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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

X-amining Daredevil #269

"Lone Stranger"
August 1989

In a Nutshell 
Daredevil fights Blob & Pyro. 

Writer: Ann Nocenti
Penciler: John Romita Jr. 
Inker: Al Williamson
Letterer: Joe Rosen
Colorist: Max Scheele
Editor: Ralph Macchio
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
Blob and Pyro of Freedom Force, tasked with bringing in an unregistered mutant, arrive in a small town, teleported there by Spiral. They find the residents of the town less than welcoming, but their mutant powers and federal authority give them the run of the place. Meanwhile, Matt Murdock arrives in town and, feeling that the Mutant Registration Act is a violation of civil rights, decides to find the mutant before Freedom Force can. After getting Blob and Pyro drunk, he overhears one of the locals selling out the mutant to Pyro, and races to her location ahead of Freedom Force. As Daredevil, he gets the mutant, a young woman named Amanda, out of the bell tower where she's hiding just as Pyro attacks, but he's overwhelmed by Pyro's flames and passes out.


Daredevil wakes up as Blob is assaulting the female bartender, and as Murdock, plays off Blob's jealousy to turn him against Pyro. As the two mutants fight, Daredevil retrieves Amanda then confronts Pyro and Blob. Using his billy club to break Pyro's arm, he moves Blob into position so that Amanda can use her power to drop the church bell on him, knocking him out. Daredevil tells Amanda to hide, saying he has to move on as well. Later, Spiral retrieves Pyro and Blob as Amanda leaves town, feeling that everyone seems a little paler after having met Daredevil.

Firsts and Other Notables
Freedom Force, represented by Blob and Pyro, appear in this issue in order to capture a mutant who hasn't registered. Spiral also appears briefly at the beginning and end of the issue to teleport them in and out, indicating she's still a member of the team at this time. 


This issue falls during the long Ann Nocenti/John Romita Jr. run of Daredevil (as did the series' "Fall of the Mutants" and "Inferno" tie-in issues), and comes at a time when, in the wake of battles with Typhoid Mary and Mephisto, Daredevil has left New York City and embarked on an Incredible Hulk TV show-style wandering tour.

The Chronology Corner
The Marve Chronology Project lists Blob and Pyro's appearance in this issue as ocurring after Captain America #346, and prior to X-Factor #40 and New Mutants #78.

A Work in Progress
Arriving in town, Blob and Pyro waste no time flexing their authority.


Daredevil, lawyer that he is, notes that the Mutant Registration Act is a gross violation of mutants' civil rights.


Pyro is able to make smoke so dense it blocks Daredevil's club. Clever power usage, or ridiculous?


In a cute moment, both Pyro and Daredevil are shown to be thinking the same thing at the same time just prior to their rematch. 



Human/Mutant Relations
Interestingly, the townspeople (with the exception of the one guy who sells her out) band together against Blob and Pyro, help guard and keep Amanda away from them. It's a refreshing change from the usual lynch mob approach to mutants in small towns.

Teebore's Take
I decided to take a look at this issue for a couple reasons. Mostly, I needed something to fill this slot, just prior to Uncanny X-Men going bi-weekly again and with most of the 1989 annuals covered, in order to keep both Excalibur and Wolverine on their regular days and still have an X-aminations post up on a Wednesday. Plus, I figured it would be fun to see Freedom Force acting as the government's mutant strike force independent of interactions with the main characters of the X-books. And, of course, it's always nice to see more John Romita Jr. art.

But this actually turned out to be a fun little done-in-one story. We get to see the Mutant Registration Act being enforced outside of an X-book, and Blob and Pyro do an effective job of reminding us that, federal agents they may be, they're still villains at heart, both in terms of the way they abuse their authority and in how they treat the women in the story (specifically, their quarry and the bartender). And while Daredevil taking on the whole team might have seemed a bit much, Pyro and Blob alone make for decent adversaries, powerful enough to be a challenge but not so powerful that Daredevil can't eventually prevail against them. By no means essential reading, this is nonetheless an entertaining and gorgeously drawn snapshot of the non-superhero side of mutant life in the Marvel Universe and a chance to see Freedom Force doing their thing independent of the various X-characters. 

Next Issue
Tomorrow, the wrap up to the Nazi Excalibur story in Excalibur #11, followed by Wolverine #10. Next week, Jim Lee makes his X-Men debut in Uncanny X-Men #248.

18 comments:

  1. "Spiral also appears briefly at the beginning and end of the issue to teleport them in and out, indicating she's still a member of the team at this time."

    She's still a member of the team when the Reavers assault Muir Island (Mystique points out the missing members from that issue are on another mission).

    "Arriving in town, Blob and Pyro waste no time flexing their authority."

    A bit over the top, though. I know they're villains, but Mystique usually kept a tight leash on her operatives. Though I guess when she isn't around...

    "Clever power usage, or ridiculous?"

    Ridonkulous!

    "And while Daredevil taking on the whole team might have seemed a bit much, Pyro and Blob alone make for decent adversaries, powerful enough to be a challenge but not so powerful that Daredevil can't eventually prevail against them."

    Hey, it's a LOT less ridiculous than just Cyclops and Marvel Girl trouncing the entire team...then again, if Jean can punch out a heavyweight like Spiral...

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  2. Our good government officials seem especially rape-y here. I'll buy it with Blob, but it possibly clashes a bit with Pyro's other career as the writer for ladies' romance novels. And no, he's likely not on hiatus from it, because shortly on Muir Island he'll be bummed for not getting to see how his new book'll fare. On the other note, it's very Genosha-approvable magistratial conduct, now that we've entered the times of registering mutants in US too.

    I love how the former Evil Mutants always make a mess of things without Mystique and her tight leash. Them Claremont characters...

    Matt Murdock: "I watched in horror when the Mutant Registration Act was passed"

    1) *chuckle*

    2) You would think that if the Act is a blatant civil rights violation there would be a massive political and legal ado over the Act that surely should have been expected to sieve into the mutant books. Everyone's been busy though, so...

    2b) ... though, Solo Avengers #14 has a fun and a gorgeous She-Hulk story by Claremont & Davis, where Jennifer Walters is arguing against the Mutant Registration Act in a courtroom but is continuously pestered by Titania. Because angering a hulk is usually a great idea.

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  3. @wwk5d: Mystique points out the missing members from that issue are on another mission

    Do we ever see Spiral's last mission w/FF? I know she's noted as being absent in UXM #255, but between this issue and that one, her next appearance is in a MCP serial I haven't read. After that, she's done appearing w/Freedom Force.

    Though I guess when she isn't around...

    That's how I took it. Without Mystique, they cut loose. Perhaps even a little looser than normal, in backlash to Mystique's reins.

    Our good government officials seem especially rape-y here. I'll buy it with Blob, but it possibly clashes a bit with Pyro's other career as the writer for ladies' romance novels.

    Indeed. Good point about Pyro's novelist career, though Blob is definitely the more overtly rapey of the two.

    Matt Murdock: "I watched in horror when the Mutant Registration Act was passed"

    1) *chuckle*


    Haha! I *completely* missed that.

    You would think that if the Act is a blatant civil rights violation there would be a massive political and legal ado over the Act that surely should have been expected to sieve into the mutant books.

    I assume there was, at least off panel, since it's eventually repealed, at least by the time of "Civil War" and another registration act. That's one of the things I ended up liking about this issue; it showed a side of the Act we don't always get when there's the regular plot and character mechanics of the X-characters to be dealt with.

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  4. Thinking it over, there is a tiny chance they aren't at all rapey but rather just in habit of bartering with their female quarry to let them walk free against some sexual gratification. They are the FREEDOM Force right, and also neé Evil Mutants, what do they expect really, sending them to enforce mutant registration? Not rapists at all, just two very, very questionable Robin Hoods.

    That's one of the things I ended up liking about this issue; it showed a side of the Act we don't always get when there's the regular plot and character mechanics of the X-characters to be dealt with.

    The thing that I hate about the Oz Men era and the alienation theme therewith is that the reader is unwillingly alienated from the surrounding world and society alongside, with the camera, so to say, following only the X-Men or immediate plot points. Up to #224 there was no problem whatsoever to start listening Val Cooper's little introduction of the Freedom Force where it happens and then transition to a bar to hear what the common man has to say about it.

    There was some "Ethnological frusque", which seems to be my capthta for the post.

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  5. Blob was shown trying to rape Jean in the Hidden Years.
    As for Pyro, he might not have gotten rapey in the past but he had no qualms about kidnapping a dozen babies and keeping them from their mothers without the moms knowing what happened to them- I never understood the "Sure he'd leave the moms wondering what happened to their babies but he'd never rape women" argument.

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  6. Yes. Not to paint myself an apologist or anything, but I have lots of love for Romita-drawn FF, so I have to point out Spiral's notion upon dropping them: "And boys -- try not to screw this one up." Like it was occasionally known to happen that the boys would return without apprehending their quarry, possibly explained by them in roundabout way later on by her "pulling some mutant tricks and getting off".

    As a code-of-conduct they may even let the gal decide which one which is why Blob won't get any and neither of them allows the hot Greek join them on the gig.

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  7. On a general note, I have a problem in reading older stories in light on 90's and later Hidden Years/Untold Stories written with modern day sensibilities and from where the comics media is nowadays. The first rule of the Silver Age is, you don't retcon the Silver Age. You'll only end up with pregnant Gwen Stacy and 1st and a halfth Genesis.

    Blob though is and has always been repugnant, barring the Spidey story where Unus dies, and they have had some murderous sensibilities still during their FF era, what with Avalanche going on about how easy it would be to kill Cyke and Wolvie in #199. The story just brings the rapey angle in so blatantly to my favorite bunch of villains that as an academic experiment I'd like to see if it could be in any way explained away (which is an evil and consequential thing too if done to Jean Grey).

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  8. I remember buying this issue off the stands and liking it a lot. I'm always a big fan of Nocenti.

    At the time, I didn't know all the creator connections -- that Nocenti was the editor and Romita Jr. the artist on the X-Men issues in which the Brotherhood first became Freedom Force ... and I certainly didn't know that Nocenti actually was the *creator* of Spiral.

    Pretty cool. I want to read this again some day.

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  9. This issue is one of my favorites of the Nocenti/ JRJr./ Williamson run. It's nothing terribly consequential, but it makes a nice break between heavier stories. Also, DD vs. non-DD villains is usually cool.

    You know why these issues look so good> JR Jr. being inked by Al Williamson. That combo was weirdly perfect, and I've rarely liked JR Jr.'s work inked by others. I first saw Williamson's solo work on Empire Strikes Back adaptation, and loved how detailed it was. With JR Jr., he pulled way back and seemed to know exactly where to put thin lines vs. spot blacks. It's always great to see artists changing their styles to reflect the material and their collaborators.

    Teebore, are you going to look at Incredible Hulk 369? It also features Freedom Force fighting a non-mutant opponent, and is tons of fun.

    - Mike Loughlin

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  10. Sorry, Hulk 369 features the grey Hulk vs. FF, not 269.

    - Mike Loughlin

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  11. Oh, that is a great done in one, and kind of a nice companion piece to this one. I believe PAD even has the Blob make a joke about the DD issue. ("Even Daredevil was able to take us recently!")

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  12. Blob via Jason: "Even Daredevil was able to take us recently!"

    Does anyone ever think we have perhaps chosen our favorite team poorly? Our Uncanny X-Men always get run for their money's worth from the Freedom Force, Marauders, etc. who then go get their asses handed for them by the likes of Power Pack, Daredevil etc.

    Crappy Claremont just can't come up with nice and easy ways for the heroes to beat the foes, causing everyone to angst insufferably.

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  13. @Jason,

    I remember that quote being in the Hulk issue. Speaking of the Blob, the way the Hulk fights him is fantastic.

    @Teemu,

    Maybe the X-Men aren't all they're supposed to be, but at least they don't lose as often as the Teen Titans.

    Anyway, Freedom Force shouldn't feel that bad. Ultron fought the Avengers but DD took him out with a stick.

    - Mike Loughlin

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  14. I thought Pyro was Australian. You wouldn't figure that someone with Matt's hearing would mistake him for "an Englishman" as he says, so the error has to be Nocenti's.

    Ditto what Mike L. says about JRJr. & Williamson.

    "You always get the girls! This one's mine! You promised!" — Blob to Pyro when they pull out Amanda's photo, after Pyro's classy comment, "I'd like the luv to show me what her mutant talent is. 'Ey what? Hyuk yuk!" Later: "She was gonna be mine! Now you touched her! You ruined her!" Which I think makes pretty clear what, besides getting drunk and randomly terrorizing civilians, they consider perks of the job when unsupervised by Mystique or Spiral (or Val, who must be so proud).

    I liked this, reminding me that I really should read Nocenti's Daredevil run in full one day. The ending was kind-of abrupt, although I appreciate its tone. The start was kind-of abrupt too, in a different way: Kicking off with Freedom Force in medias res is fine, even in (maybe particularly in) a done-in-one story like this, but I was confused about whether Matt came through town by pure luck just as Blob and Pyro are looking for the girl or whether he's there to get to her first based on a tip. I can read it both ways, and my preference is the latter, but that would depend on it being set up the issue before.

    // Clever power usage, or ridiculous? //

    Ridiculous. Also possibly not as ridiculous as Pyro's accent.

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  15. Am I giving too much credit for Nocenti if I suggest that Matt calling Pyro British is fully intentional "mistake" on his part, as he is playing the part of your ordinary American smalltowner. The whole thing could also serve as an in-joke over all the previous haziness over the matter, some possibly even on Nocenti's editorial watch. She does give him the correct accent, for given value of correct, right?

    The thing I like about Pyro is the minor touch that he can't create fire like, say, Johnny Storm even if he can control it. It may have been, possibly, only an excuse to give him a flamethrower originally, but it is carried on finely here.

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  16. Blam: or Val, who must be so proud

    If controlling mutants is what you wanna do, controlling mutants is what you gonna do. She'll just have to occasionally stop to pinch her bridge of nose and remember this is pretty much what Mystique originally promised her. At least there's not all that administrative hassle there would be with the likes of Avengers.

    When Shadow King eventually sends her to shoot Mystique, part of her probably goes along happily.

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  17. @Teemu: Thinking it over, there is a tiny chance they aren't at all rapey but rather just in habit of bartering with their female quarry to let them walk free against some sexual gratification.

    I really really don't want to start a discussion about what does or doesn't constitute rape, but I will say that while trading your (federal) authority for sexual favors that wouldn't otherwise be given may not technically be rape, it's close enough that I don't really care about the distinction.

    The first rule of the Silver Age is, you don't retcon the Silver Age. You'll only end up with pregnant Gwen Stacy and 1st and a halfth Genesis.

    Putting on my pedantic hat, some would argue that neither Pregnant Gwen nor "Deadly Genesis" were Silver Age retcons; rather Bronze Age ones, depending on where you want to draw the line of demarcation between the eras.

    @Jason: and I certainly didn't know that Nocenti actually was the *creator* of Spiral.

    I didn't really think of it until just now, but aside from the obvious teleporation angle, I wonder if that's why Nocenti has Spiral be the one to tell the boys "don't screw up" and then admonish them for screwing up, rather than Mystique. You know, just to get some face time with one of her creations.

    @Mike: Teebore, are you going to look at Incredible Hulk 369? It also features Freedom Force fighting a non-mutant opponent, and is tons of fun.

    I've got it on the list to check out. I'll have to see if I can find a spot for it, or if it's brief enough to get covered in a combo post or something.

    @Blam: I thought Pyro was Australian.

    I believe he technically is Australian, though there's been some confusion about that in his earlier appearances (someone, maybe Blob, refers to him as a Limey a couple times. Which can easily be explained away as Blob being dumb/ignorant, but that might explain how Nocenti got confused/tripped up).

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  18. Teebore: I will say that while trading your (federal) authority for sexual favors that wouldn't otherwise be given may not technically be rape, it's close enough that I don't really care about the distinction.

    Putting it like that it's hard to argue against, even in the legal sense. I seem to have allowed myself to be temporarily waylaid by some Evil Mutant logic of fighting an unconstitutional mutant registration from inside with your own gain very much within the picture.

    Not much wiggle room from Nocenti's uncalled-for characterization then. Leaves me pretty suspicious of Pyro's romance novels. A Claremont character, and a pyrokinetic too, so it's probably something in line of Fifty Shades of Grey: The Fire Incarnate to begin with. Would like to argue there's not much markets for that kind of thing, but stupid reality comes into my way.

    Harsh irony really that the Brotherhood's scheme to assassin senator Kelly was in the end a massive motivator for the Mutant Registration Act, and here they are themselves the appointed enforcers of it. I wonder how they broke that news to Kelly, he has really been in for it lately.

    Putting on my pedantic hat, some would argue that neither Pregnant Gwen nor "Deadly Genesis" were Silver Age retcons; rather Bronze Age ones, depending on where you want to draw the line of demarcation between the eras.

    I left that one in knowingly. Though, I am myself a proponent of the Silver Age dying with Gwen Stacy, at least in Spidey world, so there's that. And if Second Genesis should not be an unretconnable corner store piece at least as the premises goes and thus honorarily enjoying Silver Age protection, I don't know what is.

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