Friday, November 30, 2012

Wilson Fisk Is Dragged Back Into Crime In Daredevil: Gang War

The Good: Fair artwork, Good story, Character development
The Bad: Weak coloring, Missing portions
The Basics: A decent return to form for Wilson Fisk, Daredevil is almos a peripheral character in Daredevil: Gang War

One of the things about a good villain is that, like the hero, they have character arcs. There are very few villain characters that are well-conceived enough to be developed over the long-term, especially in the long-running comic series’. But, with Daredevil, the characters do more than just show back up with a new lamebrained scheme to rule the city/world/etc. Bullseye, one of the more formidable villains in Daredevil books, actually had some arcs and suffered some consequences for his relentless pursuit of Daredevil after some of their encounters where Daredevil thwarted him.

Daredevil: Gang War was written with an appreciation of the history of the character in mind and, as a result, becomes one of Daredevil’s most perilous stories and times. Daredevil: Gang War also reflects an early 1980s attempt to explore real issues in comic books, in this case mental illness and police indifference. As Bullseye, who is suffering from a mental breakdown whereby he sees everyone around him as Daredevil, escapes hospital custody and goes on a killing spree, the police muse about whether or not it would be all right to let the villain simply be killed on the streets. Daredevil, then, faces an intriguing conflict whereby his quest for justice leads him to act to stop Bullseye and save his life at the same time.

Following his nervous breakdown, as Bullseye prepares to go under the knife, he breaks out of the hospital and begins killing people and taking hostages. Daredevil pursues leads to free the hostages and learns quickly that there are more nefarious activities going on in the city. Interrogating Turk, he discovers that the crime bosses of New York City have lined up a $5,000,000 bounty on the head of Wilson Fisk, the former Kingpin (who has retired and moved to Japan). On the day Bullseye is released from jail, Wilson Fisk’s wife Vanessa comes to Hell’s Kitchen to retain the services of Nelson & Murdock and is promptly captured by ganglords.

Trailing Bullseye, Daredevil is thrown out a window, but comes to understand that Fisk has files to implicate all of the current crime lords in the City. Posing as a bounty hunter named Shades, Matt Murdock infiltrates Wilson Fisk’s new operation to get the files he needs to end the current crime lords’ reign. When he encounters the Kingpin directly, Turk tries to drown him and this sets off an elaborate game of cat and mouse as the Kingpin reasserts his authority, outwitting both Daredevil and Bullseye to survive.

On every front, Daredevil: Gang War is a satisfying return to form for one of the Marvel Universe’s most compelling (mundane human) villains. Dominating the story in an interesting way, Daredevil: Gang War truly is the story of Wilson Fisk’s return to Hell’s Kitchen. A compelling villain must have motivations, just like a reasonable and good super hero. Wilson Fisk retired, managed to escape prosecution and incarceration and his wife, Vanessa, became a reasonable force of grounding for him. Daredevil: Gang War explores how Wilson reverts to his old ways when he loses that tether. The writer Daredevil: Gang War, Frank Miller, is smart in creating multiple layers to the story and the character. As a result, Wilson Fisk does not simply snap from one change in his environment and life. Daredevil: Gang War is smart enough to create a perfect storm of events that come crashing down around Wilson Fisk.

Wilson Fisk is characterized in Daredevil: Gang War as exceptionally intelligent. He recognizes the plans and machinations of his adversaries because he trained almost all of them and they used to work for him. Rather smartly, Frank Miller develops Fisk and Bullseye at the same time. This allows the final turn of Bullseye to be seen as credible by the reader and the entire story works.

Throughout Daredevil: Gang War, Matt Murdock is preoccupied with the moral implications of him saving Murdock’s life in the opening chapter. Murdock saves the villain’s life and, in exchange, he becomes concerned as to how Bullseye might act now that he has his freedom. This gives Murdock a bit of an internal conflict to deal with while the book focuses on the plot machinations of Wilson Fisk and Bullseye.

The final chapter follows Daredevil’s attempt to find Vanessa Fisk in the literal underground of New York. It is an afterthought that ties up the loose end of Vanessa Fisk’s missing body from the main story in Daredevil: Gang War. The result is interesting and enough to leave one clamoring for the next chapter (Daredevil is a highly serialized storyline).

The artwork in Daredevil: Gang War is good, with a decent sense of movement throughout. Like most Daredevil books from this time period, though, it lacks any subtlety or realism to the colors, so the monotones are fairly unsophisticated. The only other serious issue is the fact that the book – as a compilation of individual comic books – redundantly reminds the reader each chapter of Matt Murdock’s blindness and his super-powered sonar sense.

Still, it is not enough to make one not want to recommend Daredevil: Gang War. Though plot-heavy and lacking in deeper themes, Daredevil: Gang War makes for an entertaining and fast read that is enjoyable.

For other Daredevil books, please check out my reviews of:
The Essential Daredevil Volume 1
Daredevil Vs. Bullseye
Daredevil: Visionaries Volume 1 - Frank Miller
Marked For Death
Born Again
Typhoid Mary
Guardian Devil
Parts Of A Hole
Daredevil: Yellow
Batman/Daredevil - King of New York
Daredevil Noir
Daredevil: Golden Age
The Devil: Inside And Out, Volume 1
The Devil: Inside And Out, Volume 2
Daredevil: Hell To Pay - Volume 1
Daredevil: Hell To Pay - Volume 2
Daredevil: Shadowland
Daredevil: The Official Comic Adaptation


For other book reviews, please check out my Book Review Index Page for an organized listing of all the book reviews I have written!

© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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