Monday, June 13, 2016

Shut Your Eyes and Trust in Me - Daredevil 163

Daredevil #163 (March 1980)
"Blind Alley"
Roger McKenzie-Frank Miller/Klaus Janson

Doug: If you can recall our April conversation on mismatches, and if you've checked our list on the sidebar that touts upcoming reviews, then you know my inspiration for today's post and the upcoming Thor retrospective. As many of us remarked a few months ago, underdog stories are fun. Sure, we generally know how they'll turn out, but the question remains: can the creators make the telling of the tale interesting along the way?

Doug: Here's your helping of the meat and potatoes of this yarn, courtesy of a 100-Word Review:
While Matt Murdock and crew are attending a fundraiser for the re-election of DA Blake Tower, Murdock picks up the sound of the Hulk’s heartbeat nearby. Ditching Foggy Nelson and recently ex-girlfriend Heather Glenn, Matt does his thing in pursuit of ol’ Jade Jaws. Finding him, Murdock actually talks the Hulk down from his rage and coaxes Bruce Banner out. But Banner can’t stay in one place, so the next day he leaves Murdock’s brownstone. Trouble ensues, and the Hulk is loosed in downtown Manhattan. This time DD is forced to fight the Hulk, and is beaten nearly to death.
Doug: I would have bought a Frank Miller-drawn Hulk series. It's interesting to see Miller and inkers Klaus Janson and Josef Rubenstein play around with the Hulk's scale and overall look as the story plays out. So why not let this just lead us into...

The Good: Of course it's the art, right? To finish my thought, the artists pretty much stick to "the Hulk is 7 feet tall", and it works great. If I remember correctly, when we had our conversation about the Thing and his listed height/weight in the Marvel Handbook, someone commented that the Hulk increased in size the angrier he became. While that may be true, it seems to me that it's a post-Bronze Age convention; please correct me if I am wrong, as I was never a regular reader of the Hulk's comic or magazine adventures. Here the Hulk stays the same size - big. Not huge, just big. It's perfect. From Daredevil's non-super-powered perspective, the Hulk is an engine of destruction. Miller conveys that to us. He's appropriately well-muscled, but without all the extra lines, no popping veins, etc. -- none of the excess we'd see a little over a decade later. I'd say that facially the Hulk is drawn about right, too. He's angry, but again, not bloodshot-eyes-angry. Am I getting across that I was pleased with this aspect of the story?

Another oft-used element of Miller's art that doesn't ever get old for me is the use of the motion panel. Miller uses it twice (we've seen it before here on the BAB) in this issue and it's quite effective. The pink silhouette is perfect to convey where DD had been and the direction in which he's moving. Did you ever make a flip-the-pages book (I'm sure there's a better name for it -- showing my ignorance) using stick figures and depicting walking, running, or falling? I did, and these panels remind me of that.

I'm digging Ben Urich when I re-read these 35-year old DDs. The guy's just one of those stereotypical "gumshoe" reporters. The slow reveal of Matt's alter ego is well-handled, and the pay-off in the issue following this one is solid. Urich's appearances in DD added depth to the existence of the Daily Bugle. I will add that I'm glad Urich had been in the cast for many issues prior to this McKenzie/Miller/Janson run. Had Urich been added only a half dozen issues prior and then this secret identity thing dropped, it would have been wholly rushed and quite artificial. The way it was executed showed some organic development.

The (Not so) Bad: What to do with the Hulk? We've all talked recently about the addition of the Hulk to any story automatically creates that Civil War-like trope. And so here you have a tale where the outcome is pretty set in stone, powerset-wise. But overall it was satisfying... but just that. I enjoyed the angle the creators took, with Murdock able to calm the Hulk by convincing Greenskin to trust him and then befriend Bruce Banner, culminating in a nice little twist at the end -- Daredevil actually getting the Hulk to quit fighting by uttering the same request about trust. I did not have the same feeling at the end of this yarn as I did the first time I read DD #7 (vs. Sub-Mariner) or Fantastic Four #25-26 (Thing vs. Hulk). In each of those previous cases, one hero was classically overmatched against his opponent, but the will to win ended up being the true triumph of the story. And although Daredevil was certainly knocked around to the point of hospitalization here, I just didn't have the same sense of awe as I've had in other stories of this type. Could it just be me? I wouldn't deny it. But don't leave here thinking that I thought this was a bad story; quite the contrary.

I'll say this as well -- a real challenge for a creative team is handling the Hulk in a Comics Code world. The recent films have dealt with this better, showing that his very presence seems to cause millions of dollars in property damage. We get a taste of that here, when he bursts not only through the top of the subway car but clean through the street. The Hulk also totals a taxi and a city bus, and rips up some asphalt. But it's nothing like the end of that first arc in The Ultimates, which was of course outside the Code and a bit more "realistic".

The Ugly: I can't admit to being put off by anything in this story, but in the interest of not leaving this space blank, I'll just throw out as a point of conversation that I tire of the love triangles/difficulties of heroes, their secret identities, and significant others. I even noticed that sort of thing when I was a kid.

Oh, wait -- thought of another. Purple pants. How in the world did Matt Murdock give Banner (and moreso, WHY?) purple pants to wear when Banner was staying over after the initial Hulk-out in this tale? Diversify your wardrobe, Banner. Sheesh...



Humanbelly said...

Cannot believe that I don't have this issue. I see that I would LOVE it.
Well, we're almost halfway to Christmas!


Edo Bosnar said...

Fantastic review, Doug. I just re-read a few months ago (as it's included in that handy Daredevil Panini digest). It is indeed a well-done story with, of course, spectacular art. This time around, I found the end of the confrontation really effective, with Hulk leaping off and screaming in anguish because he realizes DD was honestly trying to help him. And yes, I liked the whole Urich sub-plot and Urich in general as a supporting character.

Can't add much more to your general assessments, although I'd add something that, I suppose, belongs to the (Not so) Bad category: in this same month, Hulk, besides his own book (obviously) also appeared in Defenders, this issue of DD and in Iron Man (#132) - in the latter case it's part 2 of a 3-part story. In my head, I like to think that this DD story took place immediately before the IM story, which starts with the Hulk rampaging on the Long Island Expressway, but still it stretches the point of how many places old Jadejaws could be at roughly the same time. In his own book, he's involved in a ruckus at Gamma Base, which is in New Mexico as far as I know, while I'm not even sure what was going on in the Defenders...

Doug said...

Thank you, Edo.

Is the Iron Man 3-parter the Scott Lang/Hulk crossover? I read that in the Ant-Man Panini digest. The story was pretty good -- not great -- but fun. I was enjoying watching Lang grow into the Ant-Man role (no pun intended).

Miller and crew were really doing nice work in the DD book. Very cinematic in an era that I sometimes think of as holding stiff artwork. There aren't very many "80s" artists that I find memorable for positive reasons. Overall, I'd characterize many as "steady" -- not really getting in the way of enjoyment, but not blowing me away, either. Of course the exceptions are that next generation of masters, such as Byrne, Perez, Miller, and a handful of others.


Edo Bosnar said...

Yep, that's the one Doug (and I also read that story pretty recently as well, in - you guessed it - that same Panini digest you have). I quite enjoyed that story, but then Iron Man at that time was one of the my favorite series. In fact, for me it was probably tied in second place with DD, while X-men held the no. 1 position, naturally.

Otherwise, I take mild exception to your reference to "Miller and crew" - as I like to point out as much as possible, up to issue #166, the writer in the first "Miller run" on Daredevil was the often unfairly overlooked Roger McKenzie. In fact, my only criticism of that otherwise excellent DD Panini digest ('Marked for Murder') is that it only gives Frank Miller and Klaus Jansen author credits on the cover, even though McKenzie wrote all of the issues reprinted in it, except for #167, which was written by David Michelinie.

William said...

Nice review Doug (as usual). This was always one of my favorites. I clearly remember buying it off the spinner rack and reading it several times back in the day.

You know this one would also qualify for one of your "This Cover Made Me Buy This Book" posts as well. It's such a striking and dramatic image that perfectly captures the story in one shot. Who could resist not wanting to see what happens between a cover that awesome?

As for the story itself, I thought it was a pretty original take on the "David and Goliath" theme. For an epic battle it was kept fairly small with a more gritty street level feel than similar stories of this type. And I think that may be the reason that it didn't leave you feeling quite as awe-struck as the other battle issues you mentioned.

As for the Hulk's wardrobe, I personally like that he always somehow ended up with the purple pants on. Back then Marvel was more concerned with brand identity and knew the importance of keeping things consistent (and instantly recognizable). As a kid / teen I found I got a lot of comfort from that familiarity. I loved knowing that month after month the characters would remain pretty much the same and I could usually count on a good story featuring a character that I'd known for years and could clearly understand. You definitely don't get that from modern comics. Characters change looks and personalities as often as they change their underwear, and it makes today's comics as uncertain (and scary) as the real world. (But that's a conversation for another day).

As for this issue, it remains a true classic for me. And Frank Miller's stint as artist (and later writer) on Daredevil is still one of my all-time favorite creator runs ever.

Doug said...

Edo --

To clarify, I meant to imply the art from Miller, Rubenstein, and Janson. I think McKenzie is solid as the scribe in the issues reviewed thus far. And to be honest, while I understand the whole ninja angle will become an important part of the DD mythos, I enjoy these early issues when it seems all of the creators worked together and had taken a middling book and made it really interesting.


Edo Bosnar said...

Doug, hm, yes, I see I may have misread your comment. Sorry.

Garett said...

I remember drawing Miller-inspired Daredevil around this time, with the multiple pose action. I haven't been as big on Miller recently, but these art samples do look good. I think I got tired of Elektra, so it's refreshing to see these earlier McKenzie issues again.

Picking up on Doug's comment, my favorite '80s art: Perez on Teen Titans, Sienkiewicz on Moon Knight. They're like the Jack Kirby and Neal Adams for the '80s.

abraxas9971 said...

In the Peter David run on Hulk he explained that the reason The Hulk always had purple pants was that the gamma radiation released when he changed, changed what ever color pants he was wearing into purple.

Redartz said...

Great review, Doug! One of the best issues in one of the Bronze Age's best runs. Just recentry read the story, in the "Daredevil by Frank Miller and Klaus Janson vol.1" tpb. Very good reading, indeed. And here's another shout of praise for Roger McKenzie; also for Klaus Janson- one of those artists who enhance anything they touch.

This story really appeals to me, in part because of the focus on Matt's attempts to actually communicate with, and aid, the Hulk ( and Banner, as well). Often Hulk appearances are largely slugfests ( not that there's anything wrong with that); so this seems to work as a much more personal glimpse into the Hulk's essential solitude. And Edo is right, that last page is gutwrenching.

Unknown said...

I enjoyed reading this issue. Writer Roger McKenzie did an excellent job at depicting Daredevil's humanity. Few individuals would be so altruistic as to try, so persistently, to help a giant behemoth who is trying to kill them. Daredevil (Matt Murdock) is a man who genuinely cares about the welfare of others; he's not an impersonal, unsympathetic person, as many attorneys are perceived to be (and in many instances, are). Miller's artwork is first-rate. I like the variety Miller injects from panel to panel, which makes the story look like scenes from a movie. Great issue.

Anonymous said...

Ah nothing soothes the soul like a classic Hulk/DD throwdown! OK, ol' hornhead is wayyy over his head in terms of power, but it does make a good story when DD tries to convince the Hulk that he's on his side. It's a refreshing change from the traditional Hulk slugfests we've seen over the years.

HB, I am shocked that you, our resident Hulk-o-phile, do not possess this issue! Doug,as for the Hulk increasing in size when he gets angrier, I've always preferred a marginal increase in size (maybe from 7 ft to 9ft) but no more than that, certainly not the 15 ft giant Hulk we saw in the first Hulk movie.

Gamma radiation makes all the Hulk's pants turn purple? Nah, not buying that explanation!

- Mike 'gamma radiation made my teeth yellow and my hair white' from Trinidad & Tobago.

Anonymous said...

Edo Bosnar: I seem to remember that around the same time as this issue was published, there was an issue of Incredible Hulk where they showed the Hulk falling asleep under a tree. The narration then said, essentially, "Before the next scene, the Hulk will have adventures with the Defenders, Daredevil and Iron Man." Then they went on to the next scene with all those stories now having happened. I guess they felt they had to explain why there was so much Hulk in so many comics that month.

And I also assumed that after the Hulk bounded off at the end of the DD story, he ended up on the expressway at the start of the Iron Man story.


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