Friday, February 26, 2016

The Bully (Marvel)
Daredevil #257 When: August 1988
Why: Ann Nocenti How: John Romita Jr

The Story So Far...
When Alfred Coppersmith lost his job to computerized machines, he perceived his enemy as all around him. In retaliation, he lashed out at everyone all at once - spiking over-the-counter aspirin with deadly cyanide!

To a man like former marine Frank Castle, spiked medication is like firing a random bullet into a crowd. It's an act of guerrilla warfare staged in the urban jungle of New York City. Hell's Kitchen is his new frontline, and as The Punisher he's the special operative to bring the bad guy down - by any means necessary!
Punisher's tactics have never sat well with Daredevil. As a lawyer by day, he invests his faith in the criminal justice system. He won't allow a disturbed man to be put to death. Even if it means stepping between Coppersmith and a bullet, making an enemy of The Punisher!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Daredevil 3 (Athlete)
Intelligence: Punisher 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Daredevil 4 (Olympian)
Stamina: Daredevil 5 (Marathoner)
Agility: Daredevil 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting: Daredevil 5 (Martial Artist)
Energy: Punisher 4 (Arsenal)

This week we're taking the fight to the streets! Under different circumstances they would be fighting side by side against a common enemy. Two sides of the justice scale - driven against one another by a code of ideals!

Matt Murdock dedicated his life to upholding the law in the courts as a lawyer by day, while by night he uses his radar senses and martial training to enforce it as the vigilante Daredevil. Murdock may be blind, but just like justice, he sees all! Those who escape the right in one walk of life run the risk of meeting him in the other!

Frank Castle dedicated his life to upholding the law as a soldier of the United States Army. Once home, the weed of crime claimed his loving family and he redirected his skills in warfare to enforce lethal justice as the vigilante Punisher!

When matched against one another, there's no denying Daredevil has the edge. His finely honed mastery of martial arts combined with the radar sense he developed after toxic waste took his sight surpasses the hand-to-hand training of The Punisher. We saw that in a previous encounter between the two, where Daredevil handily dealt the winning blow in as show of skill and athleticism [Daredevil #65].

The opponent comparison test highlights the differences between both men. In battles with Deadpool: Daredevil suffered defeat when Deadpool was able to exploit his selfless, heroic nature [Contest of Champions II #4]. On the other hand, Punisher's amoral approach and willingness to utilize the methods of the villain allowed him to soundly trounce the merc' with a mouth in Deadpool: Suicide Kings #2. Similar weapons-based tactics even helped The Punisher overcome rampaging powerhouse Rhino! [Punisher War Journal #3]

Against the criminals they both stalk, The Punisher's lethality makes him a formidable foe. Is he willing to go the distance against a man whose differences hinge on his unwillingness to take a life? Lets find out who the better man is...

History: Daredevil (1-0-0)
The Tape: Daredevil Ranking: Daredevil (#9)

What Went Down...
On a New York City rooftop, The Punisher holds a man above his head. His name is Alfred Coppersmith, but it hardly matters. He's just another criminal caught in the scope of the crazed vigilante. On any other night it would be any other scumbag. Perched moments from death, the only reprieve is a man who dares to be a devil. One shot to save a life - hinging on a blind man's aim.

An order to hold gets Punisher's attention. Daredevil pitches his billy club and catches him some place high. It weakens his hold and he drops Coppersmith hard on his head. Not as hard as it would've been on the pavement below.

Daredevil approaches and Punisher catches him by surprise with a fist to the gut. Hunched over like prize fighters they stare each other down. Punisher's the first to break his gaze. Something about Daredevil's cold stare turns even his eyes away. DD makes him regret it with a stiff left into a hard right cross.

The fight is on and it's on Daredevil's terms. Fists fly and hit their mark. He takes Punisher's trigger finger away with a shot that makes his arm a dead weight of muscle. Another body blow, another cross. The killer goes down.

Punisher evens things out with a sweep kick that hooks Daredevil's knee. With the tables turned Punisher can go for his knife. He only needs one good arm to plunge steel into flesh. Assuming Daredevil's quick reflexes don't roll the target out of the way. They do, and DD swings his arm back to club the back of his opponent's head. Castle eats the concrete roof. There are no rules here.

Daredevil hooks in a full nelson, but Punisher hoists him off his feet into an overhead toss. DD lands nimbly on his feet, but the break is enough time for Punisher to go for his gun. The stakes are rising fast!

The man in red goes back to the gut -- thrusting a kick deep into the death's head logo! The blow triggers a bodily chain reaction that relinquishes Punisher's grip on his sidearm. The desired effect. An enforcement of honor.

Daredevil presses the advantage, raining down a left to the jaw. He follows with a right, but Castle is under it. His shoulder dips and he counters with an quick uppercut. DD goes with it and fires back with an elbow to the gut.

Recovered, Alfred Coppersmith has been taking in the fight. It's the greatest battle he's ever seen. Better than a ringside seat in Madison Square Garden! He could've made a getaway any time -- should've -- but is transfixed by what he thinks to himself is downright superhuman. Then he remembers Punisher's gun.

The heroes stop fighting long enough for Daredevil to plead his case one more time. They're still too distracted to see Coppersmith pick Castle's pistol up. DD wants to take Coppersmith to court. Punisher wants him dealt with. They wonder where he went and as Coppersmith announces himself behind the handle of the gun, he contemplates crippling them to make an escape.

Then Daredevil deals with him. Faster than Coppersmith can think with a flick of his wrist and the toss of a billy club. Lights out for the bad guy. Non-lethal. Next time they see each other it'll be blind lawyer Matt Murdock ready to plead his case to the courts. This time, justice will be served.

The Hammer...
In the matter of moral debate and the course of justice, it's clear Daredevil won out this time. We're more concerned with the outcome of physical superiority, and on the terms of what's presented we must call this a draw!

This story has an overlap with events depicted in Punisher #10. Perhaps in a future instalment we'll explore this fight and the rivalry between Punisher & Daredevil in greater detail. For now, we leave it there.

That leaves us free to acknowledge that todays featured fight was inspired by Daredevil Season 2 coming to Netflix on March 18th. We tackled the subject last month in a Hero of the Week entry [Punisher], and this was the last opportunity to see the rivalry play out in the all in important comics medium before we dive into a month of other hero-on-hero battles.

I find myself becoming less enthused about the live-action version the more its revealed in promotion. On paper, Jon Bernthal makes a solid Punisher, but the show, like so many live-action offerings, simply lacks the commitment to giving the experience a totally unique feel. I'd have to watch the show to fairly comment on the content, but the first bites with the eye are underwhelming. In today's knock down, drag out comic book fight the battle is described as super-human -- equal to the greatest prize fight, but greater in effort. Magnificence is something these shows all too often shy away from. I hope they surprise me.

John Romita Jr owns much of the magnificence of Daredevil #257. His attention to storytelling ensures the fight is blow by blow coherent, choreographed - but also making use of the visual comics medium. You'll notice most panels featured above lack backgrounds. A coincidence of selection that does not capture the overall use of layouts, or the way the story -- told from Alfred Coppersmith's perspective -- weaves in and out of comic book, and tunnelling POV focus.

Though far from a carbon copy, the influence of the best remembered Daredevil writer/artist of the eighties is everywhere. You can get a sense of a consistent visual language from the few panel selections featured from Daredevil #163 in a past feature. Frank Miller looms large over the character to this day, let alone in 1988 when today's feature was published. There are key differences that separate the late eighties from Miller's work that demand special attention, though.

In 2016, we've been hitting on a lot of characters and stories that haven't been featured in ten years of Secret Wars on Infinite Earths. I'm very excited to finally induct Ann Nocenti into the site canon!

Nocenti is an influence who doesn't get enough credit for advancing Daredevil from the noir-tinged isolation of Miller's deconstruction and rebirth. She was a writer who did an honourable job maintaining the Miller Hell's Kitchen, but played in two worlds, allowing the epic urban hero to co-exist with the Marvel Universe. Where Miller's ideas are the definitive source of inspiration behind live-action adaptations, the best of Nocenti's run may never see a screen. It's too often wholehearted in its dedication to being a wonderful comic book.

While we highlighted the main event advertised on the cover, a lot of the issue is dedicated to the on-going development of Typhoid Mary - a Nocenti & Romita Jr creation. If Miller's Elektra can't make it to the screen in tact, you can bet your bottom dollar the deliciously bubble gum, punk-rock apocalypse of 1988 Mary will never stand a chance!

I was reminded of Typhoid Mary's exploits last December, while reviewing Savage Dragon #7. Now that we've opened the page to Ann Nocenti, I'm sure we're one step closer to getting to that good stuff. In the mean time, I'm going to leave you with but a vague taste of my gushing enthusiasm.

As always, you can join me in the reading circle by taking advantage of the Amazon link provided [right]. Shopping via the link will help support further exploits in The Comic Book Fight Club. You can find all past exploits in the Issue Index Archive.

Be here next week as we tackle one of the reader's most requested hero on hero fights of all time! Another modern classic battle bumped from our 10th Anniversary spotlight! Check back during the week to catch any additional updates, including the Hero of the Week - and tell your friends!

Winner: Draw
(--) #9 Daredevill
(--) #64 Punisher

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