Thursday, September 25, 2008

Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews for 09/24/08

Some great books all around this week, but all of them are overshadowed by what I consider to be one of the most ridiculous character assassination attempts in recent memory - that of Matt Murdock cheating on his wife for no reason and not even feeling guilty over it in Daredevil. I don't expect these characters to be the ideal Silver Age hero or anything, but a certain level of human decency is required and I've lost all respect for the character after reading this issue.

I'm curious to find out if anyone else had as big a problem stomaching Matt's cavalier attitude to cheating on his wife as I did. Feel free to comment on it or any other reviews or books from this week after the jump.

Written by Jason Aaron
Art by Jefte Palo

I've had a lot of praise for Jason Aaron's Black Panther Secret Invasion tie-ins and, while not as a strong as the first two issues, this issue continues the trend.

I think my favourite part of this storyline is that Aaron has managed to humanize the Skrulls, if that term can be applied to alien invaders. With few exceptions, every other Secret Invasion portrayal of the Skrulls is that of cannonfodder. Even our heroes have no compunctions about killing the faceless and nameless alien hordes. They are basically the Foot Clan from the Ninja Turtles cartoon. An endless supply of throwaway villains with no personalities.

Aaron changes this by focusing the majority of this storyline on the Skrull's perspective, particularly the general overseeing the invasion of Wakanda. I particuarly liked his narration throughout the story about his family and his lack of faith in the mission and how he just wants to 'put in his time' and retire after this final battle. It's a small touch that adds a lot of depth to the story and villains and I even found myself a little sympathetic towards these villains and can see things from their perspective a little - much moreso than the dozens of other tie-ins combined were able to do.

The only thing that really lowers this issue in comparison to the previous two is the way the story is wrapped up. After being captured last issue, Storm and Black Panther were taken prisoner by the Skrulls and submitted to torture in hopes they will submit and tell their people to stand down. Somewhere along the way, T'Challa and Storm replaced themselves with some Skrull imposters they captured prior to the invasion. Apparently, they used some voice modulators and DNA replicators to make them appear human to the Skrulls long enough for the real Black Panther and Storm to infiltrate the Skrull ship and take out their command post.

I just don't see how this made the Skrulls act like Black Panther and Storm nor how or when they made the switch. Before the fight? After being captured? In fact, even after re-reading it, I'm still a little confused as to how this stunt was pulled off.

However, it was a small detail and I understand that Black Panther has the whole Batman prep-time deal going for him, so I let it slide and enjoyed what came out of this - ie. the sacking of the Skrull ship and killing of their leaders and troops. Framed with the Skrull general's last transmission to his wife made this scene work that much better and, aside from a few minor quibbles, I enjoyed every part of this story whole heartedly.

Verdict - Must Read. A fun, short ride that, as a Secret Invasion "cash-in", was better than it had any right to be. Great stuff.

Written by Ed Brubaker
Art by Steve Epting

Wow, a whole lot happened here and I'm not even sure where to begin. We've got several "deaths", Bucky and Black Widow hooking up and all that doesn't even touch on the conclusion to the Death of Captain America storyline nor the Red Skull's plans for Sharon Carter and her baby.

With so much going on in one issue, I think it's safe to say that it felt a little rushed. With how slow several of the first chapters of this storyline were - ever since Bucky became Cap - it just seemed like Brubaker ran out of time and had to just cram everything into this last issue.

Of course, if Brubaker goes back and touches on many of these "okay, we're done here, let's move on" moments in future issues, as I suspect he will, I think many of my problems with this issue will go away.

With the negatives out of the way, let's get to the good parts of this issue. I loved how Bucky took a major step forward in terms of accepting his role as Captain America. Just everything he did in this issue worked. While not doing everything exactly as Steve Rogers would, allowing Bucky to be his own man, it still felt like he was acting like Captain America, if that makes any sense. From his jumping out and stopping Sin's rocket with his shield to his reactions to the news media at the end and so on.

Another thing I liked was how the Grand Director was treated. I figured we'd be tossing him aside and never see him again or kill him off when this was over, but he ended up helping Sharon Carter escape and we see him near the end of the issue (I believe it was him in New York. He didn't have a costume), either setting him up as a future problem or potential ally after his helping Sharon.

Speaking of Sharon, she was captured (again) by the Red Skull and Arnim Zola and was being used, in conjunction with Doom's time platform, for some kind of experiment by the Skull. From what I gather, and it was fairly rushed and barely explained, it seems like they were trying to age the fetus (which I thought was killed, but Sharon talks about "it" growing during this) to use as a new body for the Skull. Again, I have no idea what was going on here, but Zola claims they can resume the process again later after Sharon breaks free of her restraints, ruining the experiment.

From here, it gets even more confusing. While escaping, Sharon takes a gun and shoots the Skull, who hadstarted laughing like a madman and took off his Skull mask, leaving the Lukin face and personality in control (I think). Yes, Sharon "killed" the Skull. At the same time, Zola was skewered by the recently freed Grand Director Captain America, "killing" him, too.

These deaths were quickly undone, though. Zola, we knew, would be back in a new body, as that's his gimmick, but the last epilogue of the issue was a shocking reveal of the Skull trapped in a Zola-like body of his own.

With the torrential pace of this issue, it's easy to overlook many of these confusing or detail lacking scene changes as the entire issue blended into one big action blockbuster conclusion to a storyline. However, taken as separate little pieces, it's easy to pick this apart. I'd like to believe a lot of these details, particularly concerning the Skull's plans with the time platform and Sharon Carter, will be explained in the future.

Verdict - Check It. I liked the issue a lot, but there's far too many details glossed over for my liking. May read better in hindsight / trade format after future issues fill in some blanks for us. Still a good Captain America issue and good Cap stories are still leaps and bounds better than most titles.

Written by Ed Brubaker
Art by Clay Mann

What the hell am I supposed to think of Daredevil now? This is not how a hero should act. That's not even how any decent human being should act! What am I talking about exactly? Well, our "hero", Matt Murdock, cheats on his wife. While that's not so crazy an act these days, let's add a little context, shall we?

Matt's wife is currently in a mental institute. It's basically Matt's fault she's in there after she was caught in the crossfire with Mr Fear from a few issues ago. Matt loves her so much, he was pretty brutal towards any and every villain he came in contact with along the way to finally confronting Mr Fear and his life was pretty much in the crapper with how broken up over his wife's current state he was. Everything that was said in dialogue or narration pointed towards Matt loving his wife more than anything on Earth and feeling nothing but guilt over the fact he had caused her so much pain.

Cut to a few issues later and he's shacking up with Dakota and wondering why he doesn't even feel guilty about cheating on his wife! I can see cheating on people or the whole "falling out of love" angle for getting a hero out of a marriage, but you can't go from the love of my life to 'let's have sex with my investigative reporter friend' in the span of four issues with no build up or even remorse over what he's done.

It's so ridiculous that I honestly dislike the character of Matt Murdock and don't even know if I want to keep reading about this person after having read this issue.

All of this overshadows the introduction of the new Lady Bullseye character, who's only relation to Bullseye is that she saw him kill her slave trading captors when she was a teenager. I gathered she was so enthralled with the 'art of killing' that Bullseye displayed that she took his name. It's not explained where she was trained or how she learned any of her techniques, but she has ties to The Hand and they are making a power play against many of their old enemies, including Iron Fist, Stick (I think that's the "old man" they referred to), Black Tarantula and Wolverine. Daredevil was left off the list for some reason, though.

Despite being off the list and told not to antagonize Daredevil, Lady Bullseye still went out of her way, out of some loyalty to Bullseye, I believe, to cause some trouble for Daredevil by "persuading" the surviving thug of a group she killed to report to the news and police that Daredevil killed his friends, resulting in the headlines all reading Daredevil is a killer at the end of the issue.

However, even a rather solid premise and introduction of this new character, whom I had doubts about, and a guest appearance by Iron Fist could not make up for the extreme disappointment in the Matt Murdock character I have after reading this ludicrous bit of womanizing on his part and I just can't imagine what possessed Brubaker to have him act like this in regards to his wife and the throwing away of his marriage. If they didn't like her, just kill her or divorce them and move on. Don't drag her through the mud, lock her in an institute and then have Matt forget about her and start screwing the first woman he comes in contact with without an ounce of regret, even saying it feels so right being with Dakota.

Verdict - Avoid It. On principle, I can't recommend an otherwise decent comic book. This, to me, is the equivilent of the formerly happily married Spider-Man simply waking up one day and going off to have sex with Black Cat and not caring about MJ anymore.

Written by Brian Bendis
Art by Jim Cheung

As predicted, this story went nowhere. It was yet another circular story that simply repeats things we already knew without really adding anything to the story. It's the equivilent of going back to the Batman origin story and telling us he had eggs and bacon for breakfast on the morning of the day the bat flew threw his window. New facts for us, but did we really need to know it?

In this issue's case, it basically shows us what the Skrulls did when they woke up to the House of M. For whatever reason, they weren't affected by the Scarlet Witch's spell and knew the world was broken, similar to how Wolverine knew right away. It focuses on Spider-Woman and Hank Pym and just has them repeat how they will fix this and leak it to the media how a mutant did this and it will only help them further their invasion efforts when it's over.

That's it. End of story. Nothing else really happens other than showing some repeated events from House of M and then having the world go back to normal, ending with the Skrulls talking about how things are going perfectly before Spider-Woman reveals the "wave" in the proficies had come true and was actually the Annihilation Wave from Annihilation, which resulted in the death of billions of Skrulls.

Again, so what? We knew this happened. None of this changed anything and nothing new was learned.

Verdict - Avoid It. I like Cheung's art and all, but it's not worth picking this waste of paper up for. Buy something with some meat to the story instead.

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Rawnzilla said...

I knew Matt was going to shack up with Dakota from the second I saw the preview for the issue. Even though it was wrong for him to do, I can honestly say that their interactions in the issue led up to the act quite naturally. The situation would have benefited from taking place over a longer period of time, (several weeks of Matt torturing himself over what he was feeling, whether or not to go through with it, etc.). If Matt was single, I see what happened as being perfectly natural.

Human beings aren't perfect, and neither are super heroes, but this was a bit fast.

Dakota North is damn fine, though. I have to admit I had her stuck in my head for a few hours after reading that issue.

I haven't read Black Panther yet, but I thought that Cap was a pretty satisfying conclusion. I think that Sharon only killed Lukin, and that it is only the Red Skull in the robotic body.

New Avengers was a rip-off, I agree. Bendis is getting away with writing half a script.

Salieri said...

Don't presume that the 'Logan' which Lady Bullseye is after will be Wolverine - it could just as easily be Michael York!

Deicide said...

I actually liked the fact that Daredevil cheated on his wife. If any character has the humanity to make such mistake, it is Matt. Other heroes are just too perfect for that.

I am not agreeing with the act itself. Matt did something awful, but it happens. This adds a lot of layers of drama to the story, and makes Matt Murdock, not just Daredevil, interesting again.

All the circunstances behind the act are understandable. His wife is in therapy and he can't even see her without triggering violent reactions. His life is a mess, he is under constant stress. And suddenly he finds someone interesting who is by his side. He begins to help that person, they get close... and the thing happens.

That's completely real. Matt did feel guilt after the fact, but even himself felt he was not guilty enough, because that was probably his first respite in several weeks of tension. The important is to see where it goes, and that is good drama.

I applaud Brubaker's initiative to make such a daring twist in a character's life, and I think that Daredevil #111 is a "Must Read".

Tiago José "Deicide" Galvão Moreira

IslandLiberal said...

Zola transferred the Skull's mind out of Lukin just before he got shot; that's why Lukin was laughing so much, because he was finally free...only to get shot moments later.

Regarding Matt/Dakota, I don't see how you could read that as him not feeling bad about it. He feels awful; one of the things he feels worst about is that somehow he thinks he should feel worse.

I can understand his position; his wife is, seemingly, irretrievably insane.

Christine said...

I agree that Matt/Dakota happened a little too quickly. On the other hand, I think we'll see him feeling really guilty about it for a few issues and I don't automatically see a relationship growing out of this as long as Milla is still technically around. Still, I have to disagree with you on this being character assassination. Not only does he absolutely feel guilty about it - as he should, mind you - but what I see here is a human being who's been through so much crap in the last few weeks and months that all he wants is to just feel good for one hour. To have someone be understanding, touch him and make him feel like he's a part of the human race. I think it's that simple. Is it right? No. It's hedonistic, self-indulgent and immoral. Is it human? Yes. Is it out of character? Oddly enough, I don't think so, and I generally have very high opinions about the basic decency of the character.

I read about this development before reading the issue, and I'm sort of glad I did because it did help cushion the blow a bit. I seriously suggest giving it a few days and then reading the issue again. Getting some perspective on what happened really made it all actually make sense to me, and the progression of events feel more natural.

Eric said...

I also, didn't have a problem with Matt and Dakota doing the nasty. I mean, if you had the chance to do a supermodel, wouldn't you? All kidding aside, I think Matt stayed with Milla out of obligation not becuase he was in love with her. Matt has been on the verge of cheating on her in the past, like with Lily. I think he was able to rationalize that by saying she was messing with his head, but I think the urge was there. If anything, it's a revelation for Matt that he doesn't feel guilty, because it forces him to re-examine this situation with Milla. I don't think it's character assassination at all, I think it's a good real-life depiction of how a lot of people would handle a difficult situation.

Eric said...

I'm also sort of surprised that this is the hot-button topic to come out of this issue. I thought everyone would be talking about Lady Bullseye, who does have a lame name, but actually turned out to be a character that could be a major player in Matt's rogues gallery.

Eric said...

Sorry, one more thing about the cheating aspect. I think a lot of what Matt did during the "Without Fear" arc was motivated by guilt more than anything else. Guilt that another woman he loved was put in danger by his being Daredevil. I didn't read the arc thinking he was doing this because his undending, eternal love for Milla, who to me was more an ancillary character never really fleshed out. I think the love of Matt's life was Karen Page. If he was cheating on her, I could feel some of the outrage Kirk is expressing, but with Milla I just can't.

Christine said...

In response to Eric. I absolutely think Matt genuinly loved Milla, and still does. Was she the big love of his life? Probably not, but I do think he loved her. Not the same way he loved Karen perhaps, but nevertheless.

As far as Milla goes, I actually hope that their relationship can be better explained now that his relationship with Dakota, wherever that ends up, allows Bru to tap into Matt's psyche a little more often (along the lines of what he did with their conversation this issue). I sort of liked Milla as a character but never felt that she was really fleshed out or given a proper chance, even by Bendis who created her. We still have no idea what their relationship was about or what they saw in each other (figuratively speaking). It would be nice to just have Bru clear this up in some way, and I don't think he'd need more than a page of dialogue to do it either.

In the longer run, I would like for Milla to recover and get a divorce, realizing that being with Matt isn't worth the heartache and the insanity (literally). I think Matt and Dakota is a match-up that could work in the long run. She combines the aspects of a regular girl that I think Matt likes with the ability to defend herself better than most.

Eric said...

I think that if Matt was in love with Milla, he wouldn't have cheated on her with Dakota. I think he loved her, but I don't think he was in love with her. If he was in love with her, he would've felt guilty.

IslandLiberal said...

He did feel guilty; just not sufficiently so, as he saw it.

Andrenn said...

Aww Matt Murdock, that randy little nincompoop.

Great reviews Kirk, glad I skipped NA#45

Francesco said...

Kirk, I totally agree with you on the review of DD 111.
What a major disappointment.
Not only Brubaker showed no respect towards Milla, he practically morally ruined the character of Matt Murdock.
I feel exactly like you in the sense that I don't want to read this book anymore
(and I even have a dedicated blog, so go figure how I feel).

I don't understand the whole "oh it's okay because it's so human" thing. That's not what I expect from the character I know and love.
Brubaker turned him into a selfish teenager who thinks that suffering gives him the right to be a jerk.

Also, Christine, I'm not sure one needs to have a person making love with you to feel again "part of the human race" when you're down. I think that besides being an exaggeration it is - especially for a married person - animalesque and selfish.

IslandLiberal said...

"Brubaker turned him into a selfish teenager who thinks that suffering gives him the right to be a jerk."

The end of the issue clearly shows that he feels the opposite; he knows what he did is wrong.

Christine said...

Francesco: Hey there buddy! I think the difference in reactions to this story from the perspectives of different readers won't be about the technicalities. We all know he cheated. We all know it's wrong. Some find the fact that her condition is incurable to be an ameliorating circumstance whereas some think it makes the whole situation worse. I tend to think that the fact that his wife is actually gone (as far as he knows), i.e. no longer exists as the person she was makes his actions more "forgivable" since his marriage has effectively been destroyed by what happened to Milla.

However, each reader is ultimately going to have an emotional reaction to this event that will dictate how we judge Matt. My own was much milder than I expected, and I was relieved by that. After I found out what was going to happen in this issue, I thought to myself "Please Brubaker, don't make me hate you." In the end, I found myself being emotionally okay with this, and I even managed to enjoy this issue quite a bit. The character I love is intact in my mind, and I still see him as a fundamentally good and moral character. I can certainly understand why this isn't true for everyone though.

Francesco said...

Actually, Islandliberal, that to me wasn't worth anything.
Figures. Standard "oh my god what have I done" scene, and nothing much else.

I think Brubaker should've explored more about this "loneliness", "being disheartened and lonely" angle.
One can certainly explain the deed with that. But upon re-reading the issue, almost nothing of that angle was properly addressed.
So far this whole aspect seems just a "post-eventum" interpretation given by readers.

Christine said...

Considering he's spent several issues being lonely and grieving, I don't think readers have to invent that after the fact. It's there. Most people have even complained about his being too distraught over Milla. I think we'll see more of what's going through his head in upcoming issues.

Ampersand said...

Guys, guys, guys

Don't you worry about Matt! Surely Mephisto will come along and fix everything!

Seriously though, i liked the issue.

And about Black Panther, i feel the same way you do Kirk. I would have liked to see how and when they did the switch. Aside from that, a great issue.

It does make me wonder how it is going to be collected in paperback, because that's how i plan to buy it.

Jack Norris said...

First of all, judging a fictional character the way one would, say judge someone one knows in real life strikes me as kind of silly.

Secondly, ever since Miller, a big part of Matt's character is that he's kind of a messed up guy. This, at least, is Matt screwing up in his personal life yet again, but in a way that thankfully we haven't seen dozens of times before.

Thirdly, in storytelling terms, Milla is effectively neutralized romantic-interest-plotwise. The timing may seem accelerated, but it's serial fiction, and the rules around such things are different, like they are for soap operas. It's no different than if she were lost on an alien world or trapped in a more literal "limbo" (as opposed to the merely de facto one she's currently in). I can't agree with the Peter and MJ analogy at all. It's not in any way on the same level as, say Matt (or Peter) slipping out of bed and swinging across town for a sneakily planned out assignation.

Lastly, the whole "this is not how heroes should behave" thing... you ask me, it's about protecting people and showing bravery in doing so (at least as far as super-heroes/action heroes go). Being a paragon of traditional moral rectitude in every area of one's personal life is not a necessary component, and it's also not really inconsistent with the Matt Murdock we've come to know over the years. Having done things like turn his back on all his friends to live Daredevil-only in the sewers, and his other periodic cranky-nutbar phases, this isn't that big a deal.

Jack Norris said...

Oh, one other thing. You said:

"I honestly dislike the character of Matt Murdock"

To clarify things a bit, I stopped liking him way back in Miller's heyday, dropped the book before Miller's run was even over, and didn't come back until Bendis's "outing" storyline. So, I guess, what I'm saying is that "liking" Matt Murdock hasn't been the point of reading this book for me for quite a long time (though I enjoyed his gall in baldly denying his secret identity in the aforementioned Bendis storyline and suing the paper that made the claim*).
I've considered him a dick for ages, albeit one whose adventures can be entertaining to read about, as long as they don't get to draggy, like late Miller or his immediate successors. "Likability" hasn't been a part of the DD equation for me since the days of Gene Colan or Bob Brown.

I should thank you, by the way, because I've only just consciously realized all this about my reactions to the Daredevil character by thinking about my reaction to your post.

*Still, part of the fun of that is that he was being such a dick.

Anonymous said...

it's tigra!

Brother129 said...

I saw your comment two days ago about Murdock cheating and I stopped reading because I wanted to read the book first. Looks like I waited too long! Like others who have commented, I agree that Brubaker totally telegraphed this thing issues ago so we knew it was coming. Let's keep it real, hooking up with the closest warm, female body has been Matt Murdock's M.O. for years. So to me, it's totally in character. Based on our own personal experiences and beliefs, we don't have to like it. But as it's been said by others, Murdock is a screwed up dude, and of course relatable. He's human, capable of heroic things and idiotic things all within the same day. I don't object to decisions these ficitonal characters make as long as it fits in with the established character patterns that we've seen. For example, in the last Amazing Spider-Man, when Spidey tricks Bullseye into getting shot-it bothers me a whole lot more than Daredevil doing the nasty because the cruel act is not in Spider-Man's CHARACTER.

Bill said...

I'm willing to be patient with the Daredevil thing. If he starts up a relationship with Dakota and pretty soon Matt's just pretending like she never existed, then I call bullshit, that's not Matt Murdock at all.

But if he feels guilty as hell, and guilty about not feeling guilty about it, continues to see Dakota even though it's killing him because he cares about her and doesn't want to break her heart (and also cause she's hot), maybe going out at night to secretly look in on Milla to beat himself up some more about it... what about that isn't classic Matt Murdock?

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