Last week’s ASM story wraps up in this fast-paced DD issue. All the flaws of ASM 677 are present and accounted for; I’m a little inclined to excuse them more since this is actually Daredevil’s book, but it doesn’t make Waid’s writing any less insulting to my favorite character. Unfortunately most of the things I liked about part 1 are diminished, leaving me disappointed and slightly annoyed that I was roped into buying an issue I otherwise wouldn’t have.
Daredevil #8: The Devil and the Details Part 2
Words by Mark Waid
Pencils by Kano
Colors by Javier Rodriguez
Letters by Joe Caramagna
The Devil and the Details has given me a new idea for rating Spider-Man stories. Imagine that you know somebody who’s completely ignorant of all things Spider-Man, who’s never even seen the movies or TV shows and possibly thinks he is on a team with Batman. Now imagine letting them read this story. At the end, what would be their impression of the character? What would they think are the themes that define him and his world?
A lot of recent Spidey stories have suffered because they’d give that person the impression that he’s a “loser” — a guy who lacks basic social and life skills, but is essentially good-hearted. That’s annoying in itself. But this story makes it worse, because the impression a reader would be left with is that Spider-Man is a joke character whose sole purpose is to provide comic relief while his competent friends solve mysteries and defeat bad guys.
To illustrate just how egregious this crime is, I’m going to make some lists. Here’s a list of everything Daredevil does in this issue:
- Saves Spider-Man from getting electrocuted.
- Discovers the hidden room Wasserschmidt’s in.
- Figures out the guy’s been poisoned.
- Figures out who was really behind stealing the hologram device.
- Beats up a ton of bad guys effortlessly.
- Infiltrates the bad guy lair, beats up more bad guys, gets the device back.
- Hooks up with the Black Cat.
Wow. That’s a pretty impressive resume — hell, I’d certainly let him be my lawyer. Here’s what Spidey does in this issue:
- Tears open the secret door that Daredevil finds, because Daredevil told him to.
- Carries a guy to a hospital, because Daredevil told him to (and don’t take 6th.)
- That’s it — aside from getting rendered helpless and electrocuted, getting made fun of right in front of him by his friends, and watching Daredevil make out with Felicia like a freakin’ weirdo.
So I ask, in all sincerity, why Spider-Man was actually in here, because it certainly didn’t do him, the readers, or the story any good at all. His role here has been reduced to an incompetent, comic-relief sidekick, and he hasn’t even been given the mercy of being allowed to do anything that’s actually entertaining — he’s just the butt of a bunch of jokes that I didn’t even find funny in the first place. Like this gem:
- Spider-Man: You can let go of her now, DD.
- Daredevil: I already did. She’s holding me.
- Black Cat: Are you complaining?
- Daredevil: Who am I, Spider-Man?
I guess this is supposed to be a “Spider-Man complains a lot” joke, since it would make any less sense if DD was trying to question his interest in girls. But I don’t even get it as it stands. Peter’s had his times of trouble and he hasn’t always been thrilled about his lot in life, but a crack like this suggests he’s defined by constantly complaining to other people, which has never been a part of his character even when, as a teenager, he actually was the socially inept nerd that Waid seems so eager to write him as.
The bottom line is that his is not what Spidey and DD’s relationship is supposed to be. They’ve had their differences, yes, so I wouldn’t object to seeing some friction between them. But there’s also supposed to be a trust and understanding that’s developed between them. I guess the secret identity thing is up in the air right now — does Matt Murdock remember he’s Peter Parker since the “psychic blind spot” is down? — but that shouldn’t change the events of that story and the respect that the two formed for each other.
Oh, because I’m so dependent?
I was totally smitten with Emma Rios’s art in ASM 677. So, it’s only natural that I’m going to complain about the lack of it here, but it’s not just because I liked it so much. I also hate it when multi-part stories use different artists. Yeah, I know that this is between two separate books, but the writer is the same so there’s no reason on earth the artist couldn’t have been. Okay, maybe Rios only agreed to do one issue or something, and I suppose I should grant the benefit of the doubt, but that doesn’t change the fact that it breaks the immersion in the story for me when I feel like I’m entering a completely different world.
However, I have to also take some time to point out what a dip in quality I think this is. I realize that Rios’s style is not for everyone. Kano’s definitely not a bad artist, and readers who don’t dig Rios’s style may prefer him. But humor me for a minute here and consider these scenes next to each other. First, to the right. The top is Rios’s from ASM 667, and the bottom is Kano’s from DD 8. Look at the level of detail in the Rios panel and compare it to the one below. Note the masterfully crafted perspective, which gives us a very solid understanding of exactly where in space Spider-Man and Daredevil are relative to each other. Now look at where Daredevil is in Kano’s panel — from his pose it looks like he’s supposed to be doing a flip, but from his position it looks like he’s somersaulting. I don’t know precisely where I’m supposed to feel he is in space. There is no texture to the rooftop they’re on, emphasizing that I’m looking at a drawing and reducing my immersion in the scene.
Now I have to compare another two panels. I think these clearly demonstrate the huge gap in technical skill as well, but they also demonstrate another point I want to emphasize from my last review, which is Rios’s take on Black Cat vs. the common one. To the left we have Rios again on top and a Kano panel below. No one could ever accuse Rios of trying to desexualize Felicia. She’s clearly got her shirt open farther than it needs to be. But the presentation of it is stylish and subtle. It says, “this is a voluptuous, confident woman.” It doesn’t say, “Look — BOOBS!” Kano’s Felicia has ridiculously impractical levels of cleavage that imply the character is going to unreasonable lengths to send the message, “Look — BOOBS!” It deemphasizes every other aspect of her character in favor of sex. And I’m not trying to call Kano out specifically on this, because most of the artists who’ve drawn her have done the same thing. I just really want to try to drive home my point that there is a way to go about this that will make girls more comfortable with comic art and simultaneously improve the artistic quality and immersion of the stories we’re reading.
I think this is my super villain origin.
So now that I’ve spent a full review’s worth of words on the portrayal of Spider-Man and the dip in the art, how did the story itself shape up? It was underwhelming, and that’s why I’ve felt I’ve had so little to say about it. Most of this issue’s content was taken up on showing what a badass Daredevil is. And that’s fine, after all, in his own book. If anything my disappointment as a Spider-Man fan is just an argument against the strategy of crossing storylines over between books, because even with the same writer it ends up feeling disjointed. Having come from ASM, I feel as though I should be reading part two of a Spider-Man story, when obviously this is going to be a Daredevil story that didn’t exactly have a part one.
I was definitely interested in the solution that began to take shape. It turns out the trick used to frame Black Cat was clever and didn’t feel contrived, but unfortunately everything surrounding it did. For example, why did Black Spectre frame Spider-Man too by using a spider tracer? They could have planted anything on Felicia to lead the police to her, and “framing” Spidey for this was a completely useless gesture since the only person who even saw it was Felicia, and what did they have to accomplish by making her turn against Spider-Man? Spidey’s notion that it was so she wouldn’t come to him for help doesn’t make an ounce of sense. They wanted her locked up and the fact that she escaped was a kink in their plan, so assuming it worked in the first place, how was she going to come to him for help? The real answer: it was done so that Waid could write a scene where Black Cat makes Spider-Man look stupid by rendering him helpless and electrocuting him, and Daredevil could get him out.
How about this one: why was Wasserschmidt poisoned and left behind a secret bookcase door? Were they going to come back and clean up his decaying corpse later? Daredevil asks, “why wouldn’t they just kill him?” and it’s supposed to be part of his thought process for realizing the guy is poisoned — but why didn’t they just kill him instead of poisoning him and leaving him in a secret room? At least in James Bond movies the villains leave him unattended to die in creative ways.
And when it all wraps up, we find out it was basically nothing more than buildup to Waid’s next Daredevil story. The implication is that there’s a lot more to come involving Black Spectre and this super secret hologram device, and we’re given a cliffhanger ending that was set up at the beginning but seems to be unrelated to the actual story we read. I don’t even know if all these things are going to tie together, or if Marvel is actually trying to convince me to start picking up Daredevil with two separate unresolved plot lines. Either way, I’m disappointed that so much nonsense wound up involved in the conclusion to what I first thought was an intriguing mystery.
Mark Waid is a good writer, and I’ve actually been hearing glowing things about what he’s been doing with Daredevil so far, so I was actually okay with it when I found out an ASM story would conclude in that book. My guess is that this is not really a good representation of the rest of his DD work, but it absolutely has not gotten me interested in reading any more. But whatever the case, I’d prefer to let him stay there and never touch Spider-Man again. I may have very mixed feelings about Dan Slott, but even when he’s portraying Peter as a loser socially, at the very least he still portrays Spider-Man as an extremely competent, intelligent, and experienced super hero.
I’ve changed my mind about something. I don’t want them to keep putting “the world’s greatest super hero” above the ASM title anymore. Not until they actually start writing about him again.
- Well, I did think it was clever that the device in question wound up being the key to framing people for its own theft.
- Spider-Man is a stupid, useless nincompoop.
- The art switch was jarring as well as a downgrade in quality, and it canceled out one of part 1’s strengths, which was the great portrayal of Felicia.
- Too many contrived plot elements that wound up making no sense.