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DD Book Club - The Widow
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Mike Murdock
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Joined: 08 Sep 2014
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PostPosted: Sun May 12, 2019 9:16 am    Post subject: DD Book Club - The Widow Reply with quote

It has been a while since we returned to Bendis's Daredevil. The next story up is The Widow.

Daredevil Vol. 2 #61 - The Widow Part 1



Quote:
She's back! You asked for it; you got it: Daredevil's fiery, redheaded ex-partner returns to Hell's Kitchen to help the new Kingpin keep the streets clean. But why is she really back? Guest-starring Nick Fury and the Avengers!


This story is available in trade (Daredevil by Bendis & Maleev Ultimate Collection Book 2 is the one in print) or on Marvel Unlimited.

Due 5/18
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Dimetre
Paradiso


Joined: 16 Feb 2006
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Location: Toronto

PostPosted: Mon May 13, 2019 10:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Leading up to this issue, Matt had just been confronted with the notion that he had suffered a nervous breakdown due to the excessively violent way Karen Page had been torn from his life. This is something neither Matt nor Milla had considered when they got married off-panel a year before. In fact, it seemed like Milla had no idea of Karen's existence -- like she had never come up in conversation before, even though she was a former employee at Matt and Foggy's law firm, and had run a non-profit storefront legal aid clinic with Matt. But to hell with all that -- instead of helping the man she loves work through his grief, Milla runs out and files for annulment.

That does seem preposterous to me, even though I don't have a problem with people protecting their own well-being in romantic relationships. It's just that they got married so suddenly. What did these two intelligent, clear-headed people talk about before their wedding? Past romantic partners never came up? Past lost loves never came up? She was willing to put up with so much danger, and still married him. Why does his grief over Karen's murder serve as the deal-breaker? And I don't think we can accurately call it a nervous breakdown, whatever that is. He has been able to function as both an attorney and superhero after the trauma, so no, I don't think this is a "nervous breakdown."

Anyway, even though I like Milla, this is hard for me to buy into. This filing for annulment doesn't match up with what I know about her character.

Foggy seems to be at the end of his rope with Matt, very curtly advising him to agree to the annulment. Bendis tended to write Foggy as holding a lot of resentment towards the entire idea of Daredevil. Here, Foggy complains about how he "lives on this ride." Fair enough. He never asked to be the best friend of a superhero. Also, it's fair to point out that he never asked to leave the ride, which Milla is now doing. Foggy is a true friend, even if he's kind of a negative nelly under Bendis' pen.

I liked the sudden cut to Bulgaria, with Captain America approaching Madame Masque in a courtyard. It was a nice contrast to the scene before. What I didn't like is the appearance of one of my most-loathed Bendis tropes -- the villain taken down in the most anti-climactic and humiliating of ways. I don't know what Bendis gets from doing this. Masque presses a button to detonate a bomb, but nothing happens. Cap informs her that Iron Man remotely disabled her detonator, and they take her into custody.

As I've stated before, I hate it when Bendis does this because it takes a previously formidable villain and reduces them to being a fool. It lowers the stakes of the scene or the story, and it also reduces the heroes who have previously experienced difficulty with that antagonist before. I suppose some readers may find humour with the way Masque was defeated in this issue, but I've seen Bendis belittle antagonists too many times. Too me, I get annoyed every time a writer uses even Stilt-Man as comic relief. Why not use your brain to figure out a way to turn this guy into a real threat? Wouldn't that actually surprise your readership? Wouldn't that surprise be a good thing?

Belittling an antagonist is not a good move. There are better ways to make your heroes look cool, especially without doing it at the expense of another character.

I bought into the scene with the Bulgarian ambassador and the S.H.I.E.L.D. director. I was a little surprised that the director wasn't Fury, but it's hard for me to keep track of the all the executive transitions in S.H.I.E.L.D. history.

This is the first time I have read this issue. The only previous time I've encountered the Black Widow as written by Bendis was in "Hardcore." In that story he had her swing in full costume over to Matt's brownstone, even though she knew he was in a secret identity crisis. Then she did a sexy striptease, and tried to cajole him into "dancing" around New York's skyline. I thought she came through as a thoughtless, selfish and dumb bubble-head, not the highly capable and intelligent secret agent we know her as today.

In this issue, she uses her sex appeal to lure in someone who's related to von Strucker, but is interrupted by Fury's transmission. Instead of digging deeper into what may have provoked Fury's command, she breaks into Matt's apartment, strips off her clothing and waits for Matt in his bed. She shows no knowledge of Milla, even though Matt was dating her during "Hardcore," and had married her since. She doesn't appear to have any knowledge that Bulgarians are after her, or that S.H.I.E.L.D. have been asked to turn her over. Shouldn't she at least be curious about Fury's transmission? But no. I hope she enjoyed her naked snooze.

Then Ben Urich calls, even though I could have sworn that Matt had ended their friendship for Ben's benefit during "Hardcore." Maybe they're good again after Matt's time in the Night Nurse's clinic?

There is a long phone conversation full of expository dialogue about Jigsaw. It's not important, but it's long. I know it's not important, because Bendis and Maleev don't even bother showing us how Black Widow and Daredevil capture Jigsaw. We cut to the next morning, and we see that Daredevil and Black Widow went out after Jigsaw. Why spend all that dialogue on Jigsaw when he doesn't even matter?

This issue is very annoying to me. This is why I avoid Bendis like the plague. I can't tolerate his bad habits. Having a country demand S.H.I.E.L.D. turn over the Black Widow to them is a perfectly fine idea for a story, but if you're going to do that, have the Black Widow act to the peak of her capability and intelligence, which she doesn't even come close to doing here. That's inexcusable. I give this a 2.5 out of five.
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Mike Murdock
Underboss


Joined: 08 Sep 2014
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PostPosted: Mon May 13, 2019 6:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The last story arc had the big reveal that Matt Murdock was married. This issue starts with Milla wanting an annulment. I get that she was upset at the end, but it still feels a pretty big jump between the two. I have to wonder if it's to hint at Matt getting back with the Black Widow. Apparently, the US government wants to trade Natasha for Madame Hydra, so she has to go dark. There's a confusing scene in London that I like for the most part (it's just the scene of the target vomiting that I don't understand. There's a nice little banter between Foggy and Matt that's enjoyable. Then we get one of the worst-designed pages I've seen in a long time with four page-length skinny panels with endless text in them. One is in black and white, although I can't tell if it's supposed to be symbolic.

Bendis is known for having everyone sound the same. I don't know if it's 100% true, but I also don't know if I buy Natasha saying "get the old juices flowing again." Then Matt and Natasha go out to fight Jigsaw after getting a call from Ben Urich and they make the headlines out of that, which would defeat the point of Black Widow going dark.

Very little about this issue feels organic. Milla's annulment feels sudden, Matt's secret identity coming up again is out the blue, the US government trading Black Widow so easily feels forced, Ben's phone call isn't earned, and the desire to fight Jigsaw in the open seems short-sighted. We also didn't even get to see the fight at all. We learn about it three pages from the end and then it ends the next page.

Three Stars.
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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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PostPosted: Wed May 15, 2019 2:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mike Murdock wrote:
...the US government trading Black Widow so easily feels forced...

It didn't feel forced to me. If there was one Avenger to whom the American government would hold the least loyalty, it would be the Black Widow. They've doubted her allegiance repeatedly, and they would go on to doubt it again. If she's the price to pay to avoid an international incident, I completely believe they would throw her to the wolves.
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Mike Murdock
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PostPosted: Wed May 15, 2019 5:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I guess "unearned" might be a better word. Basically, the whole story comes out of nowhere and everything is sudden. Were there no other options? They essentially don't explore this.
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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 May 19, 2019 8:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Daredevil Vol. 2 #62 - The Widow Part 2



Quote:
Daredevil and the Black Widow are partners again, but is it in more ways then one? One of Marvel's greatest love stories takes an interesting turn, and all in the horrible face of...JIGSAW!


Due 5/25
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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 May 19, 2019 4:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

So I just finished reading this for the first time... and I don't really feel like the story moved forward at all.

The main story is that S.H.I.E.L.D. has agreed to turn over the Black Widow to a foreign power in exchange for Madame Masque, but Widow has fled to New York City and is hanging out with Daredevil. The American government has found out her location.

That is exactly where the last issue left off.

All this issue does is show the government officials trying to figure out why she went to New York. One of them says she's obviously aware that the CIA is legally not allow to conduct military operations on American soil, and the other one answers, "There are other ways."

Then we get a quick battle. It's Jigsaw versus both Daredevil and the Black Widow. There can't be a person alive that would think Jigsaw has a chance against both of them. Besides, the end of last issue, along with the beginning of this issue, would lead anyone to think that the good guys won. Honestly, why even bother showing us this fight? I will admit that the splash page showing Daredevil and the Widow kicking Jigsaw is gorgeous, but it feels like this fight exists to fulfill some sort of action quota.

Then the Widow acts all hot and bothered over Matt. I think Bendis sexualizes the Widow more than any writer I can think of. It's as though he thinks her sexiness is her defining trait. I realize that sexuality has long been a key component in spy fiction, but I think espionage characters have to be cunning and capable before they exchange fluids. And no matter what one of the government officials said earlier in this issue, Widow is acting stupid. It makes total sense for her to go into hiding, but not to hide in plain sight. Again, she shows no awareness that Matt got married, which is public knowledge available to her. Later on she seems completely unbothered that her picture showed up on the cover of the Daily Bugle, even though she's supposedly "in hiding."

It's really alarming to me that Bendis became such an acclaimed name in comics around this time while so incompetently writing an important character like the Black Widow, while just a few years earlier other writers like Devin Grayson and Greg Rucka wrote perfectly fine Black Widow stories to little acclaim.

Then we get a long conversation between Matt and Jigsaw. It's an entertaining enough conversation, and it serves to illustrate what villains think about Matt declaring himself Kingpin (which I said many times was a dumb thing to do). Matt clearly comes off as smarter than Jigsaw, and shows no fear. I'm just not sure, given the way the conversation ended, what grounds Matt has for calling the F.B.I. to come collect Jigsaw. He had payed his bail, and it's not illegal to go to a law office. Did Matt record this conversation? Can Matt prove that Jigsaw violated the terms of his bail?

I suppose that scene sort of shows the state of Matt's current standing amongst the bad guys in New York, but it didn't do anything to move the main story forward.

The next day Matt and Natasha are having lunch on a patio. Again, Natasha seems completely unconcerned about that day's Bugle, and shows no awareness as to who Milla is. (Some spy.) Matt asks why she's really in New York, and she starts to tell him when he hears something. The issue ends with something we can only assume is the handiwork of those government types from the beginning of this issue.

This issue feels like it moved the narrative forward an inch.

My biggest gripe with this issue is, once again, Natasha is way too stupid. I love Natasha. You should all read the Black Widow series by Nathan Edmundson and Phil Noto, along with the next one by Waid and Samnee to see what Natasha can really do. Hell, anyone who has seen Scarlett Johansson play the Widow knows how cool the character can be. If Johansson had been given this as a script, I think she would have asked for a rewrite.

I think Alex Maleev provided some good artwork here, and sometimes Bendis' slow pacing actually worked to provide some contemplative moments. A great example was when Matt walked away from Natasha, and quietly opened the briefcase containing Milla's annulment papers. But, I think, Bendis should have learned to switch between slow pacing and quicker and more economical use of panels a lot better by this point in his career. This issue and the previous issue could have easily been fit into a single issue.

Because of how much I love Natasha, I can't give this issue a passing grade. This issue gets a 2.5 out of 5 from me.

Interestingly, a YouTuber did an entire issue about Bendis' tropes, and randomly picked this issue to look into them. Have a look: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YkxzGNxq1Hc


Last edited by Dimetre on Sun May 26, 2019 2:42 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Mike Murdock
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Joined: 08 Sep 2014
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PostPosted: Mon May 20, 2019 6:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I had wondered if we would see Jigsaw. I expected to see him last issue, but I guess Bendis wasted enough time that he could either have the fight or the headline and went for the headline. Even here, it doesn't seem like the fight is the big draw (after all, we know the ending) and it's over fairly quickly. The point is the tension between the two. That being said, the Black Widow is aggressively trying to get with Matt despite his very clear reservations. It just seems like an odd time since she should be hiding. I get that they're contrasting Matt's tensions with Natasha with the annulment papers. It gives him an out to "cheat" on his wife. If I were more committed to the marriage, it would seem much worse.

This dialogue is heavy and I hate two page spreads filled with panels, which makes it extremely difficult to tell the direction to read everything. I do think some of the dialogue is worth a chuckle even if it isn't necessary. This is especially true with the scene with Jigsaw in Matt's office. I've always enjoyed Matt Murdock deadpanning with his identity. But it really just underscores how dumb the Kingpin of Hell's Kitchen actually is since Matt doesn't even seem to know what he's doing with it.

Three and a Half 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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Mike Murdock
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PostPosted: Sun May 26, 2019 10:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Daredevil Vol. 2 #63 - The Widow Part 3



Quote:
While having lunch in a restaurant, Matt Murdock and Natasha are attacked by a killer contracted by the government to kill the Black Widow.


Due 6/1
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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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Dimetre
Paradiso


Joined: 16 Feb 2006
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PostPosted: Sun May 26, 2019 3:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

My big problem with this arc so far has been the depiction of the Black Widow. The previous issues showed Natasha to be too stupid and careless, and far from the super-spy we know her to be. This issue does a somewhat better job, so this may be the best one of the three issues we've covered for this story so far, but that shouldn't be seen as a ringing endorsement.

I'll sum up what happens in this issue right now: We open from the point of view of the gunman who shot the bullets that ended last issue. He is kind of surprised that Murdock noticed him, and that neither he or Natasha are at their table when he opens fire. Daredevil goes up to the rooftop and beats up the gunman, but the gunman uses a device that debilitates our hero with radio waves. Natasha shows up and kicks the gunman in the head, but he lands a bullet in her shoulder. He gets the better of her and throws her off a roof. She lands safely in a dumpster, and the gunman gets away. Matt tends to her wounds, and she tells Matt why she came to New York. Matt detects people in his house, and the issue ends with the reveal that it's Jigsaw.

The worst thing about this issue is how long-winded Quinn (the gunman) and Natasha are. After Quinn cripples Matt with the radio wave device, he blabbers on and on for two pages about the device, and Matt's powers, and his own lack of powers. I count 29 word balloons over two pages of dialogue that is mostly stuff we either already knew or could have figured out. I found it incredibly annoying.

The page where Natasha finally tells Matt why she came to New York might be even more annoying. More than thirty word balloons crowd both sides of four horizontal panels. Most of what is in these word balloons are things we already knew if we read #61, or the recap page of this issue.

I really don't know if Bendis understands the strengths of this medium. Comics are mainly a visual medium, but monologues like these don't employ visual storytelling at all. These are devices best employed for radio plays.

What would have made these monologues work better is if Maleev provided visuals of how the radio wave device worked. You could have had a small drawing of the S.H.I.E.L.D. scientists designing it. You could have had a small drawing of Fury and Natasha working closely together. Just show me something, instead of telling me everything, plus stuff I already knew.

It's worth mentioning that Volume 2 #27, Bendis and Maleev's second issue, was the first Daredevil issue to employ a recap page. This issue, as well, has a recap page. Yet this is at least the second time in his Daredevil run where Bendis has used up space within the issue to have characters recap events that have happened earlier in his run. What is the point of having a recap page if you're going to do this?

Maleev did a pretty good job this issue. I liked the page that slows down the bullet and flips from aspect to aspect around the roof. However the wire that Natasha uses around Quinn's neck is puzzling. Was that wire hers? Is it something she carries around? If it was hers, why did it break? If it wasn't hers, where did she find it?

But there are a few other things that hold this issue back from being good. Because this issue starts with Matt and Natasha together, once Quinn has Matt at his mercy, we can't get too worried (even with all of Quinn's blabbering), because we know the Widow is going to show up any minute. Secondly we know Quinn isn't a match for either of these guys, and he keeps mentioning how he has no powers. He is just another generic Bendis villain, like Sano, who exists just to antagonize but is impossible to mistake for a real threat, and that just makes the story harder to invest into. Lastly, we know that Matt and Natasha can handle Jigsaw, so how is his appearance at the end of this issue anything to worry about?

I did like Maleev's work this issue, especially when Daredevil was listening to Quinn's heartbeat, and when that radio wave device went off. But, for the reasons I mentioned, this issue isn't very good. I give it a three out of five.
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