Saturday, July 30, 2011

Daredevil: Battlin' Jack Murdock Is Just Another, Unnecessary Daredevil Origin Story Retelling.

The Good: Moments of character and interesting concept.
The Bad: Artwork, Utterly unnecessary story, Character development is tough to define.
The Basics: Even fans of Daredevil are unlikely to be wowed by Daredevil: Battlin' Jack Murdock, a graphic novel that tells the story of Matt Murdock's father . . . yet again.

When you've been around for forty-five years, it is hard to imagine there are any stories truly not told, at least for a superhero. In the case of Daredevil, there seem to be a strangely high number of origin stories. So, when I came across the graphic novel Daredevil: Battlin' Jack Murdock, I was a little unsure what was part of the story that I had not already read. As it turns out, there was not much at all.

The graphic novel Daredevil: Battlin' Jack Murdock is an anthology of Battlin' Jack Murdock issues 1 through 4, which was a limited series published back in 2007. The thin trade paperback anthology has all four issues, along with the covers from each issue and sketches and script pages as bonus material. Unfortunately, the bonus features do not sell the book and this is one Daredevil fans can easily skip.

Jack Murdock is a boxer and a drunk who has been pretty much living down at the local bar since his wife left. When Maggie returns with her son, Matthew, Jack is shocked and he actually begins to turn his life around, despite Maggie returning to the monastery. Left to raise Matt on his own, Jack begins to rise up to the challenge of making money by becoming a fighter again, courtesy of the Fixer. After Matt is blinded by radioactive waste, Jack fights all the harder and he rises through the circuit for the Fixer. But one night, he is told he has to take a fall in the fourth round and when he rises back up, even the referee is shocked.

The main problem for me is that outside the moment Maggie returns to Jack with Matthew, there is truly nothing new in Daredevil: Battlin' Jack Murdock. The story is the one Daredevil fans know back and forth. Jack Murdock was washed up until Matt was blinded and then, through the Fixer, he became a contender. But, he refuses to throw the match and take a dive for the Fixer. Outside this volume, there are plenty of times that decision is explored, including the long-held belief that Matt cheering for his father made him think about all Matt had been through and that he needed to set the example for him.

That is not challenged by Daredevil: Battlin' Jack Murdock, so this becomes a pretty extraneous exercise in comic book storytelling and the greatest moments of character growth come at the very end, long after most readers will have stopped caring.

As for the artwork, it did not grab me. Carmine di Giandomenico has very rough sketches which are painted over, but the paintings look unfortunately sloppy and underdetailed. The overall effect is very chaotic and while that works fine for the fight scenes, it does not for the quieter, more intimate moments, like Jack brooding at the bar or snapping at the barmaid there. Instead, the whole project feels thrown together, as opposed to an artful expression of the character's angst or the darkness of his world.

The work feels like it is a cashgrab for Marvel and after reading it, I did not feel any greater appreciation of the character and I certainly did not feel there was any significant change in the way I viewed Matt Murdock as his son. In other words, Daredevil: Battlin' Jack Murdock may be very safely passed by.

For other Daredevil origin stories, please be sure to visit my reviews of:
The Essential Daredevil Volume 1
Daredevil Noir
Daredevil: Yellow


For other book reviews, please be sure to visit my index page on the subject by clicking here!

© 2011 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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