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DD Book Club - Cruel and Unusual

 
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Mike Murdock
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 08, 2020 1:19 pm    Post subject: DD Book Club - Cruel and Unusual Reply with quote

Back to Ed Brubaker's run for a new story. Interestingly, the solicit had a different title, but I'll go with the common title.

Daredevil Vol. 2 #107 - Cruel & Unusual (Part I of IV)

Quote:
MATT MURDOCK TAKES A NEW CASE!

Still reeling from the conclusion of his battle with Mr. Fear, an old friend drags Matt Murdock back into the light of day by bringing him the last-minute appeal of a Marvel villain now sitting on DEATH ROW. What will Matt do, is the question, when confronted with a bad guy who is completely innocent of the crime he was convicted of?

"OTHER PEOPLE'S PROBLEMS" Part One!


Due 11/14
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Dimetre
Parts of a Hole


Joined: 16 Feb 2006
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 08, 2020 5:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

While I think Ed Brubaker's Daredevil run peaked with "The Devil Takes a Ride", this issue is prime Brubaker noir. He clearly has an affinity for Dakota North, and he and artist Michael Lark craft some magnificent scenes for her.

I also like how Dakota and Luke Cage call out Matt for his behaviour -- Luke for his brutality and Dakota for his absence. Neither treat him with kid gloves, and I respect that.

Lark's use of switching angles and perspectives works amazingly this issue. When Matt is cleaning his home, Lark pushes in tight on the bucket and brush, and then pulls out wide for the living room with the stand-up vacuum. The tiny caption reads, "And everything.. it all still smells like her." It shows how hard Matt has been trying to escape his defeat over Milla, and it's all futile. Clearly, he'll have to learn to go on and live with that defeat.

The scene with Dakota and Detective Kurtz speaking in the stairwell was a small one, but masterfully handled. It just shows how well Brubaker and Lark understand the medium. The scene is largely expository, but Brubaker has another officer come up the stairs, forcing Kurtz to temporarily shut down his discussion of the murder of three children. We get one panel of Kurtz cordially acknowledging Officer McHenry, followed by a panel of McHenry walking through the door as Kurtz and Dakota watch. We turn the page and Kurtz grouses about how much trouble he'll be in if it's found out he's sharing this information with Dakota, and it's implied that she's using her feminine wiles on him, smiling and calling him by his first name. Eventually he gets upset, but it doesn't matter -- she found out what she needed. Brubaker and Lark took what could have been simply an information dump scene and made it a look into Dakota and Kurtz' characters.

Then Dakota visits Big Ben Donovan in prison, and the dialogue is beautifully written. It's a brief scene. The first page is dialogue-free, allowing Lark to establish the sterile prison mood. The next page shows Dakota getting right to the point, and showing no signs of intimidation whatsoever. Donovan says he's made peace with what he's done, leading Dakota to ask about his conversion to Islam. After he answers, Lark gives us a fantastic panel of Dakota with a devious facial expression, with the line "Not to go all Catholic on you, Mister Donovan... but I was hoping to hear your confession." I love it.

Which brings me to my only complaint about this entire issue -- I'm not sure Matt can detect lies via audio recording. I think he physically has to be present so he can hear the person's heart rate and how it lines up with what they're saying. I don't know what the rest of you think. Is there a scientific explanation for how he can detect lies via audio recording? Brian Michael Bendis had Matt detect lines over a phone line, and I didn't quite buy it.

But this issue is a prime example of a creative team knowing when to be quiet, and when to be subtle. I love that when Dakota is attacked, Lark focuses on a coffee cup getting jostled and falling to the ground. It allows us to imagine the brutality of the attack on our own.

This issue was Dakota's biggest showcase since Brubaker brought her into Daredevil's series, and she's amazing. Brubaker has always known how to right tough and alluring women, whether it's Selina Kyle in Catwoman, Velvet Templeton in Velvet, or Friday Fitzhugh in Friday (http://panelsyndicate.com/comics/friday). I would have loved to see what Brubaker would have done with a Dakota North series. I wonder if he pitched one to Marvel.

This issue is excellent, and it was Brubaker's best in a while. I give this a 4.5 out of 5.
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Mike Murdock
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 12, 2020 7:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sorry this took so long.

Matt's in a very dark place and isn't very likable at the start of this issue. It's up to Luke Cage to do an intervention once again. The premise is that there's a terrible person who happens to be innocent of the crime he is accused who is on death row (I didn't think New York still had the death penalty) and Matt needs to try to save him (which would take his mind off everything else). Big Ben Donovan is an established Luke Cage character, which I like. If you watch the Netflix show, he's the Kingpin's lawyer. It is a happy coincidence that he shares Milla's last name.

That being said, everyone is on board with this plan except Matt and much of this issue is about trying to get him to agree to help. A lot of it focuses on Dakota North, which is nice. It has a nice noir feel, especially when she gets attacked. And, of course, trying to get her to back off of the case gets Matt onto the case.

Four Stars. I love the feel, but it's basically just setup. But it's a good start.
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fubarthepanda
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Joined: 01 Jul 2020
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 12, 2020 1:17 pm    Post subject: DD #107 Reply with quote

First thing to notice is the addition of Greg Rucka to the writing team. Was super excited about this at the time as it seemed liked Brubaker was passing the baton onto Rucka, which would have been inspired given his work on Queen & Country, Whiteout, Batwoman, Gotham Central, etc. (Unfortunately, we all know where this ended up going...)

But we take what we can get -- and this was a very strong opener that puts the Brubaker run back on track after the uneven Fear saga. It's also a classic story -- hero down in the dumps, making bad decisions, and needs his friends to lift him back up again... DD always works best for me when he's got a strong supporting cast, and with Luke Cage, Foggy, Dakota, Becky and Detective Kurtz in the mix, he's in pretty good hands.

I also strongly remember Matt's shirtless scene with Dakota and thinking, yep, they're definitely going down that road... just didn't realize (12 year old spoiler!) that it would be so soon...

Also, good to see Matt practicing law again. Definitely a win after a traumatic year of DD comics.
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Mike Murdock
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 15, 2020 9:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Daredevil Vol 2 #108 - Cruel & Unusual (Part II of IV)

Quote:

"Cruel and Unusual" Part Two of Four
Matt Murdock throws himself into what is probably a losing case, a last-minute death-penalty appeal...while Dakota North and Daredevil discover people are willing to kill to keep them from pursuing this investigation. But is it the mob...or the government? The multiple-Eisner-nominated team of Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark is joined by the acclaimed Greg Rucka co-writing!


Due 11/21
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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
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Dimetre
Parts of a Hole


Joined: 16 Feb 2006
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 15, 2020 9:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

We came close to having an entire issue without the red tights, and I wasn't minding at all. Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka prove to have such a tight handle on the characters of Matt Murdock, Dakota North, Big Ben Donovan and Detectove Kurtz, this story was proceeding in a compelling way without any superheroics.

So far, these past two issues have shown Dakota getting further in the case than Matt. This is almost a Dakota North story, with Daredevil appearing as a special guest. That's not a complaint -- she's great, and stories like this make me wish she was still around. Is anyone doing anything with her character these days? If not, they totally should be.

I don't have to much on which to comment. The mystery is simply building. Of what is Big Ben so afraid? What is Eric Slaughter's scheme? Why is Agent Moss trying so intent on blowing Dakota off course? We don't have answers, but artist Michael Lark, along with Brubaker and Rucka, are making this a truly engrossing caper.

I give this a four out of five.
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Mike Murdock
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 17, 2020 9:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Continuing directly from the last issue, Matt is trying to convince Ben Donovan to let him take the case and he is loudly and aggressively saying no. I think I've always taken a break after the last arc but I wonder if people assumed this was Mr. Fear related. I do like Ben's dig at Matt about how he couldn't save his wife. Not exactly a fair criticism, but it's a moment that works both as a shot to Matt (who is trying to use Ben to redeem himself for failing his wife) and helps to give Ben a bit of agency and self-awareness (his attempted suicide at the end fits the same way and doesn't just make him a character who is acted upon).

The Dakota North magazine cover image is a fun visual gag that really only works in a comic (where it's a two-dimensional image). It's followed by a pretty funny verbal gag where Matt says he gets a beatdown for talking to Big Ben Donovan. Brubaker's arc is generally pretty dark so I don't think it gets credit for its humor.

Some addtional thoughts: This is a mystery story, so Dakota gets a lot of time to shine. She gets to be a bad ass. Plus, out of nowhere, her dad shows up. It's nice seeing the contrast of her methods with the more aggressively violent methods of Daredevil. It's really cool seeing Mr. Slaughter show up. I feel like this is the first time since Frank Miller was drawing the comic, but I always get excited when I see any character from that era and Brubaker's been pretty good at bringing them back.

Four and a Half Stars. This arc is honestly better than I remembered it being. It's relatively tame over all and the stakes seem fairly low, but everything is working well.
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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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Joined: 01 Jul 2020
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 18, 2020 1:42 pm    Post subject: DD #108 Reply with quote

Love that Marko D. cover! Appropriate as well, as the bulk of this issue is lawyering and investigating as Matt & Dakota work the Big Ben case from different angles... and it doesn't take long for the big bads to crawl out of the woodwork with Dakota's father entering the picture and Eric Slaughter returning from comic book limbo, giving Lark & Gaudiano something exciting to draw in the end.

But, yes, a long-time coming for both of these adversaries as Slaughter hasn't indeed been seen since the Frank Miller run (his last appearance being in the Man Without Fear mini), and Sam North since the original Dakota mini-series in the mid-80's. Shame Dakota never really went anywhere after Brubaker's run.

But, overall, a solid middle chapter that advances the plot while showing Matt's road to recovery.
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Mike Murdock
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 22, 2020 2:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Daredevil Vol. 2 #109 - Cruel & Unusual (Part III of IV)

Quote:

Part 3 of "Cruel and Unusual" with special guest co-writer Greg Rucka joining the acclaimed DD creative team!
Daredevil and Dakota North have investigated all angles of the brutal murders that Big Ben Donovan sits on Death Row for, and all they've come up with is more questions and conspiracies. Why does Big Ben want to be executed for a crime he probably didn't commit? And why does the government want Dakota and Matt Murdock off the case? Find out these answers and more!


Due 11/28
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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: Sun Nov 22, 2020 3:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

A lot of this issue is expository -- talking heads telling the story to the reader. I suppose that's just the nature of this story -- one of the issues in this arc was going to have to be more textual than visual. Ed Brubaker, Greg Rucka and Michael Lark do their dapper best to try to employ some visual tricks -- like pulling out to show Agent Rollins spying on Nelson and Murdock from a neighbouring rooftop, or having Daredevil suddenly show up in the backseat of Turk's car, but the bulk of this issue is reading what the character's are saying. It's well done, but it's not the best use of the comics medium.

Brubaker and Rucka have also tried to use different methods of transitioning from scene to scene. Some work better than others. Foggy is driving Matt from Sing Sing to their office, and reminds Matt that Big Ben is not Milla. We turn the page and we get a bird's-eye view of construction work with a caption box reading, "--course not. But when my father bandies around phrases like 'national security' he means them..." Because of an earlier scene, we know the phrase "national security" is a reference to Dakota's father, so she must be speaking, but that's an odd transition. Not the smoothest.

Also, Becky's warning to Dakota about staying away from Matt was out of nowhere, at least to me. So far, Brubaker and Lark have shown a healthy working relationship between Matt and Dakota. Yes, he once had his shirt open in front of her, but there hasn't been any suggestive dialogue or flirting, at least as far as I can see. It's obvious that they're two conventionally attractive people, but I think it should be possible for two conventionally attractive people to have a healthy platonic relationship. Obviously, for those of us who know what's coming, that's not what happens, but I don't know what Becky noticed. It's weird, because she doesn't say on what she picked up, and also, as long-time readers know, she once nursed a crush on Matt. Could that be informing her point of view? I think we could have used at least two more panels discussing this.

I don't know who else felt this, but I feel Lark and Stefano Gaudiano's art during the Daredevil/Slaughter meeting was sketchy and rushed. It didn't match the standards set by the rest of the issue -- especially the last couple of pages which show this month's cliffhanger. That was awesome. Whatever method Lark and Gaudiano used to show the texture of the road made you feel Dakota's pain. I wish that level of detail had been used in the Daredevil/Slaughter scene.

I enjoyed this issue, and I'm eager to read the next issue, so obviously it's a success from that point of view. Still, it's kind of unremarkable. Yes, it successfully shows how high up the corruption Nelson and Murdock are uncovering goes, but it's a lot of telling as opposed to showing.

I give this a 3.5 out of five.
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Mike Murdock
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 25, 2020 8:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This story takes a somewhat odd direction by bringing a CIA subplot into this story. In some ways, it's fine, because it gives Ben Donovan a reason to be afraid. But it's also odd because none of the players seem to be connected that way. It feels like it's trying to turn an innocent man on death row story into a government conspiracy story.

On the legal front, they make a big deal about getting Ben to recant his confession. In reality, it probably wouldn't mean much if he had. On the other hand, it gives them an excuse to keep looking into what's making him afraid and that helps make the story more interesting, so I have no complaints. That path leads to a son, which is a nice moment but it's over too soon.

I think the story is dragging a bit now. I'm going Four 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
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 29, 2020 10:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Daredevil Vol. 2 #110 - Cruel & Unusual (Part IV of IV)

Quote:
The final chapter of "Cruel and Unusual" brings Daredevil and Dakota North to the truth about Big Ben Donovan's death sentence... but will the truth set any of them free?


Due 12/5
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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
Parts of a Hole


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PostPosted: Sun Nov 29, 2020 4:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think this was a big improvement from #109, which was very dialogue-heavy. It could be argued that Dakota North was the real star of the previous three issues, and she handled her star status amazingly well, but it was so nice to see Daredevil front and centre in this one.

I was a little confused by Brubaker, Rucka and Lark switching focus between Daredevil in Slaughter's lair and Dakota bleeding out on the pavement. To me that suggested that Matt was aware of Dakota's situation, and it surprised me that he had no idea until Becky told him over the phone several pages later. Still, Daredevil was fantastic in this issue. The way he leapt after that helicopter reminded me the impetuousness I would come to enjoy in Mark Waid's run years later. That's Matt fearlessly doing what the criminals would never expect.

I loved the way Becky called out Matt on his self-pity party. I really think we could use some Becky these days. She's a great character. I don't mind when Matt shows negative characteristics -- as long as he shows an ability to learn and improve later on. Sure enough, Samuel North preys upon Matt's tendency to castigate himself right on the next page, but Matt shows the presence of mind to stay on task and grill him about the case. I enjoyed Matt's strength of character in that scene, and it contrasted nicely with the weakness he had just shown in Dakota's hospital room.

Daredevil is magnificent when he confronts Agent Moss in the alleyway. Brubaker and Rucka have crafted a story showing what happens when governments allow even a tiny bit of corruption to metasticize. Moss tells Daredevil that his task force allowed Slaughter a long leash, as long as he kept watch for terrorists. Of course it didn't work out well, and they had to cover for one of Slaughter's men after he killed an entire family. This leads to Daredevil's powerful words.
Quote:
You... you people have been looking at the bigger picture too long. You've lost the mission.

And that's completely true. It's become more important for them to protect their organization from undesired exposure than to combat terror. And we see similar behaviour happening in branches of government in the real world today.

It was an enormously powerful moment when Matt confronted Big Ben Donovan with the presence of his own son. This story ended in a very satisfying way.

This isn't the most flashy Daredevil story. There isn't a single super-villain. But I think this story gets unduly forgotten. It's a high-quality tale of intrigue and government corruption, and I think anyone who likes Daredevil would appreciate this. I give this issue a 4.5 out of 5, and I think the entirety of "Cruel and Unusual" deserves a 4 out of 5.
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Mike Murdock
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 01, 2020 10:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The opening scene is the epitome of chaos. It cuts between two locations with the dialogue constantly interrupted. The whole thing keeps the readers on their toes and makes it hard to get complacent with what's happening. I like that they're two very different scenes, but equally dramatic.

I love Becky's lines. Matt goes into his usual "this is all my fault" and she immediately pushes back. I'm glad to see a female character actually given her own agency - especially since she's one who got critically injured so it could risk falling into some pretty bad tropes. I also like that it pushes Matt out of his self-pitty enough to stand up to Dakota's father. That scene could have been one where Matt basically agrees with him and feels shame, but, instead, it's very illuminating about the whole situation.

Overall, though, the whole thing feels a bit rushed and a bit easy. The CIA essentially just fixes everything and then it's over. Obviously, there's a lot of gray area in the solution, but it felt like the mystery built for three issues only to be resolved in a half of one. It's a shame. It's a fun story and even this issue was a lot of fun, but the ending just felt underwhelming to me. That being said, the story overall was stronger than I remembered. I thought Brubaker kind of fizzled after the Mr. Fear arc, but this felt this did some important things I missed the first time through.

Four Stars.
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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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