The story reprinted in “Dead on Arrival” originally appeared in Italy in 2006, and this version translates Tito Faraci’s story into English with the help of Larry Hama (who’s credited with the “adaptation” here). Claudio Villa is the only credited artist, but I’m not sure if this issue reprints his original coloring or not. The Italian edition from 2006 featured a black and white cover, so perhaps the original version was completely black and white, although I suspect not. But the coloring here, whether it’s the original coloring or some newly enhanced concoction, doesn’t help this comic, and although it might be interesting to see an Italian take on the Marvel mainstream, there’s not a whole lot here that’s worth the cover price.
Faraci’s story unites Daredevil and Captain America (the Steve Rogers version) against the Death-Stalker, a villain who hasn’t appeared in the Marvel Universe for years. You may remember the Death-Stalker from Frank Miller’s early “Daredevil” work as the guy with the wide-brimmed hat, cape, and touch of death. And as Nick Fury dutifully explains in “Dead on Arrival,” “the mook lives on two different planes of reality at the same time.” Yes, that’s the kind of comic we’re dealing with here: one in which characters use the word “mook” and talk about “planes of reality.” It’s a strange mixture to be sure.
Certainly Larry Hama is responsible for the word choice here, and because it seems like his task was to take the translated script and wedge it into the already extant word balloons, he is sometimes forced into redundancy, as when Nick Fury — in full-on Basil Exposition mode — describes Death-Stalker’s current status: “Cold meat,” he says, “Pushing up daisies. Deader than a doornail…” It’s a bit much, isn’t it? Perhaps it’s a faithful translation of Faraci’s words, but it feels like filler. It feels like something had to be used to fill up those word balloons. And it doesn’t make for a particularly pleasant reading experience, even though the rest of the issue is relatively less dialogue heavy.
Although the caption boxes aren’t spared such ridiculousness either, as we get Daredevil’s inner monologue and captions like, “Dead.” Then the next: “He was stone cold dead.” Followed by, you guessed it, “Dead.” It becomes almost laughable.
The best thing about “Dead on Arrival” is the classical style used by artist Claudio Villa. Villa’s ability to render the folds on Death-Stalker’s costume (who, by the way, is not really dead, even though we hear that word a lot from a variety of characters), and create a mood of mystery and suspense with his evocative inking, demonstrates his skill as a comic book artist. Unfortunately, the coloring, whether it’s by Villa himself or not, uses too many white highlights and falls into the Frank D’Armata trap of over-rendering with color. This story would have worked much better in black and white, except maybe for the one sequence where Daredevil regains a kind of sight, and color is needed to show his unreal vision of reality. But even then, the color scheme, garishly neon, doesn’t quite match the tone of the story.
Ultimately, this is just a standard, old-school Daredevil/Captain America team-up — something out-of-continuity that would have seemed right at home in a mid-80s issue of “Marvel Fanfare.” It seems exceedingly safe, offering little in the way of a new perspective on any of the characters involved, and for the five bucks “Dead on Arrival” costs, you can dig through the back issue bins and get a whole lot of actual “Marvel Fanfare” comics instead, if that’s the kind of thing you’re into. If not, you won’t find much here to interest you, anyway.