Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Remember Ann Nocenti? Of course, damnit!

Crapity crap. The Fortress Keeper recently (recently, being like six months ago now!) had a rebuttal to an Occasional Superheroine post that reminded readers of Ann Nocenti and her classic run on Daredevil, and I was like, "Hells, yeah. Nocenti's run got pretty weird and pretty awesome there. Her second-to-last issue is one of my favorite comics ever. In fact, I probably blogged about it...huh, that should be right about...what the...?"

Oh, I mentioned it well over two years ago, sure. But then I never came back to it! An egregious mistake, but one we're going to fix, darn it! This is going to be a more scan-heavy post, so more after the bump!

First, some set up: after returning from hell, and a battle involving the Silver Surfer, Mephisto, and Karnak and Gorgon of the Inhumans; a freaked out Matt tries to convince himself that didn't really happen. (He would end up back there briefly, in the Nighthawk limited series...) Already a bit fragile, DD guest-stars in the Streets of Poison storyline in Captain America, but they don't exactly roll out the red carpet for him: first the drugged-up Captain, then monstrously tough thug Crossbones, deliver pretty substantial beatings to DD. (Crossbones actually takes a peek behind DD's mask, just because he's a jerk.)

Matt ends up losing his memory, then his costume. Meeting a young street thief, he briefly becomes a thief himself, but his strong sense of justice doesn't let that sit well. He also realizes that there's something wrong with his eyes: while he can "see," he can't see colors or read paper without touching it. Eventually, he becomes a boxer, like his father; although Matt has the gimmick of fighting blindfolded. He regains his memory in his last fight.

Meanwhile, also fresh from fighting Cap in Streets of Poison, Bullseye acquires Daredevil's costume (I believe he finds it in a garbage can, shades of Amazing Spider-Man #50 there) and either to draw DD out or just to be a dick, starts wearing it while committing an escalating series of crimes. Once he finally remembers who he is, Matt goes to kick Bullseye's ass, and this might seem odd to more recent readers: Matt is just looking to get back at Bullseye for the costume thing, not for any of the other crap Bullseye had already done to him even back then, like killing Elektra.

Matt finds Bullseye's seedy apartment, which does have a large fortune in stolen goods inside, that Bullseye doesn't care about: the crimes were incidental to ruining Daredevil's reputation, with the added bonus of general dickery. Although Bullseye isn't there, his old costume is.
Is Matt implying something about Bullseye there?
Now it's on.
This is easily my favorite Bullseye/Daredevil fight, in fact, one of my favorite fight scenes ever. Even though neither of them know the other's secret identity, they still know more than enough to cut deeply with their observations. And although it's a surprisingly violent battle, it's also like a Tom and Jerry cartoon, with Tom disguised as Jerry and vice versa.

Matt throws himself into the role of Bullseye, with perhaps a bit too much zest:

If it was liberating for a blind man to dress up as Daredevil, then it must be even more so to dress up as Bullseye: no moral code, no guilt, no obligations or responsibilities...but Bullseye/Daredevil doesn't go down easily. It may be easy to be Bullseye, but Bullseye doesn't have the strength to make the most of it.

In the end, like in all good super-hero comics, it all comes down to punching. Lots of punching.

In Matt's last line, I hope he's referring to his and Bullseye's tendency towards violence, since that's about the only thing I see those two as ever having in common. It is kind of ironic that the biggest glimpses we've ever gotten to Bullseye's character have come while wearing DD's mask, but it scarcely matters now that he's usually portrayed as a single-minded psychopathic.

Also in this issue: Kingpin sets out to buy his own newspaper (which, now completely dates this story...) and television station, which of course involves as much bloodletting as you'd expect. And a guilt-ridden Foggy Nelson laments "I'm not making law anymore, Matt, I'm just making sausage," as he talks to a picture of his old girlfriend Glorianna and Matt's reinstated law license. Nocenti was nice enough to set up two points that D.G. Chichester would later use in his run.

Daredevil #290, "Bullseye!" Written by Ann Nocenti, art by Kieron Dwyer, inks by Fred Fredricks. Love the art. Dwyer did a pretty good run on Captain America back in the day as well, but I don't recognize the inker. By the way, on the splash page, an obscured headline reads "Daredevil Writer Quits--I can't think of everything" right above "Editor Acquitted of Murder of Artist, Jury accepts defense plea that book shipped late due to penciller 'Deserved to Die they say'" Harsh. Wonder what a jury would say about Daredevil: the Target?

There's also the ever-popular U.S. Postal Service Statement of Ownership, too. Line C, total paid circulation: average preceding 12 months: 169,805. Single issue nearest to filing date: 165,250.


SallyP said...

That's ok, you did get to it eventually. And it's quite true, Ann Nocenti is an awesome writer.

Siskoid said...

My favorite run on Daredevil.

Yes, that includes Born Again.

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