Monday, March 12, 2007

Hardcore: Part 4 (Marvel comics)
Daredevil #49 When: September 2003
Why: Brian Michael Bendis How: Alex Maleev

The story so far...
The bad blood between Bullseye and Daredevil is the stuff of legends, and as the Kingpin prepares to launch a final assault on Matt Murdock, Bullseye wants in!

What they don't realise is that Matt Murdock isn't playing the same game anymore, and things are turning around back onto the Kingpin of crime.

This is the big one as DD faces off with the man who has a history of killing his girlfriend, and is sneaking into his apartment home, where his blind wife Milla sleeps. Is it three for three, or has Bullseye missed the mark?

Previous Form:
Bullseye (#70): Bullseye has a victory and a defeat against Daredevil.
Daredevil (#5): Daredevil has victories over Tombstone, Wolverine and Turk.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Draw 3 (Trained Athlete)
Intelligence: Bullseye 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Daredevil 4 (Olympian)
Stamina: Daredevil 5 (Marathon)
Agility: Daredevil 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting Ability: Daredevil 5 (Martial Artist)
Energy Powers: Bullseye 4 (Arsenal)

When you talk about classic comic book rivalries, there probably aren't many that match the quality and longevity of these two. Sometimes we talk about personal or psychological advantages, but really, these two have been duking it out at high stakes for so long, there's probably nothing left in that arena.

While Bullseye would have to be considered the less proficient a fighter of the two, he has his own remarkable skills that have allowed him to go toe-to-toe with the technician that is Daredevil. Not that DD is relying on technical prowess when he fights Bullseye. This is a blood feud!

We've broached the subject of Daredevil's ferocity when fighting [Daredevil #87], but of all the opponents that inspire that rage, Bullseye has to be at the top of the list. Which, in the hands of Daredevil, is actually a good thing.
Unlike other combatants, DD might be less inclined to start making slip-ups when he's fighting with that kind of temperment. If anything, it can become an advantage for him.

Bullseye is always deadly. If it can be thrown, he can make it a weapon.
His accuracy is second to none, and he usually comes equipped with weapons of some kind, even if they're little more than shuriken.

DD's radar-senses give him a one-up on projectile attacks, but like Spider-man's spider-senses, even they can only provide so much. It's still up to the mind and body to work in unison if attacks are going to be avoided.

All of this is really for moot.
I think at the end of the day we've already seen in their previous battles [Daredevil #132, #79] that it can really go either way. More often than not, I guess you have to favour DD, but I don't know how accurate that is...

The Math: Daredevil (Meta Class)
The Pick: Daredevil

What went down...
Sneaking out the skylight, Daredevil says goodnight to his blind girlfriend, Milla, with promise of fancy and fun on a date to Lincoln Center.
Milla stretches out on the bed with a smile, but is startled by the creak of someone walking in the room. Though she can detect their presence, she does not know who it is. "Matt?," she asks, without response.

Emerging from the shadows is Bullseye, delighted at the fact that Milla is blind.
He remarks on his previous affairs with Daredevil's girlfriends, and notes that althought they served their purpose, to get under DD's skin, he was never able to savor them. They always put up a fight, and came in the heat of something else.

As Bullseye begins to make a request of the woman, a red garbed devil hurtles from the ceiling down on top of him. Daredevil grabs his foe in a hammerlock and tosses him out the window. "GET OUT OF MY HOUSE!"

The daring Bullseye lands on his feet, like he almost always does, and Daredevil pursues, fearlessly. But not before telling Milla to call the police.

DD spins in the air, swinging his boot into Bullseye's head. The trail of blood sprays faster from his nose and mouth than his own body that follows the path down to the street below.

Bullseye tosses shuriken and insults, but Daredevil expertly deflects both with the a steely star and his trusty billyclub. He retorts, not with words, but with an intentful toss of his hand-weapon.

The skilled assassin snatches the club out of the air, as he has done so many times before. He reminds Daredevil of the death of his favourite girl, Karen Page, as was the result of the last time Bullseye possessed his club.

The two engage each other in combat, Bullseye ducking a blow from the other club, but taking a bloody boot to the face for his trouble.
Daredevil asks of his arch-nemesis, again and again, "Why do you keep coming BACK here??"

With no satisfactory answer, Daredevil calls his foe by his true name. A facet of Bullseye long thought lost to history. DD calls him Lester -- and it rattles him.

Lester lashes out violently with a backhand, that sprays more blood on the road below.
He calls for an audience as Daredevil hits the mat, intent on putting on a show for the people of Hell's Kitchen.

With blood pooring from his mouth, DD grits his teeth and pushes against the Earth as it comes up against him.

"Hey, you think when you die and go to Hell, you'll still get to wear the costume?"

Bullseye looms over the hero with his own billyclub, and prepares to plunge it downward in one operatic final blow, but the Daredevil isn't beaten. He throws his leg out, and bucks his would-be killer across the street.

He follows his kicks with sordid details of Bullseye's previously unrevealed past. Factoids about his name and his prostitute mother. About his pathetic life in high school, and how he doesn't know his daddy.

He takes a mount position and pounds the mercenary again and again, spraying more and more blood still onto the night street.
Bullseye's cheek begins to bruise, and Daredevil challenges him on his identity and his connection to the bullseye symbol he wears on his head.

Pledging each ring to his loved ones, DD uses a rock to carve around the bullseye tattooed on his head. For Elektra and for Karen. He challenges Bullseye to find the courage to do what he won't. To end his miserable life and leave everyone alone.

The FBI arrive as DD looms over Bullseye with the rock, asserting dominance with a hollow threat. He offers to press charges.
Says it's that important, but it isn't necessary for a man who has found his way to fourth on America's list of most wanted criminals.

Agent Driver, an adversary with which Murdock had developed a report, wants to talk to him about Kingpin, but Daredevil's night is over. Daredevil's won.
And Wilson Fisk -- the Kingpin -- is a matter for tomorrow.

The hammer...
Well, in one of the most intense victories of his career, Daredevil emerges victorious on this night!

This was certainly one of the fights that's been easiest to invest in in terms of the summary. I think what makes it so superb is it's relative subtlty. The power of the blows are pretty irrelevent to the kicks and punches. They're just there as expected dressing, but really, what gives this fight such power, is the street-bound humanity of it.

Daredevil, with grit teeth, is really fighting Bullseye on this Hell's Kitchen street, with everyone too frightened in their rooms to dare interrupt the mood. They're irrelevent and it's better that way. It's just about Bullseye and Daredevil and all the bad blood they share. They let it -- literally.
It oozes out of them onto the street, and more still as they exchange the verbal barrage of throat gripping truths. Bullseye has his moment, but Daredevil delivers everything and more on him. He even elaborates on the character's history.

It's rare that I would look to Bendis for a benchmark in canon, but I really like what he reveals about Bullseye here. He's one of those villains who, when it came to getting an origin, has sort of never really comfortably absorbed one take. So you end up with various bits and pieces, and I didn't read the slow-release mini-series Daredevil: Target, so I don't know if that's the source from which Bendis is inspired, but I think what he uses, so very little, is just right.

I like to think of this character on the most base of terms, because that makes him all the more threatening. At the risk of dragging myself into this, in some ways this Bullseye is inspiration for my character The Russian Man, who likewise is a man with a lot of blood on his hands, but with an snivelling past.

Bullseye, like the Joker, kinda shifts between histories of extrapalatory training and mediocrity. I think both characters benefit from the low key non-origins. It makes them all the more frightening and threatening know the only thing that seperates them from us is the will to do terrible things.

Another great aid to the story is the artwork, which is a little stiff around some areas. This isn't the best drawn Daredevil fight sequence, but it's the best emoted. Maleev brings with him an awkwardness that comes with such photo realistic work (presumably built from source), but it brings great benefit to crafting a subdued, emotive hyper-reality about everything.
It's stylized enough to be beautiful, but it's lowkey enough that it feels real.

Bendis gets full credit for the writing here. Some of it plays against Maleev's strengths, but as with most of his work on Daredevil, it makes good use of his work. Which really owes a great deal to colourist -- Matt Hollingsworth.
Maleev's efforts could not have the stylistic weight they do without the brilliance of the mostly muted colour palette.

When I think of the few things I didn't like about the Daredevil movie, one of those things is probably the costume. A minor note throughout the Maleev/Hollingsworth run is undoubtedly the simplicity of the costume, and the vibrant red/black contrast put on it. That is Daredevil, for me.

Perhaps the only glaring problem with this issue, I find, is the fact that it wraps Bullseye up so brilliantly... It feels like he shouldn't be seen again for quite some time, and those of use reading Brubaker/Lark's DD of course know, he's pretty immediately thrust back into the picture.

It isn't a terrible problem, but in the bigger picture it certainly affects the way one should recognise Brubaker's work.
It does, however, highlight one of the issues with Bullseye's roll in the new Thunderbolts series under the pen of Warren Ellis. Highlighted is Bullseye's status on America's Most Wanted list, which uncomfortably rubs up against the idea that Bullseye could be a government trump card.
Not to say the United States hasn't slept with the enemy before, mind you...

We'll probably see more of the Hardcore storyarc in the future, with a couple more great DD battles that come out of it -- including the climactic showdown with Wilson Fisk; aka the Kingpin of Crime.

The Fight: 5.5 The Issue: 6.5

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