Thee Comic Column #126: Daredevil & The MMU

Netflix-Daredevil-Costume-3Everyone else on the Internet wrote about Marvel’s new Daredevil series last week when it dropped on Netflix. I’m still only a little over halfway through the season as I write this, however I simply can’t NOT write about a comic-based show this damn good. That said, what I really want to talk about here isn’t merely how great a show Daredevil is, or how wonderful the show is cast, the fact that besides the obvious magnificence of Mr. Cox and Mr. D’onofrio as hero and foil, Elden Henson is the perfect Foggy Nelson, Vondie Curtis-Hall kills as Ben Urich* and Deborah Ann Woll has added a level of innocence back to a character that, for those of us who have read Born Again, stopped associating with Ms. Page a long time ago. No, what I really want to get into is my own absolute admiration for Marvel’s big picture, the saintly patience with which they stalk their master plan and how they’ve consistently been able to transform and translate EVERYTHING they’ve brought to the silver screen – little or big – since 2006’s Iron Man led the way.

Now, the full scope of the above statement is too wide for me to tackle here, because frankly we’d have to go into all of the little seeds they’ve sown that haven’t paid off yet but we know are lurking in the background: the Ten Rings in that first Iron Man movie; the increasingly percolating story of the infinity gems; the very soon-to-be revealed relationship between Tony Stark’s AI and the introduction of several MAJOR characters (Vision, Ultron, who knows who else?). I’d also have to spend quite a bit of time finally plowing through Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter, two shows I’ve followed peripherally but haven’t had the actual time to watch a single episode of. Shows that by all accounts are doing some real heavy lifting carrying forward some beautifully ripe storylines that sow the MMU’s past to its present, and in the case of S.H.I.E.L.D., has slowly and methodically introduced the next major Marvel Cinematic population to fans: The Inhumans.

But like I said, that’s a much larger article that I don’t have the time or resources to do justice at the moment. Instead, let’s talk about what Daredevil says about the “Street Level” of the MMU and how that will most likely eventually inform the greater whole.

Oh to have a bird’s eye view of Marvel’s screen universe when all is said and done. I imagine it will be like looking down at the map of Battleworld released a few months ago, so many different times, characters and ideas occupying such clearly defined spaces in relation to one another. Or, eventually taken nostalgically, to see the Marvel Comics Universe the way I first did, spread out over four glorious pages of event-markings in 1986’s Marvel Age Annual #2, still one of my prized comic book possessions after going on thirty years:

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But of course we don’t have the bird’s eye view yet, and therein lies the absolute joy of watching Marvel build this magnificent universe – again! Phase One of the MMU was filled with the initial wonderment of, well, gosh darn – really good comic book movies! Wow! Phase Two moved us closer to a bigger picture and got us firmly up and off Earth so that big picture could increase in size to the cosmic level. And now, in just a little over a week we’ll enter Phase Three, of which mostly we can only speculate. But in the background, perhaps lesser culturally explosive but every bit as important is the MMU on the small screen. Again, I only have the plot points for the shows on the terrestrial networks, but now that Daredevil has landed we have a third facet to this gem – Movies, Network and Netflix, and what we’re seeing is that all three are indeed different and yet still contained within and important to the overall whole Marvel is working to build. So while the films are massive, epic, major character-introducing/evolving narratives that operate as the cinematic equivalent of graphic novels or Icon Trade Paperback collections – the Marvel Masterworks of the new age if you will – and the network shows are the floppies – maybe more akin in scope to the Marvel Team Ups or Two in Ones of days gone by – the Netflix stuff, if The Man Without Fear is any indication, is a Prestige Format series.

And it’s dark. A LOT darker than the other Marvel stuff. And violent too. Not excessively violent. No. But when the street level MMU is violent, it’s really violent. And that’s just fine, because with that violence Marvel is clearly making a statement about the streets and Burroughs that the ‘regular people’ in the MMU occupy. Post-Avengers #1 NYC is a dark place, with a lot of unknown variables. Variable that drive people like Wilson Fisk to seize control of everything they can and people like Matt Murdock to tie a mask around their face and fight to take every inch of that city back from the Fisks that would exploit and endanger it. To me, this is the truly amazing thing about this series so far: Murdock isn’t a Thor with powers, an Iron Man with money, tech and smarts, or even a Hawkeye or Black Widow with Special Ops training and a government-directed agenda. Instead, Murdock is a man on a mission. A mission that he’s making up as he goes along, following his heart and getting his ass handed to him as a result. What’s more, he’s a man that is constantly aware of the line he has vowed not to cross and the fact that he may one day have to reconsider crossing it or potentially lose that mission and everything he holds dear.

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But Matt Murdock’s not thinking about that. No, he’s got his head down, his fists up and a resolve that borders on idiotic and suicidal at times. None of Cap’s strategy or Stark’s swagger, none of the Odinson’s belief or Barton’s loyalty. As my Drinking with Comics partner/producer Joe.Baxter said to me earlier today, Matt Murdock is the exact halfway point between Spiderman and The Punisher, and it’s really still too early in the evolution of the MMU to know if, when all is said and done, he will end up a member of the Avengers or an outlaw. And that my friends, is the exact reason why Daredevil is so damn good – we’re not sure where exactly he will fall inside the overall MMU, but the journey to that discovery is already off to an unbelievable start.

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Can’t find a comic shop? You can always use old reliable Comic Shop Locator at 1-800-COMIC-BOOK. Or you can take some of my recommendations. If you live in the greater Chicagoland area I recommend any of the wonderful four locations of Amazing Fantasy Books. In Los Angeles it’s The Comic Bug. Las Vegas it’s Alternate Reality Comics. San Francisco? Try the Isotope Comic Lounge and if you happen to venture a little further North I’d say you have to visit The Escapist Comic Book Store in Berkley (with the wonderful Dark Carnival Books next door and owned by the same folks). Read on!!!

Shawn C Baker

Shawn C Baker

Shawn lives in Los Angeles where he co-hosts Drinking w/ Comics, writes screenplays and fiction and has been known to drink quite a bit of beer. Good beer.

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