Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Longbox: Battlin' Jack Murdock

Daredevil: Battlin' Jack Murdock
writer: Zeb Wells
artist: Carmine Di Giandomenico
Marvel Comics, released 12-28-07
I make it no secret that Daredevil and his world are my favorite of all the comics that I read. Matt Murdock was the first that I discovered five years ago and the more stories I've read involving him, the more I've grown to identify with him. Exactly why, I still haven't quite figured out. I'm not blind, don't have any particular affiliation for the law system, my love life is hardly tragic, my samurai master was never killed by a clan of undead ninjas, and I don't have any lingering issues with my father. In fact, my dad and I have a pretty awesome relationship considering I live a few hours away. But time and time again, I'm constantly drawn to stories featuring that ever-present father/son strife. Battlestar Galactica is fascinating on every level, but those Adama interactions are probably my second-favorite aspect of the show. I probably would have stopped watching Smallville years ago had it not been for those Lionel Luthor pep talks to Lex. And then there's that one scene in Road to Perdition where Tom Hanks tells his son the reason he was so hard on him and not his little brother was because the elder son reminded him so much of himself, which gets me every time I even think about it. In any case, the relationship between Matt and Jack Murdock can be chalked up amongst all the others that hit me hard.
While the tale of Daredevil's father has always been present in his backstory, the actual motivations and struggles of Jack Murdock have never been fleshed out. I don't think we've ever been shown Jack without Matt suddenly appearing from around the corner. Jack is the example Matt has dedicated his dual life of law and justice to, and it's a bit of an anomaly that a story hasn't been written about him before now.
That said, it's not shocking either. What we really want to see is a story about the hero, not the overwhelming failures of his father whose death is a merely a driving factor of his heroics. I had bought this trade very cheaply months ago, but had finally dwindled my reading stack down to the point where it was on the top. Nothing about it screamed for me to read it immediately, and I had modest expectations for it at best. But I have to say that Battlin' Jack Murdock was a welcomed surprise.
Zeb Wells begins with a pretty straightforward tale that we've seen many times before in other mediums -- washed-up boxer turns to alcohol, throwing fights and enforcing for the local mobster in order to keep living. Coupled with what we already knew about Jack, the first issue worth of this four-issue miniseries goes by rather unremarkably. There are a couple of highlights, however. We meet very young versions of Daredevil staples Turk, who is just a street-tough kid at this time, and Josie, Jack's doe-eyed bartender of choice.
But toward the end of that first chapter, the woman who Jack is clearly deeply in love with, Maggie, shows up after an unexplained hiatus with a baby. She drops it in his lap, tells him that his name is Matthew, and then disappears from his life forever. From then on, Jack leads his life the way he had been, the only difference being raising Matt. That is until that fateful day when Matt is blinded by toxic waste occurs. From then on out, Jack becomes a man we call all strive to be like and a true father to his boy.
The remainder of the book weaves in more Daredevil lore around Jack's story, and it thankfully moves away from the cliche. The most interesting aspect of the story is between Jack and Josie. At first, it was really hard to believe this cute young girl was the same proprietor of Josie's Bar in Frank Miller's Daredevil stories, but that character arc probably will have the most lasting effects from this book in future Daredevil continuity.
All in all, this was a solid story. It won't knock your socks off, but it is definitely a worthy entry in the Daredevil mythos.
7.5 out of 10

*** Now that LBM has expanded beyond comics, I've retooled some of the columns for the sake of simplicity. This was originally part of a feature I did called "Graphic Novel Grab Bag." I only ever wrote five, so I've re-tagged them as Longbox entries. Enjoy the early days of LBM that I've somehow resisted the urge to purge. -- JA, 1/20/10 ***

No comments: