Daredevil Epic Collection: Fall From Grace
This was the first DD epic released but for some reason, it’s RRP was $5 higher than all the others, so it’s taken a few years for me to get hold of a copy at a decent price.
It was not worth the wait.
It’s incredibly rare for me to not read all of a comic I buy. Ones borrowed from the library, I’ll bail on quite happily if I’m not enjoying them, but if I’ve put down money for it, I generally stick it out to the end. even if I immediately go and list it on for sale somewhere. I couldn’t bear to finish this. I wasn’t expecting it to be particularly good - it’s mid-90s Marvel after all - but while a lot of that era is bad, it’s usually at least interestingly bad. This is just dreck on every level.
The volume consists of two large story arcs, the eponymous Fall From Grace and then Tree Of Knowledge, split by an annual. When an annual by no-name guest creators is better than the main series, you know you’re in serious trouble.
DG Chichester’s story is crap, basically. Fall From Grave has a really convoluted set-up - some super-secret part of the Hand includes or has recruited a former US general who, decades ago, created a psychic virus which can change someone’s body based on their whims, but it was lost and the key to finding it is a psychic homeless man. The Hand want it because they’ve revived Elektra, sort of, but need to use the virus to make her whole, because she’s just the evil impulses of Elektra at the moment, which is bad because… I don’t know. Anyway, there’s only really about two or three issues worth of plot to Fall From Grace, but it gets stretched to 7 issues, mainly through gratuitous guest appearances. As Daredevil and the Hand both hunt for the homeless guy and the virus, various other characters pop up to get in the way for a bit and add not much to the story - Silver Sable, Venom, Morbius, some SHIELD cyborg guy (Siege?). I’d accuse it of being a promotional stunt, but I can’t see how any of them other than Venom would drive sales.
During this story, Daredevil gets his 90s black armour costume. It is not only incidental to the story, it’s barely acknowledged by it. His usual costume gets a bit shredded and then he starts wearing the new one completely without fanfare or comment and the only explanation being some obtuse quotations from technical descriptions of “mimetic fabric” and a few panels of Daredevil stealing the materials from some rats, I think? For such a big change, it’s really muted.
Narrative clarity is in short supply here, as Chichester’s awful story is illustrated by Scott McDaniel. I’m familiar with McDaniel from his work on Nightwing, a few years later, which is a bit ugly at times and not brilliant at story telling in places, but not that bad generally. Here it is almost impenetrable. It is frequently impossible to tell who anyone is, what’s going on and where they even are. The panel lay-outs are abstract for the most part, the visual clarity is obliterated by high contrast shadows, the story telling is pretty much absent and his take on visualising radar sense is the worst I’ve ever seen. Daredevil gets his new costume, but you don’t really get a clear look at it until it’s drawn by someone else in the annual (where it looks ok, actually).
McDaniel’s work is the kind that needs a strong writer to smooth over the gaps in (or complete lack of) story-telling, but Chichester is not that writer. As well as his plotting being bad, his scripting is worse, compounding all the problems in the art. This isn’t helped by a really strange disconnect between issues. One issue ends on a cliffhanger of Daredevil and Siege standing off about to fight each other, Siege threatening to kill DD. The next issue picks up with, well, this:
They’re working together to save some Hand guy that’s suddenly defected to their side with no explanation! I thought this would be an in medias res thing, with a flashback to show the Hand guy defecting or at least Siege and Daredevil teaming up, but nope. That is just completely skipped over. Every issue break feels like Chichester’s continued the story in his own head and the next issue is picking up where he got to, not where the last issue left off.
What’s incredible to me is that Marvel surely knew this of these problems when they published the story, because they had extra pages made for the contemporary trade edition and those don’t even actually solve any of the problems!
The second arc, Tree Of Knowledge fares no better. I had hoped that the convoluted nature of Fall From Grace had affected the writing and art and that with a new story, it’d settle down into a better rhythm, but it doesn’t. Instead we get Chichester doing a story about internet hacker villains. In 1994. I applaud his forward thinking, but seeing a character called “Sinclair Spectrum” work with “Kill-O-Byte” and a bunch of what was even then terrible stereotypes to hack the “information highway” doesn’t have enough kitsch charm to work, especially with the obtuse art and scripting. I bailed on the second issue, but flicked forward to see yet more gratuitous cameos in the six issues it covers
This has put me in a odd position. I’ve been aiming for completism on the Epic Collection - for the titles I like at least (no Star Wars for instance). And there’s a couple of volumes that I have and am willing to keep even though they’re not great (the Byrne Iron Man volume, for instance) for the sake of that completism and doing long re-reads somewhere down the line. But this volume has really broken that resolve and I’m happy enough to have a gap in my eventual run of DD volumes.