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DD Book Club - Sightless in a Savage Land

 
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Mike Murdock
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Joined: 08 Sep 2014
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 26, 2020 7:17 pm    Post subject: DD Book Club - Sightless in a Savage Land Reply with quote

After the cliffhanger of last week, I want to take a break from Ed Brubaker's run. Instead, let's go back to Stan Lee with a particularly weird story.

Daredevil Vol. 1 #12 - Sightless, in a Savage Land

Quote:
The Man without Fear takes on the Plunderer, infamous pirate of the high seas! But what has brought the Plunderer aboard a cruise ship? And where is he planning on taking Matt Murdock? As Daredevil, Matt saves wild man Ka-Zar from a carnivorous plant of the Savage Land!


Due 2/1
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Dimetre
Parts of a Hole


Joined: 16 Feb 2006
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Location: Toronto

PostPosted: Mon Jan 27, 2020 5:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is a notable issue in that it stands as John Romita Sr.'s first work for Marvel since the days when it was known as Atlas. According to Wikipedia, Romita's recent stint at DC left him wanting only to do inks, and had chased him back to advertising. He had a three hour lunch with Stan Lee, who showed him some recent Daredevil pages. Lee asked him how he would draw Daredevil, and Romita put together a quick splash page of Daredevil swinging around, and Lee convinced him to come on board as Daredevil's new penciller. Apparently Lee didn't immediately throw Romita into the deep end in regards to his "Marvel method." I guess he brought Jack Kirby into his office and described this two-issue story of Ka-Zar and the Plunderer. Kirby threw together the layouts for the two issues and gave it to Romita to finish.

I have always enjoyed Romita Sr.'s art. There's a cleanliness and solidity to every one of his figures. His rendering of Spider-Man is still definitive fifty years later, and I think his Daredevil work is an improvement on Wally Wood's already great work. I think Romita's first issue in the Marvel Age shows off some great art.

What I think holds this issue back is it's pacing. I don't know how much thought Kirby put in to these layouts. If Romita had been in Lee's story meeting, would he have used a whole page for Matt riding in a taxi? Would he have used all of the next page for Matt changing into his Daredevil costume? Was Lee annoyed by these layout choices too? Would that explain the level of snark in his captions, like "It may seem like the start of a TV soap opera..."

But the pacing is odd later on as well. The sudden shift to the Savage Land without any explanation is jarring. We spend two and a half pages with Ka-Zar trying to tame a T-Rex before spying Swamp People, and it doesn't seem to have anything at all to do with Matt's situation on the cruise ship.

I thought Matt's fight against the Plunderer's men was great, and his choice to go into captivity to save the crew members was believable. I thought the ship's technology was interesting, and eventually the heavy amount of pages given to the Savage Land was explained.

However, there is just too much time given to Ka-Zar in this issue. He probably has the same amount of time as Matt. My guess is that Ka-Zar is a character that Kirby preferred to Daredevil, and Jack laid out these two issues accordingly. I'm also guessing that Lee wasn't too happy. Kirby rushes to a cliffhanger with Ka-Zar and a giant Venus Fly Trap, but charitably devotes the final row of panels on the last page to Daredevil's predicament, as if an afterthought. Daredevil is unconscious. Zabu got drawn away from guarding him. Romita doesn't draw the apeman entering in to the cave entrance. We just get a close-up of his face. It's easy to see how this cliffhanger could have played out more suspensefully.

This issue narratively comes off as a rush job. It's easy to understand why, since Wood angrily quit Marvel after #11. Wood felt, likely justifiably, that he was doing a lot of writing on Daredevil, but getting paid and credited only for pencils. This left Lee in a lurch, and I think he was incredibly fortunate to get Romita on the book. Romita's fantastic art redeems this issue, which, as it stands, is very goofy, cliched and sloppy. I give this issue a three out of five.
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Mike Murdock
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Joined: 08 Sep 2014
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 29, 2020 8:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ka-Zar at first blush seems like an odd fit for Daredevil. But it's worth keeping in mind the context of the time. Early Marvel cross-continuity was very strong and a major distinguishing feature from its distinguished competition. Daredevil had already seen the Fantastic Four and Electro, so he was due for another guest star.
Ka-Zar had recently appeared in X-Men and maybe was popular enough to be seen again. Plus, Daredevil at the time was kind of Spider-Man-Lite and I don't think Ka-Zar would have felt out of place there.

The issue features John Romita who is known for doing romance comics. I love how early Marvel tried to have their cake and eat it too. They love doing the soap opera stuff, but they also love saying "don't worry, this will be over soon." I sometimes love the soap opera stuff and sometimes hate it. Matt does too much wallowing in self-pitty. But I love reading these issues for the hints of what's to come. There's the sense that Matt feels alive and free when he's Daredevil and restricted when he's not. That's a characterization that lasts until Waid's run.

The Plunderer is a silly villain but meant to be seen as one, so I can accept him for what he is. Honestly, Ka-Zar's dialogue was more tiring. The plot kind of slows down for the fight svenes, but the art is still very dynamic. I liked the drama of Matt losing his senses, but the back half was a bit of a slog.

Three and a Half Stars.
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I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!
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Mike Murdock
Underboss


Joined: 08 Sep 2014
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 02, 2020 7:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Daredevil Vol. 1 #13 - The Secret of Ka-Zar's Origin

Quote:
Stranded and unconscious in the Savage Land, Daredevil finds himself at the mercy of Maa-Gor, brutal leader to the Man-Apes. Will Daredevil be able to stave off this threat despite his lack of powers? Plus, the mysterious origin of Ka-Zar is revealed by Plunderer, and Karen Page worries over Matt’s disappearance.


Due 2/8
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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
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Location: Toronto

PostPosted: Mon Feb 03, 2020 4:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's worth noting that this is the first time Daredevil lost his radar sense. Too bad he didn't have the presense of mind to take a clipping of the ju-ju berry plant so he could have raised it in a greenhouse, just to have the berries on hand. Also, I'm sure ju-ju berries are delicious, and he could have formed a side business with ju-ju berry supplements and teas.

I've seen this issue referred to as the very first appearance of vibranium in the history of the Marvel Universe. They don't call the ore that by name, but it certainly seems to behave like vibranium. I don't think Captain America's shield was mentioned to be forged out of vibranium until after this issue first appeared.

However, if the Plunderer and Ka-Zar's medallion is made out of vibranium, how did their father manage to split that medallion in two?

I have always enjoyed the fight between Daredevil and Maa-gor. It's a great way to open this issue, and immediately elevates it over the previous one. It's a perfect illustration of the intelligence and skill Daredevil employs during his battles. Similarly, I thought Matt's tussle with Ka-Zar in the pit was very well done.

However I found the double-cross involving Slagg and Feepers kind of chaotic. Feepers had barely featured in this story prior to that moment, so when we see a shot fired into Slagg's chest from off screen and a word bubble taking credit for the shot, I just assumed that it came from Plunder. Instead, it came from someone triggering far less worry -- someone who refers to himself as a flunky.

This story doesn't get wrapped up in two issues, and I kind of wish it did. Ka-Zar isn't the most interesting co-star for Daredevil, and while the Plunderer is very confident and smart, Daredevil would get better confident and smart antagonists later on. Still, I liked this more than the previous issue. I give it a 3.5 out of five.
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Mike Murdock
Underboss


Joined: 08 Sep 2014
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 03, 2020 6:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This story has layouts by Kirby and finishes by John Romita, which is an All-Star team for this book and might indicate that Marvel was pulling out all the stops to boost sales early on. Kirby helps a lot because I think the action just flows smoothly early on. I'm always a sucker for a story where DD's senses fail him and I love that they don't make him helpless just because he can't "see." It's very much a pulp story, but it continues at a fun pace until we get to the big shock that Plunderer is Ka-Zar's brother. Just then we cut to an entirely different story. It's a very brief aside. I hate this version of Foggy. It's just poorly thought out. Jealousy is one thing, but they're supposed to be friends and he's happier with Matt being dead.

The art is the highlight. The details are nice, including subtle things like two random pirates sword-fighting on a table. There's also some really good fight scenes such as the eight panel grid of the fight between DD and Ka-Zar. The dialogue can be tough at times, but the story's pace really does it favors. It changes settings fairly frequently and there's never really a moment to get dull. The only complaint I have about the pacing is the final moment, which is extremely brisk.

I think this story needs to be judged by the context of when it was written. In that sense, I don't think it's as emotionally impactful as some of the other stories, but for a well-paced action story, it's quite good. I'll give it a charitable Four and a Half Stars.
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I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!
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Mike Murdock
Underboss


Joined: 08 Sep 2014
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 09, 2020 11:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Daredevil Vol. 1 #14 - If This Be Justice...!

Quote:
Daredevil heads across the pond! After the Plunderer involves Ka-Zar and Matt in his next plot, the two heroes find themselves in London embroiled in a heist operation. Will Plunderer be able to filch his family out of an inheritance? And will Daredevil be able to subdue a thief gone rogue? It all culminates in one shocking ending that spells bad news for Ka-Zar!


Due 2/15
_________________
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: 1156
Location: Toronto

PostPosted: Sun Feb 09, 2020 6:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This issue is jam-packed in a way modern comics no longer are. It's absolutely astounding how much plot Stan Lee and John Romita stuffed into 20 pages.

Obviously a Marvel comic from March 1966 is crafted for a much younger audience than those of today, so I'm going to try to think like my much younger self. While I think I would have enjoyed this action-packed issue, I don't think I would have found the Plunderer that interesting. His personality is rather generic for a villain, even though he's very capable and smart. Daredevil, on the other hand, is very cool, and makes excellent use of his environment at all times.

Some of Romita's drawings of the Plunderer in action on page 4 are very awkward. The two panels making up the middle row are particularly bad. The plain red background of the first panel robs the action of any sense of space, and I think if Romita had drawn Plunder's backflip from a different angle, it may have looked more impressive. The next panel shows the Plunderer kicking someone in the head while doing a cartwheel, and the figure looks way too stiff for me to buy into it. Perhaps it's Plunder's formal wear that makes his acrobatics seems so ridiculous to me. Once everyone is in spandex, I think Romita shows a much higher level of comfort with his drawing of action.

I also found Plunder's decision to create a new costume weird. It doesn't really make sense to me. He was already known far and wide as the Plunderer, and that's the name he continues to use, so it's not like his new costume reflects a change in identity. I don't know why Lee and Romita chose to give Plunder a new costume for the second half of this issue. Perhaps some people told Stan that the pirate motif wasn't exciting the kids, but the white outfit Plunder creates here isn't any less generic.

It's a fantastically paced adventure, but it's held back by less-than-thrilling villain. This issue gave Daredevil the most to do out of the three, and is probably the best one. It's a strong ending to Romita's first Daredevil adventure. I give this one a four.
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Mike Murdock
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 10, 2020 7:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

This issue starts at break-neck speed and barely lets up. It starts with intense confrontations and intense action. It feels a little odd that Daredevil is passive at first. He lets a man get killed and Plunderer get the full medalion before he does anything. When Daredevil finally jumps in, circumstances are overwhelming and he has to retreat to save Ka-Zar. Even then, the bad guy doesn't stall but immediately claims his prize.

The speed of the issue even seems acknowledged. Matt is unable to defend Ka-Zar as Matt. He reaches out to Foggy for help. Despite Foggy's personal feelings, there's a sense of the team getting back together, which is great. That being said, the case seems really simple if the only purported eye witness doesn't show up because he's battling Daredevil. I love the attempt to accurately reflect a British courtroom, which has the prisoner separated from his Barristers.

The art isn't as exciting as when Kirby did the layouts. I'm wondering if the inks overshadow Romita's pencils. One thing I keep noticing is how weird Plunderer's face looks. He has the same consistent expression in every panel. Romita is known for designing costumes. If he designed the Plunderer's costume, it isn't particularly interesting, but it's at least a nice clean look.

Honestly, the speed has some advantages, but it's probably its biggest weakness too. Even the solution feels rushed. Daredevil realizes their secret, the army quickly responds, and then the problem is solved. There's very little room for development here.

Three 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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