Friday, December 01, 2006

The Devil in Cell Block D: Finale (Marvel comics)
Daredevil #87 When: September 2006
Why: Ed Brubaker How: Michael Lark & Stefano Gaudiano

The story so far...
A living hell is nothing new for Matt Murdock, but incarcerated without charge, things take a turn for the worse when his best friend - Foggy Nelson - is seemingly murdered mere rooms away.

Manipulated by an unseen player, Daredevil finally accepts the aid of a voluntarily arrested Frank Castle - aka The Punisher.

Finally free to pursue those that have wronged him, the Daredevil's first target is an imposter who has been patrolling his patch with the same vigilance as he.
Is this new Daredevil a friend, or will the confrontation present a new foe?

Previous Form:
Daredevil (#6): Daredevil holds a victory over fellow hero, Wolverine.
Iron Fist (#163): Iron Fist appeared as Daredevil in Civil War.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Draw 3 (Trained Athlete)
Intelligence: Daredevil 3 (Straight A)
Speed: Draw 4 (Olympic Sprinter)
Stamina: Daredevil 5 (Marathon Runner)
Agility: Draw 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting Ability: Iron Fist 6 (Warrior)
Energy Powers: Iron Fist 3 (Explosives)

Alright, before we get into things proper, consider this a change of plans.
Instead of indifferently moving forward toward the new year I have done something slightly uncharacteristic and changed this to blatant favourtism month.

Daredevil is currently ranked #6, but since December has space for a fifth week, we're going to feature the top five characters in the home stretch. Well, the top five except Hulk, and including Daredevil.

So, just how heavily are the decks stacked in DD's favour?
Honestly, not a whole lot. Last month we featured an issue of Daredevil [#90], and fawning over that run continues with this entry which, unlike last time, features a pretty even match-up.

Danny Rand aka Iron Fist is chosen to pose as the dummy Daredevil presumably, aside from his availability [ouch!], because of his comparable skills to DD.
The most notable differences between the two are Daredevil's radar sense, and the aptly named Iron Fist's fist.

Because of their status as characters it's easy to under estimate Iron Fist here, but statistically his skills probably not only match Matt Murdock's -- but even excede them.

... YOUR face!The fan in me wants to lean toward Daredevil as the likely victor, but the indifferent judge says logically Iron Fist should be the victor more often than not.
At the very least we can conclude from that that this is certainly an even battle!

Overall: Draw (28)
The Pick: Iron Fist

What went down...
Having laid the smack down on celebrity guest stars Brian Posehn and Patton "Spence" Oswalt, Danny Rand leaps to the rooftop to record his on-going DD report via commercial guest star - an iPod. It's at this point when the real Guardian Devil stands up.

A gritty and stubbly Matt Murdock knows the impostor is saying something as he leaps at him with deadly kung fu in his soul, but the sound of his heart is all he can hear.
This is probably a scenario where he's hearing what he wants to hear, Mr. Super Radar Hearing Man.

'Matt, it's me! Iron Fist' 'Every time I see you, something happens to me! My heart starts missing a beat! My heart starts missing a beat! Everytime... Aaah aaah, everytime!'Iron Fist defens himself against his attacker, insisting his outfit is an entirely different shade of red, and that he arrived at the ball first anyway!
He gets a stiff strike to the ribs, but Daredevil returns in kind with a boot to the face and a striking fist across the chops.

DD notices that his opponent is a great martial artist, and is even going to great lengths to emulate his moves, but the fatal flaw in Iron Fist's facade is the billy club. He doesn't use it enough.
Murdock shows him how it works, ricocheting it off a chimney so it "spok"s IF in the back of the head. Like a pinch in the neck from Mr. Spock.

As the fight continues, Daredevil recognises another difference.
Something Iron Fist doesn't have or understand, probably because he's a good martial artist instead of a grim and gritty bad ass -- rage.

Stop hitting yourself! Stop hitting yourself!...Rage apparently gives Murdock the edge as he slaps Rand around with a jumping roundhouse kick that would put even Daniel "Bloodsport II" Bernhardt to shame.

Iron Fist's repeated meetings with the ground lead him to make the executive decision to cut the crap, and risk being found out by unleashing the deadly irond fist of K'un L'un.

KAPOW BITCH!It's at this point that DD stops throwing his angry fists of rage, bested by the iron raging hand of Danny Rand. Who is a poet, and doesn't even know it.

... Matt? DAYAM, brotha! Why didn't y'all say it was you?!IT'S A TOGA, I SAY! NOT A DRESS!The hammer...
Having resolved their identity crisis, the two allies call it quits on beating each other stupid, resulting in a draw.
Even by our strictest standards, you couldn't even give it to either man on points. To hate the player, hate the game.

There have been various mystery based plot points in Brubaker's Darerdevil run, and while I would acknowledge the stories as a whole have been very good, these mysterious harken back to previous writer, Brian Bendis.

With some uncertainty most, if not all, of the mystery here has been telegraphed by informed fan speculation. As enraged as many fans were, even Foggy Nelson's death was quite popularly speculated as faked from very early on.

While random guessing can't be the basis of criticism, I'd have to say the outcomes in each case can be. Part of what made random shots in the dark so easy was that each reveal was relatively underwhelming, and I think this is where I find myself less enthused at the end of Brubaker's work than I should be.
Even the final reveal of who was manipulating DD and the pawns around him was somewhat underwhelming, even if not totally expected.

However, pertaining to this issue's reveal; Iron Fist was undoubtedly the most popular assumption, with the exception of perhaps Echo, because if New Avengers taught us nothing else [and it did, ie; how to bog down a good team book], it's that gender bending is much easier than Mulan would have had us believe.

So, does this destroy the quality of the work?
Not entirely. I earnestly want to be excited by Brubaker's measured approach, and as I've discussed previously, it's very much along the lines of what I want to be seeing from an urban pseudo-hero book. I think it's just unfortunate that Brubaker's work seems to rest fairly heavily on certain checkpoints that don't always hold the tent as taut as one might like.
I found this on his acclaimed Captain America, and even on Gotham Central, albeit in a different way.

Regardless, this is a book everyone should be looking at in 2007 if they haven't already. Mine is just an opinion, and even if only to agree with me, Daredevil deserves your assessment! It's undoubtedly a tight read with a strong pedigree of lineal credit owed; Brubaker to Bendis, Bendis to Miller.

Oh, and the inclusion of Poseihn and Oswalt as reference?
I would say with the heartiest of good humor; you sad little MySpace bitches.
Fun, but so ridiculous. :-p

The Fight: 5 The Issue: 5.5

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