Characters Appearing: Black Widow, Daredevil, Nick Fury
Daredevil/Black Widow: Abattoir
Issue(s): Daredevil/Black Widow: Abattoir
I think of Jim Starlin as a cosmic guy (or, actually, the cosmic guy), so it always surprises me at first when i see that he's written a crime or spy story. But those more familiar with DC probably think of him equally as the guy who wrote Death in the Family, and even at Marvel he co-developed Master of Kung Fu which was informed by his enthusiasm for martial arts. So there really ought to not be any surprise that he's writing a Daredevil/Black Widow graphic novel.
That said, the immediate identifying trait of this graphic novel is Joe Chiodo's art. Which is innovative, and i can see why some people would like it, and it certainly merits the graphic novel format. But to my eyes it's very stiff and, especially, plastic looking.
And that's before you get to the fact that, aided by the plot, the art is almost entirely about depicting a Black Widow chained to a wall and writhing to get free...
...while the sexy psycho villainess bites her sexy lips and cups her sexy breasts.
It even ends with a lesbian kiss.
The focus here is more on the Black Widow than Daredevil (despite him being the headliner) but i wouldn't recommend this to any female readers interested in getting more Black Widow stories after seeing the Marvel Studio movies.
Storywise, the Black Widow investigates the murder of a friend (who used to work at the US Embassy back when she was a Soviet agent, and helped her escape to the US, although that turns out to not be relevant to the story) who in turn was investigating the murders of SHIELD ESPer agents. Widow signs back up with SHIELD to get access to the files on the investigation, and she brings in Daredevil to help (although Nick Fury doesn't require him to join SHIELD).
And it turns out that the SHIELD ESPers are just the tip of the iceberg; the killer has been targeting all people with latent psychic powers. Her vendetta didn't seem to cause her to cross paths with any of the X-Men, and when Nick Fury decides they need a telepath to use as bait for the killer, they use a retired ESPer (who gets killed) instead of reaching out to the X-Men. Which i'm not necessarily criticizing; just wanted to note that there are no references to established Marvel psychics.
The death of all these SHIELD ESPers is useful for housecleaning purposes, although i'm sure that wasn't the intent of Starlin or the editors involved here. SHIELD's ESPer unit always interested me. Were they mutants, or was having "low level" psychic powers considered something different than the mental powers of Professor X? It's worth noting that Mentallo got his start as a SHIELD ESPer, and Psylocke came from STRIKE, the UK equivalent. So potentially there were other ESPers that could have become full blown heroes or villains. But even if that were the case, the majority seem to be killed off here (the original Strange Tales stories typically showed just 3 people; we're told that 10 SHIELD ESPers are killed in this story - 11 after the retired guy - and a total of 50 latent telepaths).
Anyway, the villain of the piece is Rose, and she's working with a non-powered "run-of-the-bill" but big psycho killer.
Rose herself is a telepath, and her motive is that she wants to kill all the other telepaths so that she'll remain "special". She's also a psychic vampire that feeds on the pain of others. And we learn that her evil ways are the result of a sexually abusive father...
...who she eventually caused to commit suicide when her powers developed.
Black Widow gets captured during the initial attempt to catch the killer, and the rest of the issue is the Widow chained to the wall while we delve into Rose's background...
...and watch Daredevil driving a taxi in the snow trying to get to her (SHIELD is unable to help due to a combination of bad luck and bureaucracy).
When Daredevil finally arrives, he gets captured too...
...so at least the Black Widow doesn't have to be rescued. She escapes while Rose and her pet psycho are fighting DD, and it's a combination of Daredevil and the Widow that defeat the bad guys, with the Widow delivering a killing blow for each.
Rose dies while in a mental link with the Widow and the idea that she's now a part of the the Widow is raised.
So i guess if someone wanted to bring her back as a purely psychic entity after a Dark Black Widow storyline, it could be done (but let's not).
This isn't terrible. The scripting is pretty good. And Chiodo definitely has chops - it's cool to see him use an entirely different style in Rose's flashback scenes. But we've gotten to the point where revealing that the bad guy had some deep psychological trauma is really cliche and not particularly enlightening any more (and i'm writing this while working on 1987 in my project; this was published in 1993). And even getting past the exploitative aspects, the art - while it is nice looking and would make for great pin-ups - is too static to make for compelling storytelling.
Quality Rating: C+
Chronological Placement Considerations: This is mostly from Black Widow's perspective and there's little context for Daredevil's side, so it seems like it could fit anywhere for him. The MCP place this between Daredevil #241-242, and i'm following that. The one thing about that is Black Widow kind of says goodbye to Daredevil in #239, so seeing her again so soon is a little weird, but that could just be the way events fell (and part of my problem with that is the meta-knowledge that the Widow's re-introduction to Daredevil's book in Daredevil #236 was originally meant to be her recruiting him to the west coast and the Avengers). I should also note that there's a SHIELD helicarrier in this issue...
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
One question that bears on placement- is SHIELD described as Supreme Headquarters International, etc. or Strategic Hazard,etc.?
Posted by: Michael | April 5, 2014 8:21 PM
Amazingly, no footnote with the full name.
Posted by: fnord12 | April 6, 2014 12:08 AM
The "Strategic Hazard" acronym would not be used until SHIELD was rebooted after the NF Vs SHIELD miniseries.
I always assumed SHIELD's Espers were not mutants. Mutant telepaths always seemed to be considerably stronger. There were a lot of them which didn't fit what early Marvel had establish with mutants. Lastly, the idea of Espers and abilities like remote viewing fit into the super spy mythology of the era. Both the Soviet and US government experimented with testing if psychic abilities worked and could be used for intelligence purposes, and I assume that is what lay behind the inspiration for SHIELD's Esper division. I don't know if that idea was kept as the Marvel Universe progressed.
Posted by: Chris | April 6, 2014 1:26 AM
I've been wondering when Mentallo was first classified as a mutant. I don't get the sense that most ESPers are mutants, but I couldn't rule it out. There are "normal" humans, like Moondragon who develop mental powers with the right training. There are also Marvel psychic characters whose mental powers seem magical, but rather different from Dr. Strange's kind if magic. The lines can be blurry: in the Captain Britain stories where Osylocke first develops powers, she seems more like a human psychic.
The problem is parallel to all the physically more-than-human humans like the Kingpin.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | April 6, 2014 1:36 AM
Regarding the SHIELD acronym, this story was published in 1993 after the SHIELD mini that changes their name. But the MCP placed this back in 1987 even though it seems pretty context free. So the acronym might have shown that was a mistake.
Posted by: fnord12 | April 6, 2014 10:10 AM
And the weird thing is, we see the ESPers again in the Nick Fury vs. SHIELD series and Nick convinces one to come out of retirement and join the new SHIELD in the 1989 SHIELD series. Admittedly, it's possible Rose didn't kill them all but still, I'm wondering why it was placed so early.
Posted by: Michael | April 6, 2014 11:44 AM
OK, I found the discussion of this GN in the MCP archives. It's in archive 81, Thread 46.The continuity notes are as follows:
Daredevil's file mentions Matt Murdock is a "disbarred attorney".
Nick mentions that in their "last meeting", Natasha made it clear she didn't work for SHIELD any longer.
Matt is living in a weird place with pictures all over the wall of faces"
I'm not sure why it was pushed this far back. Part of the problem might have to do with the fact that Matt leaves New York in DD 267, doesn't return until Streets of Poison, gets the crap beaten out of him by Crossbones, loses his memory and doesn't get it back until DD 290, published March 1991. Natasha rejoins the Avengers again in Avengers 329, February 1991. So if Matt is living in New York in this story, it either takes place before DD 267, (and therefore before Nick Fury vs. SHIELD) or between DD 290 and Avengers 329. Someone must have decided that DD 290 takes place after Avengers 329 for some reason.
Posted by: Michael | April 6, 2014 4:14 PM
Thanks for the research, Michael. I did try to see if there were any deliberations on this at the MCP but i always have bad luck searching the archives. The fact that the SHIELD file in the beginning says that Matt is disbarred is a good point. Anyway, i'll keep this here to stay in sync with the MCP since it fits fine.
Posted by: fnord12 | April 6, 2014 5:26 PM
Stories like this are the crap of vilest sort. So, you (the writer/artist) want your female lead in a lesbian BDSM scene. But instead of having the SPINE to make her experiment, or heavens forbid, actually bisexual, you choose to make the villain force it on her, making it a rape scene too (and yes, even though a kiss would be only along sexual assault/harassment lines, the implications are quite heavy). And not content in making your lesbian dominatrix an evil rapist, you write a backstory where you clearly spell out that it is childhood sexual abuse that turned her that way. Because clearly a woman would not be bi/lesbian, or enjoy kinky sex, if she hadn't been raped by her father. And of course incestuous rape turns the victims evil. And lesbians and kinky people are teh most evillest of them all!
And this shit is EVERYWHERE. It's cliche, tired, overused, unrealistic, clunky, clumsy and harmful as hell. Part of the "dark and edgy" wankery where artists are too spineless to take any actual risks in the narration.
Replace Rose with Selene, and I might be interested. This "create sexy evil girl, do lesbian scene, kill her off to avoid suspicions that heroine might actually grow as character" is lazy and lame. Like one-shot killed-off villains usually are.
Posted by: Catherine | May 15, 2017 2:59 AM
Stumbled upon this while trying to find out more about SHIELD's ESP division. Despite the less than glowing review, I would be interested in reading it, as I am a huge fan of DD and Starlin, and didn't know that this existed.
Catherine, hopefully we've seen the last of this kind of "evil lesbian" in pop culture. I think both the strides made by the LGBTQ community over the last decades, as well as the hopeful end to kink-shaming has retired this type of character to the ashbin of early 90s cliches.
Posted by: Dr Zarnak | December 19, 2017 11:02 AM
Starlin did The Cult, with Daredevil tied up for pages and pages while a villain gets into his head, and now I discover this book, which seems to have BW chained up for pages and pages while a villain gets into her head. He seems to have been going through a phase.
Posted by: The Small Lebowski | December 19, 2017 4:34 PM
Oops - I of course meant Batman in The Cult, not Daredevil.
Posted by: The Small Lebowski | December 20, 2017 2:30 AM
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