The Man Without An Editor for his Obnoxious Purple Prose!
Intro 1: Really Lame Villains
Over at Dave’s Long Box (where I originally learned of this comic and its first part, both of which really are bad), Dave Campbell first thought up the concept of “The Riddler Factor.” Essentially, The Riddler Factor is that there’s a villain that for all intents and purposes should be knocked out with one punch by the hero, but because they need them for there to be an actual plot, the villain somehow manages to get away easily. And thus is the case of today’s comic, featuring the dastardly villain the Surgeon General!
What does the Surgeon General do? Well, there’s an urban legend about people who are drugged and then one or more of their internal organs are removed and sold on the Black Market. The victim then awakens to discover what has befallen them one way or another. While organ harvesting in such a capacity doesn’t really exist because of the complications necessary in organ removal and transportation, there is a black market for organs. However, said organs are usually obtained through other means – coercion, negotiation, or just theft form the recently deceased. However, urban myths and legends are the stuff of entertainment; hence we have the Surgeon General.
The Surgeon General has no powers, no martial arts skills, and no motivation, either. There’s no particular reason she does what she does besides for money, but that makes no sense. Being as skilled a surgeon as she is she could easily be making a six or seven-figure salary performing operations. So she doesn’t even have an appealing backstory that makes us want to sympathize with her plight in the slightest. She’s just frigid and mean because she’s the villain. The only thing she’s got going for her besides her medical skills is her army of henchmen, who all dress like her and follow her because... hell, I don’t know. She pays them, maybe? Her costume isn’t even that striking. It’s basically some kind of modified bulky nurse uniform with various medical supplies attached to it, a stupid-looking hat, and a big, irritating sash that holds scalpels and knives. It’s not scary, it just looks unimaginative. Although at least she’s wearing pants.
This is the kind of villain that Stilt-Man or Crazy Quilt can point at and say, “Jeez, what a loser!”
Intro 2: Of Ben Affleck and Heroic Inspiration
Okay, I’ve got a confession to make: I don’t like Daredevil. Now, if I were to someday be a comic writer for Marvel I’d treat him with respect since he is still a superhero and perfectly competent and skilled. However, if given the choice I’d love to avoid him altogether. The concept of a blind superhero is great, serving as an inspiration to any reader who has a disability, showing that one can overcome it and do great things. But the problem is that Daredevil isn’t really blind.
Oh, sure, there was an accident that robbed him of his sight, but what did this accident grant him? A radar sense. Essentially, he hears sounds and the sound waves create a kind of echo-location system that allows him to shape out objects as if he could still see them. In this comic he apparently has super-smelling, which basically does the same thing even though that doesn’t make any sense. One also has to wonder how he coordinated any aspect of his costumes, since it’s not like one can smell or hear colors. Sure, there’s the obvious joke one makes about his yellow outfit or his EXTREME! armored blue costume obviously being made by a blind man, but when one thinks about it he still had to get accessories and matching material to make it, so did he have a friend or something that assisted him in any of these circumstances? And why did he trust them? For all he knew, it could’ve been a bright green ensemble with stripes and polka-dots and he’d never know the difference.
Sure, that’s something you can let suspension of disbelief handle, but it does hang in the back of my mind. But then again, most of my information about Daredevil originally came from the movie starring Ben Affleck. Before that, I just knew he was a blind superhero who I sometimes mistook for Spider-Man from far away. Now I know some of you are shouting, “But Lewis, that movie was terrible! Don’t let that taint your view on him!” Well, it’s all well and good, but even upon seeing the movie I thought to myself, “A radar sense that makes him being blind superfluous? That’s just stupid.” Since this is a comic blog and not a movie one, I’ll avoid going into all the details of why the movie sucked, but needless to say that despite its flaw, it apparently remained relatively faithful to the original comics, which doesn’t exactly endear me to the original stories.
My other problem with Daredevil is that he’s just so damn depressing. Any time I see Daredevil’s book it’s filled with darkness and grittiness and usually going up against more “realistic” threats. That’s fine for those that like it, but you’ve got to admit Daredevil’s got the potential to angst more than Spider-Man. To make matters worse, Daredevil is more poisonous to girlfriends than Kyle Rayner. You’d think the guy would just wear a big sign that says “Women stay away from me or else you’ll end up murdered, a heroin-addicted porn star, or a heroin-addicted porn star who’s later murdered.” Hell, the only redeeming thing I found in one book was during Kevin Smith’s run (where said heroin-addicted porn star girlfriend is murdered by Bullseye) where Daredevil made a long speech to Spider-Man about how nothing they do ever makes a difference and life is bleak and terrible for average people and Spidey pauses for a moment and just responds, “Dude, you saved a baby girl’s life today” before he swings off.
And now onto the crappy comic.
Composition-wise, this is certainly a more interesting cover than we’re used to seeing here at Atop the Fourth Wall, since usually it’s just a single character hanging around in a weird environment or a group shot of several heroes running towards the reader. However, in this case, we have something that actually catches the reader’s attention, with a menacing villain holding the symbols of the heroes by knives. While the Surgeon General herself still looks kind of stupid, there’s still a symbolic dread to having her loom over the heroes like this. It’s made all the more serious when we see that Spider-Man and Daredevil are struggling for their lives from being forcibly operated on by faceless surgeons. Of course, the effect is kind of ruined by the pun, but whatever.
We open to a knife embedded in a spider-tracer. On that note, where did Spider-Man get the capital to fund all his various devices and chemicals that he utilized if he was always strapped for cash in the old days? Daredevil is our narrator for the events: “Spider-Man’s tracking device was supposed to deliver the Surgeon General firmly into our hands. What we’re left holding can only be described with a locker room vulgarism best left unsaid.” What, be sure to shower before entering the pool? “The arachnid’s response to her discover of his spider-tracer is typically cavalier:” To which Spider-Man proclaims, “Oops.” What really makes this scene is Daredevil’s inner monologue channeling our old pal the narrator from Thunderstrike #1: “My own response is equally laconic -- but drips a disturbing and unwelcome inner fury.” And what was this furious, laconic, disturbing response to this intense moral outrage?! “Dead end.” Yeah, my spine just went a shakin’ after that one, yep.
“I blame Surgeon General’s Human Organ Black Market for this growing malignancy within--” our nation like an unchecked cancer! Sorry, I’ll quit it with the Thunderstrike references. “--And I mean to see her answer for it!” The two start searching around and Spider-Man finds a case full of red plastic bags. Spider-Man comments, “Trendsetting garbage bags!” Oh, my sides. “Medical waste, Spidey -- Human.” As opposed to sea otter medical waste bags. Thanks for the clarification, Daredevil. For no particular reason, Daredevil knocks over what looks like a barrel full of salt, but apparently it’s ashes. Daredevil takes off his glove and sifts through it. “Smooth fabric among the brittle, warm flakes of evidence charred almost to nothing. Strand of silk, soaked in a mix of expensive perfume and sewer reek.” So he knows what a sewer smells like by touching things? Daredevil lets off with his “hypersenses” in search of something else with “that foul scent.” Brace yourselves, folks – we’re in for a stinker.
Daredevil suddenly takes off his glove and points at one of the floorboards. “There!” he cries out. Even Spidey asks him, “‘There’? There what?! Why do I feel so in the dark with the blind guy around?” I know the feeling, especially since there’s no way Daredevil could’ve detected anything unless it made a sound! “Tracing the footprint in the floorboard grit... tactile sensation searching the rubbery carcass of the latest victim in a timeless struggle.” Apparently said victim is a dead cockroach. Although, how Daredevil “heard” the dead cockroach is up for debate, especially since he detected it BEFORE he took off his glove with his “tactile sensation!” “Radar picks out the insect’s contours, the imprint stamped there.” And we get a sketchy black image with a few white lines on it that I assume is supposed to represent how it looks from Daredevil’s perspective, but I can’t see a damn thing that would make me think this was supposed to be a cockroach.
Daredevil sees the imprint of a key within the dead cockroach (so, wait – the cockroach was killed by a key falling on it?) and asks Spider-Man to spin his webbing soft enough to get the imprint out. “I can, but... I mean, c’mon, DD, the name’s Spider-Man, not Roach.” Ha ha. Ha ha ha. Oh, there’s that classic Spidey banter. With the imprint in hand, we transition to the Surgeon General talking to some business-type person. The businessman, by the name of Mr. Addams, complains that his investors are concerned. We also learn the Surgeon General’s last name is Kutter. Remember, kids – in comic books, if your name sounds like anything, you will be a supervillain. “Tell them to cool their jets, Mr. Addams! They’ll get their pound of flesh, literally -- and anything else the Black Market will support!” By the by, they’re having this discussion in the middle of what looks like a crowded mall, so it’s good that they’re loudly announcing their plans to sell black market organs in explicit detail.
Mr. Addams points out how Daredevil and Spider-Man have put them behind schedule, but the Surgeon General says they’re only minor setbacks, telling him to look around him at all the people. “The young urban professionals rushing about in their almighty ritual of paper pushing... taking only enough time out of busy schedules to fine tune their bodies to society’s ideal through nutrition programs and health clubs!” Quick, everybody run to McDonalds! “All the raw material we could want is well within reach, Mr. Addams! Tell your corrupt surgical teams wherever, they’ll get what they need, and then some.” Ah, nothing like villains who freely admit they’re EVIL and whatnot, eh? Such a fascinating look at what drives this character! Addams tells her that “An industry such as ours cannot continue if no goods come down the production line!” What, do they make beanie babies out of the organs or something? “Nothing good about it, Mr. Addams... only quality.” The surgeon General replies. I see the Surgeon General also possesses Spidey’s trademark wit!
As Addams leaves on a conveniently placed boat, the Surgeon General’s partner (who possesses a large set of keys that he likes to jingle around) leans against a nearby wall. The Surgeon General takes out a green handkerchief for some reason and the partner remarks, “You ruin more of them fancy hankys down here, Angeline.” She replies, “Have to cut down on the smell some way, Jebediah.” Jeez, I haven’t seen puns this bad since Batman and Robin. “I don’t know what stinks more... the sewage in the water or that pig Addam’s arrogance.” Arrogance? He pointed out legitimate potential problems to your illicit business and you call it arrogance? Anyway, Jebediah here drops his keys and then steps on them, pointing out that he’s “always doing that,” which is just the stupidest excuse I could think of for how we ended up with a key’s imprint on a dead cockroach.
We cut over to Matt Murdock’s law office. He calls up someone to get information on the key he and Spidey lifted. Daredevil’s narration skills come back to the forefont. “Foggy and I got a good deal snagging space at Manhattan’s Worldwide Plaza -- a prestigious address for the letterhead of two hotshot lawyers on the comeback trail. It carries some clout... A smooth line honed on countless juries does the rest[??].” I think the narration’s gone off into its own little world. “Pads of my fingers “read” the impressions of graphite on the rubbing, reversed off Spider-Man’s makeshift mold.” So, no need for brail, eh, Matthew boy? You know, with his radar senses and the ability to read by touching things, I don’t see why I need any sight at all!
To make matters better, upon receiving a fax from the security firm responsible for the key, he reads that the same way he did the graphite impressions. He whispers to himself, “Angeline Kutter, world financial center “medical supplies” -- arrogant piece of work, aren’t you?” Again with the arrogance remarks! To quote a certain Spaniard – you keep using that word. I don’t think it means what you think it means. Foggy Nelson walks in holding airline tickets. “Pack your bags, Matt! We’re flying first class to Vegas!” Yeah, I’m sure your clients won’t mind if you suddenly went on vacation. I mean, being the highly successful law firm that you are... that just moved into a new building... and according to the dialogue, you just worked to renew your license to practice law... Hrmm. Does anyone else even work at Nelson and Murdock? Anyway, Foggy convinces Matt he should take a vacation after pointing out how long he worked to get his license to practice back and- wait, what?
“Franklin Nelson didn’t graduate at the top of our class at Columbia.” That much is certainly obvious. “But he earns high marks in “Real Life 101.”” Pity it turned out he didn’t have enough Residency Credits. “His words hit hard, staying the sacrifice of the man for the mask.” Deep. “I fought to redeem both sides of my identity...” Jeez, with the random annunciation of words you’d think Miller was still writing this comic. Okay, that was an ellipses at the end there, so obviously it must lead into the next page’s- wait a second! We turn the page and suddenly we’re in a completely different scene! You fought hard to redeem both sides of your identity and what, exactly?! What was the point of that line if it didn’t lead into something?!
Cut to the World Trade Center (*Sigh*) where Daredevil and Spider-Man are meeting. “The wallcrawler does his thing, confirming that Kutter’s nobody’s fool -- covering her shapely backside as she has at every turn.” ...And he makes the determination that her backside is shapely how, exactly? Oh, yes, his radar sense. I didn’t know echo-location was so good at determining the sexiness of an individual. Spider-Man checks around and tells Daredevil that no one’s there, so they’re back to square one. Daredevil comments that the sewage smell is there, as well, so it’s likely she spent a lot of time in the area. Well, either that or the WTC had really bad plumbing. “Surgeon General’s got a quota to meet, Spidey. Fastest way for her to meet that black magic number is by sticking to what’s familiar.” Maybe it was explained in part one, but how does Daredevil know that she’s got a quota to meet?
Daredevil goes back to writing his inner monologue prose to submit for his creative writing class: “In the pre-7 AM concrete canyons at the southern tip of Manhattan island (“C-minus, Mr. Murdock. You might as well say it was a dark and stormy night.”), dancing patterns of light fly across my shoulders, light-dark hot-cold (Whosawha-?), cathedral-like (In that only God can save us from this crap)... Start saying your prayers, General.” Yes, pray that this will be over soon!
Nearby, the owner of a restaurant informs the audience via caption boxes that the patrons have all collapsed in their chairs, a result of something in the food. The Surgeon General and her crew arrive, posing as emergency workers. She tells him that the area is quarantined and that he and his staff should leave. And of course as soon as they leave, the Surgeon General and her equally-fashionable Surgeon Soldiers all put on their ridiculous outfits and prep to operate on all the impaired patrons. They get to work and we’re treated to loving shots of the Surgeon General cutting into people as blood drips all around them and various comments are thrown about. Someone calls out for anesthesia, to whit someone calls back to them, “Screw the gas!” I have money! “Let ‘em feel something now, they won’t be feeling anything soon enough.” I know how that feels. All this is happening and I don’t feel a damn thing.
Daredevil and Spider-Man arrive, though I’m really not sure how. The artwork has Daredevil looking down from some rooftop, but the perspective is wonky in the sense that I can’t tell if we’re looking at an interior edge or an exterior edge. To make matters worse, Spider-Man is just kind of floating there as if he was leaping towards the edge where Daredevil is, but it would make no sense to frame him like that, especially since it almost looks like one of his feet is \attached to the wall. Daredevil laments that they’re too late and Spider-Man asks if he’s got a particular strategy in mind. Daredevil yells out, “KUTTER!” in a speech bubble that’s emphasized with red on the inside and jagged edges. Daredevil leaps down through some kind of window, causing the Surgeon General to look up with contempt and yell back with the same kind of bubble, “DAREDEVIL!” Spider-Man leaps down, as well, commenting, “Good strategy!” Yeah, Daredevil’s been taking lessons from a master strategist - Nebula.
Once again a note on the artwork – it’s a full page spread of Daredevil and Spidey leaping down, but there are a few problems with it. First and foremost, we just saw the previous page where Daredevil smashed the overhead window going at it face-first. Now, on this panel, his body has twisted into a kicking pose and he’s holding out his arms like he’s trying to fly or something. Furthermore, he leapt down before Spider-Man, and yet in this image Spider-Man is below him and shooting out his webbing to catch himself from falling to his death. Next, the panel implications were that Daredevil was looking right at the Surgeon General as he was falling, but now Spidey and Daredevil aren’t even looking down at the Diabolical Doctors (I’m trying to come up with a name for the Surgeon General’s little gang of henchman, in case you haven’t caught on). Instead, they’re facing away from them and at a wall, since we can clearly see the Sinister Surgeons in the overhead shot. Apparently radar senses allow you to violate continuity and physics.
As per tradition in comics, the Surgeon General and her cohort Jebediah manage to get in lots of dialogue before Daredevil hits the ground. She tells him to take the organs they already have and get to the ambulance. Daredevil’s narration returns with a vengeance: “Rage blinds common sense, just as it’s done every step of the way with the Surgeon General.” What an interesting dichotomy – my rage at this comic blinds the common sense that was necessary for someone to say, “Say, isn’t this kind of a stupid villain?” Kind of a weird paradox is at work – rage at comic leads to comic being created, thus leading to rage and etc. One of the Surgeon General’s cronies decides he wants to grab one more organ (what organ isn’t particularly clear, since the woman he’s about to cut into doesn’t have any other cuts on her) to qualify for some sort of bonus. Of course, like his boss, this loser is wielding a knife that is completely impractical for surgery of any kind. Oh, and Daredevil lands like two feet away from him. Apparently none of these people spent very much time on their medical education.
Daredevil promptly beats the snot out of the guy while Spider-Man engages the other Felonious Physicians. “Spider-Man’s got his own way of dealing. A combination of wit and Spider-Sense that keeps the perpetrators off balance and threats off his back.” Spider-Man subsequently gets cut by one of the surgeons. Quite a large cut, too, by the looks of the piece of costume that was ripped off by the impractical knife. Yeah, that’s really keeping the threats off his back there. This is really just a further illustration of why this comic sucks so much – these are a bunch of idiots running around in surgical masks and wielding knives. Spider-Man should be able to do one roundhouse kick and knock them all away. Instead, he gets cut and sent into a pile of oxygen tanks (why were there oxygen tanks just sitting around in a restaurant? We’re never told).
Daredevil chases after the Surgeon General out into a mall, where apparently the restaurant was located (why aren’t there other people in the mall?), somehow not being able to catch an ordinary woman with a big oxygen tank on her back. Apparently when Daredevil got his enhanced agility and endurance, he decided to make it fair for supervillains by walking briskly after them as opposed to chasing them. The Surgeon General grabs one of those cart stores you might find in a mall and somehow turns it enough so she can shove it at Daredevil, forcing him to LEAP OVER IT DRAMATICALLY! Apparently the Surgeon General has the proportional strength of a surgeon general... which is more than you’d think. To make Daredevil look even more incompetent, he grabs at her from behind as he’s falling down, but she somehow manages to reach back with a hypodermic needle and stab his leg[!!]... his leg that’s currently up in the air since he’s falling towards her[!!!].
Daredevil falls... I think... It’s really hard to tell from the artwork, but he is floating above the ground. Apparently he falls in front of some sort of electronic map system. You know, maybe us Minnesotans just haven’t caught up with New York, but this was released in 1992 and they had electronic maps? Even in 2008 the malls in the area are still using a solid picture map. Anyway, here’s where we ramp up the silliness. Daredevil, lost in the “maze of the World Financial Center,” needs to find the Surgeon General since his radar sense and his normal senses are on the fritz. As such, he starts randomly pushing buttons on the map, since he can’t see the display colors on the electronic map. Somehow, he finds a printer[!!] function and prints off the map. “Hardcopy map of the Center’s layout, handy convenience for the tourist trade in search of restrooms...” Not a good idea to remind your readers they could be doing something more valuable with their time – like going to the bathroom. “...And vigilantes looking to bring down mad doctors.” Speaking of mad doctors, anyone have Kevorkian’s number?
Back with Spidey, the remaining goons make a run for it but run right into a large and quite clearly visible web that he’s set up in their path. And even after they all get trapped in it, they still don’t get it, almost panicking as they’re trapped in it. Of course, since the web is put in between two palm tree displays, Spider-Man quips, “Now I’ve got you by the coconuts...” You know, I’ve heard puns made by five year-olds that were better than that line.
Daredevil and Spider-Man chase after the Surgeon General and are about to catch her when she spots some of her goons driving up in ambulances. The General takes off her oxygen tank and it’s revealed that actually it was some sort of explosive, noxious gas she was carrying around[!!!]. She smacks the top of the tank against a metal wall and releases it, a spark flying in and exploding it. Yeah, she really thought this plan through well. Of course, somehow instead of getting vaporized in the explosion, we see both Daredevil AND the Surgeon General leaping out of the building as glass explodes around them. Somehow the General manages to catch Spider-Man as she’s flung out[!!!] and they land on top of one of the ambulances. Daredevil swings around with his billy club to try to catch them. And the artwork really baffles, as we see Daredevil’s legs suddenly shrink below him while his chest puffs up like a balloon and his left arm turns transparent.
The Surgeon General orders Jebediah to floor it, which he promptly does. However, Daredevil manages to reach the ambulance and carries the Surgeon General off. Spidey leaps up and webs up the wheels of the car, causing it to crash. Despite the fact that the Surgeon General is an ordinary woman wearing a surgical mask, she still manages to stand up after all that and berate Daredevil for all the money she’s lost. Like a total spaz, she slices around with her impractical knife trying to kill Daredevil, but she keeps holding her arms in front of her and right in the path of the blade, causing her to accidentally cut her wrist. Upon doing so¸ she gasps and wonders what she’s been doing. She says that it feels so cold and I have to tilt my head in wonderment. Apparently, all they really needed to do to get the Surgeon General to stop her rampage was to give her a papercut. Daredevil rips off a piece of her costume and ties it around her wrist to put pressure on the wound. Oh, and her blood suddenly becomes brown in the panel, too, probably so people won’t be confused by the big red costumed guy standing right there.
Spidey arrives and says the bogus doctors have been webbed up and comments on what a mess has been made from all this. “Y’know, DD -- and don’t take this the wrong way, but -- your bad guys don’t play very nice, do they?” Hmmm. You’re absolutely right, Spidey. Say, how’s Gwen Stacy these days? We transition to the next page via a Daily Bugle article talking about the capture of the Surgeon General to a shot of Las Vegas. Wait a second, if they’re in Las Vegas, why do they have a copy of a New York newspaper?! Three mob guys are standing in a casino and discussing (in plain, public view and hearing) that they plan on making Foggy Nelson act as their lawyer since he apparently has worked with the Kingpin before. When one of them asks what’ll happen if Nelson isn’t as good as they’ve heard, one guy suddenly becomes some sort of demonic, glowing entity (well, I’m sure that’s not what the artist intended, but that’s what we get) and states, “Nelson either delivers... or he’s dead!”
And thus our comic ends with the preview of next issue saying that it’ll star Daredevil, Punisher, AND Nomad! Wow, now that’s just a recipe for success! Jeez, this book has more superhero guest stars than the current run of Supergirl. That’s it for this review! Be sure to consult your doctors before you get your organs stolen!