The Devil Takes a Ride – A Review (8.0/10)

Mar 19, 2008

The Devil Takes a Ride – A Review (8.0/10)

Mar 19, 2008

Okay, time for another review. This one takes us to Europe where Matt goes on a wild goose chase in pursuit of the people responsible for Foggy’s murder. Matt doesn’t know, nor does anyone else, that Foggy is very much alive and tucked away in a witness protection program. The reader knows, however, and was given a scoop on Foggy’s new life as Everett Williams – an obvious homage to Bill Everett – in issue #88, also collected in this TPB (The Devil Takes a Ride – Volume 2). For this review, I will cut to the chase and move directly to issue #89.

In the last pages of issue #87, we saw Matt alter his appearance, and check in at the airport under the name of Michael Murdock (his middle name as well as the name of the fictional twin brother he started impersonating way back in Daredevil vol 1, #25). He bought a first class ticket to Monaco – the last known whereabouts of a certain Alton Lennox – and that is where we find him in issue #89, with the first few opening pages devoted to a dream sequence featuring Foggy and Karen. It’s quite heart-breaking to see these panels of Matt remembering happier times, and the realization as he gradually starts to wake up from his dream: “Foggy… what’ve you done? This — This is all wrong…” We quickly learn that while Matt may have swapped a loud, stinking and uncomfortable prison cell for a fancy hotel room, he still can’t sleep, blaming himself for the many deaths he feels he’s caused. He is on a mission however, and in order to find Alton Lennox he’s become one of the high-rollers at the casino, hoping to catch the attention of Tybold Lucca, Lennox’s only known client in the area and a local mob boss.

I’m quite fond of how Brubaker uses Matt’s senses in the next few pages as he shows how Matt, now posing as a Ray Mallory, wins round after round at the poker table. I’m not sure knowing with almost complete certainty whether your opponents have good cards or not would actually be enough to let you win that easily, especially without knowing what cards you have or what’s on the table. However, I much prefer this stretch of logic to outright “cheating” in the senses department. The way I see it, good Daredevil writers must know how to use his powers appropriately while also respecting the character’s inherent limitations. In this category, Brubaker’s skills are always top notch.

Either way, Matt does manage to get noticed, and scores an invitation to a party at Lucca’s estate. The delivery is made by a young woman, later to be revealed to be said Lucca’s daughter Lily. Matt notices something peculiar about her scent, but can’t quite put his finger on it. At the party, Matt keeps away from the crowd, searching for something to lead him to Alton Lennox. He picks up on the location of Tybold Lucca and his guards and then notices Lily standing off to the side. They get aquainted and Matt asks her about Lennox. He is warned from getting too involved, and Lily instead takes him on a tour of the premises. The main entertainment of the evening turns out to be quite an exotic – and brutal – affair. A masked matador has been brought in to fight and slay the wild animals Lucca keeps, and at the end of all the mayhem the impending marriage between Lily Lucca and the matador Jaime Munoz is announced.

While Matt keeps his senses focused on Alton Lennox in the background, the “new” Matador takes out his sword and kills Tybold Lucca in front of a stunned crowd. At this point, Daredevil jumps in. That’s right, Daredevil. In the regular costume that Matt apparently saw fit to bring with him on his little trip. While Matt’s choice to appear as Daredevil in Europe will turn out to be quite an important plot element later down the line, I can’t help but be a little peeved by the poor logic that must have gone into this decision. I also half-suspect that a big part of Bruaker’s reasons for doing this was to appease the “must see the costume!” readers I mentioned briefly in my previous review.

Daredevil fights the Matador quite successfully until back-up arrives in the form of machine guns and he is forced to flee the scene. As Lily is taken away by her captors in a helicopter, Matt promises to do what he can to save her, and suddenly realizes why she seems so familiar to him. For some reason, she carries the scent of his lost lover Karen Page. Meanwhile the reader is introduced to the mystery person who is apparently pulling all the strings. But who is he? Or she?

In the following issue, Matt follows Lily and her captors to Sintra, Portugal and actually manages to squeeze in some sightseeing while he’s there. At this point, it might be fitting to give the art team credit for really making this whole arc feel like Europe. As a European who’s been around the world a couple of times, the mood seems just right to me. Matt is in Sintra after a tip from Dakota North who serves as an important player behind the scenes in this arc, feeding him information that would have otherwise been difficult to come by. The division of labor between them makes a great deal of sense, and Dakota has continued to be an important player during Brubaker’s run so far.

In Sintra, Matt makes an important discovery as he (once again) dons the costume – while thinking about how he doesn’t want to be caught on camera! – and hunts down Alton Lennox. It turns out that Lennox has been murdered and Matt’s chances of finding out the truth about Foggy’s “murder” suddenly seem slim. While he’s contemplating his dire situation, Lily appears in a car below in the company of Tombstone who gives Daredevil a run for his money, and knocks him out cold. When he wakes up, he has at least one thing to be greatful for – Lily is still alive, and in the hands of people who want to keep it that way. Doing his own detective work, Matt manages to track the pair to Paris and hops on the train for the second time that issue. This brings us to the middle of the arc where Matt finds out that Lily has literally been leading him by the nose. He tracks down an arms dealer scheduled to have a rendez-vous with Tombstone and is finally clued into the fact that Lily and Tombstone are working together. He is baffled by the extent to which his senses have betrayed him. Because of the emotions stirred by her effect on him, Matt was clueless to Lily’s real intentions.

Here, Brubaker stops to spend some time exploring Matt’s sense of smell and the effect it has on him. In issue #91, we are treated to a flashback to his younger days of still getting used to his heightened senses. The special importance of scent in forming emotional bonds is highlighted as Matt experiences the presence of his father all around him after his murder, and the scene of him sleepling in his fathers closet so he can be near him is beautifully done. While people who are of the opinion that superhero comics should be devoted exclusively to fight scenes might not appreciate a detour of this nature, I think it speaks very highly of Brubaker’s ability to get inside Matt’s head – literally. Personally, I have always found the “otherness” of Daredevils world to be extremely fascinating, and I appreciate a writer who can use this aspect of the character to add depth to a story. What the case with Lily demonstrates is also the idea that Matt’s perceptions are not infallible. In this situation, Matt was affected in a way that caused him to let his guard down, and disregard the evidence that was there all along.

But Lily is not only a player in this game, she is being played herself, used as a pawn to get to Matt. She has been asked to wear a certain perfume and that is what caused Matt’s initial reaction to her. Later, he will find out that Lily wasn’t made to smell like Karen Page specifically, but rather to evoke his fondest desire. He is making her smell like Karen Page. When Daredevil breaks up a scene between Lily, the Matador and Tombstone (getting his revenge on the latter by sending him into the Seine with the help of a sledgehammer that just happened to be lying around), he finally gets the information he needs to find the real puppetmaster in all of this. Meanwhile, Lily is let go only to reappear at the end of #93 boarding a flight bound for New York.

The second to last issue of this arc features the “showdown” between Matt and Vanessa Fisk, the somewhat surprising mastermind behind most of the events in Matt’s life since his incarceration. Vanessa is dying and sees her failing body as the victim of the guilt of killing her own son. Ultimately, though, she blames Matt and her own husband for destroying her life. Initially she had hoped that the two would kill each other in prison, but the offer she now has for Matt is an interesting one. She can either “save” his life by making all his legal troubles disappear or she can make it worse by publishing the photographs she has of him being Daredevil in Europe (and couldn’t we all see that one coming a mile away?!). The price she’s asking for helping him is that he agrees to help her husband get out of prison. Matt refuses, despite the the consequences to his own life, only to discover that the process of giving him his life back has already begun.

This little “reset” was quite controversial, but the way I see it there was ultimately nowhere else for the story to go. I was glued to the TV for the first two seasons of Prison Break, but when there was never any kind of resolution, I gradually lost interest. A story of Matt being on the run from the law is a great story, but it’s not one that can be told indefinitely. His outing and subsequent legal problems had been taken as far as they would go. It is also important to note what Brubaker said when he mentioned that the events of issue #93 took care of Matt’s legal problems, not the outing itself. Everything that happened still happened. No massive mind wipes, no deals with Mephisto.

In the very last issue, we see Matt getting most of his life back. He returns to New York, cooks up a story about being held hostage by the Punisher, and is reunited with his wife, Becky and Dakota. This scene then leads into the feel-good moment of the year when Matt notices Foggy out in the hallway and rushes out to meet him. I love that moment, and I’ll say that without a shred of embarrasment. All is not well, however, as Matt still has things weighing on his mind. The idea that he made Lily smell like Karen because she was his greatest desire causes a lot of conflicting feelings, and there is also the matter of the Kingpin. After Vanessa finally passes away, he decides to honor her wishes by having Wilson Fisk’s charges dropped. Fisk, as part of the bargain, agrees to give up his citizenship and leaves the country. Will he ever be back? Who knows. Another development in this issue is that Becky Blake is asked to join the firm as a partner, and they set up new offices away from all of the Daredevil stalkers.

While this arc may not have had the full impact and intensity of The Devil in Cell Block D, Brubaker still manages to cover a lot of ground in five issues without having the story feel rushed or forced. How you view this arc probably depends on how you feel about the ending. To me, having Matt back in a position of semi-normalcy was inevitable and the way Brubaker did it was neat, logical and well-written. And, as I mentioned above, no magic required. I really liked how all the pieces fell into place, even though not everything really had to be resolved in issue #93, but could have been left until later issues. That is a minor complaint however.

I really like this arc on the whole. The pacing is good, Matt gets new environments to explore, new and unusual challenges to face and the ending really works for me. I’m still not in love with having Matt appear as Daredevil in Europe, and feel that having pictures of Matt – an escapee from the law – exercising ninja aerobics in any costume would have been damaging enough in terms of gathering evidence against him. Still, the “costume crowd” must be appeased, and it doesn’t take that much away from my overall enjoyment of the story. Finally, I also have to give out two small bonus points to Brubaker for having Matt speak French (I’ve always been a sucker for Americans who can actually speak more than one language), and for having him rather jokingly dismiss the term “handicapped” in favor of “disabled.” No, I’m not one of those political correctness people, but the fact that Marvel hadn’t updated their vocabulary in the last thirty years was starting to get just a tiny bit annoying.


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