Daredevil Deadpool ’97 Annual

 


Writer: Joe Kelly

Artist: Bernard Chang (Pencils) Jon Holdredge (Inks)

Publisher:  Marvel Comics (September 1997)

 

Sometimes it doesn’t pay to dig up the past.

Sometimes you should just let a sleeping dog lie.

But because Daredevil season 3 is about to hit Netflix, because Typhoid Mary is enjoying her spotlight on Iron Fist’s second season, because there’s an inexplicably undying love for all things Deadpool: because of all these reasons I decided to dig up the past and wake up the sleeping dog that was this single issue.

The basic story has Deadpool develop twisted empathy for Typhoid Mary and track her to New York. She’s there to hunt Daredevil, the man she believes responsible for all her woes. Deadpool hopes to encounter Daredevil first so they can have the classic comic book team up and get Mary the help she needs. Daredevil is skeptical but sides with the less psychotic (no really) Deadpool. The conclusion sees all three use a battle (because this is still 90s comic book storytelling) to work through their issues and tie the story up in a neat little bow. It leaves nothing for the next writer to build upon and no reason for the reader to continue following these characters other than for completions sake (because, again, this is still 90s comic book storytelling).

I was into Kelly’s Deadpool at the time, I was a pre-teen smart ass that liked reading characters who were also smart asses. The art on the regular Deadpool book was cool and innovative for 1997, and the art here by Bernard Chang was clean, fluid, well-constructed and didn’t fall too deep into exaggerated physiques that were all the rage back then. His expression work was good too. But he seemed to favor Deadpool over Daredevil and the story suffers as a result.

Joe Kelly had worked on both eponymous characters. In the case of Deadpool, his work was what rescued the character from being a Spiderman-with-guns-clone from the with-guns-clone-factory that creator Rob Liefeld was operating with impunity.

Kelly’s writing, on reflection, wasn’t yet what it would become by the mid-2000’s. His strength was comedy and super-heroics, not so much theme and character. He wasn’t right for Daredevil. The characterization is way off. Daredevil feels like a bit player in a book whose title bears his name. He should be a cocktail of Atticus Finch, Rocky Marciano, and Robert Redford. Instead, he comes off here as a cardboard stand-in with no volume.

The psychological aspects of the story are left undeveloped. There are at least two characters with which to explore themes of mental illness, adolescent troubles, and identity construction. These are missed opportunities that would have given the story more depth and substance.

A shame, because Frank Miller’s Daredevil had balanced all of this with great action. Although expecting substance and depth from most titles was a big ask at the time, there were still creators who were pulling it off on elsewhere.

In the conclusion to the story, we’re led to believe that, for the characters, digging up the bones of the past can help mend things, bringing them some absolution.

If only that were the case with revisiting the issue itself.

Daredevil Season 2

In this season Matt, Foggy, and Karen cross paths with Hell’s Kitchen’s newest vigilante, the Punisher. Daredevil is ripped apart at the seams by his double life. An important figure from Matt’s past, Elektra battles against the mysterious ninja cult called The Hand, and Hell’s Kitchen become divided over what a hero is and what kind of hero it needs.

Season two draws its influence from a rich comic book history, taking aspects of ‘The Man without Fear’ series and ‘The Devil in Cell Block D’ storyline, as well as Garth Ennis’ Punisher tale “Kitchen Irish”.

After an incredible season one, Daredevil season two improves on everything that was great about the first thirteen episodes.

If you liked the fleshed-out characters of season one, this season will not let you down. The writing delves even deeper into Matt’s turmoil of doing what’s right without going too far. The disregard for his own self and the sacrifices he makes as Matt Murdock so that he can protect the city he loves as Daredevil is a fascinating downward spiral that will knock the wind out of you and never let you get up.

The introduction of the Punisher, who antagonizes Daredevil as something that will never ultimately fix Hell’s Kitchen, is intriguing enough to make you question your own ethics. But his portrayal by Jon Bernthal as a man over the edge and the remarkable way this character is presented, as one man’s operatic tragedy of violence, is explosive.

The creators of this show have taken a one-dimensional, one-note character from the comic books and added dimension, depth and heartbreak to breathe something new into Frank Castle. He becomes a violent force of nature over the course of the series: you fear him, you despise him, you empathize with him, and you eventually cheer him on before realizing that you still fear him.

Speaking of characters you cheer on, the growth of Foggy Nelson in this season could be its own show. You’d tune in to see his legal exploits and loveable hopeless good guy personality week in week out if this is all the show was.

The same can be said for Karen Page. If you want a show about a strong female character that doesn’t bend to conventions, forget Jessica Jones. You won’t need that. Karen went from damsel in distress to strong female lead in season one. In season two she builds immensely on that and is one of the truest and well-crafted characters on TV today. The writers have given her agency that is rare in any genre.

Unfortunately, the show’s intended ass-kicking female, Elektra, isn’t as well crafted. Her flashback story with Matt provides the viewer with an adrenaline rush of on-screen romance and sexually charged tangoing. But as a vigilante, she is the least fully realized character and doesn’t work as well as the other parts of the show. Even this, though, isn’t a major complaint, just something to develop in the inevitable season three.

The handling of violence in this show has to be mentioned. If the hallway scene in season one was what you’re looking for more of, you will be pleased. There are at least three set pieces like it in this season that exceed the bar set by season one. The fights are innovative, to say the least.

And while this is gruesome and bloody, it’s all in aid of the realism, it’s not gratuitous. It’s well choreographed, well shot and every bit as balanced and entertaining visually as the show is well written and acted. You will watch season two of Daredevil, experience every high and low and feel like you have come out of a great legal drama, Kung-Fu flick, revenge tale, romance, or human drama. You’ll feel like you’ve just stepped out of a great movie that gave you exactly what you asked for and then some.

You’ll forget that it’s television.