DAREDEVIL versus THE JESTER
Decalogue 5: Thou Shall Not Kill (Marvel comics)
Where: Daredevil #75 When: September 2005
Why: Brian Michael Bendis How: Alex Maleev
The story so far...
In the basement of a Hell's Kitchen church, a support group forms to cope with the ramifications of Daredevil's one-man war on the criminal element in his city.
Those gathered share stories of the many ways Daredevil has touched their lives, mostly for the worse, never expecting the blind hero would show to justify himself. Of course, Daredevil has other reasons for exposing himself, pursuing a dark secret that lurks amongst the support group.
Daredevil has followed a demon to the Hell's Kitchen church, and as it's host sits sweating it out, Daredevil reveals the path that has led him here. An unlikely path that begins with one of his lesser foes: The Jester!
Daredevil (#14): Victories over Bullseye, Turk & Wolverine.
The Jester: Jonathan Powers makes his Infinite Wars debut.
Tale of the tape...
Strength: Daredevil 3 (Athlete)
Intelligence: Daredevil 3 (Straight A)
Speed: Daredevil 4 (Olympian)
Stamina: Daredevil 5 (Marathon Man)
Agility: Daredevil 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting Ability: Daredevil 5 (Martial Artist)
Energy Powers: The Jester 3 (Explosives)
- As a young man, Matthew Murdock was the innocent victim in an accident involving the illegal trafficking of chemicals through New York City. Being doused in the hazardous materials cost young Murdock his sight, but enhanced his remaining senses so intensely he could now "see" through the reverberation of sound -- a bat-like radar sense!
The angry youth would find himself orphaned, and dedicate himself to training his body in the martial arts under the tutelage of the mysterious Stick.
His speed, strength and agility would be built to the human optimum, his enhanced senses complimenting his physicality in battle.
By day, Murdock studied to become a hotshot lawyer, but by night he sought a method of justice without rules as the guardian of Hell's Kitchen: Daredevil!
- As a fledgling actor, Jonathan Powers was given the lead in an off-broadway play only to be fired after one show. Panned by critics, reviled by his peers, and despised by audiences; Powers sought to gain any advantage he could find, investing in physical activities that enhanced his body, but failed to improve his acting skills.
Having gained the part of a fool on children's television, the disgruntled actor snapped and sought the aid of the Tinkerer in fashioning a criminal persona as The Jester. With a variety of deadly gimmickery at his disposal and his physical skills, the Jester would emerge as a minor criminal in a city of villains.
What went down...
Though typically found prowling the streets by night, Daredevil is on the scene to respond to a bank robbery in progress during the middle of the day. The culprit is the recurring trickster, the Jester, but he has hostages, and all is not as it seems.
Daredevil flaunts his superior agility and speed, striking Jester in the throat with his billy club baton, before moving in for an unforgiving strike. The punch is so hard it probably knocks a tooth or two loose in the stream of spit.
Landing hard on the concrete, the Jester takes more punishment from Daredevil, but through the haze of battle, Daredevil senses something different about his old foe. Something that has shifted his thought process and movement.
The Jester finds a second wind and tosses Daredevil off of him into a window.
Exploding in an emotional outburst of contempt and frustration, the Jester hints at a preperation for this staged robbery. An alliance, an orchestration, to get revenge on Daredevil and all those who Powers felt had wronged him.
The Jester grabs Daredevil by the mask and brings down a punch that sprays Murdock's blood from his nose. The blow, Daredevil thinks, is far more than Powers is capable of, considering MGH the explanation. But MGH gives a user a smell, and that's the catch when fighting Daredevil. He smells all!
DD retaliates with a kick to the face so hard, it topples the Jester back over himself into a twisted flip. Even with blood gushing out of him, the Jester remains defiant, and then he lets rip with the full extent of the power inside him.
Acting far beyond his means, the Jester sends Daredevil hurtling through the large glass panes of the inner-city bank. He comes to a crash landing on a patrol vehicle, as armed police hold their position outside.
The hostages pour out of the bank as Daredevil leaps back in through the broken window. Despite the mass wave of freedom, Daredevil lurks through the building with the grim knowledge that there will always be one more. He finds her, with a pair of scissors at her throat, in the clutches of the Jester, who has retreated into the bank vault.
Summoning the calm of a brilliant lawyer, and seasoned superhero, Daredevil steps into the vault and asks simply, "What did you do to yourself, Powers?"
Using his radar senses, Daredevil attempts to do as he always does, probing for some sort of insight into the obstacle facing him. Something that even the sighted might overlook, but this time it was something he could not understand.
As the innocent girl taken hostage screams in a panic, Daredevil feels his own rising unease, searching for an explanation of what's happened -- and then it comes.
The Jester drops his threatening scissors and begins to gargle and cry. Clutching at his throat, Powers drops to the ground and gurgles as green ooze begins to foam and spill from his nose and throat. The demon wants out!
Daredevil does his best to comfort the girl, unable to see the demonic fetus-like creature that spews from the Jester's mouth.
Too terrified to properly describe the horrific creature that leaves a trail of goo as it crawls across the vault floor; the innocent girl looks to be the next host for the creature. Daredevil leaps in at just the right moment to strike the creature -- sending the demon-baby hurtling in the air with a club-clutching punch.
Armed police arrive to take the Jester into custody, but not before Daredevil learns of the man who came to Hell's Kitchen with knowledge of the secret dark arts of Mikkyo. Japanese black magic that is yet to conclude it's business in NY.
With his first feature appearance in the Infinite Wars since March; here comes Daredevil! A slow year on the site fails to reflect Ed Brubaker's reasonably solid pick-up from the superstar team of Brian "Tilting to the left*" Bendis and Alex Maleev, featured here.
We'll put this one down to environment, lack of regular purchases, and perhaps even a little bit of Brubaker's fabled lazy common syndrome.
I suppose as we draw nearer to the end of the year, we find ourselves at the Infinite Wars becoming a little prematurely reflective. Perhaps it's the jam packed nature of a year that's encompassed the conclusion and fall-out of Civil War, and the weekly efforts of 52/Countdown, and their many related parts.
Recently Bendis came under fire for scenes in New Avengers that depicted graffic violence against Tigra, which was all captured on videotape for the gratification of other villains. Now, I fully submit that it might be ignorance to the specifics of the scenes, but for the most part I haven't been bothered, and I think that's because it represents one of the intrinsic strengths Bendis has as a comics writer. Strengths that particularly complimented his stellar run on Daredevil, which to me always reads very much like a solid balance of harcore Miller adoration, and hyper-realistic contemporary superhero story telling.
Like so many probably reading right now, I'm 'sort of' a writer myself, and I think we would all acknowledge the value of real world reference, to varying degrees.
Perhaps the thing I most admire about Bendis' work is the way in which he applies popular culture, fads, and techo/social evolutions to his superhero stories. Often times I personally feel things he's been able to do have been the sorts of things fans have thought of, and that's probably because Bendis is a fan like most of us, sharing many of the same influences.
MGH is a great example of this logical application of real world reference, which reflects a steroid/hormone culture retooled for the superhero world. Something that manages to give these fantastical tales some sort of grounding and on-going reference that resembles a pace of our own lives.
For me, the Tigra incident is an extension of that, at least in terms of the crude reality of it all. A lot of moral outrage and "feminist" rebuttle immediately sparked from the issue, but there probably comes a time when we have to recognise that characters as storytelling instruments exist for the application of concepts just like these. It's unreasonable to imagine in an applied reality that villains would not have their own 'snuff' film culture, and filmed brutality.
I don't know the specifics of the scene, but would have to admit that on face value, I am finding it difficult to take a character, who could legitimately be boiled down to a male little red riding hood, seriously as a crime boss.
Still, if Bendis and Marvel editorial can have the conviction to stick at it, I think in two or three years, we'll be talking about The Hood with the same exceptance as MGH or a demon-baby inhabiting the body of an out-of-work bi-polar actor.
It would be remiss of me not to mention Alex Maleev, who remains one of the true inspirations of the American comics scene. I think the greatest tragedy about Maleev is that his craft has afforded him freedom in the choice of how he works. Like too many talented artists, his desires seem to be minute, and indefinitely connected to friends in the industry.
The promise of a Spider-Woman mini-series remains a minor consolation for this fan who does not share the fascination with the character that Bendis does.
Thus, we savor this look back on one of the undeniably great runs of a Marvel character.
And yes, that makes up our demon-baby quota for the year, marking the first of our Halloween spill over reviews. Stay tuned for more exciting reviews as we begin the march toward the end of season 2007! The Halloween reviews will keep coming, but stay tuned for a weekend of Street Fighting and poorly drawn cartoons!
The Fight: 5.5 The Issue: 5.5
Bendis gushes like a school girl about his influence for the "Decalogue" storyarc, a series of short films by Polish director, Krzysztof Kieślowski. Each of the ten 1989 short films feature the same cast, detailing one of the ten comandments in each.
Bendis describes it as a tool every writer should approach at some point in their career, but then, who cares what Bendis thinks? Pffsshh!...
* Not an actual nickname for Brian Bendis.