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DD Book Club - Don't Touch Me

 
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Mike Murdock
Underboss


Joined: 08 Sep 2014
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 03, 2019 11:12 am    Post subject: DD Book Club - Don't Touch Me Reply with quote

There's two reasons I'm doing this Ann Nocenti two-parter. First, Tuesday is Mardi Gras and I thought it would be fun to do this Haitian-inspired bad guy. Second, I remember this story being a strong character story for Karen Page. Given that March 8 is both the release of Captain Marvel and International Women's Day, I thought that was appropriate. It's not on Marvel Unlimited, so I apologize for anyone who wanted to participate but is unable to.

Daredevil Vol. 1 #244 - Don't Touch Me



Quote:
DD tries to gather evidence against a drug dealer who uses voodoo as a gimmick when a true voodoo creature intervenes.


Due 3/19
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Dimetre
Parts of a Hole


Joined: 16 Feb 2006
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 04, 2019 1:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

There is a lot going on in this issue, and a lot of themes. Superstition is spread throughout this issue, whether it's astrology or black cats or voodoo. There is another theme about doing things "the right way." There is the theme of taking on the powers of something else. Some of it's compelling. It's one of the best things about Ann Nocenti's work -- she always sought to convey messages to her readers. Her stories had a point. However, this comic is prime evidence of another of Nocenti's tendencies: overwriting.

The two-page introduction of the Nameless One does a nice job of setting up the atmosphere of a voodoo ritual, but we have never met either of these characters before. We just know that this woman is Haitian, and she wants Danny Guitar to return to Haiti to be punished for befouling his heritage. I would be interested to know if the Nameless One was actually resurrected from the dead, or if he's a living person who contains the souls of fearsome people. It's somewhat unclear, and the poetic verses like "You are a rooted tree, I, a liquid breeze. You are leaden. I mercurial," don't help to clear things up. I think if we cut back on the dialogue by two-thirds and shortened the scene, it would have made things move along better.

In fact, I think that applies for all of this issue. A lot of the dialogue feels unnecessary. Characters flat out state things that could have just been inferred with a look or a motion.

But I think this issue has a few scenes that border on either problematic or flat-out ridiculous.

First, we have Daredevil overhearing that Danny Guitar's new drug is super addictive. He understands the ramifications because he calls them monsters. But this is the time he decides to do things "by the book." He actually watches Danny distribute the new drug. These people are now going to be addicted to a horrible substance because he allowed it to get on the streets when he knew better. He could have stopped it, and I think he should have.

Second, Daredevil dresses up in blackface. This is incredibly uncomfortable to see. I don't know if it's a rubber face mask and gloves, or if he put on make-up. I'm guessing the former because he seems to wear his costume underneath. I just don't know what Nocenti and artist Louis Williams were thinking. Ann Nocenti has demonstrated herself to be a highly socially-aware person time and time again. How is it okay for Daredevil to go all Al Jolson? Why couldn't he have been a white homeless man?

Third: Why does the voodoo lady sic the Nameless One on Daredevil, when Danny guitar is right there for the taking? It's very clumsily handled. She has one mission, and she could have easily completed it, but the plot demands that the Nameless One fight Daredevil.

Don't get me wrong -- I think the Nameless One is a cool villain, and he seems to be a lot for Matt to handle. I just think the plot was poorly set up. If Matt was more of an impediment to them getting their hands on Danny, I would be more accepting of them switching their focus to him. Here, I don't see any reason for them to do so.

Fourth: The dripping glove. How did it get to Matt and Karen's apartment? Did Matt come home and change? Did the Nameless One drop it off and hang it up for Karen to see? Did he and Voodoo Lady find the address through the power of voodoo?

As for Williams' art, I found it too rough and sketchy. It felt sort of unfinished, like this is all he was able to get done for the deadline. I did like his design for the Nameless One though. The panels with the Nameless One are the best in the entire issue.

I liked the reference to "Born Again," which was a recent story at the time. The way Karen's trauma over Paolo's abuse was triggered was very affecting, although you would think Matt would know better than to play that rough with her.

There are a couple of funny things. I'm reading the physical issue that came out in 1987, and the cop, named Bucko, calls crack "that new cocaine stuff." I have never taken a hard drug in my life, but was crack really that new in 1987?

But best of all was a full-page ad for a movie called Thrashin'. It shows a Ken-doll looking guy with a skateboard and kneepads beside the looming face of a teenage girl. Either he or the girl is described as "Hot. Reckless. Totally Insane." The credits are below, and the movie stars Josh Brolin. That skateboarder is the same actor who now does the voice and motion capture for Thanos.

I think Nocenti has laid out the seeds for a good story here, but I think her execution is pretty sloppy. A lot of the Danny Guitar scenes are too long and verbose, and don't add much. Still, the Nameless One is a compelling villain, and I'm curious how this story ends. I give it a three out of five.
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Mike Murdock
Underboss


Joined: 08 Sep 2014
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 04, 2019 8:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The issue starts off with an exploration of superstition and the power of belief. This is an interesting concept. I consider myself a rational person who isn't at all superstitious but, if it matters to a sports team of mine, I'll practice Voodoo to get a touchdown. The opening narration is very playful at this topic. Almost surprisingly so for Nocenti (the symbolism is pure Nocenti, but that conversational tone feels different and very fun).

The second theme of the issue is Daredevil as a hero and the public's reaction. When Daredevil is rescuing the overdosing kid, the cab drivers are annoyed at him running on their roofs. The cops are very blase about the whole thing as well. They're talking to Daredevil, but unenthusiastic about his help. They very much take the position that Daredevil uses the same scare tactics that Danny Guitar used.

The interesting thing about the story is that it takes a grounded story of a drug dealer playing on superstition and adds the element of the story being real. It gives it an almost ghost story quality to it of the man who doesn't believe in ghosts being haunted by one. The art for the Voodoo scenes is quite cool. It's colored entirely different, basically just red and white. It gives it a very unearthly feel. I have to wonder if that was scripted, a decision by the penciler, or a decision by the colorists.

There's also a theme of empathy. It's presented almost in the sense of absorbing people's pain. I think it very much fits the character of Daredevil and how his greatest trait is his ability to love and forgive. But it also seems to fit with the whole Voodoo thing. There's the sense of absorbing the courage of a lion, etc. and I think the references to Daredevil feeling everyone's pain is part of that. I think the parallels between Daredevil and Danny Guitar are very much present in this story.

The fourth theme of the story is Karen Page and how she deals with Matt's violence. Nocenti's dialogue is a bit obvious here. This isn't that long after Born Again and there's an obvious reference. Karen's issues with Matt's violence are reasonable. I think the big thing is that she's not even sure what she wants. She has problems with how violent he can be and she fears for his safety, but she also wants to support him.

I've spent a lot of time talking about theme in this story. The theme of the story is quite intricate. The plot of the story not so much. It spends a lot of time setting up. The final bit with the fight and Danny Guitar feels a bit lighter than it should be. It's a two-parter but it felt like a bit of an odd ending.

Four Stars. The themes are good, but the plot could have been structured a bit better.

Dimetre wrote:

Second, Daredevil dresses up in blackface. This is incredibly uncomfortable to see. I don't know if it's a rubber face mask and gloves, or if he put on make-up. I'm guessing the former because he seems to wear his costume underneath.


Yeah, this is certainly one of the more uncomfortable, dated things. The fact that its a disguise helps mitigate it slightly (maybe a white man would have stood out too much in that neighborhood?), but it's described as Hell's Kitchen, which has been shown as multi-ethnic in the story. I live in Virginia, where this is very much an active controversy and there's definitely a debate about the level it was acceptable back then.

Quote:
Fourth: The dripping glove. How did it get to Matt and Karen's apartment? Did Matt come home and change? Did the Nameless One drop it off and hang it up for Karen to see? Did he and Voodoo Lady find the address through the power of voodoo?


I think it has to be. She says how she divined Daredevil's secret name, so I suppose she then looked it up in the phone book. The secret name aspect is an important part of Voodoo. Supposedly, knowing their secret name gives you power over them. It's why the Nameless One is nameless. He doesn't have a name so no one has power of him.

Quote:
There are a couple of funny things. I'm reading the physical issue that came out in 1987, and the cop, named Bucko, calls crack "that new cocaine stuff." I have never taken a hard drug in my life, but was crack really that new in 1987?


Crack Cocaine was first introduced in 1984 and it became an "epidemic" right around 1986 when the Federal government increased penalties for it. Honestly, while I'm hardly an expert here, the story seems to demonstrate a lack of understanding about the drug. It's interesting to see how it was seen at the time compared to now. It's very similar to Child's Play, which was focused on PCP. I haven't seen anything to say that it was new at the time, but the story seems to treat it that way.
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Mike Murdock
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 10, 2019 8:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Daredevil Vol. 1 #245 - Touch Me



Quote:
What happens when Daredevil, the man without fear, becomes Daredevil, the man filled with fear? For those demanding nonstop suspense in the classic Daredevil tradition, this story you must not miss!


Due 3/16
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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
Parts of a Hole


Joined: 16 Feb 2006
Posts: 1107
Location: Toronto

PostPosted: Sun Mar 10, 2019 12:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

According to this website, Louis Williams is credited with the cover artwork, but I don't think it matches the interior art. If I had to guess the artist, I would say it's John Romita Jr.

As for the interior art, I think it took a major leap forward from last issue. Al Williamson and Danny Bulanadi inked #243, but Tony DeZuniga did this issue, and Williams' art looks so much more solid and clean. This issue is prime evidence of what a huge difference good inking can make.

I still think Ann Nocenti overwrites. The scene with Karen and Eric is filled to the brink with dialogue that doesn't need to be. When the two of them are joined by Bucko, it's an alarming display of characters saying their every feeling and belief in ways that real people just don't.

As for the big nurse -- that was an odd allusion to "Born Again." That had to be Lois, right? I found her appearance odd. First, she worked for Kingpin, but I don't think this story has anything to do with Kingpin, unless Fisk is getting a share of Danny Guitar's earnings. Maybe that's why Lois has been sent to kill Eric. Who knows? But, also, if I remember correctly, Karen never met Lois in "Born Again." Lois killed Lieutenant Manolis, and almost killed Doris Urich, and that's when Matt took her down. She went to prison, and that's the last we saw of her until now, when she appears in two panels, and that's it. Perhaps Karen has seen pictures of Lois since "Born Again." Again, who knows? It doesn't amount to much.

I think this issue begins to take off in a big way when we see Danny Guitar being affected by Mambo and the Nameless One's voodoo. I found Mambo's dialogue regarding voodoo much more interesting this time around, especially the line, " To know one's secret name is to have power over him. You have no secret name, no one may harm you. You are the Nameless One, the dead one, you cannot die." That's why he's so untouchable, and such a threat.

Now it should be very easy for the Nameless One to simply snatch Danny Guitar up and take him back to Haiti. Honestly, he should have been able to do it last issue, but then this wouldn't be much of a Daredevil story. There really isn't any reason for the Nameless One to bother with the cops at the docks. It doesn't seem like Mambo has any need to torture the police. But when things are at their worst, and the Nameless One has Karen in a stranglehold, it's fantastic to turn the page and see Matt swing in and save the day.

It's a great fight. Nocenti keeps the dialogue at a minimum, and the little she does provide is key to her themes. I thought it was great to see Bucko and Karen crying out to Matt to hit the Nameless One again and again. Nocenti also does a great job with the narrative captions, stressing the mental aspects of the fight. We see Matt start to lose the fight, and it hearkens back to the Nameless One's earlier conversation with Mambo. Matt has come to believe "his fists are useless." When Karen runs up, gives him his mask and tells him she believes in him, that gives him what he needs, and he rejoins the fight with his confidence restored.

The last scene with Matt and Karen is lovely, not only for the tenderness between the two lovers, but because of Matt's internal dialogue. "I wonder... if we'd all stayed out of this one, perhaps that creature would have taken care of his own, and been gone. We just didn't understand his way of justice. As so few understand mine." Then we see the Nameless One and Mambo looking on. He says, "The red man understands." She replies, "Yes, he does. There was a communion here, we have exchanged fists... and fear." It works so well because Nocenti stressed the mental aspects of the fight, and makes it easy to believe an understanding was achieved between Daredevil and the Nameless One.

I don't know if Mambo and the Nameless One ever appeared again, but I wish they did.

This issue corrected a lot of the weaknesses from the previous issue. DeZuniga deserves a lot of credit for his inking, as does Nocenti for restraint and intelligence. Her overwriting does make the first few pages a bit of a slog, but after that it's great. I give this a four out of five.
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Mike Murdock
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Joined: 08 Sep 2014
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 11, 2019 6:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The first couple pages of this issue are pretty rough. The monologue is very stilted and is delivering a lot of forced exposition. I like the Karen focus early on. She's proactive in helping Matt and she's finding people who Daredevil saved to help. You could actually see the TV version of the character acting this way.

I love the colors once again for the flashbacks in Haiti. There's definitely something horrific there. Danny Guitar is an interesting character. He's definitely rejecting the old ways because they horrify him, but it doesn't seem like it could be because he doesn't believe them. Still, while he's trying to engage in modern activities (i.e., drug dealing), he's willing to exploit those old ways. There's a lot of contradictions going on.

They also explore the idea of the police and the vigilante. I like that Danny Guitar was easily apprehended by the police (although I disagree that you can easily shoot someone in the hand and they would be "fine"), but there's clearly something more going on and that's where Daredevil fits in. There's an eerie chill in a series of panels, each with Guitar saying "Voodoo" that adds a nice sense of menace. The Nameless One is relentless and unstoppable, which leads to a great page turn and the reveal of Daredevil to the rescue. The fight is stated to be more than just a physical one, but I do think the physical fight seems too easy considering what had been set up. Still, it doesn't really appear like Matt defeated his enemy since he's still around at the end.

This issue is still overwritten. I think it picks up quite a bit when the Nameless One strikes and it's got some nice moments before that - particularly with Karen. I'll go Four Stars.
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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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