Stew’s Reviews: Daredevil Love & War
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Talk about you.
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TITLE: Daredevil Love & War
Writer and Artist: Frank Miller and Bill Sienkiewicz
Antagonists: Kingpin, Vic
This is an odd book, and that’s for a few reasons.
On a purely personal level, this is a book that I’m not sure how I came to own, but I have never read until now. It must have been included in some bulk items I got my hands on at some point, but I know that the last time I was organizing my book shelf, it was something I’d never really noticed before. It just… appeared. As if by magic.
Aside from that, the format is rare because it’s not the typical trade paperback size. It’s thinner, but taller and wider. My God Loves, Man Kills is the same, and they are two of the few books I can recall having ever seen in this size.
Anyway, Love & War is the story of Wilson Fisk’s attempts to revive his wife from the coma she had fallen into. He discovers a specialist named Paul Mondat and, feeling that Mondat requires more than money as a motivation, sends an unstable killer named Vic to kidnap Cheryl, Paul’s wife. With Kingpin controlling Paul’s wife’s future, he puts his own wife in Paul’s hands.
From there, Mondat and Kingpin put their wills to test to see who can come out on top while Daredevil tracks down Cheryl Mondat, and her captor loses what little handle on his sanity he actually had. In the end, good triumphs with Dr. Mondat turning Vanessa against Wilson Fisk and Cheryl overcoming Vic.
This is a book of good and “ehhh”; nothing here is inherently bad, but there are a few items that just aren’t quite good, either. The most noteworthy of which is Daredevil himself. The protagonist of this tale feels extraneous and boring compared to virtually everyone else in the case. The story-telling around Vic is fun and cryptic; the Fisk/Mondat angle is dramatic and well-paced. Honestly, Daredevil feels tacked into this story just because his name is at the top of the cover. His segments iare easy enough to just skip over to get to the bits that feel like they are actually moving the plot.
If there’s another ehhh aspect, it’s that the book is very short and resolves a bit neatly. It feels like a brief, almost out-of-canon interlude that just kind of happens. It has an impact on Fisk in that Vanessa leaves him, but nothing else feels important here.
But enough about that, let’s talk about the good, the primary such item being Bill Sienkiewicz’ stunningly beautiful artwork. When you go long stretches between reading something drawn by Bill, you forget how magnificent and powerful it is. But there is emotion just leaping off of every single page in this book. The Kingpin in this is drawn as an enormous man of power and stature, but he also has a posture and a facial expression that relays immense desperation. And Sienkiewicz’ stylized work on Vic and his psychological descent is striking. Vic is often drawn as more of a feral ape creature than a man. He is gaunt, hunched, and angular, and you can feel his madness without even reading the words.
That said, Frank Miller provided the internal dialogue for Vic, and it is as potent in regards to his portrayal as the art. Vic’s mind is unable to stay on track, often garbling current thoughts with bits of things he had considered or come across earlier in the day. He quickly becomes obsessive over Cheryl, and his Puritanical and faux-chivalrous views of her are haunting and creepy. He is a terrifying character without any powers or honed martial arts training, and he still reads as a dire threat. Vic stays with you well after you have put the book down.
Even though the story is brief and the core hero feels irrelevant, a lot goes right here from beginning to end. Pretty much everyone but Murdock feels valuable, and the characters that are the bigger focus—Vic, Fisk, and Mondat—are all written with great life by Miller. The book may short-change the typically on-top-pf-things Kingpin a bit with how he gets played by Mondat and doesn’t have anything in place to prevent it, but his blind spot in regards to Vanessa is well documented in comics, so I’ll allow it.
Talking Point: Daredevil is a character who has had as many great tales written about him as any other, and this was one I didn’t even know existed. He’s had some stellar creative teams over the years, too, so… who are your top 3 DD writers? Likewise with artists?
I’ll be honest… an 8 feel super high for this book. But I could barely justify giving a work with this art and creepy feel a lower grade. What Love & War does well, it absolutely excels at, and while it has flaws, they just don’t feel game-breaking. This was a fun find for me.