Since I think it’s unfair to sum up people’s views in a post like this when they are contrary to your own, I suggest people first read the two entries, with comments, HERE and HERE. However, the basic discussion really concerns the lack of action and in-costume appearances Daredevil makes in the Brubaker run. For Jon, this diminishes his enjoyment of the book. I couldn’t care less. Below is my slightly more elaborate answer…
Daredevil is a superhero book. Superhero books generally have action in them. Most action takes place between the main character in question and the enemy he or she is currently facing off with. For the sake of the superhero’s identity, the vast majority of the action happens while the hero is wearing his or her trademark costume. This is one of the basic formulas of the superhero comic book and I agree with Jon that it’s a necessary ingredient. However, adjusting the basic formula to be less, well, formulaic, can sometimes make for better and more organic stories.
The Born Again arc, written by Frank Miller in the second half of the 80’s, is viewed by many fans as the best Daredevil story ever written. It is also notable for its lack of costumes and full-out action. Daredevil appears in costume for the first time in the arc on the last page of the penultimate issue (if I’m not mistaken). The story, when looked at as a whole, does contain plenty of action, but it’s not what makes it so great. It’s great because it’s a character piece about the physical and spiritual destruction of arguable one of the most human characters in the Marvel Universe, and his subsequent return. [UPDATED: Slight error here, see comments]
While Matt Murdock (the civilian and lawyer) and his friends have always been allowed plenty of space in Daredevil, I would say that Born Again finally gave writers the permission to experiment with the basic superhero formula as far as Daredevil goes. Another thing that has added to this new direction has probably been the longer story arcs that we see today. While they have their own ills, they do give writers more freedom to let the story progress at whatever pace they choose. Why should a writer feel pressured to shove a fight scene into an issue “just because” when that isn’t appropriate for the story being told?
Jon also makes the argument for the direct connection between action and excitement. I can’t actually argue with this because different people are excited by different things. For me, action can be exciting, it depends entirely on the writer, artist and the conflict. Because conflict is ultimately the underlying reason for there even being any action in the first place. Without it, the fighting doesn’t even make sense. And, if it’s one thing I don’t like it’s action for its own sake.
I would argue that conflicts drive stories and add excitement to stories. Conflicts come in different forms. They can be internal conflicts that happen within the character as he reacts to people and events around him. When it comes to superheroes, the natural conflict between the costumed life and the civilian life is one of the most interesting conflicts in my mind, and the one that makes superhero stories stand out against “plain” action stories. There is also the external conflict, between the hero and his enemies, as well as his friends. But action in itself isn’t conflict, it’s a symptom of conflict.
I will readily admit that if it weren’t for the fact that there were caption boxes and dialogue happening during fight scenes, I would skim through them. In fact, the way Brubaker gives us a window into Matt’s mind while fighting makes his fight scenes more enjoyable to me. Measuring fight scenes and in-costume appearance in percentages says absolutely nothing about what actually happened on those pages. Things happen between fight scenes too. I would even say that, from a creative standpoint, more things usually happen between fight scenes than during them. Tension, excitement and conflict come in many forms.
I could go on indefinitely, but Jon and I are going to have to agree to disagree. We read the book for different reasons, and that’s one of the most wonderful things about Daredevil. His stories offer different things for different readers. Writers are different in what they prefer too, and as far as Brubaker is concerned his particular mix of story elements suits me perfectly.