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DD Book Club - Death Stalks the Stairways to the Skies

 
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Mike Murdock
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Joined: 08 Sep 2014
Posts: 1437

PostPosted: Sun Feb 23, 2020 9:51 am    Post subject: DD Book Club - Death Stalks the Stairways to the Skies Reply with quote

This is another filler one for me (although I do want to do more with Deathstalker). This is a Marv Wolfman issue with odd plans in the background, but it's still worth covering.

Daredevil Vol. 1 #128 - Death Stalks the Stairways to the Skies

Quote:

Daredevil takes to space for a battle amongst the stars! Death-Stalker aims to prove his strength.


Like I said, it's basically just a filler story before I start another long arc, but I hope it's enjoyable.

Due 2/29
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Dimetre
Parts of a Hole


Joined: 16 Feb 2006
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Location: Toronto

PostPosted: Sun Feb 23, 2020 6:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Daredevil #128 began by having Matt Murdock react to the events of the previous issue. He destroyed that home, and the idea that his super hero fights could hurt others was beginning to register. This issue may also be the most controversial story I wrote for the book. Not because of the story, but because I introduced an alien into it whose name I never revealed, and whose purpose on Earth was never explained. I don't remember now why I didn't continue that story thread, but for whatever reason I just let it fade away. After all these years, readers still come up to me at conventions wanting to know who that character was and what did he want.

Well, don't expect me to answer those questions here. And not because I'm trying to keep some vital secret that "one day" I might still explore. No. It's because I have no clue what I intended back then. No joke. I don't remember. So this may be one of Comicdom's greatest unanswered questions, or maybe it's just some dumb idea not good enough to remember. I'll let you decide.

So wrote Marv Wolfman on July 13, 2017 in his introduction for Daredevil: Marvel Masterworks Volume 12, which contains this issue. I just read it for the first time since I bought that collection a couple of years ago. Now that I have given this a fresh reading, I find Wolfman's introduction pretty surprising. This alien takes up a lot of panels, and alludes heavily to an entire backstory. He was banished 600 years ago by "the masters" from his home world to earth, even though he was born on earth. He fires something called Starron into the sky. It explodes, releasing cosmic energy which he absorbs into himself, which lets him form "star-steps," which he will use to walk light years to home, where his love, Viela, is waiting for him.

That sounds like something into which Wolfman invested considerable thought. You'd think he'd have notes written down on a sheet of paper or two. You'd think it was something solid enough for him to follow up on before Jim Shooter took over 15 issues later. And it's not like he never followed up on the characters he introduced in Daredevil. We all know what a great villain Bullseye turned into, and as throw-away a character like the Torpedo seems now, Wolfman tried to spin him off into becoming a leading hero in the pages of Marvel Premiere. So it doesn't seem like Wolfman to devote so many panels and so much effort into this alien's story, only to forget completely about him.

But, I'm not sure much more effort than that was devoted to this issue. It's one of the more sloppy installments of Daredevil I've ever read.

We open with a splash page of Matt angrily hurling his costume at us, swearing that Daredevil's fighting days are over, based on his self-disgust over wrecking that woman's home, as explained above in Wolfman's quote. That's fine, but make that something he has to overcome. Make him realize that "with great power comes great responsibility." No. Instead, Foggy mentions some museum robberies, and Matt forgets that he swore to never put on the costume ever again. He just swings over as Daredevil to the museum. His angry histrionics that begin this story mean nothing.

Wolfman also served as his own editor at this time, and that wasn't a good idea. At the bottom of the second page, the spelling of our hero's name changes to "Mathew." Heather Glenn refers to herself as a "redhead." I don't know if Michele Wolfman's original colours had traces of red, but Michael Kelleher and Kellustration who did the colour and art reconstruction for Masterworks Volume 12 didn't show a single trace of red. Later on the Death Stalker is repeatedly shooting a ray at him, but the very next panel has our hero asking him why he's "not blasting away..." It doesn't look like a single second has passed since the previous panel. These things may seem like nit-picks, and they are, but they go to show the low work standards devoted to Daredevil in December 1975.

I've only been to New York City once, so I don't know how far away Manhattan is from Flushing Meadows, but I bet there were a lot of kids in 1975 who didn't know the first thing about New York City. This issue makes no effort to tell you that Flushing Meadows is right next to the Museum of Modern Art, or that they're far apart. Is the Science Pavilion that Daredevil runs into at the Museum of Modern Art, or at Flushing Meadows? I'm not sure, because Bob Brown doesn't do much to make the various settings in this issue look distinct. Honestly, why bother with so many settings? Why couldn't the Death Stalker have found what he needed to make the ray in Flushing Meadows so we could have had a tidier story?

There really isn't anything at all linking the alien to Death Stalker's scheme with the ray. The Death Stalker doesn't contribute anything to the alien's story, and vice versa. The alien, at the end of the story, says that his return to earth may lead to the death of Daredevil, but it's impossible to figure out how.

Then there's the issue with the alien's light steps. Light isn't matter. Light is neither solid, liquid or gas. Light is energy. These are things taught in an elementary school science class. During the sixties when Marvel was taking over the comics world, Stan Lee always gave his stories a firm footing in the world of science. He had a huge respect for science. Yet, here we are less than fifteen years since the publication of Fantastic Four #1, and Daredevil is able to locate steps made out of light with his radar. I could perhaps accept it if an explanation were given, but none is.

The more you think about this issue, the worse it gets. I think that the seventies and the nineties were Daredevil's worst decades, and issues like this are exhibit A for the case against the seventies. The art is okay, and Death Stalker is always good, so I give this issue a two out of five.[/quote]
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Mike Murdock
Lowlife


Joined: 08 Sep 2014
Posts: 1437

PostPosted: Mon Feb 24, 2020 8:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The issue boasts the most startling character in the annals of Marveldom. I don't know about startling. Maybe the most pointless. He fuels the plot through the power of coincidence, but that's about it. I know Wildman wanted to return to him and never had the chance but he's not that exciting here.

The opening splash is very dramatic (and inked by Klaus Janson). Honestly, I thought it was Gene Colan for a second. I planned to do the Torpedo story at some point and part of me wishes I had because it's jarring out of context how mad Matt is about being Daredevil. Also jarring is that random X-Ray panel that calls attention to itself.

We get to see an early Heather Glenn here. Matt is honestly just terrible to here. If this is the foundation of their relationship, the breakup in Miller's run fits perfectly and seems reasonable.

I've always enjoyed Deathstalker as a villain because he's basically a force of nature. He is extremely dangerous and can act with impunity. That being said, he never has clear motivations. Speaking of unclear motivations, Matt's temper tantrum earlier feels completely arbitrary when he immediately picks his costume back up without a moment of reflection. This leads to a relatively underwhelming fight. I think the biggest thing that works is Matt's perseverance. He never gives up in a fight he is outmatched in, similar to the Submariner. But he's very wise-cracky and that alien is an annoying distraction, which undermines the drama.

Overall, this felt like a very inconsistent story. Three Stars.
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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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