What I thought of Daredevil season 3

I didn’t mid season 2 of Daredevil. Yes, it did die off after the first half of the season and ended in a terrible final episode designed more to set up The Defenders that provide good storytelling. Also the Marvel series on Netflix are overlong, with some episodes being glacially slow or just there to pad out the season. Daredevil season 3 is as good as the Marvel Netflix universe gets. It never feels padded out, there’s no filler episodes and the story moves to a satisfying ending that essentially would have set up future seasons had Netflix not cancelled the series,With Marvel/Disney being coy as to whether this cast returns.

Season 3 picks up after The Defenders with Matt Murdock (still played wonderfully by Charlie Cox) battered and broken being cared for by Sister Maggie (Joanne Whalley reminding us that she’s still a talent) while Foggy and Karen carry out their own fight against the Kingpin (a fantastic Vincent D’Onofrio). 

Season 3 also throws in Bullseye, though he’s never referred to as that name, it very definitely is that character and he gets a backstory too where he’s either a broken child or vicious bastard depending on your point of view. And this moral nuance is embedded throughout the season as characters aren’t black and white, but various shades of grey. Even the Kingpin isn’t a total bastard as there’s some humanity there but overall he’s still a monster, as well as Marvel’s best cinematic villain. Forget Thanos or Loki, Wilson Fisk is magnificent with how evil his corrupting influence is being the slow burn of his evil this season as Fisk uses one good man to his own needs.

That good man is Agent Nadeem played by Jay Ali. Nadeem is a good man working in the FBI trying to do what’s right, but desperate for money after paying for his sister-in-law’s cancer treatment so he pushes himself into a position that places him next to the Kingpin and Matt Murdock/Daredevil. This season Daredevil sheds his red costume for the plain black one he started out with, as Matt struggles with himself trying to work out who and what he is.

There’s a lot going on this season, which means there’s no padding, or filler episodes. Indeed one episode which could have been a filler (Karen) gives us essential background on Karen Page plus it allows Deborah Ann Wolf to show us what she can do. Overall all the main players get their moment, the introduction of Bullseye means we’ve got an equal in fighting ability to Matt which also means plenty of scenes where Daredevil takes a beating, in fact there’s a lot of fight scenes where various protagonists take a hellish beating.

Daredevil season 3 is the best thing Marvel’s done for Netflix. It’s an almost perfect crime/superhero drama that uses the potential for these characters while utilising the comics history of them to tell new stories. After the cludgy second seasons of Jessica Jones and Luke Cage (not seen the second season of Iron Fist & probably won’t) this shows how things are done just in time for it to get cancelled as Marvel/Disney pull as much of their intellectual property back in-house. Whether Disney/Marvel will have the creative bollocks to do something like this season of Daredevil in-house remains to be seen (and I’m wary they will) but this will stand as testament to what can be done when creators work together to do something good.

A word of appreciation for Elektra: Assassin

There’s a number of comics constantly spoken about as breaking new ground in the 1980’s and bringing a new audience into the world of comics. The same names come up; Watchmen, Maus, Dark Knight Returns, maybe Love and Rockets, Swamp Thing and Daredevil. One a few lists you’ll get possibly the most subversive comic published by the Big Two publishers in the 80’s; Frank Miller and Bill Sienkiewicz‘s Elektra: Assassin.

Originally an eight issue mini series from Marvel’s Epic imprint (their creator owned or non-mainstream line) , Elektra: Assassin starred Frank Miller’s creation Elektra who he’d introduced and subsequently killed in his acclaimed Daredevil run. This though was something out of continuity is still some of the most brilliantly insane comics Marvel have ever published.

The story seems basic enough. Elektra is on the trail of The Beast, a demon whose end-goal is possessing the president of the United States and starting a nuclear war. In this task she’s aided and abetted by a SHIELD agent called Garrett who in the course of the series because more and more of a cyborg due to being blown and cut up.

Remember that in 1985/6 America was trapped in the presidency of Ronald Reagan while the baby boomer generation had started gaining power and influence over politics, culture and media. There was also a wave of comics where characters started waving big guns around as the 80’s Rambo culture seeped into comics with ultra-violent titles like The Punisher. All of this was thrown into the mix to create an ultra-violent satire on American politics, culture and superhero comics that doesn’t grow old or not relevant.

Elektra: Assassin is from that period prior to 911 where Frank Miller was one of the few creators who could take on the left and right of politics equally and find both lacking, while at the same time playing on the monsters created by both. It really is a comic that gives its all, and asks the reader to work to go with the inspired lunacy, not to mention genius, being paid out from page to page.

So if you want to see how exciting comics were in the 80’s as well as reading something that is a fantastic work of art, then Elektra: Assassin should be for you, assuming killer cyborgs and ninjas are to your taste of course…

What I thought of Marvel Two-in-One #3

1970’s Marvel comics are a source of joy and derision. Sometimes both. One of those titles I’ve grown fonder of over the years is Marvel Two In One, one of those titles Marvel, and DC, published where a ‘big name character’ (Spider-Man, Batman, Superman) would team up with another hero in normally, a one-off adventure. Marvel Two In One featured the Fantastic Four’s Thing, a bit of an oddity as although the Fantastic Four sold well in the early 70’s, the idea of sticking The Thing as the ongoing character in a team-up book today seems daft.

These titles also allowed new writers to play around; in this case Steve Gerber was allowed to play with Marvel’s characters and in this issue he throws in Mr. Fantastic as well as Daredevil and the Black Widow.

These comics tended to follow a certain formula. Something would happen to bring our heroes together, they’d argue/fight and then team up to fight the main villain and the story would be wrapped up in 20-24 pages. In this case Daredevil wants his billy club back.

At this point Marvel was building its universe up to the point where any comic would reference any number of other Marvel titles.

This however is a Steve Gerber comic. This means after the soap opera superheroics we get a large chunk of political content which looks amazing even today.

Then it gets insane when Adolf Hitler pops up and he’s hip to the 70’s.

At this point The Thing and Daredevil have a sort-of-fight for the sake of a fight.

After some banter, The Thing and Daredevil team up, fight the bad guys and end up saving the Black Widow who is being controlled by the aforementioned bad guys.

There’s no end here, just a promise of continuing the plot in that month’s issue of Daredevil which seems a cheat but remember these comics were cheap. Kids had a load of disposable income and could buy all the titles they could which is at least what I used to do.

Marvel Two In One is a relic of a bygone age of fun, disposable comics, albeit one with some frankly bizarre political commentary from a writer who at this point was finding his voice as well as his feet in an industry where comics were disposable. Some good, solid Sal Buscema art makes the issue a joy of nostalgia though nothing here is overwhelmingly outstanding, just solid superhero comics that’s fun which is all that matters here.

 

What I thought of Luke Cage episodes 9-13

The Netflix series of the Marvel character Luke Cage has been somewhat patchy til now with a focus on a (compared with previous Marvel Netflix villains) weak central villain Cottonmouth, but around halfway through the season things shift so the central villain is killed off, and a number of opponents who’ve been bubbling under come to the fore. It’s a nice bit of plotting, and as well as giving Luke a physical opponent to fight in terms of his half-brother, Diamondback who ends up providing Luke with a fistfight in the last episode thanks to some Justin Hammer technology (the baddie from Iron Man 2) he’s stolen.

What does raise the series up a level is Afre Goddard’s corrupt politician Mariah Dillard. We’re shown how she’s struggling to shake off the criminal upbringing she and her cousin Cottonmouth had before she finally comes to accept it, but in a series where racism is front and centre, Mariah is an essential character as she’s also a racist. It isn’t made obvious, but subtle little things give it away; the scene in an early episode where after shaking the hand on a white child she’s handed wipes to clean her hands, or little snippets of dialogue.

This is important because Luke Cage takes on the racism in the heart of American society not quite head on; it sort of pulls punches at times but when it does make a point it does it well such as the scene where black men in Harlem show solidarity with Luke by wearing hoodies with bullet holes in it. That’s a pretty powerful bit of imagery that the producers of the series should be applauded for, as is the fact they’ve made the Marvel Cinematic Universe a little less white, as well as a little less middle class. Also by making Luke a sympathetic, strong, intelligent and articulate black hero who does the right thing when he needs to and will fight to protect the innocent, they’ve given people disenfranchised by the superhero genre’s inbuilt racism (Alan Moore and others have talked about this over the decades) someone to root for.

Luke Cage is however weak in places. There’s a diversion to meet the scientist who gave Luke his powers which results in scenes where characters stand around spouting large chunks of exposition, something the Netflix Marvel series are guilty of, as well as padding out episodes. It’s not quite at 1970’s Doctor Who levels where characters would be captured and recaptured endlessly, but 13 episodes does feel a bit too much. Daredevil season two felt the same, but with a few tweaks the second season of Luke Cage should be better which isn’t to say its bad, it isn’t. Luke Cage does stuff with the superhero genre that hasn’t been done in live action superheroes so far. An empowering black central hero who happens to be bulletproof; a strong central black supporting character who happens to be a policewoman, not to mention tackling topics like gentrification in a digestible way for viewers.

It isn’t as good as the first season of Daredevil or Jessica Jones. It’s better than the second season of Daredevil, and does suffer from trying to set up 2018’s The Defenders, not to mention that it’s possibly to fully enjoy Luke Cage if you’ve not seen Iron Man 2, The Avengers or Captain America: Civil War of which the series takes themes and ideas from in the latter few episodes, but it’s essential to watch Jessica Jones before this as it really is a continuation from that series. This both strengthens the Netflix Marvel Universe and weakens it, as a viewer can’t watch Luke Cage blind without thinking they’re missing something. Overall though Luke Cage is good solid stuff, and the soundtrack for the series is spectacular.

Next up for Marvel on Netflix is Iron Fist, another character who like Luke Cage was created at the height of a craze in the 1970’s. That’s apparently spring of next year, and then The Punisher this time next year.

What I thought of Jessica Jones #1

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In the early days of the 21st century Marvel Comics were pulling themselves together after a decade that very nearly saw them go out of business, but thanks to new editorial policies from the likes of Joe Quesada revamped titles like Grant Morrison’s X Men, and new titles like Alias gave Marvel the sales and critical boost they needed.

Alias was one of the titles that made it clear Marvel were moving away from the frankly, fucking dreadful spandex crap they pumped out in the 90’s. Even though it was written by Brian Michael Bendis, a writer I don’t have much time for normally, this was an exceptional comic ably drawn by Michael Gaydos that showed that Marvel’s Max imprint (their supposed ‘adult’ imprint) was something a bit more than just sex ‘n violence.

Fast forward 15 years and we’re weeks away from title character Jessica Jones appearing in her self-titled Netflix series so Marvel have released this 12 page freebie  comic to tag onto the series but it’s very clear from the start this isn’t in normal Marvel continuity (whatever the hell that is after that Secret Wars bollocks) but the Marvel Cinematic Universe, though it’s created by Bendid and Gaydos.

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As a comic this is pretty thin pickings, plus it reads more like a Daredevil story that has Jessica Jones in it, but it does it’s job in raising the anticipation level while not giving anything away at all.

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So don’t expect this to be anything more than a teaser, but it does make me long for a return of Alias in some shape or form. assuming of course Jessica Jones is a hit which to be honest is pretty much going to be the case. We’ll see come the 20th of November…

What I thought of Daredevil episodes 10-13

After the last set of episodes I was pretty excited for the final four episodes and on the whole they don’t really disappoint but although there’s more positives than negatives, these episodes are wonderful but exceptionally annoying at times. Before I get stuck in again, as usual, huge massive spoilers ahead.

After the end of episode nine, Daredevil has been given the beating of his life, plus his partner, Foggy, has unmasked him revealing his secret identity; something Foggy doesn’t especially like as he now realises the scale of the lies Matt’s been telling him for as long as he’s known him. In this episode we get a lot of flashbacks to Matt and Foggy meeting at university, becoming friends, drinking, chatting up girls (including a massive line dropped that shows Elektra is definitely on the programme’s agenda)  and deciding eventually to go into partnership to fight for the little guy in Hell’s Kitchen.

It’s a decent episode though Foggy’s anger at Matt is just a wee bit too contrived for it to really convince but the actors do as good a job as they can, though the script doesn’t quite work in this episode. This basically sets up the final episodes with a separate main trio of Karen, Matt and Foggy all trying to work out what to do next as Wilson Fisk consolidates his grip on Hell’s Kitchen. Unfortunately for Fisk at a reception he hosts for the great and good of New York, it turns out someone has poisoned the drinks and that Vanessa, Fisk’s girlfriend has drunk the poison and passed out.

Episode eleven and twelve outline how Vanessa recovers but for a couple of episodes Fisk is just sitting around useless in a hospital waiting room as people around him scheme his downfall. His Chinese allies have their operation stopped by Daredevil (in a fight scene well directed by former Doctor Who director Euros Lyn), while Karen and journalist Ben Urich have tracked down Fisk’s mother in a nursing home but as she’s suffering from dementia, she doesn’t provide any useful information apart from telling them that Wilson murdered his father. Unluckily for Karen, Fisk’s mother manages to tell Wesley, Fisk’s assistant, that she was visited by Karen and Ben. Leaving Fisk without telling him where he’s going, Wesley kidnaps Karen,points a gun at her and offers her a job. Foolishly for him, he leaves the gun on the table thinking that even if Karen picks up the gun, she’ll never use it. She does. Wesley is shot dead, and Karen legs it after cleaning up fingerprints and throws the gun in the river.

Meanwhile Matt has tracked down Fisk’s tailor, Melvin Potter (AKA The Gladiator) and after a small fight discovers Melvin is being blackmailed by Fisk, but he promises to help him if Melvin makes him a special suit. More of that in a moment…

A lot happens in episodes eleven and twelve. Vanessa is poisoned, recovers and moves in with Fisk having now fully embraced who and what he is. Major supporting characters are killed:Wesley by Karen and Ben Urich by Fisk. Matt’s secrets are found out by Foggy and he eventually tries to come to terms with who and what Matt is.  Basically, there’s an awful lot of plot and characters become big broad strokes at times but as we reach the final episode things don’t look good.

The last episode starts with Urich’s funeral. An event that eventually brings the trio of Matt, Foggy and Karen back together in order to bring down Fisk before he becomes too powerful to stop. Luckily one of the crooked policemen from the first half of the series still lives and is being protected by Fisk’s accountant Leland, who is keeping him alive as collateral against Fisk as Leland is stealing from Fisk. He also poisoned Vanessa. Thinking he’s got the upper hand Leland tries to leave New York, but Fisk kills him. Before Fisk’s men kills the corrupt policeman who’s evidence would bring Fisk down, Daredevil turns up to save him. He tells him to turn himself into one of his friends in the police he can trust, and Nelson and Murdock will represent him in court.

This unleashes the authorities to arrest  everyone connected to Fisk, or at least all the people they know about but they manage to nick Fisk though not before he’s given Vanessa instructions.

As Matt, Foggy and Karen celebrate in Josies, their local bar, they find out that Fisk’s police escort has been intercepted by Fisk’s troops and that they’re trying to free him, and whisk him out of the city. Matt sets out to stop this happening but not before he picks up that suit from Melvin..

MARVEL'S DAREDEVIL

It’s not a bad version of Wally Wood’s classic design, but that mask annoys me. It does look better on the screen, but it’s decent enough, but I hope they tweak a few things before we see it again.

Daredevil manages to stop Fisk’s truck, and the pair have a massive climatic fight in a dark alley, and Daredevil manages this time to reverse the result of last time the pair fought and he beats Fisk, in every sense. As the series ends Fisk is in prison, Matt, Foggy and Karen are back as friends and are trying to make Hell’s Kitchen better, and Daredevil is finally accepted as a hero by the people of the city. It’s a great ending setting up more Daredevil in the future

So what of the series as a whole? Well, the first six episodes are fantastic and although the rest of the series is of a high standard, it’s not of the same quality as the first half of the series. As a whole it is fantastic and Marvel’s insistence on casting good actors pays off big time here, though the scripts need tightening up so that it decides if it’s grim crime drama or superheroics, rather than trying to straddle the pair. Also, for a programme based around lawyers there needs to be more of Nelson and Murdock defending people in court using the system to protect them. Then there’s the costume that needs a bit sorting out here and there, but really it’s minor stuff. Daredevil is a fine attempt to bring Bill Everett and Stan Lee’s creation to life, not to mention it bodes well for the future Netlfix Marvel series, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist and then all four combine in The Defenders.

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I’d highly recommend this. It’s got me sucked into Netflix as well so now I’m going to finally see what the fuss is around Breaking Bad, a programme I’ve not seen a second of….

 

What I thought of Daredevil episodes 7-9

I’ve managed to get through the first six episodes fairly quickly but sadly real life is intruding on watching all of the Netflix adaptation of Marvel’s Daredevil, but I will see it before its ruined for me! As I don’t fancy spoiling this for anyone, as usual, big massive spoilers ahead….

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After the end of episode six Matt has seen Fisk wipe out the Russians with help from his Chinese mobster allies, plus Matt now realises that vast parts of the media and police are in the control of Wilson Fisk. As episode seven opens we’re introduced to Stick (grumpily played by Scott Glen), the Frank Miller created character that trained Matt in how to use his powers and become a kick arse ninja superhero. This allows a bit of flashback action à la Arrow and it’s not quite as effective as some of that series due to the fact the plot set in the present day is more interesting than the past, but that aside it’s a chance to offset Matt’s moral centre with Stick’s.

This is due to the fact that he’s returned to stop some villainous weapon called The Black Sky obtained by Fisk’s Yakuza allies to do something very unpleasant to Hell’s Kitchen. After a fight scene (there’s a lot of those this episode) Daredevil discovers The Black Sky is a child and Stick intends killing him; something he stops but instead of sorting things out he stomps off in a giant flounce enabling the script to kill the child off camera and therefore reducing the impact a tad of how terrible a weapon (and this is the first real major hint of superpowers beyond Matt’s abilities in the programme so far) The Black Sky is. It’s an odd choice considering the brutal violence a few episodes earlier and in the following episode. There’s also a massive bit of foreshadowing about Matt being trained as a warrior in a ‘Great War’ still to come, for readers of Frank Miller’s run in the 80’s they’ll know right away this is The Hand.

The next episode is a Wilson Fisk focused episode dealing with his childhood in 1970’s New York. On the whole this is a far better episode after the patchy previous episode as it paints a simply dismal picture of Fisk’s life as a child as an abused child suffering under the fist of his abusive father, though his mother tries to protect him she ends up being beaten too. We learn Fisk’s father Bill, tried running for the local council but failed to be elected owing money to a local mobster. One night things turn out for the worst as Fisk’s father beats his mother so severely that Wilson grabs a claw hammer and beats his father to death in a pretty nasty scene. To lay on the grand guignol his mother tells Wilson to fetch the saw so she can cut his father up and dump in the river. It’s a brutal, if possibly cliched story of how a young boy became a monster but it’s effectively done. By the end of the episode we feel sorry for the child Fisk but as the adult Fisk finally reveals himself to the city as a millionaire philanthropist rather than the monster we know he is, there’s little hope that Daredevil can fight this man, something emphasised in the next episode.

Episode nine is yet another episode where Daredevil takes a total kicking; this time at the hands of Nobu (like the restaurant) the leader of Fisk’s Yakuza allies who happens to be a kick arse ninja.  Fisk decides enough is enough, and a trap is laid as the kindly old Hispanic woman Matt, Foggy and Karen have been helping in her problems with her slum landlord is murdered by a junkie hired by Fisk.The junkie only tells Daredevil where he’s supposed to be and although he doesn’t go into the deserted warehouse where a trap is obviously being set all guns blazing, he does quickly get the living shite kicked out of him by Nobu who he only manages to stop by killing him, breaking Matt’s one big rule.

At this point a lesser drama would leave it here, but the makers of Daredevil pile it on as Wilson Fisk, his assistant Wesley and a heavy turn up to confront a badly beaten and serious bleeding Daredevil. After an attempt to fight Fisk, Daredevil is beaten to a pulp, and left to be executed by Wesley and the heavy, but Matt manages to jump out the window into the river and escapes. At the same time Foggy is trying to see if Matt’s in his apartment after drinking with Karen, but there’s no answer at Matt’s door, but Foggy can hear strange noises inside so he manages to get in and finds Daredevil in a bloody heap on Matt’s floor. Foggy unmasks Daredevil to find out he’s really Matt Murdock and there ends episode nine.

These episodes are really the most ”comic booky” of the series so far with superpowered child weapons, ninjas and mysterious powers everywhere, not to mention that classic superhero cliche, the unmasking by a friend/partner/relative. On the whole it’s all done so well that you don’t notice the creaks in some of the dialogue at times (especially in Stick) or the odd duff performance (the injured corrupt policeman could have been played by 13 stone of mince and nobody could notice the difference)  because the entire thing just cracks along.

I did mention previously that the makers have decided not to credit Wally Wood, the creator of the famous red outfit and the double DD logo, but they could do worse than crediting Will Eisner as at times it feels less like a Daredevil story and a story of The Spirit, one of the big influences of Frank Miller whose run this draws heavily from and who’s DNA runs deep in this type of superhero. It’s not a huge thing as Miller has always credited Eisner at every opportunity but it’d be nice in this age of a supposed new ‘creator friendly’ Marvel Comics that people got their due.

But that’s an aside. I seriously recommend this series but I’d have though after the 17th time Matt takes a kicking he’d actually be in the red suit by episode nine!

Next time, I’ll do a rundown of however many episodes I get through tonight…