Thursday, May 29, 2008

Sure, Frank's supposed to be the crazy one, but he doesn't have visions or see ghosts or whatever. Or talk about his feelings.

I did a write-up on Daredevil #343 over a year and a half ago, but yesterday, as I write this, I found #344 in the quarter boxes. Just #344, oddly. I didn't think Warren Ellis had done the next issue, and I was right on that much: J.M. DeMatteis takes over for a few. Nor does this issue explain why the cops were going nuts the previous month, but this issue's got it's own problems: the Marvel Edge line-wide crossover, "Over the Edge" gets it's second part here. Part one's covered here, so you can catch up if you have a burning need to. Short version: brainwashed and crazy, the Punisher's been convinced Nick Fury ordered the mob hit that caused the death of his family, so he's trying to kill him.

But even though Frank's the crazy one, Matt and Nick are both having flashbacks too: Nick's lost in remembering his childhood in Hell's Kitchen, which by all accounts wasn't a cakewalk, but has to beat the hell out of having the Punisher gunning for you. Well, times might be tough, and Nick might feel like his time has passed, but at least he still has his son...what!?
I think I kinda see what the artist was trying to do here, but I'm not sure it worked.
I had never seen any mention of Nick having children, before or since: Mikel is mentioned here, for reference. It's totally plausible that Nick had an illegitimate kid. It's a little less so that the kid's in his twenties and using his uncle Jake's codename Scorpio. Still, by this point in the issue, the Punisher's already delivered Scorpio an uncharacteristicly savage beating, even for someone named the Punisher.

Meanwhile, someone's hopping around a cemetary, and the grave of Matthew Murdock has been dug up. Remember, this was back when Matt was using the name 'Jack Batlin,' but he's getting increasingly dissatisfied with it. Partially, because if you're going to go to all the trouble of creating a new identity for yourself; maybe you don't want the new you to intentionally, by design, be a total douche. It doesn't matter if being a jerk throws off suspicion, you're going to have to live like that, all day every day. We didn't even see Matt act the role of Jack very often, but Mike Murdock seems more likeable in comparison. (Those issues where Matt passes himself off as his own zany twin brother weren't readily available in the Essential format back in 1995, but I wonder what parallels could've been drawn? Not too many: Mike Murdock's been swept under the rug.)

So, Matt hates his fake life, his metal costume, and shaving; and is taking it all out on the punks of the city a wee bit excessively. Unfortunately, Matt gets a flashback to his childhood, which was bad even before he was blinded, taking beatings in the schoolyard as he tried to stay true to his promise not to fight. "Daredevil" was his tormenters' nickname for him, and lost in the moment, DD takes a swipe at Fury for calling him that. (I think one of Chris Giarrusso's first Marvel strips suggested how different things would've been if Matt's childhood nickname had been 'Dorkface.')
I cropped the scan a bit so I could get in some of the Matt's internal monolog, then realized DD's armor has arrows pointing at his junk.
Matt and Nick have a moment to respectively ponder their own and each other's childhoods, before the Punisher starts shooting at them. Between the two, they're able to pin Frank, although DD catches one in the shoulder: what damn good was that costume again? Frank has left his backup plan in place, though: the trussed-up body of Scorpio in a schoolyard. Panicky, Nick tears off to rescue his boy, and Frank easily punches down DD to escape. For his part, Matt says lack of sleep and blood did him in; and given that he's usually able to take Frank, you might have to give Matt that one.

Crazy or not, Frank knows the importance of branding.Nick mourns the death of his only child, until DD realises there's a faint heartbeat. Punisher dosed Scorpio with "a variation on his old 'mercy bullets,'" to make Nick think he'd lost his son, and left a scribbled note that "this is between us!"

For his part, Frank is shooting pictures of Fury, and telling a Polaroid of his family that maybe he'll know peace after he gets Nick. Maybe. No promises. (I had to take a second to look it up and see if Polaroids were around in 1976, and although they were, what are the odds Frank would have an intact picture after all those years?) Again, although Frank is supposed to be the crazy one, it's pretty rare for him to see the ghosts or memories of his wife and kids. Also, this issue doesn't specifically explain that Fury didn't kill Frank's family, but Frank's so insane here he doesn't question it either.
That is some 90's hair, though.
The issue ends much like it began, with two bumbling thugs fleeing in terror from Daredevil. Except this time, it's a Daredevil in the old, old school yellow-and-brown costume. Hey, this would've been a great reveal, if it hadn't been on the cover. Next month's issue teases "Identity Crisis," meaning another crummy story with that title...I don't know if Daredevil was a title that played to J.M. DeMatteis' strengths as a writer--his issues were about rebuilding and spiritual redemption, two themes you honestly don't see in this book very often. Generally, the runs people remember DD for are the ones where he's put through the wringer. Putting Daredevil back together is a thankless job at best, like building a sand castle with a line of bullies salivating over how to best smash it. Panels from Daredevil #344, "Over the Edge, part two: Old Soldiers" Written by J.M. DeMatteis, pencils by Ron Wagner, inks by Bill Reinhold.

Somewhere, I know I have the Hulk "Over the Edge" issues, and we may come to those down the line. This was in the middle of Peter David's tenure, and the smart Hulk didn't have a problem with the Punisher, so Bruce gives Fury a bit of the brushoff. Which means he felt that much worse about Fury's "death."

(Also, I would argue DD's Catholic background is just for guilt purposes: God doesn't seem to give him any solace, and I often think he's religious the same reason Nightcrawler is, because somebody thought it would be cute to have the devil-looking character believe in God.)

1 comment:

Ace said...

I would agree that there's really no reason for DD to have a highly religious background. It doesn't dictate his actions or plot-lines like with Nightcrawler - or even his personality like with Wolfsbane. I mean, even Ben Grimm has storylines revolving around him being Jewish.