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CSBG Archive

Gimmick or Good? – Daredevil #321

In this column, Mark Ginocchio (from Chasing Amazing) takes a look at the gimmick covers from the 1990s and gives his take on whether the comic in question was just a gimmick or whether the comic within the gimmick cover was good. Hence “Gimmick or Good?” Here is an archive of all the comics featured so far. We continue with 1993’s glow-in-the-dark cover for Daredevil #321…DD321_cover

Daredevil #321 (published October 1993) – script by D.G. Chichester, art by Scott McDaniel and Hector Collazo

In the world of 1990s comics, pretty much every major “big two” superhero had been through a major status quo change by the latter half of 1993 and Daredevil was no different. The “Fall From Grace,” arc marked the 90s extreme makeover edition of the “Man Without Fear.” In this storyline, Daredevil readers were ambushed with a new costume, the full-fledged return of a long-lost lover and adversary (after it had been teased many issues earlier), the outing of the titular hero’s secret identity and then eventually the faking of the death of Hornhead’s alter ego Matt Murdock’s. All in the span of six issues.

Daredevil #321 was the second chapter of the arc (and third issue if you include the #319 “Prologue”) and it featured a wrap-around glow-in-the-dark cover. The glow-in-the-dark components also are slightly raised and bumpy, giving the cover an almost sandpaper-like feel.

But what about inside the comic?

Actually, like I did with X-O Manowar #0 last time, I want to spend one more minute on the cover since I think there are some details worth mentioning as it pertains to the story. What’s actually pretty cool about this cover is the glow-in-the-dark affect projects Daredevil’s “radar” senses perspective while blacking out the villain Hellspawn. This is significant since Daredevil was unable to use his radar senses to track Hellspawn throughout this issue. So, in a total change-of-pace from other gimmick covers from the era, this one actually ties-in to a major plot point.

Unfortunately, the cover may be the most creatively designed element to this comic. Daredevil #321 functions as a snapshot for a lot of the things that frustrated readers during the early 1990s. First, there’s the big costume change, where Daredevil ditched the all-red attire for a red, grey and white get-up made of biomimetic materials, along with shoulder pads and other protective appendages. There’s nothing offensive about the new costume, but there doesn’t seem to be any real reason for such a dramatic change. Sure, Daredevil got his threads tattered an issue earlier, but why after years in his classic red suit does he need all of this new technology and padding? It just comes across as forcing readers to “pay attention” since the events of the arc are going to be “important.”

DD321_01

Then there’s the comic’s villain, Hellspawn, who was Daredevil’s doppelganger produced during another early 90s gimmick, “Infinity War.” I’m yet to find a storyline where one of these dopplegangers was used in a positively memorable way. Speaking as a Spider-Man fan, I know his doppelganger was a groan-inducing character during “Maximum Carnage.” My biggest issue with Hellspawn is the character’s voice. All of these Marvel dopplegangers seem to have pretty weak genes and Hellspawn’s dialogue, filled with “dees” and other incoherencies, is a bear to read. It grinds things to a halt as I’m trying to figure out exactly what this thing is trying to say. I understand in the world of comics there’s a range of characters, personalities and dialects but there’s an unmistakable difference between Gambit’s creole and Hellspawn’s gibberish.

DD321_02

In the midst of all this there’s a somewhat convoluted storyline about a pathogen dubbed the “About Face virus,” which can alter a person’s body to their wishes. The man behind this is Gen. Henry Kenkoy, a former U.S. Department of Defense guy who wanted to use the general public as guinea pigs for the virus. After a failed experiment, Kenkoy killed off his entire team except for a lone telepath Eddie Passim, who knows where the last remaining vial of the virus exists. So Kenkoy and Passim are looking for each other, and Daredevil is looking for both, and somehow there’s a shot of Elektra’s sai suggesting that SHE’S in the middle of all this …

DD321_03

If this next statement makes me sound too ignorant here I apologize but this is all WAY too complicated. You want to know why (in my opinion at least) Frank Miller’s first run on Daredevil is so celebrated? Because while completely reimaging the character and adding a ton of new layers to his characterization, he managed to keep the primary plot points very simple and straightforward. When reading those comics, at no point am I sitting there trying to figure out who knows who, what happened when, who’s a telepath and who has somebody’s “essence.” Daredevil #321 moves rapid fire between all of these characters without letting anything maturate. There’s a Nick Fury cameo at the end and even VENOM is shoehorned into this thing at one point (presumably because the Venom: Lethal Protector series had just been launched).

DD321_04

I shouldn’t need an index to track down every character and plot point mentioned in a single issue of a comic book. It makes Chichester’s script very frustrating to read and I think the ADD-nature of the comic doesn’t do McDaniel’s pencils any favors either, as the composition for a lot of his characters look rushed and slapdashed. In other words, just another early 90s comic from the “House of Ideas.”

Verdict: Gimmick

23 Comments

Stephen Conway

August 9, 2013 at 1:50 pm

The art is nicer than your average early 90s Marvel excess. It’s not too beholden to the Image vogue of the time. While you can’t really tell from the posted images, McDaniel is a great action penciller. He puts a lot of energy and kineticism into his pages. His people always look dynamic and like they are moving, and not awkwardly posed like Jim Lee or Erik Larsen might draw them. I particularly liked McDaniel when he worked on Nightwing for DC a few years later. Under McDaniel’s pencil Dick Grayson looked like an acrobat and an athlete, someone who was physically able to perform feats of derring-doo and wonder.

I agree with Mark on the negative points but can’t help but still like the comic. May its the nostalgia factor. I love McDaniel’s pencils too. I forgot about the doppelganger’s dialect. I also disagree with the notion that the doppelgangers were a bad idea. I thought it was rather neat that these simple “evil clones” had outlived the original crossover event that birthed them and then went on to become something else. Spidey’s doppleganger became a demented pet. Daredevil’s doppleganger had a scary Joker vibe to him. Maybe its nostalgia messing with me, but the DD doppleganger gave off a scary vibe. It almost seemed like he was self-aware that he was simply an inferior “evil clone” with barely the semblance of a life and/or soul and therefore had a reckless attitude about himself and a truly evil drive to hurt DD. Of course, it could just be the nostalgia talking there. If the book got reprinted digitally, I know I’d picked it up for sure. My pet peeve of 90’s comics is just the long winded dialogue and expository text boxes.

That costume is just awful.

I remember buying this comic back in the day solely based on the fact that Daredvil had changed his costume ( I was 21 at the time.) I had never really bought the Daredevil comic before and it made me want to check what all the hubbub was about. I bought a few more issues mainly due to the art and that Captain America was showing up. But I never continued with it. I would agree with the gimmick label as it certainly got my attention, but unfortunately didn’t keep it.
Of course now I’ve been happily reading Waid’s Daredevil for the last couple of years.

I actually like the costume (except the kneepads), but it’s so NOT Daredevil

[…] Gimmick or Good? takes on “Fall from Grace,” the major 1993 status quo shift in the world of Daredevil that saw him get a new costume, fight his doppleganger and fake his own death. Daredevil #321, Part II of this arc, features a glow-in-the-dark cover. Is this comic better off being left in the dark, or should you give it a read? […]

This was such a disappointing storyline. Chicester started his run so well with the Fall of KIngpin and many other character-driven stories, e.g. when Murdock spends a day in the city. And then boom…Fall from grace…I am a huge DD fan but still could not figure some points of this story out, primarily because Elektra-Assassin I only read many years later so had absolutely no idea of John Garrett whatsoever. This story signalled the beginning of a huge let-down period for DD that only ended with the arrival of Kesel and his light-hearted take (breath of a fresh air just like Waid nowadays…)

Weird, I was just thinking about finally reading this arc for the first time after picking it up in a quarter bin years ago.

I always think that costume gets more hate than it deserves. Sure, the red suit didn’t need to be replaced, and sure, it’s a little busy, but overall it’s a good design that’s downright streamlined compared to other costumes of the 90s. It wasn’t right for Daredevil, but I wouldn’t mind seeing it given to another character to use.

I liked “Fall From Grace” at the time, but had a problem with the beginnings of each issue. Most issues opened in an action sequence not set up at the end of the previous one. I remember feeling disoriented.

I liked the armor. With a few tweaks (e.g. No red collar, take out the white edged pieces) it could work.

Weird that Michael Avon Oeming did the inking for some of this story. It looks nothing like the style he would develop later.

I came in late to this story, so I didn’t get this issue. That happened a lot to me.

I disagree. While the story was just entertaining, the art was very impressive considering it was early in McDaniel’s career. He was clearly evolving and getting better month after month.

“There’s nothing offensive about the new costume, but there doesn’t seem to be any real reason for such a dramatic change. Sure, Daredevil got his threads tattered an issue earlier, but why after years in his classic red suit does he need all of this new technology and padding? ”

To begin with, I’ve always thought superhero costumes are silly in several ways including the lack of protection in a universe with supertech where they’re always getting shot at, beaten up, stabbed, etc., I like the fact that this new costume at least partially addressed this concern unlike most others. Also, better weapons.
IIRC, in the story, you clearly get a reason for the change. Even if he wanted to use it, his old costume was in tatters which prompted the idea of a better, more resistant costume that would provide better protection. After he was exposed as Daredevil and then “died”, he went from “new costume” to being a “new Daredevil” with a new attitude. I could be misremembering (it’s been several years since I last read those issues) but I think he intended to confuse the issue of his identity.

“Hellspawn’s dialogue, filled with “dees” and other incoherencies, is a bear to read. It grinds things to a halt as I’m trying to figure out exactly what this thing is trying to say.”

I’m not sure what to say here. English is my second language and I have absolutely no problem with Hellspawn’s dialogue. With all due respect, I’d say the problem is with your reading skills.

Great read, I remember being really excited when this came out as it was the first Daredevil story that I read and I didn’t really get the controversy for years and I still have a great fondness for this artwork, especially in the Marvel VS DC Amalgam comic – Assassins

Speaking of gimmicky comics you should do one based on Slingers. I’m a big fan of them but it was a bit weird with #1. They had 4 different covers and different material/story inside depending on which character cover you got

“I am a huge DD fan but still could not figure some points of this story out, primarily because Elektra-Assassin I only read many years later so had absolutely no idea of John Garrett whatsoever.”

I’m not a big DD fan, I had only read a dozen issues (with gaps in the middle and definitely not EA) at the time but I had no problem following the story, including the re-introduction of John Garrett.

I didn’t read Daredevil back then… and the pages posted above do nothing to encourage me to check them out. The script reads as clunky and I personally don’t find the art appealing.

I do, however, recall a couple issues of Spider-Man where he guest-starred. I recall that Daredevil was continually denying he was still Matt Murdock even though Spider-Man kept on telling him that he so obviously was. Does anyone know how that plot point was resolved…?

While I like this story a bit, it’s got some weak major weaknesses. The one that isn’t on display in this one issue but is perhaps the most annoying when you read all seven issues is that it feels like you’re only reading half of the story. Sitting down and reading each issue in a row is a chore because the only time Chichester connects the events at the beginning of one issue and the ending of the preceding issue is a vague throwaway line of dialogue buried somewhere in the issue, somewhere near the end of it most likely.

The most egregious examples are 322-323, where 322 ends with Siege ready to kill Daredevil and then 323 starts off with them teamed up on a runaway firetruck and fighting off ninjas. At no point does he explain where the ninjas came from, how Siege and DD came across them, and the exlplanation for the dramatic change in their working relationship is one line from Siege- according to him, DD is a gifted talker. That’s it. Then, later, one issue ends with DD being sure that Elektra is the one behind all of the sais popping up, while the next issue begins with him now knowing it was really Stone behind the sais, and this revelation isn’t even given a dramatic reveal. DD just states how relieved he is that it’s Stone and not Elektra.

The story had potential, but DG Chichester really botched things at the same time. He admits as much in an interview about the story arc on the Man Without Fear site.

completely disagree

I really like this arc. for me DG Chichester is really underrated. I find his writing style very modern, like jazz music

I really dont see were this story is convulted: a lot of characters in search of the same virus, daredevil caught in the middle. simple as that.

“Most issues opened in an action sequence not set up at the end of the previous one. I remember feeling disoriented.”
i think this is the exact feeling the writer wanted, till the peaceful ending.

the tree of knowledge arc planned after fall from grace started even better but never ended by DG… and what came after him in dd was such a messy, boring, awful comics… (kevin smith/joe quesada arc was terrible and out of character)

@ enckboaz

it’s one thing to disorient the reader in a way that they can eventually, naturally piece things together and the narrative becomes stronger for it (like a mystery story), it’s another to disorient the reader because you were too lazy to show an important plot point, like a character suddenly switching sides off-panel.

@Saul Goode

maybe… :-)
but i still find this arc better that everyting after… Smith and quesada arc was awful and out of character… even the great bendis arc has its flaws (maleev art is even worst than McDaniel’s: storytelling,action sequences were terrible…)

i don’t thik DGC was lazy, he just try something new, maybe he has put to much stuff in this arc, but i really enjoy the result.

90’s comics were so love or hate… :-)

I remember these doppelganger stories because over in Captain America (#408) Cap had to fight his doppelganger while we was still a werewolf.

Stephen Conway you cant really compare McDanield work from Nightwing to the one here, his art here is like a weird mix of Miller’s Sin City and his later work, the art is usually a mess thats really hard to follow.

I

Isn’t any DD costume subject to the same joke as the yellow one? “Well, he’s blind….”

But I actually liked this costume. Maybe not DD, and not as good as the red, but it’s overall one of the better redesigns. I’m actually surprised, since it’s all in black and hostile looking with the sharp angles, that no one has made a new bad guy for DD and put him in that costume to be his Venom. Old black cool looking costume comes back as your enemy and dark version of you.

Even though the storyline was convoluted, but this is definitely one of my favourite DD story-arcs. I was particularly impressed with the artwork by McDaniel and the briliant design of the armour costume.

In this Fall From Grace series, you could actually see McDaniel experimenting and evolving his trade throughout the issues. The fruits of his efforts is evident in the finale in DD#325 where he achieves near perfection combination of his pencils and the inking and coloring team. The cover page and some of the splash pages inside DD#325 alone are worth the price of admission.

http://static.comicvine.com/uploads/scale_large/0/4/34603-2190-38647-1-daredevil.jpg

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