Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Comic Book Television Today: Spotlight on Daredevil

I just finished watching season 1 of Netflix’ Daredevil and I’m ready to render my verdict. Be forewarned, I’m a big fan of the modern T.V. and film takes on the superhero genre and you won’t see much bashing here, just an analysis of what is effective and what could be more so.

I’m of the firm opinion that if you’re an old school Marvel Comics fan, you have to love Daredevil. Daredevil is the essence of what Marvel was all about before it became a mutant-riddled playground whose goal was to see how many books you could shoehorn Wolverine into. Marvel Comics were supposed to be about superheroes who were real guys with real problems. Daredevil is BLIND. What’s a bigger problem than that? Daredevil was also a guy who fought real crime in a real city. He never had billions of dollars to fund his nocturnal enterprises, or a butler, or some cool tech like web shooters or rocket boots, or a magic ring, or any of that business. In so many ways, Daredevil IS Marvel.

That being said, comparisons can be drawn between Ol’ Hornhead and a DC character who’s headlining a “dark” drama, namely Green Arrow. Sure, the Arrow fights crime down and dirty using mostly his wits, but “Batman with a Bow” vs. “Batman Blind?” There’s no contest as to who’s got a tougher row to hoe.

It’s not really fair to compare “Daredevil” and “Arrow,” as they appear on two very different networks with two very different audiences. That being said, I think “The Flash,” which appears on the CW, as does “Arrow,” in some ways beats them both, combining faithfulness to the source material with just a dash of realism, and as little of the young love drama as we can reasonably expect from a CW show. 

“Arrow” is great, but I have a few issues with it. A) it’s about Green Arrow, whose mythology is a little thin for the everyday viewer, forcing them to draw on a lot of Batman’s stuff, leaving us to wonder where Batman fits in in the CW DCU, B) It tries to be dark while still being CW, which is a tough task for anyone to master, and C) They made Atom into a cheap Iron Man knockoff (although that may change), which, 1, Why? And 2, if you’re going to do that, Ted Kord AKA the Blue Beetle probably would have been a better choice.

But I am massively digressing. Daredevil, I think, is the perfect melding of genre and medium. Being on Netflix, the Daredevil team can afford to go as gritty as they think DD needs to be, which can get pretty gritty at times. I think their choices to not put him in the iconic red suit until the last episode, and not to reveal the Kingpin right off the bat, were both genius. It told the viewer, this is not a superhero show, this is an action drama that happens to star a superhero.

But the real success of Daredevil, I think, is as proof of concept of the Netflix model. It has been said that much of today’s “Golden Age” T.V. shows are like 13 hour movies, more than your classic procedural story of the week shows of the past. If any new series is a 13 hour movie, it’s Netflix’ Daredevil. The first few hours bring us through the arc of Matt Murdock becoming, the middle episodes have him running up against the Kingpin and finding himself in many ways wanting, and we wrap up with Matt the conquering hero, lessons learned, with more battle scars than anyone would have hoped, but with the evil he set out to stop vanquished. We could easily believe the story ends here, if we didn’t know Marvel with all of its planned “Phases” better.

So thumbs up for Daredevil. A well-executed, well-acted, well-written show, which effectively used the new medium offered it. Eagerly looking forward to Netflix’ next Marvel offering.


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