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DD Book Club - Heaven is Knowing Who You Are
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Mike Murdock
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 23, 2020 8:20 am    Post subject: DD Book Club - Heaven is Knowing Who You Are Reply with quote

It has been a long time since we had a Nocenti story arc. We last left off with coverage of her run with the Typhoid Mary arc, which can be found here and here and Baby Boom. However, we last covered this part chronologically back in 2017 with the Inhumans arc and a story with Ultron. Karnak and Gorgon joined Daredevil, Brandy Ash, and Number 9 as they search for Black Bolt's son and Daredevil hits Ultron in the head with a stick.

This is a very strange story that I'm sure isn't to everyone's taste.

Daredevil Vol. 1 #278 - The Deadly Seven

Quote:
Daredevil continues the search for Black Bolt's son with the INHUMANS!


Due 8/29
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Dimetre
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Joined: 16 Feb 2006
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 23, 2020 4:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ann Nocenti made some bold story choices during her time as Daredevil writer. Having Daredevil face off against Mephisto and Blackheart is a huge idea, however it feels like we're treading territory similar to "Born Again," in that the Kingpin was trying to take a good man and make him lose all hope. Here, we have Mephisto pontificating about the most creative type of evil, which is exposing the flaws in good people, making evil take root and grow. It's an interesting idea, but it doesn't feel like a wholly original one, with "Born Again" being only a few years old at this point.

I did find Mephisto to be annoyingly long-winded in the opening pages of this issue. I read this on Marvel Unlimited, so I didn't see the way the pages were laid out until after I was finished. I think if I had read a paper copy the experience would have been more of a pleasure. Still, I think Nocenti could have made Mephisto's exploration of the theme more concise.

Mephisto selects a human subject for Blackheart to mess with, and with the title of this series being what it is, we assume it's Daredevil. However, Blackheart takes the form of a hitch-hiker is picked up by Gorgon, Karnak and Number Nine. He immediately goes to work stoking Karnak's jealousy of Gorgon. This made me wonder if Mephisto picked Karnak. Later we see the hitch-hiker running away from Daredevil, which made me wonder why Blackheart was bothering trying to escape. Then we get to the strongest part of the issue, when Daredevil catches up to the hitch-hiker. He's convinced that the hitch-hiker is the creature he and Spider-Man fought in the amusement park several issues earlier, and he starts beating the guy. It's shocking to see him get this violent against a defenseless little man. Then Blackheart drops the guise and John Romita Jr. really lets his art kick into high gear. Up until this point I thought the art was overly sketchy and seemed too rushed, but towards this section of the issue the layout and shading becomes fantastic. Blackheart suggests to Daredevil that he is evil, and our hero strikes back, denying everything Blackheart says. Then Blackheart vanishes and Daredevil realizes he's been beating the hitch-hiker nearly to death. Does that mean that the hitch-hiker is now a real person? He didn't seem to exist in reality before Blackheart took on his persona. Did Blackheart create a hitch-hiker out of nothing? It's confusing. Nevertheless, I thought the layout of that page was fantastic, particularly the panel showing Daredevil running down the snow covered hill.

I found the exploration of the theme compelling, and I liked how Number Nine's presence was influencing the people around her. I'm eager to see what Mephisto has planned for our hero in the next issue. My main problem was how long-winded he was towards the top of this issue. I thought this was pretty good, so I'm giving it a 3.5 out of 5.
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Mike Murdock
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 26, 2020 7:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Back when Beer with a Devil came out, I didn't really think anything of Mephisto's appearance. It had just followed Inferno and, while technically unrelated, felt like the natural follow-up. Now that he's a recurring villain, I suppose I have to think about his inclusion a little more. On the one hand, there's a natural parallel between Daredevil and Mephisto - the Catholic superhero fighting the devil. On the other hand, Mephisto is way out of his power class. Because of that, the stakes have to be more personal - the idea of corrupting a man rather than destroying the world. And, in that sense, I think this issue does a lot of good work.

I love the dynamic of Number 9 with everyone else. She's a walking cliche, but she comes off as genuine. She's both the opposite of feminism and the idea that, if you want to be feminist, you have to let people choose to be like this. Plus, she's just fun. Anyway, she, Gorgon, and Karnak drive off together and pick up a disguised Blackheart along the way. The way he provokes jealousy is perfect - it's just subtle enough but completely effective. Likewise, when Daredevil catches up to Blackheart, the way it unfolds is unsettling. Daredevil is nothing but righteous anger and it seems to just be feeding the evil.

This is an effective and unsettling issue that works quite well. I think John Romita Jr. handles the limited action we do have quite dynamically. Four and a Half Stars.
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fubarthepanda
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 26, 2020 1:46 pm    Post subject: Daredevil #278 Reply with quote

You get the feeling that Nocenti pretty much said what she wanted to say about Daredevil with the Typhoid Mary Saga, and she uses the "road trip" device to move into more esoteric territory about the superhero genre in general. These arcs aren't "bad" per se, but, like her in work in Someplace Strange, she's obviously moving on to more mature themes that she'll continue to explore in her future Vertigo work.

This particular issue kicks off the Mephisto/Blackheart arc that explores (or, more properly, deconstructs) the "heart of the hero". During the previous year of stories, we've seen Nocenti build up to this via DD's previous encounters with these metaphysical beings, and we're now a far cry away from the book's traditional "street crime" focus. Throw in the Inhumans and Number Nine, and we're definitely not in Kansas anymore!

In terms of the art, I'm a big fan of this particular era of JRJr -- it's more abstract then his early work, but not as loose as his later work. My two favorite books at the time (DD and X-Men) greatly benefited from his tenure on the titles, imo. I also love his take on Mephisto -- who is far more menacing in this form than his traditional circus get-up -- and some of his panel layouts are reminiscent of Miller.

Overall, certainly not the highlight of Nocenti's run, but I enjoy her writing style and it's fun to break away from Hell's Kitchen every once in awhile.
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Mike Murdock
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 31, 2020 6:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Daredevil Vol. 1 #279 - Before the Flame

Quote:
Our heroes find Ahura, the son of Black Bolt -- and he's being targeted by an angry mob!


Due 9/5
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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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PostPosted: Mon Aug 31, 2020 4:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Somehow I never managed to read this issue before. I always wondered how Daredevil ended up in hell during Ann Nocenti's run. Now I know.

I really liked that opening scene. John Romita Jr. did a great job drawing it. The goat looked so crazy, and there is something so unsettling about the kid. I don't know if this kid appeared before this in the Inhumans book, but Nocenti did a nice job with this character, having the Pope talk way too precociously for someone his age.

Much like Karnak and Gorgon last issue, Number Nine finds herself the target of Blackheart's influence this time. The demon goes and stokes her jealousy over Gorgon's womanizing. I didn't get the impression that she had unique feelings for Gorgon leading up to this. It's possible that's just a product of Blackheart's manipulation, which so far has provided the most meat in this story.

And just like the hitch-hiker ran away last issue, the waitress, just when she gets Number Nine acting irrationally, leaves the scene, and that seems counter-productive to Blackheart's goal. It seems the waitress left just so she could safely be revealed to the reader as Blackheart, but she did abandon her goal just as she started to succeed. I find it awkward.

Daredevil and the Inhumans managed to retrieve Black Bolt's son from the crazy townspeople without much of a problem. As much as I liked the set up with the kid and the goat, not much of a story came out of it. The Inhumans get ready to go back to Attilan with the kid, but now Mephisto gets to work trying to corrupt them, and the ground opens up pulling the bunch of them into what seems to be hell.

The story is going somewhat crazy, with massive set ups for plots not adding up to much. I suppose Gorgon and Karnak are now under pressure to keep Black Bolt's son safe in hell, so we'll see how that goes. But the kid is a pretty cool character, with a Goth look and disturbingly mature speech pattern. Daredevil's little road party has developed a great group dynamic, which makes the way Mephisto and Blackheart are poking at them very interesting. And I loved how commanding Daredevil's presence at the church was.

Now that the story is going to Mephisto's realm, I'm hoping we're going to have less of the villain running away just as they're succeeding, because that has been the weakest aspect of the last two issues for me. But this crazy story is well done for what it is. I'll give it a four out of five.
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Mike Murdock
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 01, 2020 6:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

This Daredevil issue is a followup to the Inhumans graphic novel. Black Bolt's son, Ahura, has appeared in modern days, but the weirdness of his early life hasn't been repeated. Certainly, everything in this issue has a creepy vibe - from Ahura/The Pope to how everyone is acting. John Romita Jr. and Ann Nocenti make everything just a bit unnerving. It probably helps that Romita is kind of stylized and weird to begin with.

The Mephisto/Blackheart dynamic is fun. All they do is bicker. Mephisto is pretty childish overall. That being said, I love the dynamic of Mephisto as the creator. There very much is the sense of the fall of Adam and Eve when Blackheart substitutes his judgment for what's correct with that of his creator. The story is very philosophical. I also love what it says about the human condition - Blackheart goes a long way into making people do evil things, but he can't corrupt them completely because of an innate goodness. However, their nearly limitless power makes them terrifying because, when they fail at subtle methods, they can always cheat.

I don't think this issue is a great issue. That being said, I find it an entertaining ride. It's paced well and continues to be interesting. There's just no concrete moment. It kind of reads like a fever dream. I'll come back to it, but the last line about Black Bolt's son ruining everything isn't really followed up on, which is disappointing. Four Stars.
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I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!
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fubarthepanda
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 04, 2020 12:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ah, the Inhumans graphic novel... a bizarre misfire if there ever was one... but this storyline just gets weirder and weirder as Nocenti mashes the Inhumans sub-plot into the Blackheart story and it all ends up going straight to hell... literally!

But JRJr really kills it this issue -- the semi-splash of Blackheart, the full page splash of Mephisto, and the confrontation between these two characters is rendered so well that it masks the surreal randomness of the plot.

I did get a laugh, though, out of DD eating in the diner with his full costume on. No idea why he was wearing a trenchcoat when he had his mask on -- must have been cold outside (although the trenchcoat quickly disappears when he's next seen).

Next stop... hell!
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Mike Murdock
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 07, 2020 2:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sorry about the delay. Happy Labor Day for us Americans.

Daredevil Vol. 1 #280 - Twilight of the Idols

Quote:
TRAPPED IN HELL! Mephisto has ensnared Daredevil and his friends, where they must each face their greatest inner challenges!


Due 9/12
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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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PostPosted: Tue Sep 08, 2020 6:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wow. This is easily one of the strangest issues of Daredevil I've ever read.

John Romita Jr. seems to have deliberately given every panel of this issue a sketchy feel. Each figure, especially the titular hero, is covered in think hash marks. It feels appropriate, since all our characters are in this limbo state.

I honestly don't know what to think about Ann Nocenti's writing in this issue. Blackheart doesn't appear in this issue, so it seems like Mephisto has taken it upon himself to torture our hero. However, it's unclear whether it's his goal, still, to make a good man turn towards evil. All he's done is have Daredevil wander around in the cold, hoping he won't find a way to light a fire. Otherwise, Karnak and Gorgon fight with each other, without any prodding from anyone else. Number Nine is being gawked at and lightly teased by some hellish imps. She's shown photos of women from nudie mags, and she says she hates them, but I didn't think that rang true to what we've learned about her character. Number Nine seems to enjoy being a man's fantasy woman, taking pleasure in the tasks a woman endures to be as attractive to men as possible. It seems her character has undergone a journey, especially since falling into Ultron's clutches, but I still doubt she would find nude photos of woman, a la Playboy, that repulsive. That's something Brandy would hate for sure.

Meanwhile, Brandy is convinced by Black Bolt's kid to kiss a guy in angel wings and a Beastie Boys shirt to awaken him, and it works. He returns her kiss, which she clearly enjoys and compliments him on his strength, which is something Number Nine would do. Are Brandy and Number Nine switching personalities? If so, it seems kind of drastic, as if Mephisto has something to do with it. It doesn't feel as if it's happening organically.

I didn't like Brandy's lack of regard for the kid's safety. I feel like Brandy and Number Nine are Nocenti's commentary on modern feminism. Brandy is often unlikable because she is only concerned with one cause and one cause only, and isn't sensitive to any suffering outside of that one cause. Number Nine, meanwhile, possesses little depth and attracts attention she has neither sought out or earned, causing resentment on Brandy's part. Brandy has no patience, and talks more about what she doesn't like than what she does, making her come across as negative. I don't know what to expect from her and Number Nine as this story continues. I have the next two issues in paper form, and I don't remember too much from them.

I think I enjoyed the scenes with Gorgon and Karnak the most, because they seemed to be the strangest. I liked the dirty joke where the word "crotch" was crossed out and replaced with "crutch." I loved the opulent room where the two Inhumans woke up, and that weird nymph talks to them. It's a classic temptation scene, and I felt that Romita Jr. drew it masterfully.

However, not much happens with Daredevil. He wanders around in the snow, and goes into a confessional booth where he manages to start a fire. Mephisto throws a fit because someone is lighting a flame without his permission, something one of the hellish imps slipped a mention of while dealing with Number Nine. It seems like a bit of a contrivance on which to hang an entire issue, but that's the cliffhanger we're given.

Still, I kind of enjoyed the surreal mood that pervaded the entire issue, even if it's just moving the chess pieces around the board. I'm not sure if this is going to play out in any way that's going to satisfy me as a reader, and I'm honestly doubtful that it will, given how the search for Black Bolt's kid ended in a ho-hum way. I can't give this issue a high mark, but I can't call it bad either, so I'm giving it a three out of five.
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Mike Murdock
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 08, 2020 8:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This issue has a naked Gorgon and Karnak fighting each other with giant bread sticks. It seems that fact will determine whether you like this issue or not. In other words, this story is very strange and abstract in many ways. Mephisto's realm is the closest you can really comfortably get to Hell in the Marvel Universe.

Each character has something related to them. Gorgon and Karnak get a lot of attention exploring their differing approaches. Nocenti didn't create those characters, but I think she has a good grasp on them - even if it isn't subtle. Given Matt's religious background, it having him literally in Hell is an interesting approach - a way for him to think of his impact on the world. He is someone of faith who, in the end, prays for a miracle and gets fire. It also contrasts nicely with Brandy, who was pretty clearly raised non-Christian. That being said, the main thing is just that the story is weird. Half the time, I have no idea who is driving the weirdness - Ann Nocenti or John Romita Jr.

I feel like this is either a deeply profound issue or the Emperor's New Clothes of issues. I don't know if I don't get it or there's nothing to get. Regardless, it's a quick ride that's over surprisingly abruptly. Three Stars.
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I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!
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fubarthepanda
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 11, 2020 12:21 pm    Post subject: Daredevil #280 Reply with quote

About the only thing I remember about this issue from my youth is that it was the first time I remember Hell being portrayed in cold and snow (having not been as well read at the time), which I thought was pretty cool.

But reading it now, I didn't realize just how sexual it was (someone even writes "sloppy sex" into one of the background billboards!) Nocenti is clearly off of the mainstream super-hero reservation at this point and she's just streaming away her consciousness.

Romita's art is definitely more spartan than the previous issues but the use of empty space in the snow sequences is brilliant. I also didn't realize how much Brandy looks like his version of Kitty Pryde from over in the X-Men.

Would be funny to see a reader picking this up off the racks as their first exposure to DD back in 1990... doubt they'd come back for another issue!
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Mike Murdock
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 12, 2020 9:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Daredevil Vol. 1 #281 - Heaven is Knowing Who You Are

Quote:
Daredevil continues his endeavor to escape Hell, and all hope seems lost. But his plight is seen by a voyager of the stars - THE SILVER SURFER!


Due 9/19
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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!
Thomas More - A Man for All Seasons


Last edited by Mike Murdock on Mon Sep 14, 2020 6:31 am; edited 1 time in total
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Dimetre
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 13, 2020 2:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Shouldn't the next issue we review be #281, "Heaven Is Knowing Who You Are"?
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Mike Murdock
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 14, 2020 6:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes. I've fixed it.
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I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!
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