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DD Book Club - American Dreamer

 
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Mike Murdock
King of Hell's Kitchen


Joined: 08 Sep 2014
Posts: 1696

PostPosted: Sun Nov 13, 2022 7:23 pm    Post subject: DD Book Club - American Dreamer Reply with quote

Just doing this story real quick as a fill-in. Technically, Ann Nocenti is doing a fill-in story while stalling for the start of Steve Englehart's run, but it ended up leading to a disagreement that got her on the book for quite some time.

Daredevil Vol. 1 #236 - American Dreamer

Quote:

Hazzard, a Vietnam Vet follows in the footsteps of Nuke and Black Widow is sent to kill him. With the aid of Daredevil they defeat him and, at the end, he kills himself with Natasha's gun.


Due 11/19
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Dimetre
Underboss


Joined: 16 Feb 2006
Posts: 1334
Location: Toronto

PostPosted: Wed Nov 16, 2022 11:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's fitting that we're reviewing this so soon after November 11 (known as Remembrance Day in Canada). It's a harrowing little tale about the horror of war, and how it mustn't be romanticized. Jack Hazzard is a tragic figure -- a patriot from a religious family filled with trauma, who eagerly enlisted in the armed forces only to be used and abused by military scientists. This bleak story ends in the only way it can, and I was affected in the way that writer Ann Nocenti and artist Barry Windsor-Smith intended.

Still, I think it could have been improved. As is her tendency, Nocenti can overwrite. In the end, Hazzard spouts a lengthy monologue, and I think succinctness would have improved the experience considerably. Similarly, Hazzard's speech to the young kid was repetitious, and we got his point long before he was done speaking.

I also think this would have been better as a Black Widow solo comic. She's the hero introduced at the beginning, and she's the one faced with the test. She has something to prove, not only to her colleagues in the spy agency, but to herself. Daredevil faces no such conflict in this issue. It's as though Nocenti thought of this cool story for Natasha, but didn't know what to do with it since there was no Widow book.

Artwise, I think Windsor-Smith did a fine job, although there were many panels where the blank background was too spare. It doesn't seem like he spent very much time rendering this art work, but he's a very talented penciller, so this is still very good.

This is a powerful comic, but I think it could have been better. I give it a 3.5 out of 5.
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Mike Murdock
King of Hell's Kitchen


Joined: 08 Sep 2014
Posts: 1696

PostPosted: Thu Nov 17, 2022 8:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is the first issue by Ann Nocenti and is drawn by Barry Windsor Smith so, right away, I feel like it's a promise of something different. It opens with Natasha Romanoff getting an assignment about a mentally manipulated super-soldier who may be malfunctioning. The goal is to bring him in, dead or alive. The first thing that's noteworthy is the story pulls no punches. What was done to him seems cruel. The path to capturing him may be a soft spot he has for his mother. If that doesn't work, there's always murder. The use of Black Widow, who is often cold and calculating, works well with subtle differences (she is not the monster that the person giving her the mission is) and, of course, gives us the connection to Daredevil we need. It also is immediately in the aftermath of Nuke, which is a nice use of recent continuity.

We next cut to Hazzard, who is already slipping. A girl from his time in high school tries to hit on him and it goes, um, poorly. When he goes to the street and sets off some guy's fireworks, it draws in Daredevil. Hazzard gets away when he causes a guy's heart to stop, but Matt meets up with Natasha. They have a really nice moment with some good dialogue before deciding to team up.

A lot of the story focuses on Hazzard and it's just really tragic. He's definitely not the villain in this piece. He's dangerous, but he knows he is, and just wants to figure out his life. Meanwhile, Daredevil and Black Widow are closing in, but also aren't the bad guys. It's just the circumstances leading to the final confrontation.

There are themes of patriotism, religion, control, guilt, military combat, and the morality of killing all jumbled together. It's hard to coherently pull it apart, but it almost makes for an evocative word poem. The final confrontation where Natasha has the gun pointed to his head, but he causes her to pull the trigger is very powerful, but it's followed by the chilling shot of the kid playing with a gun. The story is set around the Fourth of July (honestly, if I had remembered, I probably would have saved it), but it works well in honor of November 11 (in the United States, it's referred to as Veteran's Day so it's morphed from remembering the horrors of World War I to honoring military veterans who have served, but it still works in recognizing the horrors and tragedies they have faced as a cog in a military machine). Either way, it's very powerful.

The issue works best as a stand-alone story. As what is essentially a fill-in, it's a very good one. Overall, it feels a bit slow at times. It does a good job of painting an emotional picture, but it's hard to clearly describe what that picture is. I think it could have been clearer and paced a bit better. Given that, I'll give it Four Stars.
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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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