all sides. You can also see just how bloodthirsty Elektra has become.

As the fight continues, it cuts to Foggy floundering in court. I think it's played for laughs, but it's also an important moment that's been building up for issues. The odd thing is that Melvin Potter himself doesn't really feature. But the story matters far more for Nelson and Murdock. Even though Matt wasn't there, Foggy saves the day and is shown to be his equal partner. That's why I think it works. It doesn't really feel so much of Foggy being abandoned by his partner as Matt stepping back and letting Foggy be the hero. That being said, the fact that Melvin isn't there makes it seem less high stakes that it would otherwise be. The (presumably made up) case of Stoelting v. West is a subtle touch. The first part is probably unintentional. Direct criminal appeals in New York would have "people" in the name. This could suggest the case might not even have been a criminal case, adding to its obscurity. This isn't necessarily true, though. The second part is probably intentional and that's how old the case was. Foggy's case was a fifty year old case. While old cases can be well-established and important, they often feel like irrelevant fossils. The fact that he knew and was able to cite the case shows how brilliant Foggy is, even if it's just adding to the whole gag.

I hate to be a broken record. I really want to find a flaw in this issue. But I end up reaching the same conclusion as before. Five Stars.
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Mike Murdock
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 17, 2019 9:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Woops, I forgot it was Sunday!

Daredevil Vol. 1 # 176 - Hunters



Quote:
This is the final showdown: Elektra versus Kiringi! Plus, Daredevil and Elektra track down Matt's old sensei, the man called Stick.


Due 2/24
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 18, 2019 3:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This issue hurtles forward at a breakneck pace, and that makes it a ton of fun to read. In the lead-ups to this issue Frank Miller had all of his chess pieces perfectly set up in different locations, and now he has them all looking for the same mystery man -- someone we have never heard of before: Stick.

I was about to turn 10 years old when this issue came out, and I would have really liked the bike this issue was advertising on the cover. That's really the most notable thing about the cover. I don't know why Elektra's outfit is suddenly purple, or why Daredevil is reaching around those pipes. The lightning and rain are well done though.

I like the quietness of the first page. I don't know how Kirigi got from the basement of the Jonin's hideout to this junkyard on the lower east side, but it makes for a startling beginning, and the title and credits break the silence nicely.

I also don't know why the inside of the temple Kirigi finds is in ruins, or why Kirigi needed to go there to pull the sword out of his body. I guess Miller wanted to add some religious imagery to the act Kirigi was performing, but he doesn't really do that. Kirigi extracts the blade against a plain white background, and all of the temple is shrouded in darkness. In the final panel on page 3 it looks like bodies are on the steps to the altar, but we never see Kirigi attack anyone and it looked like the temple was in ruins before he even got there. It's confusing, but we don't stay there for long. Having read this issue many times before, I'll admit this is the first time I noticed these puzzling details.

Heather Glenn isn't shown to be a particularly deep or intelligent character, but she also gets to show some spunk in this issue. She very much wants to get to a Pavarotti concert with Matt, and she doesn't like how cold it is outside. He jumps off the ledge and she wonders, "How could he do this to me?" Miller makes Heather a hard character to like, but eventually she promises herself she will help him.

Clearly Miller is more concerned with setting up Elektra as a more compelling woman. Once again she tells herself that Daredevil is her enemy, but she can't help but aid him in his search for Stick.

With respect to the sudden reveal that there was a mentor we have never met before who trained Matt when he was young, would I have been accepting of this sudden change to continuity had I been older than 10? What did the long-time Daredevil fans in 1981 think of this?

I think we have to be somewhat accepting that Daredevil was not a hot title before Miller came on the scene. It was a series that varied wildly in tone over the years, and was published bi-monthly. They tried pairing him up with Black Widow, and then the aborted that experiment. Daredevil was as fledgling a book as Marvel had going into the eighties, and because of that I think Miller knew he had a lot of room to tinker with who Matt was and where he came from without a lot of blowback from fans. There couldn't have been too many long-term fans of Daredevil at that time, since comics catered mostly to kids and it wasn't the hottest book. I think older readers at the time were more enamoured with Uncanny X-Men and Fantastic Four. Also, if anyone was pissed off about the sudden addition of Stick, it's not like they had social media back then, and it's not as if they were going to get their views expressed in the New York Times. I think the addition of Stick enriched Matt's existing story nicely, and helped add some sinew to Daredevil's spare skeleton as it existed before Miller's arrival.

As for people being able to sneak up on Matt, I did find that somewhat odd. Go back to the previous issue and watch Matt's experts moves with the ninja sword. He catches the sword in mid-air while a ninja is behind him winding up to slash at him. In the next panel Matt intercepts the opponent's sword without even looking at him. His radar sense wasn't working at this time either. You can try to rationalize that Matt was concentrating very hard and was very focused in the midst of battle, and that there were many more distractions inside Josie's bar. Neverthless, I did love it when they got Daredevil outside and he was able to dodge gunfire. I liked how the sound of raindrops turned out to be a poor substitute for radar.

As for the rest of the issue, it's a great example of Miller being able to expertly blend comedy and action. Everybody's arrival at Wall-Eyed Pike's place was pure farce. Even with a super-powered suit, nobody treats Turk as anything other than a joke. It works very well, and it makes for a very entertaining read.

Elektra's showdown with Kirigi is treated with the most drama. Miller holds back all narrative captions and word balloons until the very end. Miller closes the issue with Elektra wondering if she'll ever be able to kill Matt as she'll inevitably have to do.

It's another classic, and Stick has long since become integral to Matt's origin story. As for my nitpick about Kirigi in the temple, I can't help but wonder if Miller intended some religious imagery to go with that scene, but Marvel refused. I never noticed anything too weird about that scene until today, so I'm giving this issue another perfect score.
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 18, 2019 8:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Apparently I can win a free bike. I'll have to make sure to check out this issue to find out how. Spoiler alert: entries must be received by October 31, 1981 to be eligible.

This issue has such a bold opening. After the intense fight last issue, the last thing I expected to see was Kirigi still able to walk with a sword sticking out of him. There's narration but his silence almost gives the whole thing a horror vibe. It's interesting that it doesn't commit to the supernatural and whether he's an immortal being or not. Kirigi stays in the background for the most part until the end when it seems a bit tacked on. That being said, him on fire is very much fitting that horror motif.

This issue is the first one to really have Heather Glenn as a character. Even so, she's such a tragic character in this book, mostly because she's devoted to Matt who seems to have no real interest in her. I'd also argue she doesn't necessarily accomplish much. Still, it's important that she goes to help him because she cares about him, even when he doesn't even think to ask her.

The issue plays up the humor. The scene with Wall-Eyed Pike is great. Then we're finally introduced to Stick. He's a great retcon to DD's backstory and his personality shines through from the beginning. Then Turk shows up and is promptly defeated.

Honestly, this issue is a bit more disjointed than most and doesn't quite rise to a great conclusion. Elektra's story here actually feels a bit repetitive with last issue and the ending feels almost tacked on. It undercuts the moments that we're getting with Daredevil, Heather, and Turk. Also, while I like Heather getting involved, she doesn't really solve anything. One would hope that Matt appreciates the gesture going forward.

I'll go Four and a Half Stars. This is still the greatest Daredevil epic ever told, but this issue is a bit of a step down.
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 24, 2019 1:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I almost made this issue the title of the thread.

Daredevil Vol. 1 # 177 - Where Angels Fear to Tread



Quote:
Can Stick help restore Daredevil's radar sense? And what does the Kingpin make of the assassin Elektra?


Due 3/3
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