Saturday, March 21, 2015

'Daredevil and the Punisher: Child's Play' trade paperback review

My good buddy Andrew Gates snagged a great deal at the most recent Jeff Harper-sponsored Cleveland Comic, Card & Nostalgia Show. And what comic-book fan doesn't love a bargain?

Retailing originally at $4.95, Andrew bought DAREDEVIL AND THE PUNISHER: CHILD'S PLAY for $3.

Seeing who the two characters are in the same story, he and I immediately geeked out.

Neither of us had heard of this graphic novel-size trade paperback. We wondered when it came out. Since it was by one of comicdom's Dynamic Duos — writer/artist Frank Miller and artist/inker Klaus Janson, we wondered how we hadn't seen, much less, heard of this publication.

Of course, we would have learned all of this if we opened the bagged-and-boarded trade. But this is my story and review. …!
Andrew Gates (left), of Sandusky, Ohio, takes
 a "selfie" with Cary Ashby at a Cleveland comic
book convention March 15, 2015.

Andrew was extremely generous to let me borrow CHILD'S PLAY and read it since he had many other comics to read.

And lo and behold, I quickly realized I'd read this story — when the original issues came out in 1982.

CHILD'S PLAY comprises DAREDEVIL (Vol. 1) Nos. 182 through 184, better known as the first issue immediately following Elektra's murder and the two-parter in which DD and the Punisher first meet. In short, prime Miller-era Daredevil!

The three issues are iconic, collectable and a must-read for two other reasons.

First, the covers by Miller and Janson are just as iconic and memorable as DAREDEVIL No. 181 — when Bullseye gleefully knifes Elektra though her back.

Speaking of the covers in CHILD'S PLAY, I quickly realized this trade was rush job when it was published in 1988. After all, the gallery of the covers for Nos. 182-184 are out of order (183, 182 and 184). The proof is in the print; the second page of the gallery features issue 182 and the narrative underneath it mentions what issues CHILD'S PLAY collects.

Aside from five of six pages in the final issue also being printed waaaay out of chronological order, CHILD'S PLAY is a great story. It's a doozie of a mistake — and it's extremely unfortunate some bonehead(s) could spoil fans' first exposure to these three incredibly well-written and drawn issues.

It's obvious the editors and/or someone at the printing press fell asleep at the wheel. The action in these last bunch of pages just doesn't make sense in this collection — and it's a big goof as the wrong page-order undercuts the power of Daredevil actually shooting the Punisher and a boy pulling the Punisher's gun on the very vigilante who dropped the same firearm. What's a very powerful and surprising bunch of moments in this climactic scene in the closing pages of DAREDEVIL No. 184 ends up being confusing in this collection.

How did this happen, Marvel Comics?!?!

Moving on. …

The third reason these three issues are so iconic is the content. Miller tackles the harsh reality of the drug known as angel dust and the even uglier impact of hallucinations and overdoses — all very unusual for 1982.

Young Mary Elizabeth O'Koren freaks out in the middle of her fifth-period civics class. She then throws herself out of a window. And dies in the school playground. These nine panels are jarring — dramatic storytelling at its best.

As a guest speaker in the same classroom, defense attorney Matt Murdock witnesses it all. As Daredevil, he tells the victim's brother his sister OD'd.

"How can Mary be dead when the two bums who killed her are still alive and pushin' their crap out on the streets?," Billy screams through tears.

The boy threatens to "blow their brains out." Daredevil warns Billy about taking the law into his own hands. At the same time, Frank Castle — the Punisher — has escaped from prison and has been hired to track down the same drug dealers who are "pedding their filth on the weak, the lost, the innocent." And guess who else is pursuing them? Daredevil. And so it goes. …

Re-reading this story (yet again!), I realized Miller sneaks in a fascinating subtext about justice — and how even a blind lawyer with a psuedo-lie detector thanks to his "radar sense" can be duped into believing someone's claim of innocence.

CHILD'S PLAY isn't a Punisher-Daredevil team up; they in fact come from opposite perceptions of imposing justice for the drug dealers and the victims.

It's also not just another fine story from Miller and Janson — one of the industry's Dynamic Duos; it's a timeless "don't do drugs story" that hits you in the gut (despite the order of the final pages being such a clusterf**k).

Grade: A- (But a big, fat, stinky "F" to the idiots who let not one, but two (!) chronology screw-ups make it past the printer!)

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