In Which Fiore Sort of Defends Bendis’ Daredevil for a Second Time, Whilst Becoming More and More Convinced that he will never read the book in Question!
(Soundtrack: The Bobbyteens — Cruisin’ For A Bruisin’)
This little rant has nothing to do with comics (some would argue that nothing I write has much of anything to do with the medium–and they may well be right–but I know my American lit goddamnit!) and everything to do with a critique of a specific TPB… Ladies and gentlemen, welcome Adam Stephanides back to the program!
Two things bothered me about this post.
Here’s number one:
Well, I finally read Daredevil: King of Hell’s Kitchen, the trade paperback collecting the arc of which Daredevil #56 was the first issue. And I’m sorry to disappoint anybody looking for blood, but I didn’t hate it. Which is not to say that I liked it, or would be willing to spend money for it; but I have to confess that I found it mildly interesting. In any case, whether because this time I knew not to expect anything like real literature, or because right now I don’t feel compelled to be an aesthetic missionary, I have no urge to dissect King of Hell’s Kitchen the way I did its first few pages.
“Real Literature”, Adam? With apologies to Foreigner (and Kathleen Hanna, who, as “Julie Ruin”, did an awesome cover of the bloated track I’m about to allude to)–I wanna know what that is… Please, O reluctant missonary, don’t leave savages like myself to burn in our ignorance!
What distinguishes “real literature” from its opposite?
But here’s what really bugged me:
In issue #59, one of the yakuza says “Killing an American hero? This has never been done.” Bendis’s overall aim seems to be to combine superheroes with the hardboiled city-as-cesspool school of crime writing (viz. Milla’s speech about how “the city” has taken everything away from Matt); and this latter presupposes an amoral cosmos. On the other hand, to state that heroes never die implies a cosmos that’s fundamentally moral. You can’t have a hardboiled crime story in which it’s guaranteed that heroes never die: like the proverbial irresistible force and immovable object, these two can’t both exist in the same universe. (Please note that I’m not objecting on the grounds that it’s unrealistic; I have no desire to revisit that argument.)
“You can’t have a hardboiled crime story in which it’s guaranteed that heroes never die.”
What are you talking about man? Can you possibly be unaware that just about all of the important items in the hardboiled canon come to us via indestructible first-person narrators? (who’ve obviously survived whatever ordeal they are describing!) Are you confusing hard-boiled literature with films like Double Indemnity and Sunset Boulevard? Sure, James M. Cain wrote the way you describe–but Cain is a pretty minor figure when compared to the true masters of the genre–Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler (with Ernest Hemingway lurking on the more “respectable” fringe of the movement). By your definition none of these writers is “hardboiled”! As a person who has read each of their novels several times, and obsessed upon the hard-boiled aesthetic for years, I just could not let this pass! From what Adam himself has revealed about the series, it sounds to me as if Bendis has got the genre’s cosmology down cold. These stories dramatize the moral stalemate–it’s protagonist vs. corruption, and neither the hero nor the “darkness” ever wins out…(sometimes–fairly often in Hammett, actually–the hero becomes implicated in the corruption, but it never crushes him, or his capacity to pass judgment on the world!) Chandler conceived of his protagonist–Philip Marlowe–as a modern-day knight, incapable of successfully completing his quest of purifying the world, but absolutely dedicated to his knightly praxis…almost out of spite! Sounds a lot like the superhero genre no? (Especially at its most Ditkoesque) I’ve been saying that for years!
Good Evening Friends!