Characters Appearing: Black Widow, Daredevil
Issue(s): Daredevil #208
This is a creepy revenge story, and it's pretty good. The mother of Death-Stalker lures Daredevil into a death-trap of a house in order to get him back for Death-Stalker's death.
The lure is a robot-bomb designed to look like a little girl.
There's a bit of a blooper: Daredevil "sees" the oil painting of Death-Stalker's mom. It's acknowledged in the lettercol for #213 that it was a mistake. The No-Prize explanation is that it was just Daredevil imagining what it would look like, which is of course ridiculous.
Despite the fact that the issue is written by a "celebrity" writer, it's a sparse plot, and mainly serves as a vehicle for Mazzucchelli's art as Daredevil makes his way through the various death-traps.
The art looks closer to what i think of as Mazzucchelli art than his previous issue.
While Daredevil is making his way through the death-traps in the house, he tries guessing which villain is responsible. He considers the Jester and Arcade. I don't think Daredevil has ever met Arcade, but that doesn't mean he couldn't have heard about him (from Spider-Man, maybe).
Obviously Daredevil eventually escapes the house, and makes his way to the Black Widow's place to recuperate.
As the article above states, the issue ends with a "stinger" that will allow Cover to write a follow-up next issue.
It was a fun enough story, but i'd rather have Denny O'Neil.
Quality Rating: C+
Chronological Placement Considerations: N/A
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Back then, this story was considered by some critics to be lifted from the 1966 TV Avengers episode "The House That Jack Built".
Posted by: Mark Drummond | November 24, 2011 12:35 AM
The house full of deathtraps is a pretty old trope by this point. If anything, the one scene of the endless mansion from the outside makes me think of the Winchester Mystery House, which would inspire a much better story the following year, "Ghost Dance" by Alan Moore in Swamp Thing 45, and a mediocre film earlier this year.
What sticks out more than anything in retrospect, to me, is the endless thought balloons. Like laugh tracks in sitcoms, the thought bubble narrative seemed perfectly fine at the time, even necessary, but it's just painful for the modern reader. It's a little odd that Ellison would use them, while working on a book that Frank Miller had used to largely replace the thought ballon with the running first-person narrative box, and in a story for which it would have fit perfectly.
Posted by: Andrew | July 2, 2018 7:20 AM
Andrew, maybe it's a generational thing, but I don't see anything wrong with thought balloons. The whole "thought balloons are bad" school of thought seems to spring from a desire to be sophisticated. Now, there are bad ways to use thought balloons but there are bad ways to use dialogue as well. And no, it's not odd Ellison used thought balloons- at the time this story came out the majority of writers- including Chris Claremont and Roger Stern- used thought balloons. And Denny O'Neil- the regular writer of Daredevil at the time- used thought balloons- check out fnord's scans of his issues.
Posted by: Michael | July 2, 2018 7:57 AM
Thought bubbles are a technique, just like first-person narration captions; they can be used poorly or well. I've seen stories that absolutely needed first-person narration captions -- Miller's Daredevil #181 springs to mind -- and stories where the need to show lots of characters' interior monologues would make thought bubbles a stronger choice to avoid the clutter of multicolored narrative captions. Essentially, captions are for stories that use first-person narration; though t bubbles are closer to third-person omniscient narration.
Here, I think the balloons are doing two things: first, they're there to show fragmented, stream-of-consciousness thoughts. The irregular shape of the bubbles calls attention to their size and position on the page in ways that the comparative visual regularity of caption boxes would not.
Second, thought bubbles, by definition, open up the sense that any character can have their thoughts on the page. So when a character does not get their thoughts "bubbled," that can mean something. And this story has little girl-shaped robot drone-bombs....none of which have thought bubbles. And this, of course, hints indirectly at their true nature.
The move to captions also works for comics trying to be cinematic; thought bubbles work better for comics that play up the "literary" or "written" aspect of comics scripting. Any writing or comics tool has many subtle, particular uses in the right hands.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | July 2, 2018 11:54 AM
I agree with Michael. Great works by Moore & Miller that didn't use thought bubbles unfortunately seemed to make the rest of the industry embarrassed by the idea of thought bubbles. But there's nothing wrong with thought bubbles or narration boxes, they are simply ways of portraying what a character is thinking. Sure, some people will think it more sophisticated not to show exactly what the character is thinking & instead rely on some decompressed artwork to show over several panels what the character is thinking (hoping that we actually have a good artist that can pull that off), but in most (non-graphic) novels you will have at some point or another a description of what the character is thinking, & no-one gets embarrassed about that as being unsophisticated. As Omar says, modern comics are trying to be films, not novels. Thought bubbles or narrative boxes are just conventions of the genre, not really too much more ridiculous than speech bubbles.
I do think there is a particular problem with Ellison's use of the thought bubble here though, because Daredevil is alone most of the issue, the thought bubbles are being required to do a lot of exposition, and the thoughts are unnatural: For example, Miller might just have had DD thinking "no heartbeat" & believed the audience would understand, rather than "for the first time I'm close enough to hear her heartbeat", which is explaining a story point. Similarly, we are told a shark is without water, and then also told it is dying.
Posted by: Jonathan, son of Kevin | July 2, 2018 4:01 PM
So I think as Ellison was not used to writing for comics, he was doing some telling-not-showing, and the work seems halfway between a "mature" Miller-style Daredevil comic & a 60s comic where too much is explained to the reader. It's not as if Ellison is the only comics writer of this period who sometimes has too much exposition in the thoughts or dialogue, but there's something particular about his style in this comic that doesn't work in the way a professional comics writer would have done it. And it does suggest narrative boxes would have been better than thought bubbles, simply because they would have described the clunkiness of the thoughts better.
Having him narrate the story to Black Widow as a flashback might also have been a better choice than having the story explained almost solely by thought bubbles.
Posted by: Jonathan, son of Kevin | July 2, 2018 4:08 PM
"described the clunkiness of the thoughts better"
Oops, I meant "disguised the clunkiness of the thoughts better".
...It's too hot today...
Posted by: Jonathan, son of Kevin | July 2, 2018 4:15 PM
The real issue is how to handle necessary exposition in the least obtrusive manner. Like anything, it requires a certain level of craft to determine if it is best done by the art alone, requires caption boxes, or thought balloons or dialogue. Of course, unnecessary exposition needs to be edited out.
Thought balloons and caption boxes are tools, nothing more or less. They can be used well or used poorly. But they are no more wrong than a hammer is wrong, even if the job you need at this time is actually a screwdriver.
Posted by: Chris | July 2, 2018 8:56 PM
Comments are now closed.
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