Issue(s): Daredevil #283
The rest of the issue is a sort-of crossover with Captain America's Streets of Poison storyline. In that story, Cap is under the effect of a drug produced by the Red Skull, and is acting oddly. Cap is definitely acting oddly in this story, too, but in an entirely different way. And if you weren't following what was going on in Captain America and missed the blurb in the lettercol for this issue (which only says to check the Cap issues to find out "what the heck is wrong with Cap", then you might just think that Nocenti is just writing Cap poorly and inserting her own politics into the character.
It's not a contradiction, but Captain America is actually on a drug war of his own at this time.
This story, which takes place in a town in upstate New York that Cap has gone to while following a "lead" that goes "nowhere", is really about a guy, Victor Cieszkowska, who has invented a sustainable flying car.
Cap notices Daredevil while Cieszkowska is testing out his car.
Cieszkowska is a weird character, who engages in "lucid dreaming" to come up with his engineering ideas and that means he doesn't have any blueprints for the car, which is key to the story.
Nocenti's politics come through in this story even without Cap. After inventing a car that threatens the auto and oil industries, he's suddenly under incredible scrutiny from the government.
Daredevil and Captain America meet up outside Cieszkowska's house...
...and prevent the FBI agent from planting drugs and arresting Cieszkowska.
But then there's a news report calling Cieszkowska mentally ill and saying that his flying car is a hoax. And then hired goons show up to destroy the car. Our two heroes (both of whom are not in top shape, Cap due to the drugs and Daredevil due to a recent trip to Hell) fail to protect the car.
In the end (and actually, the issue starts with a flash-forward of this scene) it seems like Cieszkowska is going to kill himself, but it turns out that he's really invented a flying jetpack.
I'm probably very aligned with Nocenti politically. And to me, it's amazing how prescient some of this stuff is, like the top two panels in the first scan below.
But i find her insertion of politics here to be obtrusive. In part because a lot of it comes from Captain America. I think he should be an FDR liberal (but stronger on Civil Rights) but one that understands the power of the symbol he is and normally keeps his politics to himself. You can argue that this story is a case where the drugs are removing that inhibition, or it's a story where the drugs are just causing him to say things he doesn't believe. But it's still so different than how Captain America normally talks that it's jarring.
And in any event, this story goes beyond Cap's views on race and economics and gets into a paranoid view of an auto-oil-military industrial complex that conspires to stop people from developing alternate fuel cars. And this story "proves" that is true in a very overt way, with various branches of government and the media literally coordinating to destroy the guy. I could see that sort of thing as a metaphorical shortcut if this were an alternate dimension or just a non-Marvel universe story, but in the "world outside your window" Marvel universe when you do something like this it feels like you're saying it could happen in real life. And that's crazy conspiracy theory territory.
And i'm definitely not sure where Daredevil is going with this Native American stuff.
I should also note that last issue marked the end of John Romita Jr.'s run on the book. His art was a big draw, and it elevated Nocenti's stories, with his abstract art matching her surreal writing style. Of course that also led to lots of stuff with Mephisto. Mark Bagley's art is ok here but it's just a one-off and it's not his best stuff even for the time period. Lee Weeks will become the regular artist next issue.
Quality Rating: C-
Chronological Placement Considerations: This story takes place during Captain America #374. Next issue doesn't take place until after Captain America #377. The setting here is a town in upstate New York. Daredevil is back in New York for Captain America #374, and he's also in New York in Daredevil annual #6.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (1): showAhura, Captain America, Daredevil, Gorgon, Karnak, Number Nine
I tend to lean Nocenti's way, politically, and heavily so, but this particular one is done so heavy-handed and lacking in subtlety.
She's pulled off the social messaging much better elsewhere.
Posted by: Bob | June 19, 2015 7:21 PM
I've never read this diversion from the "streets of Poison". I like the debate up there. We can use the drugs angle to get Cap to say some stuff he wouldn't normally, but probably thinks. I'm a sucker for any storyline that shows corporations as the ruling class. However, DD's American Indian comments almost feel like a non-sequitur.
Posted by: kveto | June 20, 2015 2:55 AM
Roger Stern always held that Cap had to be a New Deal liberal, given the givens and how well he adjusted to the 60s, for all his angst. I believe Gruenwald was also always writing from that subtext, though at considerable pains to keep Cap universal, for everyone, and still appeal to conservatives. (It's an unfortunate move for the character as an individual, but right for Captain America, leaving commercial concerns aside.)
Nocenti has much in common with Scott Lobdell as a writer, having mostly serviceable and sometimes even very good character and story ideas, capable of multiple good moments in any given issue, but pretty reliable about not making it really work on the whole. But what I see here doesn't strike me as jarring, aside from the inconsistency with his behavior in his own book - special circumstances loosening his tongue, bringing out that New Deal labor liberal he normally hides to be Cap for everyone...
Posted by: BU | June 20, 2015 12:08 PM
But Steve isn't just a "typical" New Deal liberal. For example, Steve has been portrayed as opposing attempts to censor extreme right-wing groups as well as extreme left-wing groups. That's basically the position that liberals took postwar but although there were committed civil libertarians in the '30s and early '40s, both left and right-wingers generally took a "that depends on who's ox is being gored" approach to civil liberties.
Posted by: Michael | June 20, 2015 2:32 PM
I've said before I don't like Nocenti. Her Typhoid Mary story was good because the Mary character was dark and played well with her cynical writing style. Usually when I read her I'm wondering, does she have editors? It's hard to imagine big Marvel being okay with her over-the-top politics being in her storylines. Everyone seemed to be normal superheroes with a generic nonpolitical leanings to super hardcore liberals after she started writing.
Posted by: Ryan | June 21, 2015 11:09 AM
Yes; I was being diplomatic about Nocenti, whom I think sux at volume-to-11.
@ Michael: I think you have it. Of course, Cap's just better than everyone else, and naturally finds a wiser balance than most. (Not sarcasm.)
(Pity Byrne didn't have time to do the "Cap's a fascist" stories he hinted at wanting to do with USAgent on WCA...)
Posted by: BU | June 21, 2015 1:30 PM
Americans for Democratic Action.
Posted by: Michael | June 21, 2015 1:33 PM
I agree with Fnord's points on this story, though as a Nocenti fan, I am more favourable to it. It lacks subtlety, but I enjoy it enough as a one-off story. The FBI trying to plant drugs on Cieszkowska does seem to be a conspiracy theory too far, but in the real world we did have things like Big Oil creating "grassroots" lobby groups against electric cars round about this time, so I just see this as a metaphorical version where that kind of thing is taken a bit further to give the heroes something to fight.
As well as Cap & DD's "rage gap" discussion seeming relevant today (though I'm sure it was also true at the time), you could say Cieszkowska is a "dreamer" immigrant who is seen as not welcome by the powers-that-be, who try to smear him despite his patriotism... admittedly he apparently has a green card, but perhaps if this agitprop were written today, he wouldn't? Well, it's a vaguely workable interpretation of the story :-)
From my reading of Cap, he generally says he represents the American Dream, not necessarily its reality, so Cap here being concerned about whether corporations were treated as more important than the people, or what involvement the US should have in other countries, all seem legitimate questions that Cap might think about, even though it is out of character for him to say it, & that it is best if Cap is not too partisan, but here it's ok due to the Cap's-on-drugs get-out clause. Though I'm non-American, so maybe US readers view it differently.
Posted by: Jonathan, son of Kevin | June 11, 2018 8:00 AM
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