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DD Book Club - The Backwards Man

 
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Mike Murdock
Golden Age


Joined: 08 Sep 2014
Posts: 1716

PostPosted: Sun Jan 22, 2023 10:06 pm    Post subject: DD Book Club - The Backwards Man Reply with quote

Another one-shot with Black Widow, which is a reoccurring theme with Ann Nocenti.

Daredevil Vol. 1 #247 - The Backwards Man

Quote:
Daredevil helps the Black Widow track down a deranged super soldier.


Due 1/28
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Dimetre
Underboss


Joined: 16 Feb 2006
Posts: 1345
Location: Toronto

PostPosted: Wed Jan 25, 2023 5:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is pretty much a sequel to writer Ann Nocenti's Hazzard story from Daredevil #236. I personally don't think this is as strong an issue, even though there are things about it I like.

I like the scene with the scientists. Keith Giffen's art is so minimally detailed, it's almost abstract, and that works nicely with the bizarre activities in the science lab. That scene is, admittedly, all exposition, but Nocenti handles it nicely, with off-hand remarks by the scientist characters, and Giffen loads these panels with unorthodox artistic touches that give the scene a creepy feel.

He also does well with Agent Crock's memories. A jiggle of one of the wires connected to his brain triggers a specific bad memory from his past. Colourist Max Scheele gives these scenes the same hue as the wire, and Giffen goes to town with his impressionistic approach to the memories.

I do, however, think that, by this time, Marvel should have just given the Black Widow her own series. Clearly Nocenti had no shortage of story ideas for her, and this issue ends with a promise to the reader for Natasha to go after the doctors in charge of the reptile program. The way this issue is, though, Matt comes off as a chaperone for the Widow, there to motivate her to do what she needs to do, and to spout wisdom. Matt steps in to trade fisticuffs with Crock when Natasha, bizarrely, loses all of her fighting spirit.

Natasha's character isn't as strong as she was in #236. She seems to be lost without Matt in this issue. I realize that she suffered a trauma in her first encounter with Crock, but that encounter isn't even here. Perhaps if this issue began with Widow fleeing Crock by the skin of her teeth, instead of the highly forgettable scene with the crocodile, I think that would have gone a long way in explaining why her character feels so different this month. As it is though, Natasha comes off as pretty weak here, seemingly unable to stand on her own. (She inexplicably ends up wearing a Daredevil t-shirt by the end of the story.) She accidentally resolves the story by inadvertently jiggling the white wire attached to Crock's brain.

Crock himself is not a bad character, but he's only the latest in the psychological studies Nocenti had been churning out on a monthly basis by this point. He's probably more empathetic than the Trixter, but I don't think he's quite as interesting as Rotgut. You do feel bad for the agents abused as part of this reptile program, but that doesn't make them the most memorable characters in the world.

I really like Natasha as a character, so when she isn't depicted well it bugs me. I know Nocenti is capable of doing better by the Black Widow. I thought Giffen made the most of his opportunities here. I'm going to give this a three out of five.
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Mike Murdock
Golden Age


Joined: 08 Sep 2014
Posts: 1716

PostPosted: Sat Jan 28, 2023 12:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

This issue is a callback to #236, which is a nice bit of continuity. We see more of the experimentation, which is shown to be completely callous, cruel, and inhuman. Basically, there are wires attached to his brain to trigger memories in order to create emotional responses.

Natasha has run to Matt. She's being chased by this Backwards Man. She's also haunted by her memories of killing the last one. Continuing the theme of being haunted by memories, Matt tells a quick story of overcoming a memory of his dad hitting him for attempting to box. It feels like an expansion of #191. It's definitely in contrast with Matt's claim during Waid's run that his dad never hit him (which, frankly, didn't fit even with the better known Frank Miller issue). I took Miller's story to be a one time thing. This is clearly a different incident, but still relatively similar in concept.

Like most of Nocenti's early stories, it focuses as much on the villain as the hero and does a good job of humanizing his predicament. Obviously, I haven't been in this situation, but I'm certainly sympathetic to replaying embarassing memories in my mind over and over again. The villain (named Crock to play on the alligator in the sewer thing) is an effective fighter, but not a true threat. The real drama comes from whether or not Natasha can overcome her bad memory.

Overall, I think it's a fairly effective story. I'm not sure if it's ever truly followed up on, which is disappointing since it was clearly going somewhere. Four 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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