Friday, November 23, 2007

The Devil Takes a Ride: Part 3 (Marvel comics)
Daredevil #91 When: January 2007
Why: Ed Brubaker How: Michael Lark & Stefano Gaudiano

The story so far...
With his dual lives in tatters, Matthew Murdock employs the aid of the Punisher to make a daring escape from prison, allowing him the opportunity to avenge the supposed death of his best friend, Foggy Nelson, and unravel the mystery of turmoil that has enshrouded him.

On the trail of a man named Alton Lennox, Daredevil finds himself drawn to Europe, where the mystery thickens to invite new players into the game. Tombstone, an unnamed European Matador, and the daughter of a European crime boss all become entangled in a battle that takes DD from Portugal, to France.

Inching gradually closer to the answers he seeks, it's a Parisian stand-off, as Daredevil seeks the kidnapped crime heiress, Lilly Lucca, and her stone-faced captor. It's a rematch double header as DD faces off against the man who beat him in Portugal, Tombstone, and the Matador he bested on his home turf.

Previous Form:
Daredevil (#12): Solo victories over Wolverine, Bullseye, & the Jester.
Tombstone (#179): Has a victory over Daredevil, and Spider-man.
The Matador: The unnamed Matador makes his debut in the Infinite Wars.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Tombstone 5 (Super Strength)
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: Daredevil 2 (Projectile)

- 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 an African-American albino growing up in Harlem, Lonnie Lincoln endured a childhood that toughened him up until he was as hard as stone.
A career criminal; Lincoln would eventually grow into the statuesque underworld muscle called Tombstone. His powers would only be enhanced when, during a battle with Spider-man, he was inadvertently exposed to experimental gases designed by Oscorp scientists.

The experimental Diox-3 chemical embued Tombstone's already impressive physique with enhanced strength levels, durability, and endurance. This served only to increase Tombstone's already formidable strength, complimented by his impressive speed and mobility, despite his size.

- Little is known of the bull-fighter encountered by Daredevil during a brief journey through Europe. Employed by an embittered and dying Vanessa Fisk, the new Matador; presumably unrelated to long-standing Daredevil opponent, Manuel Eloganto; is a highly skilled fighter, proficient with swords dervied from his skills as a bull-fighter.

Additionally, the Matador is incredibly fast and agile, but does not appear to have specific aspirations as a recurring villain.

The Math: Daredevil The Pick: Daredevil

What went down...
Knowing full well that Paris has become the stage for his downfall, Daredevil reverses the tables on Lily Lucca and her co-conspirators as they stage a kidnapping for his benefit. Almost flawlessly, the woman with the scent of a thousand lovers sells the ruse, even her heartbeating to plead the case to the guardian devil, but this time he is well prepared for her deceit.

Silently the Daredevil renders two lakeside gunmen unconscious, before launching into an acrobatic assault on Tombstone and Matador, both.
Lily Lucca continues to play her part, shocked when Daredevil abruptly shoves her aside, no longer lured by the aroma of lost love, Karen Page.

Tombstone is the first to fight back, lunging at the leaping hero with a fist powerful enough to shatter bone. Daredevil swiftly vaults over the stoney assassin, landing ready to tackle his foes, the veil lifted as they openly join forces with some chagrin.

The Matador strikes first, leading with the edge of his ceremonial blade.
Familiarized with his opponent's speed and guile, Daredevil does well to block the attack, and swiftly disarm his deadly new foe. As the weaker link, the Matador is easily tossed aside for later.

The real obstacle barrels in next like a raging bull, scoring with a stiff jab to the side of the Devil's head. The blow rattles Murdock, even knocking him to the ground, but he rolls with it to lure Tombstone in for the kill. The brutish onrush of Tombstone's attack sees Daredevil cartwheel aside, leaving only stone to crash against the thug's equally tough knuckles.

As the Matador recovers and charges, Daredevil again turns the momentum of his enemies against them. This time it's the bull-fighter who does the hard work, staking the tip of his blade into Tombstone's durable hide. The mistakes earns him a super strong backhand from his already reluctant ally.

Tombstone continues to menace his objective, now clearly frustrated by the careening course of events. Tired of Daredevil's acrobatic avoidance, Tombstone launches into the air with surprising speed and skill. The gambit topples both men as the spill across the stone paving, Daredevil combing out the better.

An improvised boot to the face is the final straw for Tombstone, who draws a pistol with the intent to end it clean and fast. The shift in tactic puts a ranged focus on Tombstone's attack, and changes Daredevil's tactic completely.

Retreating to the shadows, Daredevil employs a stealth that forces Tombstone to become the unwitting hunter of his elusive prey. Too angry to think straight or take note of his surroundings, the hired thug is left flat footed as Daredevil pops out of the darkness like a vengeful arcade sock'em.

In Soviet Russia, sock 'em toy hammer YOU!With Tombstone out of the picture, DD turns his attentions to the Matador who has the Lucca girl with a dagger to her throat. With eyes bulging out from beneath bruises and swelling, he spits threats that do little to engender the action of an unconvinced Daredevil.

Content to call the bluff, Lucca and DD both are surprised somewhat that the blade does indeed pierce the skin of her throat. The Matador pulls away before doing any serious damage, letting out a cry before dropping to his knees in a scene of epic European drama.

Apparently ordered to kill Lucca regardless of her crucial involvement in the plot against Daredevil; the Matador succumbs to the manipulative powers of Lucca's uncanny pheremone persuasion. Despite having fallen under the same spell, Daredevil is unsympathetic.

Without allies, Lucca is convinced to reveal more of the plot, as Daredevil himself unravels the puzzle of Alton Lennox' murder, and Lucca's responsibility in the part. Reduced to little more than a pawn designed to remind Murdock of Karen Page's murder, Lucca turns the tables, and reveals finally the source of the deeply personal attacks.

The hammer...
If you already skimmed over the tape and didn't pick up the big reveal (behind Daredevil's troubles), you might like to avoid the spoiler if you haven't read the story. As always, there'll be an Amazon link for your convenience at the end of the post, but in the mean time, how about this spoiler? Daredevil wins!

If the current theme is about the flavours of 2007, one has to wonder if Daredevil is really among them. He was certainly the sponsored favourite of 2006's Infinite Wars, but in '07, he's been somewhat left by the wayside in the wake of Civil Wars, Hulks, and Infinite Crisis'.

If you're a regular reader you'll know new releases are few and far between, but even so, one has to acknowledge the perspective gained even from lack of purchase. Heck, lord knows some of the folks out there with regular pull lists could do with that kind of perspective, but I digress into silliness...

I've spoken before about my theory that, though fundamentally a very good writer, Ed Brubaker has a habit of fading out into a droning hum of acceptable, but unextraordinary content. On Daredevil we saw a reasonably strong transition in the handover from Brian "Rubber Chicken*" Bendis, to the prison bound flow on of Brubaker's continuation of this world.

The flowing nature of the DD universe continued beyond, but a cycle of repetitive mystery driven stories, that offered little detail in which the reader could invest in investigation, came to typify the less than stellar run.
Even now, as I slip behind on the title that has otherwise been quite a consistent purchase over the past few years, I'm not terribly perturbed. Of the books I so eagerly hope to read again, Daredevil has slipped from the top of the list, to the fuzzy milieu just beneath the must-reads. The ranking of the title seems almost ironically reflected in Daredevil's ranking status here in the Infinite Wars, slipping from last year's top five consistent, to a twelve total, and barely top twenty for the year.

Contributing to a lack of interest, the apparent drift to more disjointed storytelling. It's unfair to say storyarcs haven't played a major role in Daredevil history. Even Bendis' run was heavily influenced by 'the trade', fragmenting the specifics of the Daredevil saga into flavoured outings built around demons, literal and personal; unfinished business; and conspiracy.

Though these stories featured a similar 'villain of the month' structure to Brubaker's work, they did so with distinct differences. In such a grounded on-going comic, it's almost strange to refer to division in plot as a good thing, but it's almost certainly the over contrasted grey of Brubaker's work that has led to the death of certain underworked tastebuds.

As you might be wondering; it was whilst browsing over recent solicitations featuring the Enforcers, that this epiphany was reached. Granted, the emergence of Mr. Fear as a new threat in the Daredevil universe is interesting, and I myself have toted the demand for a new criminal element to capitalize on the vaccuum left by the incarcerated Kingpin, Bullseye, Hammerhead, Daredevil, and Punisher - a contrived conceit by nature.

I suppose it just bothers me that it has to be so obvious, and so blandly fragmented, to the point where Tombstone, Gladiator, and Enforcers are the only real strokes by which we differentiate these tales.

But hey, if you want diversity of product, then you're reading on the right day!
Once you've finished soaking up the hits and misses of the Infinite Wars, why not stroll over to Bahlactus, whose Friday Night Fights unite the blogosphere in battle. Pretty pictures, and the occasional essay, are all on offer, as Bahlactus' insatiable hunger is fulfilled with wanton regard for the third-world (and fourth, for that matter).

Also be sure to check out the latest review of The Kirby Martin Inquest, which is delighting all who encounter it! At $2.99 plus shipping, it's a worthy online purchase for this year's stocking stuffers!

The Fight: 5 The Issue: 5

The Devil Takes a Ride is the second arc in Ed Brubaker's run on Daredevil, and features the run-on story of a conspiracy that began in the final pages of Bendis' work. Despite greivances toward newer issues, these first two tales do well to round out any collection particularly interested in DD of this decade, and compliments the undeniable run by Bendis and Maleev.


Pedro Cruz said...

Mmmmhh... I HAVE to track this down and see how accurate their depiction of Portugal is ;-)

Mike Haseloff said...

I would naively assume Gaudiano's role on art chores was ensuring some degree of authenticity for European location.

For my Pilot Guides watching interpretation, it's all vague enough to be accurate.

It makes some appearances, but it's nice that the Eiffel Tower isn't lording over every scene!