Every day this year, I will be examining the artwork on a single comic book story. Today’s artist is David Mazzucchelli, and the issue is Daredevil #206, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated May 1984. Enjoy!
Mazzucchelli’s first issue of Daredevil is … well, it’s kind of weird, but I guess that’s kind of par for the course for the Denny O’Neil run on the title (before this one, I had only read one issue from the run). It features Micah Synn, and if you know anything about Micah Synn (that he and his cronies are descendants of 16th-century English explorers who got lost in the African wilderness and have only just been introduced to the modern world), you know it’s going to be a bit odd. Mazzucchelli’s art, inked by Danny Bulandi, is pretty cool, though, so let’s get to it!
Becky Blake has been mugged, so she calls Matt, naturally. Mazzucchelli does a great job with this page, as Becky (whose legs are paralyzed) crawls to the phone, with Panel 1 showing how difficult it is for her just to perform that simple task, and Matt gets a good description of the perp (the spoon around the neck is awesome). Mazzucchelli makes some really nice choices here, as Panels 7 and 8 are good contrasts – Becky is slightly in the background, with her body turned away from the reader, as she begs Matt pathetically to find the fur coat for her dying mother, while Panel 8 shows the bourgeois Matt with his sweater vest and blazing fire – Christie Scheele colors Becky’s apartment a cool blue, while Matt’s is a warm yellow, just to hammer home the contrast between the two of them. In Panel 4, Matt is drawn very well, with either Mazzucchelli or Bulandi doing nice hatching work on him to emphasize his warm clothes and the darkness of the moment without being too overbearing about it. It’s just a nice page.
Daredevil finds the spoon-wearing punk, of course, and challenges him to use his switchblade on him. So the punk does, much to his chagrin. Mazzucchelli gives DD that great “come at me, punk” smile in Panel 1, and the hatching is really nice, as it roughens up our hero’s face a bit. Mazzucchelli leads us in a backward “L” as DD dispatches the punk, which leads us to the right side of the page and the bottom row (which I didn’t show). Notice that Mazzucchelli is still a bit stiff in the figure work, especially when DD knocks the punk down – it’s not as stiff as it was yesterday, and we’ll see below that he was getting a lot better at this kind of thing, but it’s still not as fluid as it could be.
So Foggy’s wife, Debbie, is weirdly attracted to Micah, so she gives him that idol of his god, “Mow” (I told you it was weird). He thinks this means she wants to get it on, which she kind of does. But she wants to be wooed, damn it! So we get this weird sequence, where Micah tries to mack on her. In Panel 1, we get the interesting background, with the swirly black to highlight Micah better, and we get some nice inking on Micah himself. The “softer” blacks and the way Mazzucchelli or Bulandi use those black shapes on his tunic remind me of Kelley Jones when Malcolm Jones was inking him on Sandman. It’s a nifty effect. Micah discards the idol somewhere so he can grab Debbie with both hands, and we get the weird column on the right side of the page. O’Neil and Mazzucchelli are going for the effect where the woman initially resists until she can’t deal with the man’s animal magnetism anymore and succumbs – I get that, but I’m not sure that it works because I don’t think Mazzucchelli is up to the task yet, or perhaps he just doesn’t have enough room. Debbie looks disgusted in Panel 2, and after Micah kisses her, she turns away and Mazzucchelli draws a nice sad/scared face. In Panel 5, I think it’s supposed to be a realization that she really does want Micah to kiss her, but she still looks a bit scared. In Panel 6, she looks rather into the kissing, so I’m just assuming it’s the clichéd situation of a woman resisting until she’s swept away by the man’s super-macho charm. I rarely want more words in comics, but perhaps O’Neil needed to add something, or perhaps Mazzucchelli could have laid the page out a bit differently to add an extra panel that makes it clear she’s succumbing. The facial expressions aren’t too bad, they just don’t seem to match what the creators are going for. The inking is nice, though, as Micah’s face is dark and ominous, while Debbie’s is lighter and open. It’s a good way to show how different they are. That’s the Kingpin in the final panel, by the way.
There’s a lot of nice work on this page, in both scenes. The snow is done well, as it allows a bit of hatching that stands out against the white, reminding us that this is, after all, New York. The blacks on Micah and his men in Panel 2 is very nicely done, as it’s getting late in the day, so the light is fading, while it reminds us that Micah and his men aren’t very nice. When we switch to Matt’s apartment, we get more good work with the blacks, as Matt is changing in a darkened room, while we get nice folds in Glorianna’s dress. Panel 7, where we get the close-up on Glorianna, is well done, too. Mazzucchelli gives her large eyes, which makes her more sympathetic, and the way he tilts her head down shows that she’s just a bit meek, as she’s a guest in Matt’s home and isn’t quite sure how to act (I assume this is before she and Matt start bumpin’ uglies). The smooth inks in her hair give it a nice, lush look, which is always a good thing. I’m not sure why Mazzucchelli made the panels smaller in the middle of the page, but it’s not the last time he’ll mess around with layouts in this issue, as we’ll see!
Micah and his men bust in on Matt’s Christmas party because that’s where Debbie is, and mayhem ensues, with Mazzucchelli giving us a nice two-page sequence here. He uses borderless panels to isolate the victims – on the first page, the men gather around Becky and attack her, and the fact that they’re doing it against stark white heightens the helplessness she must feel, while on the second page, he draws Matt doubled over, pretending to be a victim, and once again the lack of background focuses all of our attention on him. In the middle of the first page, we get the sequence with Micah, Debbie, and Foggy, as Micah’s crony beats the hapless lawyer and Micah grabs Debbie’s hair to stop her from going to him. It’s a brutal sequence, but Mazzucchelli does a very good job showing the brutality without being too graphic. Mazzucchelli tilts the row so that the flow is down and to the right, which makes the final panel, where Micah grabs Debbie’s hair, that much more abrupt, as we’re moving to the center – Foggy’s beating takes place in the center of the page, and Debbie tries to move toward the center of the page, but then Micah’s grab yanks her back, and the way Mazzucchelli constructs the row makes it even more violent. On the second page, he uses irregularly-shaped panels to create the space around Matt in the center but also to highlight the violence that’s occurring – nothing is smooth in this scene, and the panel borders reflect that. The storytelling is still clear – Glorianna moves toward Becky and her assailants, and one of them grabs her and holds the knife to her throat. Matt has to distract them, so he staggers toward them, using his radar. Mazzucchelli does a wonderful job with Glorianna on this page – her look of surprise and anger in Panel 2 is well done, as is the way he draws her hair moving with her, and then we get the fear in Panel 3 as she sees the knife in the punk’s hand. There’s a lot of good work on these two pages – Foggy’s rage, Debbie’s fear and then pain, Matt’s feigned confusion – as Mazzucchelli shows that he already knows a lot about comics art.
Matt gets the bad guys to hurl him into the tree, which causes the power to go out and allows him to change into Daredevil. This is a wonderful page – Mazzucchelli uses the blank background really well once again, as Matt’s crash into the tree feels more violent as it’s the only image in the panel. The blacks and the colors are nice, too – the blacks lead us to the side column, where the power is out, while the fact that Scheele colors the red tinsel even in the darkness makes it pop quite nicely. The splotches of green at the top of the panel show parts of the tree flying off, making Matt’s collision look a bit more painful. Then we get the column of panels where Daredevil begins taking out the trash. Mazzucchelli and Bulandi use blacks wonderfully here, as Mazzucchelli draws the characters close in so that we have no idea what’s going on around them, and even in the darkness, we can see the fear and puzzlement on their faces. Scheele again uses cool blues so that, when DD shows up in the final panel, even the muted red of his arm stands out well. This page is just really well done.
The Kingpin intervenes again to rescue Daredevil (he really doesn’t like dudes putting the moves on other dudes’ wives, apparently), and DD gives Micah a beatdown. Mazzucchelli once again shows that he knows how to move use across the page well in an action scene. We can still some a bit of stiffness in the figure work – that leg in Panel 5 is just weird – but we can also see that Mazzucchelli is getting better at making his figures look a bit more fluid, which is crucial in a superhero book. The inking, as throughout the issue, is superb, as we get rough lines on both men but a sleekness remains, reminding us that Daredevil is, after all, wearing spandex. The snow just makes the entire scene a bit more eerie, as if DD and Micah are the only ones on earth, fighting in a vast wasteland.
Mazzucchelli drew Daredevil for a while, but this is obviously the high point, art-wise. I mean, it’s not like he ever did a story arc as important and memorable as the Micah Synn stories, right? So tomorrow we’ll see an example of the Batman Axiom of Comics in action, as he gets to draw the Caped Crusader! Although I doubt that story is very memorable, either. You’ll definitely find memorable stories in the archives!
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