Well, you didn’t think he was going to take it lying down, did you? He’s the Kingpin of Crime, for crying out loud; Mister Passive-Aggressive, without the whole passive part. After Matt (Daredevil) Murdock got a trial court to agree that super heroes could testify anonymously and while masked – you did read the last four columns, right? – Wilson (the aforementioned Kingpin of Crime) Fisk appealed that decision. And when the Supreme Court upheld Matt’s victory, the Kingpin turned to Plan C.
I trust none of you doubted me.
I told you last column that the Supreme Court of the United States https://www.supremecourt.gov would accept jurisdiction over Matt (Daredevil) Murdock’s appeal in the case of New York v Slugansky. And in Daredevil Vol 5 #25, there he was before the Supreme Court arguing that the New York Court of Appeals was wrong when it reversed a lower court’s ruling that masked super heroes should be allowed to testify without revealing their real identities and that the Supreme Court should reverse the New York Court of Appeals and reinstate both Slugansky’s conviction and the lower court’s ruling permitting masked super heroes to testify anonymously.
Of course, I had a slight advantage. I read Daredevil #25 months ago. I wrote that last column with it’s will he or won’t he get to the Supreme Court line this month. So I sorta, kinda, already knew what the Supreme Court did before I wrote that cryptic closing.
Before Matt actually set foot in the Supreme Court building, he made a stunning confession to his friend and former law partner Franklin (Foggy) Nelson. Matt admitted he took a dive. He lost the appeal in the New York Court of Appeals on purpose just so he could argue the case before the US Supreme Court and create precedent that would cover not just New York but the entire country.
Which, as professional ethics go, is only slightly better than pushing your client under an oncoming steam roller after having picked his pocket. Better, but still messier.
Jessica Jones is the next up in Marvel’s series of Netflix TV shows, and I am beyond excited for it. I was excited for Daredevil, I loved Daredevil, I am excited that there’s going to be more Daredevil; but if possible, I think I may be more excited to see Jessica Jones than I was even to see Vincent D’Onofrio playing the Kingpin. Why? I’ll tell you why.
Jessica Jones is an odd duck in the Marvel universe. When the story opens, she’s not a hero (anymore) and she’s not a villain. She’s tried the hero thing, and has now made the choice to walk away from it. She’s had a horrific traumatic experience, and is now trying to live life on her own terms. In fact, she’s pretty much the Harry Dresden of NYC (without the male gaze and other weird holdovers from the early Dresden Files books. Sorry, Jim Butcher; I’m a huge Dresden fan, but those early stories have a few issues).
Like Harry, she comes from a tortured past of literal manipulation and has major trust issues; wields a ton of power; and because of her abilities, keeps getting sucked in, no matter whether it’s what she wants or not, to the greater world of the super-powered heroes and villains. And also like Harry, her past, her powers, and her present issues often make her life a big ol’ mess; and have given her some serious attitude. I love the complexities and rough edges of her character; and I love that Marvel appears to be presenting a three-dimensional, imperfect (and therefore human and relatable) woman as the second headlining female in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, following on the excellent and nuanced performance of Hayley Atwell as Agent Carter. Jessica Jones is a no-nonsense badass with a rebellious streak and (well-founded) control issues, and she’s not trying to make friends; but she also has a heart that is still looking to do good.
This is illustrated in the Netflix tie-in comic that I picked up at NYCC. Written by Brian Michael Bendis, with art by Michael Gaydos (the same writer and artist team who did the original 28-issue comics series), the comic references Daredevil’s run-in with Turk in the Daredevil Netflix series, and shows Jessica Jones tracking Turk down; but not to inflict Daredevil-style justice on him. Instead, she’s there to collect on child support payments that he owes. As she says, “I don’t know what messed-up house you grew up in that made you think it’s okay to be the way you are; but you brought kids into this world, and if you can’t be there for them like a grown-up, the least you can do, I mean the very least, is provide for them; so that maybe the cycle of nonsense that created you stops with you.”
It’s an interesting sentiment to punch home in the tie-in introductory book; and it emphasizes that in Jones’ world, a) your past doesn’t provide an excuse for you not to try to fix your future (something she’s dealing with herself); and b) what she cares about are the individual responsibilities and characters of the people she deals with.
Although I confess I am not deep into the lore of Jones in the comics (I haven’t explored too far into the MAX line, although of course I have all the Deadpool stuff), from what I know the original series also took this track of being more personal and less grandiose, so it seems Netflix is sticking with the flavor of the source material, which is great. Netflix is also sticking with the gritty, intense feel of the MAX line of comics. The show’s trailers continue in the dark vein of Daredevil, and Krysten Ritter has so far done an excellent job of conveying Jessica’s complex character in the trailers. It’s clear from her portrayal that this character’s story is deep, and messy, and complicated; and that makes for good TV. This is the kind of character I can’t help but want to see more of.
Netflix also looks to be delving into even darker, more disturbing territory than Daredevil with the introduction of Jessica’s nemesis, Killgrave (the Purple Man in the comics), played by David Tennant (who is always good value, as the Brits say, so I’m looking forward to seeing him in this). Although I don’t know all of the indignities Jones suffered at the hands of Killgrave, even the thought of someone having the power to manipulate one’s behavior is chilling, and the hints of her past in the trailers are über creepy; so I’m sure what we’ll see in the show will be pretty terrifying. And I like that, as with the Kingpin, the villain here didn’t start out as e.g. an all-powerful god of mischief, or the ruler of his own little country. He did, however, start out as a spy, so it will be interesting to see what they might do with that in the show.
It will also be cool to see how Luke Cage (played by Mike Colter) starts to fit into the Netflix/Marvel universe. He’s the next character slated to have his own show, and he appears in the Jessica Jones trailers and is listed as appearing in all episodes. Given that Jones and Cage have both a working and a romantic relationship in the comics, it makes sense to introduce him here; but I’m curious to see how he fits while she is the main character; and to what extent she will then be appearing in his series. Regardless, in the brief appearances I’ve seen so far, I’m liking the character.
The bottom line as we ramp up to Jessica Jones is that it looks like we’re in for an intense, chilling, suspenseful, intricate story enveloping a character with a fascinating tale to be told, possibly set as an investigative procedural; and I really love investigative procedurals. It also looks like Netflix is going to continue its strong start with Daredevil as we move into round 2 before going on to Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and finally, The Defenders. It’s an ambitious undertaking, but it seems that Marvel’s idea of tying this string of shows into each other and then into an ensemble cast affair may just turn out to be as awesome in reality as it sounds in concept. And on that note; when Jessica Jones rolls around on November 20, I am so. There.
And in the meantime, Servo Lectio!
Marvel’s Daredevil premiered on Netflix on Friday, April 10. All 13 episodes went up at once, which is great both for binge-watchers (a.k.a. people who just really like long-form storytelling, okay??) like me; and also for Marvel’s presumed need to establish key but new-to-MCU characters before Captain America: Civil War, which hits theaters May 6, 2016.
Of course, we don’t actually know if Daredevil will show up in Civil War, even if the show appears to have teased the Civil War plot. Oddly enough, as of two weeks ago, Daredevil star Charlie Cox said he hadn’t been “invited to that party.” On the other hand, it seems like Civil War would be the perfect movie in which to tie the Marvel movies and TV shows even more tightly together. Given we already have connections in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and the next planned Marvel Netflix shows will star Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, and The Defenders (to include, perhaps, appearances by MCU characters we’ll have seen by then like Ant-Man, Doctor Strange, and The Hulk?), it should be a no-brainer (and almost necessary) for Marvel to include relevant TV characters in the larger-scale Civil War movie, and perhaps cameos for any stars of the Netflix shows who haven’t made it to TV yet by May of 2016.
But I guess even if we don’t see all the TV characters in the movies by Civil War, it still gives watchers a foundation of MCU character knowledge for those superheroes if they are referenced in the plot. Of course, having all of these TV shows means to truly be caught up on the MCU you now have to watch both the Marvel movies and the TV shows; but fortunately, at least so far, that’s no hardship. (And it can make for fun Easter egg hunting in both movies and shows. Another cool one from Daredevil is the newspaper headline for the “Battle of NY” in Ben Urich’s office, as well as the script’s indication that Wilson Fisk’s rise to power is built on the destruction that took place during The Avengers movie.)
With Agent Carter having had a great eight episode run (that show is so much fun), and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. continuing to be a fan favorite, Daredevil has come in as the newest addition to TV, and it is really good. As teased previously, it is definitely darker and grittier than some of Marvel’s fare, with a hint of a noir feel; but then, I’ve always associated that aesthetic with Daredevil anyway. One of the things I enjoy about the Daredevil stories is the exploration of the microcosm of Hell’s Kitchen and its resident vigilante. The comic has always had a sort of small town/big city feel to it because of how deeply Daredevil is rooted in that one neighborhood, Matt Murdock’s history there, and his desire to make at least his little corner of the world a cleaner place. Even Daredevil’s nemesis, the Kingpin, while his business may spread through New York and beyond, is rooted in the darker, slummier parts of the city. That keeps the comic true to its gritty NYC roots even as the storylines change.
The show overall evokes a dark and sometimes meditative mood, although it’s not lacking in great action scenes, whether they be while Daredevil is fighting villains, or when the Kingpin’s violent urges overcome his generally calm demeanor. Speaking of the Kingpin, he is portrayed here in a wonderfully complex manner by one of my long-time favorite actors, Vincent D’Onofrio. One thing I really like about Daredevil is that it’s not a black-and-white show. It humanizes the villains to some extent; such as when it shows the to-the-death devotion between the Russian Ranskahov brothers, and a peek into the difficult past that led them to their position at the show’s start. Nowhere is this humanization more well done than with Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin. He is in equal parts a sympathetic villain and truly chilling, and D’Onofrio manages to continually evoke the feeling that with this man, “still waters run deep” and beneath the surface there is a well of complex emotions coupled with his terrifying rage. In the comics, the Kingpin, despite his low origins, publicly attempts to appear as an educated man, and is portrayed as an entrepreneurial villain.
This comes across in the TV script, in lines such as, “Problems are just opportunities that have not presented themselves,” and in his business dealings and his romancing of Vanessa in fancy restaurants, with wines recommended by his assistant. The series also shows the rise of the Kingpin’s obsession with Daredevil, which eventually leads to the seminal comics storyline in which Fisk exposes Murdock as Daredevil and ruins his life and reputation.
Despite dark villains like Fisk, the show retains that humorous edge that defines the modern MCU. One of the best sources of this in Daredevil is Murdock’s best bud Foggy Nelson, who is portrayed perfectly by Elden Henson. I’ve always had a soft spot for Foggy (also played well by Jon Favreau in the 2003 Daredevil movie), who is generally portrayed as being good natured, loyal, and with a good heart. The show does well in using him to inject some levity into the show, without turning him into too much of a goofy comic foil. He’s also a great contrast to the more serious Murdock, and a means for the story to show how Daredevil’s vigilante identity creates difficulties in his “normal” life and in being there for his friends.
One thing I really like about this show is the portrayal of how normal people deal with the superhero/vigilante elements in their world. Two other characters that add a great deal to Daredevil in this aspect are Claire Temple (serving in the role of the Night Nurse), and Ben Urich, the tenacious investigative reporter for The New York Bulletin (rather than The Daily Bugle, as in the comics). The script-writers have managed to make these two characters (played by Rosario Dawson and Vondie Curtis-Hall, respectively) both well-rounded supporting characters, and windows through which viewers can experience how someone might deal with being a “mundane” in a world of heroes and vigilantes. (Such as when Ben Urich says that, “[i]n my experience, there are no heroes; no villains; just people with different agendas.”) I love it when shows manage to successfully convey multiple viewpoints like that.
Of course, a main viewpoint is obviously Daredevil’s, and Charlie Cox does a great job in his dual role as Murdock and his vigilante alter-ego. The show does well to start with a Murdock who wants to make the streets a safer place but is pretty clueless about what’s actually going on out there, and gradually sleuths out the corruption in the NYPD and the existence of a greater criminal network. It also gives an interesting perspective on his views of the law, and how they interplay with his role as a costumed vigilante. Flashbacks to his childhood in Hell’s Kitchen add to the story, and also provide us with a few more fun Easter eggs, such as the mention (and poster) of Carl “Crusher” Creel’s boxing match against Murdock’s father, Battlin’ Jack Murdock; Creel has previously been seen in the MCU as The Absorbing Man on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Overall, I think Daredevil makes a great addition to the MCU, and look forward to seeing how the future Netflix shows pan out and how they all tie in to each other and to the greater MCU as time goes on. It seems like I’m not alone in this. The show has garnered mostly good reviews thus far; and I’d agree with James Gunn (writer-director of Guardians of the Galaxy), who opined on Facebook that “this character I loved so much for so long ha[s] been brought to television with such spirit, love, and care.”
Of course, it’s always nice to get the “person on the street” viewpoint as well; and since I started my Daredevil Netflix binge with a Daredevil Watch Party of me and three friends and assigned them the homework of telling me what they think of the show, I’ll provide their perspectives here as well:
Friend 1: “More than any superhero adaptation I’ve seen recently, Daredevil works independent of its mythos. I find myself wanting to watch it for more than just the really cool fight scenes (which are really cool) and the comic references. Instead, the well-written dialogue and excellent chemistry between the lead actors will keep me coming back for more. I am just as interested to learn about Matt Murdock the lawyer as Daredevil the superhero.
Daredevil is not perfect. I think the creators are sometimes, to the detriment of the plot, overly enthusiastic about no longer having to deal with television censors. However, I am really looking forward to finishing the season.”
Friend 2: “I think Daredevil did a really good job of introducing an outsider (me) and someone who doesn’t generally care for Big Two superheroes (also me) to what is undoubtedly an unholy tangled mess of continuity and backstory without info dumping or becoming utterly impenetrable.”
Friend 3: “The Netflix adaptation of Daredevil has the potential to be the comic world’s answer to The Wire drama on HBO. Daredevil is a crime drama that shows every tier of decay in the post-industrial American city – from the streets to the courtrooms and the newsrooms. Vincent D’Onofrio does a credit to his hometown of Brooklyn by portraying New York crime lord Kingpin as a calculating but very human villain. His performance shows why Kingpin is a more compelling villain than his equally bald DC Comics doppelganger Lex Luthor.”
So there you have it, folks; if you haven’t checked out Daredevil yet, I and my three friends and a bunch of other people on the internets liked it a lot; and I bet you will too. So lay in the popcorn, get comfy, and when you’re done with it, tell me what you think, and Servo Lectio!
Some say the world will end in fire, some say in ice • Robert Frost
All you climate change doubters may now put on your dunce caps and leave. Don’t forget to shovel the walk on your way out.
…But where were we? Ah yes, where we often are, on opposite sides of a time gap. I’m writing here, you’re reading there. I suppose we can deal with it.
We’re looking ahead, you and I, to the forthcoming Daredevil television presentation, to be streamed on the increasingly diverse and interesting Netflix. Might be interesting. Might surpass the Ben Affleck movie Daredevil of a few years back, which may not have been everyone’s favorite entertainment. (I don’t have an opinion about it. Really, I don’t!) I see that Vincent D’Onofrio has gotten the job of being veteran DD baddie, The Kingpin, which seems to be good casting; let us not forget that Mr. D’Onofrio played a giant bug in the first Men in Black flick, so a corpulent gangster shouldn’t be a stretch for him.
What else am I looking forward to? (For you, it’s already past.)
Well, for one thin, the fate of poor Oliver Queen – other-named Arrow – last seen kneeling before the sinister Ras Al Ghul, a helpless captive. Ras stabbed him with a sword and kicked him off a mountain a while back, so is Ollie doomed to suffer a similar fate, perhaps again administered by a Ras who may have gotten a bit better at hero slaying? Nope. Ras is trying to recruit him into Ras’s criminal organization, The League of Assassins. (Good pay? Good benefits?)
This is not the first time Ras has gone hero-trolling. In the long ago when he was a mere comic book character, before being incarnated as a mega-movie star and a continuing presence in Arrow Ras made a similar move on Batman, sweetening the deal by suggesting that Bats and Ras’s daughter Talia might become an item and, yes indeedy, Talia would make a splendid trophy wife if she could just get past her daddy issues. Bats refused both job and lady and lived to fight another day but who knows what Ollie will do? (Well, actually, at this point, a lot of people. All those writers and actors and technicians…)
I like how our TV brethren are adapting some Batman tropes for Arrow. It’s a good match of characters: both the bat and the arrow are human-scaled, depending on skill and perseverance and motivation rather than some acquired superpower, and both are burdened with a tragic past. Since I prefer such characters I’ve always liked working on these two when I was a laboring scripter. Consider that an admission of bias.
Ras al Ghul, as some of you know, is a twisted idealist who wants to save the world – on his own terms, using his own methods, which are, to put it mildly, draconian. Pure fiction. But I look out at the snow and remember the savage winter which is not yet gone, and learn of the escalating barbarity in the middle east, and I wonder: Could there be a Ras?
But no, the reality is simpler and sadder, well expressed by Pogo the Possum: “We have met the enemy and he is us.”