Sunday, May 11, 2008

Preposterous Plot Points #3 - "No! Bleeding is slowing my reflexes!"

You thought preposterous plot points could only be found in ye olde issues of ye 60's?

Think again. Here we have a neat example of how, sometimes, something absurde can be written even in the modern age. And by modern here I mean the year 2007.
What's so odd in this storyarc? Tony Stark dresses DD in an iron man suit to frame him for drunkenness? Weird use of the radar sense? Improbable dialogues?
No, simplier...

Daredevil is defeated in hand to hand combat twice in a row by a big guy with no superhuman abilities.


Oh, well. A little recap in pills. The guy in question is Melvin Potter, also known as the Gladiator. In the past, the Gladiator was a bitter enemy of the Man Without Fear. Highly delusional and a bit crazy, Melvin crafted for himself a costume with some special features, including wrist-worn electrically powered circular sawblades. That, coupled with the fact that he was a pretty big and muscular guy would've made him, in his dreams, the ultimate hero buster.
After targeting our hero in hopes of achieving glory, and after getting beaten at every turn, Melvin quit his activity as villain, reformed, and went back to his work as a tailor and costume maker.

Problem is - being, as I said, a bit mentally unstable and with a not so strong force of will - from time to time Melvin got manipulated by some schemer into donning his Gladiator duds again and return to fight Daredevil.
And the one featured in DD vol.2 #95 to #99 was one of these times. But now, without further ado, let's tell the facts and peek at some scenes.

Having killed an inmate and a guard while being temporarily held at a psychiatric hospital, Melvin is taken away into a police van, to return to the penitentiary of Ryker's Island:

DD, suspicious about what is happening to his neighborhood and to Melvin, follows.
Armed goons attack the van, kill the escorting officers and engage DD with rifles and uzis, while at the same time freeing a now enraged Melvin.

The goons who haven't already been taken out by Daredevil are brutally disposed of by the large man. The scene is thus left for Daredevil and Melvin. Daredevil faces his former ally, trying to reason with him at the same time, but is not listened to and instead receives a pretty good beating.

Some notes: Daredevil here was probably tired from the fight, slightly dishoriented by the precedent loud explosion, and wasn't giving it all, convinced that Melvin could maybe still be helped. So this loss was somehow understandable. Even if I don't think an experienced fighter like DD would make the mistake of getting so close to a physically stronger opponent to allow him to do this:

especially because he was mainly trying to knock some sense on him with words in this fight. What the heck, you want to talk him out? Do it from safe distance, for god's sake. It's not like you have to whisper in his ear.

The second fight happens two days after. Melvin, in his Gladiator costume, has gone on a killing spree and is still at large. Matt and his wife Milla are at a restaurant. The Gladiator bursts in, this time looking especially for Matt.

The panicked crowd flees and Milla manages to get to safety, while Matt quickly changes into his costume and faces the Gladiator, now in full armor, helmet and wrist blades.

Do we get a showdown? Do we get the big resolving fight between the costumed hero and the costumed villain, with the latter emerging finally on the top? This is what I was hungering for while avidly sifting through the panels.
But nothing. Not only Daredevil is defeated again by the big guy, this time the desolating event is correlated with Matt's inner monologues (which sound awfully close to whining, if you ask me), told via caption boxes.

Gasp in awe as the Man Without Fear gets slashed and punched around while wallowing in a sad and - given the circumstances - absurde self-commiseration:

"I've forgotten how hard he can hurt when he wants to [...] or how sharp his blades can be"

Yes, okay, now could you please shut up and kick his butt like you're supposed to?

"No. Bleeding is slowing my reflexes"

Yeah, it's not like I trained myself to fight against people who could also attack me with cutting weapons. So when I'm bleeding my reflexes are slowed down to the point that I totally let a peasant clock me in the face with a chair.

"Let him get too close [...] understimated his rage"

No, don't tell me. Want a prize for that?

Long story short, our hero surely gets a few shots, but Melvin succeeds in KOing him again, and leaves him unconscious for the police to find. And this time, there are no excuses.
And there's also a little particular that just adds to the absurdity of it all, and pretty much summarizes this entry:

I have no words. Sure, both the events are used to set up the plot (which is in fact, remarkably good), but can this really be the guy who has made the likes of Bullseye cower in fear, who can go toe to toe with folks the caliber of Mr Hyde?
At least the first two installments of "Preposterous Plot Points" were sort of funny in themselves. This was just hard to swallow. Hard and bitter.


Christine said...

Hahaha... Yeah, about that... Well, I actually do agree that Potter took him out a little too easily the second time (the first time he was disoriented by the high-pitched noise). I also think that DD should have known (by scent) that he was up against Danny Rand when encountering the imposter DD in #87. There are another couple of instances that I can think of where DD should have sensed/noticed something (or perhaps beaten someone) that he didn't.

However, the reason I can overlook these cases of DD being portrayed as "too weak" is because the opposite is so much more common. Everything from the Stan Lee craziness to DD piloting the Avengers' jet (Vol 1, issue #100) to Chichester having him read a computer screen by touch (that will go into my wacky powers series one of these days) and picking up the tiny details of a key being pressed into a squashed cockroach with his radar sense.

The problem with most cases of a hero (that goes for any hero, by the way) doing something they shouldn't be able to or failing to do something they should be able to is that you lose consistency. Writers can be as imaginative as they want to with the scripts and the stories, but if they're not consistent with the characters' personal traits or their powers then there are no rules for what the characters can do and the whole thing becomes completely arbitrary.

What Brubaker should have done with that scene (given that he needed DD to be rendered unconscious for the plot to work) would be to maybe introduce some other difficulty that would have made it more believable or written the dialogue differently (heck, he could have given Matt a severe migraine or food poisoning or something...). Just like Chichester could have solved the computer screen problem by having Matt press the "print screen" button. Good writing and a good imagination can solve these problems in creative ways, without breaking the "rules" of how the character is supposed to work.

Sorry about the long comment. Even though I wasn't particularly bothered by this scene, and I wouldn't go as far as calling it preposterous, I'm a huge fan of consistency. And given that DD is a little weaker than we're used to here, I can see where you're coming from. :)

Francesco said...

Sorry about the long comment.

Don't be! Reading your comments is a pleasure. The longer they are, the longer the pleasure lasts. :)

Yeah, that other thing with Matt fighting the faux DD as soon as he gets out of Rykers also struck me as odd. Not only it was your usual "fight between two good-guys originated by a silly misunderstanding", it was also inconsistent because, of all people in the Marvel universe, Matt is the one who would've discovered who this faux Daredevil as soon as he got within reasonable distance from him.

Regarding the rest of your comment, I couldn't agree more. Writers should be consistent when dealing with what a character should be able to do.
In the case I presented here, my point is that the writers should always keep in mind that, among other things, DD's powers and training make him a hell of a fighter.
He shouldn't lose because of amateurish mistakes such as letting a stronger opponent get too close, or even underestimating a foe's abilities.
Also, like you said, there were several possible ways to have Daredevil lose anyway (which was necessary to the plot) without contradicting the fact that he's a good fighter.

Face Front!