B&B 2-in-1 Round 12: Deadman vs. Matt Murdock

Batman leads the Thing 7 to 4, but it's not over yet. In this bout, they pit two guest-stars who wear "D"s on their chests against one another. Who will win?

In the black corner... it's Batman and the Deadman, written by Bob Haney and drawn by Jim Aparo, Brave and the Bold #104, Second Chance for a Deadman?

In the orange corner... we have the Thing and Matt Murdock, written by Marv Wolfman and drawn by Ron Wilson and Pablo Marcos, Marvel Two-in-One #37, Game Point!

... DING DING DING!

The Stars
This is a story in which Batman pulls a gun!
It's a crazy ploy to shock and distract the criminals - the gun is filled with blanks - though why Commissioner Gordon panics when he KNOWS that's what it is (and keeps pushing the 2nd Amendment on Batman in these stories) has to be chalked up to his playing a part in Batman's little play in case the bad guys can hear. I'm not sure they can, given the distance and the massive burning truck between them and the police line, but speaking of which...
The lead guy is killed, but Batman recognizes his mannerisms even though his face has been changed. This leads the Dark Knight Detective to investigating a spa where they may be giving criminals new identities, but his undercover work is lacking, so he has to call in Deadman to possess someone in the operation so he can get close enough to the criminal activity. So does he conduct a seance? No - but that would have brought in a lot of points - instead he puts a Riddler-like clue in the newspaper, hoping Boston Brand will pick up on it. Don't worry, he does. Batman briefs him on the FBI's most wanted list so he can identify potential clients, and the coaching pans out. Not so great is Bruce Wayne getting caught snooping anyway and being given a criminal's face (with make-up, not surgery thankfully) so he might die in a hail of police gunfire. He's only saved by his guest-star's intervention. Only +5 Bat-points despite initial high hopes.
We first see Ben Grimm in his bedroom, after the Fantastic Four have split up, in the villain's crosshairs. What does the Thing do to relax? Read The Shining, eat chocolates, smoke a cigar, and try to keep cool in New York's hot summer weather. He's just a regular guy. A regular guy who starts feeling "bee stings" (whatever the sniper is doing to him) and involuntarily breaks things trying to shoo the insects away. He breaks his bed. He breaks a street, he breaks a bus....
It's a total frame-up, but he turns himself in to the cops because he's a menace. It's nice to see the boys in blue process him against their will. He once saved a cop's daughter, and so on. They see him as one of the angels. That processing is wholly ridiculous (see Odds vs. Ends), but now at least they have his brick-like fingerprints on file. He gets some peace and quiet in the drunk tank by wrapping the other inmates in a mattress (he can't be blamed for THAT.) Once the Thing is in court, the character witnesses come out of the woodwork, but something's still happening to him and he breaks more government property. That's not going to help his case. But here on Earth-Prime, it's quite nice to see Ben as a hero for the common man, respected by the community, and willing to do the right thing to protect them, even from himself. +7 points

The Guests
Do you ever have the feelings someone's just over your shoulder? It might be Deadman, who reads the newspaper like that all the time, apparently. You can also think of him as the gremlin on the wing of your plane.
Anyway, Boston Brand possesses a number of people this issue, including Bruce Wayne himself so he can take a runner when the cops go after him, and Commissioner Gordon, which causes a black-out that sends the Gordon to the neurologist, poor dear. But it's as Richie Wandrus, criminal boyfriend and partner of Lilly Lang who runs the evil spa, that he'll actually fall in love and almost ruin the entire operation! And she loves him back even when he fesses up to being a ghost in her boyfriend's body! Holy crap! He takes sleeping pills to keep Richie down when he has to ghost out of there to do other things, and winds up trying to hide the evidence he collected against his love... It's so screwed up! I mean sure, the real Richie is a criminal brute, but he's still in there! That Lilly doesn't mind on account of Boston kissing better should have sounded some alarms, but it takes Deadman a long time to accept that she's bad news. And then he shoots her. See, he tries to turn her into a ghost so they can spend eternity together. It doesn't work. Ooops! +6 Bat-points because I'm a romantic at heart too.
Matt Murdock and not Daredevil?! We're going to have to wait for the next chapter to see that. For now, it's a courtroom drama, and Matt is better equipped. His whole case depends on character witnesses saying Ben is a positive force in the community, but doesn't address the actual property damage he's done, so I gotta say, his case is a little weak. Has he really "proven" that the Thing needs to be free? I'm on the D.A.'s side in this one. +3 points

The Villains
All sorts of criminal types come and go in the Brave and the Bold story, guys like Waxey Doyle, who likes to juggle his gun between hands before firing it. But the big bad is Lilly Lang who though she sounds like a Superman love interest, runs the Spa of Crime (not its real name) where your couples groupon likely won't allow you in to the high-security massage facility on the other side of the river. That's where they have the face-changer machine (or surgeons, whatever) and can manufacturer all the fake papers you'll ever need to get into bars and/or embassies. But I gotta tell you, the Spa may be a den of vice, it still has a zero tolerance policy on alcohol.
That Lilly Lang sure believes in healthy living. And she's cold as ice, enough to shock Deadman out of the Honeymoon phase when she decides to play Face-Off with Bruce Wayne. For a one-off "civilian" villain, she's not bad. +5 Bat-points

Who's the villain in the Thing story? Well, obviously there's a sniper who can make Ben reflexively destroy stuff. And there's the one witness against him who has read all of the FF's back issues and inserted himself into every story where Ben has caused wanton destruction in New York. But the real evil is the legal system.
Your Honor, I really think you should recuse yourself at this point. Does it even matter to this guy that there's a JURY? He further orders Ben be put in chains (like that's gonna help), but it smells of overreach to me. +4 points

Odds vs. Ends
From Brave and the Bold:
-Bob Haney sure does love to make Gordon look dumb. What the hell is this contention that criminals NEVER EVER EVER change their modus operandi? How is this a truism? -1 Bat-point

From Marvel Two-in-One:
-Here's the thing about this competition. There's a fine line between STUPID and ZANY, and while B&B usually falls on the Zany side, 2-in-1 more frequently falls on the Stupid side. I don't know how to explain it; is it just my perception of the writers? Bob Haney is an "anything goes" kind of writer, and I like that. Marv Wolfman, on the other hand, isn't known for this, and when his stories take strange turns, they seem the result of laziness instead. So do I take points OFF for the mishandled representation of the American justice system (stuff like the defense's witnesses going first, for example), or do I embrace it as zany lunacy? I think I'll call this the latter, if only because much of it plays out as a comedy. I mean, how else do you interpret this ridiculous police line-up?
I don't think line-ups are a necessary procedure, given that Ben is highly recognizable AND turned himself in, so yes, this is lunacy. +2 points.
-And the hits on the justice system keep coming with absolutely unsanitary conditions in the NYPD jail cells. Why do they have a dirt floor with puddles of water?! The point is actually for the belly bounce into the cell. +1 point
-This last one IS a mistake however. Alicia can't be allowed to go into the courtroom because it's a "closed hearing", but every shot of the interior shows a massive crowd. Now they're just being unfair to be unfair. -1 point

Farewells and Scoring
Friendly farewell: NOT AT ALL. Deadman just killed the love of his life and disappears so he can haunt the morgue, "last repository of life's losers". Geez. Batman feels bad for him. I guess that's a mark of friendship. +1 Bat-point
Unfriendly farewell: No farewells yet, this is a two-parter, but we do leave the story with Matt and Alicia showing faith in Ben even as he is surrounded by police and the D.A. goes off the deep end declaring victory. +1 point

17 to 16, advantage Matt Murdock! He didn't have to take his shirt off (or sleep with the bad guy using another dude's body) to beat Deadman. Life is for the living, I guess. That's the battle; the war has Ben Grimm inching a little closer to Batman who maintains his lead 7 to 5. Next up, Matt sticks around to fight another round, so Bats better call in one of DC's biggest guns.

2 comments:

SallyP said...

Ordinarily I would automatically go for the Jim Aparo artwork, but I have to admit that the Ben/Daredevil book's premise is pretty fabulous.

Siskoid said...

Aparo was at the height of his game.

And I can't wait for Two-in-One to shed Ron Wilson as artist.

If this were just about the art, there would be no contest.

 

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