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DD Book Club - Roulette

 
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Mike Murdock
Underboss


Joined: 08 Sep 2014
Posts: 1340

PostPosted: Sun Dec 08, 2019 6:51 pm    Post subject: DD Book Club - Roulette Reply with quote

It's an era of endings. Last week, we finished Bendis's run. Now it's time to finish the original great Daredevil run as Frank Miller's run comes to an end.

Daredevil #191 - Roulette

Quote:
Daredevil plays a little game of Russian Roulette with a hospitalized Bullseye. Has DD finally gone too far in his quest for vengeance? Matt Murdock is a changed man, and not for the better.


Due 12/15
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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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Mike Murdock
Underboss


Joined: 08 Sep 2014
Posts: 1340

PostPosted: Mon Dec 09, 2019 7:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Cards on the table. Either this or Devils is my favorite Daredevil issue of all time. There's just so much it does right in the crafting of a comic book story. Also, it plays with Daredevil continuity in an interesting way that elaborates on everything. And, in my opinion, it gets the character perfectly and captures all the nuances. That being said, it starts in a pretty rough place and I've read enough of the letters page to know that plenty of people hated the framing story. For best effect, read this story in an original copy and not a reprint.

The framing story is Daredevil playing Russian Roulette with Bullseye. The background is extremely minimalistic. It doesn't bother with realism. Instead, it has the essential elements, the two characters, the bed, and the blinds. The blinds are an essential element because the stripes resemble bars. They show that Bullseye is in as effective a prison as any penitentiary just in his own body.

The "game" shows how far Matt has sunk in his life that he'd be in this situation. The suspense of the "klik" of the gun builds tension each time. It's interesting to note that Matt's narration gets referenced by Bullseye in a later story, which would seemingly mean Matt actually told him all of this, but I think one has to suspend some disbelief and split the difference because it doesn't make sense that he told everything we see.

One of the interesting things is that it isn't Daredevil superheroics and Elektra that directly bring him here. Instead, it's a story of a kid named Chuckie who Matt encountered as himself. Frank Miller has Matt say something about his secret identity I wish people would say more often: "The secret identity can be a relief... When I'm Murdock, I don't have to use my amplified senses to pretend I'm not blind." I think a lot of writers miss that point and act as if Matt Murdock has to pretend he's blind when, in reality, Daredevil has to pretend he can see. The fact that he's so good at doing that just shows how well he's trained himself to use his supersenses, but it doesn't mean he can see.

Matt is technically representing the kid's father, but he's barely the focus. Instead, it's on his son and his obsession with Daredevil and his violent world. But, as much as his dad hates how his kid acts, his father is no different. His love of his handgun seems to follow the exact same pattern. But his admiration of Daredevil ends up feeling tragic. We get a brief moment of wonder and joy (similar to the issue with the kid meeting Spider-Man) that is snapped back to reality with the "klik" of the gun. Daredevil is someone who helps protect people. He's supposed to be the one who even loves his enemies. But he lives in a world of violence and ends up just getting admired for the violence. In fact, the ease of the violence becomes clear when we reveal that Chuckie's dad is dirty and so is his accuser. Daredevil basically casually inflicts violence to save the day. It's a seemingly reasonable action but it's devastating for the kid.

Here's where the issue turns from really good to great. Matt talks about his father as a positive influence. It's the same familiar story we've seen before. Then Matt reveals that it isn't the truth - at least, it isn't the full truth. And it changes everything. Frank Miller began this as a thought experiment for why Matt would choose to be a lawyer. It's a good thing he gets to tell the story. It shows why he values the law and a system to constrain people's actions - even to protect a son from his own father. Or, to constrain his desires and temptations to inflict harm and to kill.

I mentioned before that this issue is best read in its original form. That's because, in that final moment when Daredevil is about to fire the final bullet, we get a page turn. Then there's a pause by two pages of ads. Then we turn the final page to reveal the gun is empty. That, no matter what, Daredevil could never kill. Then it ends on such a simple, quiet, and somber note.

There's nothing else I can add. Five 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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Dimetre
Parts of a Hole


Joined: 16 Feb 2006
Posts: 1121
Location: Toronto

PostPosted: Mon Dec 09, 2019 4:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This was an epic way for Frank Miller to end his epic initial run.

I admire the way this narrative is structured. I think the "roulette" game was a nice way to organize this issue. Each bullet imposes an act break, as does the three dumb moves Matt makes. It also links Matt's visit to the story of Chuckie, even if it does so in a jarring way, but that's obviously by design.

Terry Austin's inks are remarkable. This has to be one of the most notable examples of how a change of inker changes the overall art. I loved the partnership between Frank Miller and Klaus Janson, but Austin lends such a solidity to every part of the revolver, and the cross-hatching is so clean and exact.

Something that leaped out at me when I read the issue today was the non-panel at the bottom of the page where Chuckie shoots his schoolmate. It's this tiny outline of Chuckie sitting alone on the floor against a plain white background with text on either side of the page. It reminded me of that masterfully laid-out page during "Child's Play" when that boy grabs a gun and walks along the bottom of the page to go kill the Punisher (or was it Hogman?). Both of these examples involve little kids and revolvers, and emphasize the isolation of these troubled children.

If I have to quibble with this issue at all, it's two things.

1. We flashback to when Matt was Chuckie's age. He was still sighted and powerless. Yet after Jack hits him, he goes and climbs to the top of the Brooklyn Bridge. Maybe he was thinking of jumping initially, but we're never told that. After he would get his powers, he no doubt would go to such places to think, but I don't think he would do that before.

I do, however, love how Miller added that bit of Jack hitting Matt into canon in this issue. It makes Jack less of an idealized figure, and as much as many of us love our parents, after they're gone the instinct is to remember them as these flawless figures, when, in fact, they were prone to often dreadful mistakes. I like how Matt faces up to that in this issue, and I think it's great how Matt comes up with his career path from that episode.

2. I would have liked it if Matt had gone and found Chuckie after the roulette game was over, if only to just look in on him. The story with Chuckie ends very suddenly after he shoots his schoolmate, and I think it would have lent this issue more closure.

Still, this issue is a classic. I can understand why someone would name this their all-time favourite issue, even if I don't. (That's still #181.) It deserves a perfect grade: 5.
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