Monday, April 10, 2017

DAREDEVIL #172

"GANG WAR!"
Writer/Penciler: Frank Miller | Inker : Klaus Janson
Colorist: Glynis Wein | Letterer: Joe Rosen
Editor: Denny O’Neil | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Daredevil awakens in a water main and escapes into a community of underground vagrants. He returns to Josie’s to question Turk. Meanwhile, from his underground lair, the Kingpin supervises a gang war against his treacherous ex-lieutenants. Bullseye sets out to track the Kingpin down and learns the location of his stronghold. Meanwhile, Daredevil raids that very place and recovers what he believes to be the Kingpin’s files, but which turn out to be newspapers.

Bullseye and some men attack the Kingpin’s lair but find it booby-trapped. Later, as Bullseye berates his employers for their incompetence, the Kingpin arrives and hires him away from them. He forces his former men to sign confessions holding them responsible for the gang war, then he turns his attention to Lynch, his right-hand man who he has deduced killed his wife, Vanessa. The Kingpin kills Lynch in a fit of vengeance.

Later, Daredevil learns from a neighborhood hooker that there's a gangland meeting going down. He heads for the Kingpin’s office tower and shuts down its generator, which lures Bullseye into the basement for a fight. Daredevil bests Bullseye but is surrounded by the Kingpin and his men. Kingpin offers DD the files on the men who signed his confessions, as well as Bullseye, to get him to leave. Daredevil does so, departing with an implied promise that their feud is not yet over.

Elsewhere, beneath the city streets, the Kingpin’s wife, Vanessa, awakens and wanders off, amnesiac and hungry.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: Daredevil saves Josie’s plate glass window from destruction as she notes it's been replaced three times this week. A moment later, Turk provides DD with a recap of the past two issues, including a good amount of info our hero already has.

Daredevil recalls saving Bullseye’s life, and now blames the assassin’s subsequent murders on himself.

My Thoughts: Man, this one is dense. Miller probably could've split it into two issues and it still would not have felt the least bit decompressed. We have the Kingpin’s revenge, his return to power, and Daredevil’s rematch with Bullseye — all events which could easily support their own individual issues — crammed together into one story, yet somehow it’s all executed perfectly without feeling overstuffed or poorly paced at all.

We also get some nice little moments such as our hero mistaking a bunch of newspapers for Kingpin's secret files due to his blindness, leading to an embarrassing run-in with Detective Manolis, and we see that in addition to being a murdering psychopath, Bullseye is also a very shrewd businessman.

All that said, I'm unsure about a scripting choice Miller makes here. Multiple times throughout the issue, he has some sort of hard-boiled narrator talking about New York City in a series of captions presented in what appears to be a computer-generated font (which would've been quite advanced for comics back in 1981). But at no point do we learn who this narrator is, nor is there any reason given for the unusual typestyle.

Nonetheless, this has to be one of Miller’s best DAREDEVIL installments so far. I believe I've read that Miller’s secret intention when he took over writing the series was to do crime comics which happened to feature a superhero, and with this three-parter, he's accomplished that goal in spades. The Kingpin is a perfect villain for Miller’s interpretation of Daredevil, and as of this issue, their long-running feud has officially begun.

11 comments:

  1. In the modern decompressed comics era, you could probably get a good three issues out of this one. Hell, the Daredevil/Bullseye fight would be one itself these days. I love reading old comics and finding them being so damn dense with story. It's a bit of a lost art these days, where everything is six parts whether they have six parts of story.

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    1. By the end of Miller's run, he's pretty decompressed himself, with sparse narration and dialogue and big panels throughout every issue -- but still the issues somehow feel like a satisfying read unlike a lot of today's comics. Though I do think Marvel, at least, has gotten a little better in recent years. The height of awful six-part decompression was the Bill Jemas era and the few years that followed.

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    2. Even at their most decompressed, 80s comics weren't as bad as early oughts Marvel. I remember a Bendis Avengers issue featured as the first four pages the same splash page of an image of the Earth, with energy slowly moving into the panel to eventually strike the earth on the fifth page.

      I kind of walked away from Marvel after Secret Wars, but I did notice at least Hickman's Avengers stuff wasn't that terribly decompressed. But Hickman tended to have a lot going on at once, so I assumed he was atypical.

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    3. Yes, imagine that one of Lee and Kirby's biggest stories, the Galactus trilogy from FF, was really two and an half issues.
      If that story were written today, it would take two years worth of story to tell.
      The first six chapters would involve something moving across space, closer to Earth.

      Actually, when they adapted the debut of Galactus for the Ultimate Universe, it took up three mini-series.
      Although, to be fair, they muddled with a lot of other plots around the outside of the story, like the debut of Captain Mar-Vell.

      Marvel's gotten away from the worst of the decompression, but some writers still tend to write in that fashion.
      Other Marvel writers are better, but most individual issues of Marvel Comics today still feel sort of lacking in content as compared to pre-1990s comics.

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    4. Jack -- I remember that Bendis issue! Personally I wouldn't have minded if it was, say, one page with four wide panels of the energy moving to Earth, following by a single-page splash of it hitting. It's the abuse of splash pages that drives me nuts in that example.

      I guess I lasted longer with Marvel than you did. I slowly dropped things here and there, but I was still reading a number of titles up through "Siege". It was during "The Heroic Age" that I finally quit new Marvels altogether.

      Anonymous -- Don't get me wrong; I definitely believe current comics are still extremely decompressed compared with the older stuff. I think they've gotten better, but they're still pretty bad and I have little interest in them -- though the decompression is among the least of my issues with current Marvels. I generally just don't like the tone and style of the comics these days.

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    5. I gave up on Marvel basically around Dark Reign except for anything Jonathan Hickman wrote, so, yeah, my experience with the whole line was far less. And I am glad I'm not the only person who hated those splash pages!

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  2. what appears to be a computer-generated font (which would've been quite advanced for comics back in 1981)

    Ours was like that since always. Typewrite-y, which I would think it actually was. Only at some point in the 90's did they switch for "fake lettering" type of font, Tiresias I think. Our small language area didn't really support for hand lettering.

    Only nowadays it looks a bit off, but back in the day that was exactly how a comic book was supposed to look like.

    Kingpin really is his awesomest in this issue. "Clean my office, then call me a doctor." Oh wait. I always took that as serious badassery, only as I type this I realize there was that dead body there which I guess one should get rid of.

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    1. A couple of samples of our classic type-texting:

      http://blogi.egmontkustannus.fi/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/hamisnakkari1983nayte1-300x211.jpg

      http://blogi.egmontkustannus.fi/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Electro.png

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    2. Thanks, Teemu! That's really interesting. I never considered how comics were re-lettered for foreign consumption. I guess I always just assumed the licensees used hand letterers back then.

      Those samples you posted kind of remind me of MAD magazine. All their comics used the same style of computer letters.

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    3. Mad is surely lettered on a computer now, but the uniform type in my day (and probably through some point in the ’90s), like the type in the narration here, was set by hand — text printed up on a Linotype or other brand machine no more than a line o’ type (hence the name) at a time and manually pasted onto blue-lined galleys.

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  3. // our hero mistaking a bunch of newspapers for Kingpin's secret files due to his blindness //

    I feel like even if his sometime ability to read a page due to its slightly raised print is ignored he should still deduce what the newspapers are by their smell, texture, and physical dimensions.

    Not having read this in a long time, I expected that narrator to be revealed as Ben Urich — certainly, like you, to be somebody (or something).

    All that said, I agree this is pretty good stuff, especially for its vintage.

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