Thursday, December 19, 2013

To Daredevil, From The Kingpin

I'm sorry to admit that I never read most of the Frank Miller masterpieces that he created during his run on Daredevil, where he later took a "you have to break a man down before you can build him up" approach to DD's alter ego, Matt Murdock. That's no slight to Mr. Miller--it's just that I was never into reading Daredevil, and I couldn't really tell you why. He just never rang my bell.  He was an ordinary guy who trained a lot, basically; the fact that he had a "radar sense" that compensated to an extent for his blindness didn't sway me. Artist Gene Colan did a brilliant job of making him appear larger than life, but still no sale. Snappy patter to compete with Spider-Man? Nope, still not interested.

I didn't care about his law practice. I didn't care about his law partner, Franklin "Foggy" Nelson, or why he was called "Foggy" in the first place. I didn't care about their somewhat boring secretary, Karen Page. I didn't care about DD's goofy stable of villains. And, Christmas on a cracker, I really didn't care about Mike Murdock, Matt's nonexistent brother created to take the heat off Matt's secret I.D. as Daredevil.

But. I did have a chance to read a couple of Miller's DD issues, and he did an amazing job of lighting the fire under this guy for me--finally. "Pariah!", written by Miller with art by David Mazzucchelli, is something of a Christmas Eve interlude which has just about every character in the story hitting rock bottom before the next issue begins to bring them back up--and to say that Miller has taken Daredevil's main cast of characters to an extreme in terms of their respective low points is putting it mildly. For instance, we find Karen Page in Mexico, having made "movies" and all too willing to offer herself in barter to support a hard drug habit:

Foggy, arguably the character in most need of something, anything, to make him interesting, is oddly the only person whom Miller decides to leave as is. True, his law practice has been dissolved with Matt's disbarment (more on that later), but his life otherwise seems status quo. And he's dating a great new girlfriend (Matt's old girlfriend, as it happens), doing some Christmas shopping with her, and has more lucrative job offers than he knows what to do with:

Again, I haven't read his story to completion--but given his own apprehensiveness at how his new job situation has so quickly fallen into place, I'd say at first glance that the Kingpin is doing a good deal of manipulating in that regard. But come on, this is Foggy Nelson--could we care any less? He's really more of a rock for his partnership with Murdock, and Miller seems content to leave him that way.

Meanwhile, Ben Urich, an investigative reporter for the "Daily Bugle," is digging into the Kingpin's role in Murdock's career crash (I'm getting to that, be patient), and the trail has led to a dirty cop whose son is in critical condition at the hospital:

And what of Matt Murdock? The Kingpin has done a number on him, but good. Bringing charges of criminal misconduct which lead to Murdock's disbarment, arranging for the destruction of his home, as well as taking advantage of Karen's third-party disclosure of Matt's identity as Daredevil. All of that led to Matt confronting the Kingpin on a physical level, which resulted in him being brutally beaten and getting a broken rib for his trouble.

Yet the Kingpin planted a seed that might lead to his own undoing, when he took it a step further and had Murdock's death faked in the river, a fate which Murdock escaped from. The Kingpin--a man who is proficient at looking down the road--may have brought Murdock as low as the man could possibly be brought, but he realizes that he may have nevertheless made a grave error:

Mainly, though, this story highlights Murdock's dismal situation--and, homeless and destitute, he finds that rock bottom is one of the most tenacious foes he's ever faced:

On a more hopeful note, Ben Urich's interview with Nick Manolis, the dirty cop bought and paid for by the Kingpin who subsequently secured medical care for Manolis's son in exchange for the perjured testimony leading to Murdock's disbarment, pays off in a tragic way when the son suddenly dies, and Manolis has no reason to protect the Kingpin any longer. But Urich finds that the Kingpin's reach is wide, indeed:

"Pariah!" ends with Murdock, his injuries from the Kingpin now worsened by the car collision and the faux Santa's knife strike, somehow wandering back to Hell's Kitchen, only to see his childhood home demolished by time. And so he pays a visit to another place which holds memories for him, where he finally reaches the end of his rope:

Our friendly nun here certainly makes a providential arrival, and she plays a part in the next issue's story, "Born Again," where Miller begins to slowly bring these people back to life. It's the time of year which elicits hope, of course--even for Ben Urich, who unfortunately hasn't heard the last of "Nurse Ratched" and her tender methods of persuasion. At any rate, while Foggy may have gotten the only Christmas presents in this issue, "Pariah!" has me interested in possibly doing a little shopping myself, picking up the entire 8-issue storyline from Amazon. Though it wouldn't surprise me if the Kingpin had his hands in Amazon, too.


Kid said...

I bought this series when it first came out in individual issues and again when it was released in a softcover edition. In fact, I bought several, some to give away to friends who I thought might enjoy it. It's one of those books which I can't pick up to look at without reading the whole thing over again. I think it's a fairly safe bet that you'll enjoy it too. Merry Christmas when it comes, CF.

Comicsfan said...

Thanks, Kid, and a merry Christmas to you, as well. :) :)