Monday, July 23, 2007

Hoopla! - Episode 29: Daredevil: Why are you such a bummer?

Hello and welcome to Hoopla!

A quick word to all (both?) my loyal readers... Please let me know you're out there. Last week I was actually grateful that a spammer took the time to leave a comment. It's gotten that bad.

Think of me as one of those elephants that lived with Horton. I need to hear the Whos.

And you, and you, and you... you are the whos.

So please join together and cry out: We are here! We are here! We are here!!!

That is my heartfelt plea to you.

So, I had a kind of epiphany while reading the latest issue of Daredevil. And that epiphany is this:

I'm not enjoying this series at all.

Generally speaking, I think Brubaker is a great writer, but sometimes he overplays the misery card. For example, I loved his Catwoman series right up to the point that someone (Selina's sister, maybe?) was tortured for pages and pages and was eventually forced to eat her husband's eyeball or some such thing.

I didn't really need that.

I was completely enthralled by Season One of Sleeper, although there were times it was a bit dark for my taste. And Season Two just never seemed to really go anywhere. Just round and round. I'm actually not even certain if it ever ended. Did it?

His current work on Captain America is kicking some serious butt, although even there he could stand to mellow out on the "mental torture of Sharon Carter" business.

Loving Iron Fist. Loving, loving, loving it. And I'm not even a big fan of the character. Or of co-writer Matt Fraction. But Iron Fist somehow feels fresh and unpredictable in a way that most comics simply aren't able to pull off.

On the other hand, I didn't care for Criminal at all. Criminal is Brubaker's non-super-hero comic-book. It's the comic series where he really gets to indulge his passion for crime noir.

Personally, however, I don't share that passion. I've read a couple of books by Jim Thompson that I thought were outstanding and I loved the movie version of After Dark, My Sweet, but as a general rule when I'm watching or reading crime noir, I get stuck on the props of that genre rather than the story itself.

I have the same problem with the fantasy genre, incidentally. It takes a truly superlative piece of fantasy for me to be able to overcome my natural resistance to elves and dragons and wizards.

Anyway, my original point was this... Daredevil. Too bleak. Not so fun. At all.

Brubaker's first storyline, where Matt Murdock was in prison, was outstanding. Very suspenseful. Entirely satisfying.

After that, though, it felt like nothing really happened ever again. Yes, Daredevil went around Europe and fought some people and there was something about some woman who smelled really good.

Then that ended and all of a sudden the Kingpin's wife solved all of Daredevil's problems.

[I didn't totally understand why she would do that or why Daredevil would then feel compelled to meet his end of the bargain, given that he very clearly told her that he wasn't going to, but whatever. I could live with that.]

But now we have this Gladiator story. And it's just going on and on.

The story, as best I can recall, is about former villian, Melvin Potter, aka. the Gladiator. He's been framed for some murders, but then it ends up that he hasn't been framed. Or, sort of. He is the one doing the killings, yes, but there seems to be some kind of mind-control or hypnosis involved or something.
Which, y'know, is not so very interesting.
But it's okay.

The real problem is that the story isn't moving forward at all. Every issue feels the exact same as the last. Characters debate whether or not Melvin Potter is truly the one committing the crimes. Then we see him actually commit the crimes. But then we see that he feels bad about it, or doesn't remember having done it.


On top of that, this latest issue featured the Gladiator attacking Matt Murdock's wife while she was alone in their house. And, as it happens, in her underwear.

Now, there are a couple of things about this that give off a rank odor.

First of all, the whole "hero's girlfriend gets attacked and is all helpless and stuff" routine has been done 20,000 times before. And that's just in comics. Include movies and TV and novels about detectives pursuing serial killer masterminds and the number goes up to 800,000.

It's not interesting, it's not fun, and it's definitely not original.

And then there's the fact that she's in her bra and underwear for the whole sequence. That's an interesting choice.

'Interesting' in the sense of not being interesting at all, that is.

It's difficult to think of a single reason why they would have her dressed like that throughout the attack except to titillate the audience. Which, given the brutality of the scene, kind of rubs me the wrong way.

And not only is it offensive, but--possibly even worse--it's just so typical, you know? I mean, of course she's in her bra and underwear. Of course she's completely helpless and being attacked by the big, brutal Gladiator. Of course she's being used to hurt Daredevil. It's all so... expected.

Anyway, I've had enough.

I could forgive that one exercise in poor taste if I were really enjoying the rest of the series, but in fact I'm not enjoying it at all. The covers are ugly, the stories don't seem to be going anywhere, and there's no lightness to juxtapose against the incessant darkness. Everyone in this series is miserably unhappy. Everyone's a potential victim.

"But," you cry out, "Perhaps it's about to get better!"

Well, I checked. Here's the solicitation for the September issue:

Written by ED BRUBAKER
Penciled by MICHAEL LARK

Things couldn't be going worse for Matt Murdock. Everything he thought he'd gotten back teeters on the edge of a precipice, ready to shatter all around him, as he fights a battle on both fronts of his life-in the courtroom and on the rooftops of Hell's Kitchen! The searing second chapter of "Without Fear!" 32 PGS./Rated T+ ...$2.99

There's nothing inherently wrong with any of that, but there's also nothing that suggests any sort of change in direction. I mean, really, how many times have we seen his life shattering all around him in the past few years...?

It's just not that interesting anymore.

If Daredevil were my friend, this is what I'd say to him:

"Daredevil, I want to be there for you because you are my friend, but you are really starting to drag me down with all of your problems. I think you need to seriously put away that costume and just focus on doing something fun for a while. Maybe go to the zoo with your wife. I just went to the zoo with Mie, and we had a really great time. I think that you and Milla might have a great time too."

"What's that? You can't go to the zoo because of your hyper-sensitive sense of smell? Hm. Good point. The zoo can be rather stinky. Tell you what, then, how about you and Milla go camping? Or spend a few days at a beach. Work on your tan. Play in the water. Read a John Grisham novel. Sleep late. Have kinky sex with your wife. Learn to play the tuba."

That's what I would say.

And then, because I am Daredevil's friend, after all, I would be brutally beaten and perhaps killed.

So, maybe it's all just as well...

- Paul


Gloria said...

Ypu know, when Matt and Foggy got happily reunited back in issue 93, I hoped that the man without fear, his friends and wife would be, finally, a bit happy for a while.. D'oh, I was wrong.

I think Foggy was right when he pointed this in the Bendis Run, and I join the chorus "Matt, hang the frigging costume and GET A LIFE!"

I think that a series about lawyering could be both fun and interesting, if any writer caught the idea: don't we have "Perry Mason", "Boston Legal", "Ally McBeal", etc...? why not then "Nelson Blake and Murdock"?

Paul said...

Yeah, I had kind of hoped that Foggy's return would be a turning point.

I don't know.

At this point, what I'd really like to see, more than anything else, is an issue in which Foggy and Matt go to a karaoke bar, throw down a few drinks and sing some songs together.

That would make me so happy...

Gloria said...

We once actually had a very similar moment once in the "playing to the camera" story: it was about Nelson and Murdock suing... daredevil! and it ended in a Bar, with matt and Foggy drinking Whisky and exchanging lawyer's jokes and hearty laughs after the case is over: I loved the scene and I thing we should see the team at the firm (yes, take Becky and Dakota along, too!) having some merry, and not just Matt getting angstier and angstier... we already have the silly Messrs. Peter Parker or Robbie Baldwin to be the angsty overgrown teenages of Marvel: but Matt is an adult with a professional career and should know better than them.

You know, Miller's "Born Again" is my favourite DD story ever, but the bad side of it is, most writers ever since have been trying to make their particular "Born Again" (not to mention the Elektra imitations who become Matt's tragic true love... again and again) at the expense of Matt's happiness: there are some very good stories, yes, but in the end it sucks, sort of: She-Hulk has proven that superheros (or heroines, ;FD) can be lawyers, superpeople and smile, too.

Karl Kesel was actually pretty good at writing a happy DD: But then this was before the Evil Mr. Smith Traumatized the Series.

Squara said...

New Warriors review from a few weeks ago: “pinched” refers to pooping. I.e. pinching a loaf. So… something he pooped post-Salisbury.

Daredevil review in current post: the worst thing about portraying Mila in her undies, the thing that really makes it blatantly exploitative and indefensible, is that this woman had just been attacked in a restaurant and run home while her husband stayed to fight the bad guy. If you had just lived through that, would you go home and TAKE ALL YOUR CLOTHES OFF? Most people, I think, would keep their clothes ON – and possibly hide in a closet – rather than wandering around their apartment, pensive and half-naked.

Dumb and offensive.