Or, â€œHellâ€™s Kitchen has more than one cookâ€¦â€
Okay, so I admit that even though the street-level vigilante/hero is just about my favorite genre (right after patriotic based heroes); it has been years since I read Daredevil. Matter of fact, the last time I picked the book up regularly was the days of the â€œFall from Graceâ€ back in 1994. As a matter of fact, my reading of Daredevil has always been sort of like an awkward date. You really enjoy the time you spent on the date, but there are other things going on and you get distracted. Then you realize how long it has been, and like a guy who forgot to make his post-date phone call, you feel odd about stepping back into that place. That was kind of how I felt when I picked DAREDEVIL: BLOOD OF THE TARANTULA up to review.
While headlined by Daredevil, this one-shot focuses on Carlos LaMuerto aka The Black Tarantula, and his struggle to overcome his past and to truly help his people. I had a passing knowledge of the character from his introduction as a crime lord in the pages of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN back in 1997 when he was created by Tom DeFalco and Steve Skroce. At the time, he did not really catch my attention all that much and I just sort of forgot about him after I dropped the Spider-Man title. So I was pretty curious when I saw this title.
We start off as witnesses to a nighttime drug deal in a school yard playground, and very quickly the Black Tarantula comes in to put a stop to it. It seems that these guys did not get the memo about no drug deals in his neighborhood, and B.T. is determined to read it off to them a line at a time. What we see is a nicely paced series of pages as Tarantula takes the drug dealers to town using not only his fist, but playground equipment! After the hoodlums have been dispatched, we see what kind of hero Black Tarantula as become; a Robin Hood. He takes the drug money and gives some (not all apparently) to a local mission, The Father says he will take the money, but he admonishes Carlos for appearing in his bloodstained costume. Carlos apologizes, and removes his hood in front of the priest. Apparently, Black Tarantula is not big on worrying about a secret identity. At the end of the scene we see him high on the rooftops releasing the drugs (cocaine, presumably) into the nighttime air currents.
With our introduction out of the way, we shift gears to an upset â€œFoggyâ€ Nelson showing Matt Murdock the latest newspaper reporting on the Black Tarantulaâ€™s nighttime exploits. Foggy seems upset about the level of violence used by the Tarantula, but Matt simply brushes it off, saying that Tarantula putting a few drug dealers out of commission was nothing to worry about. Foggy proclaims to Matt that LaMuerto is not like him, and seems to think that Murdock needs to be concerned. Matt on the other hand, wonders if he should be the one to judge Carlos for doing some good in his own way. The insinuation here is the pot calling the kettle black and all that.
Shift again, and we get a civilian dressed Carlos LaMuerto jive walking down the street of his neighborhood. â€œJive Walkingâ€, you say? Yes I do. The layout and art invokes a 70â€™s style disco track in my head reminiscent of the theme from Shaft! It fits. We see Carlos as he interacts with the people, who all seem to know who he is, or at least that he is someone to be respected. Even the cops who accept their payoff (more of the drug money, I think) while joking about busting a vigilante seem to be in on it, but have no problems turning a blind eye to someone who is helping on a street level. Suddenly, across the way, Carlos sees something that shakes his being and he launches himself to catch it. It seems that Carlos has just seen his son and wife, for the first time since he left Argentina. A nice flashback recounting the origin of the Black Tarantula is given to update those of use with little or no knowledge of the character, and here it also helps set up the conflict of the story. We get another one-page of Daredevil contemplating the situation with Carlos, and then the action really gets kicked up.
What follows is a cinematic tale of vengeance and a critical look at how one perceives their obligations and how those obligations define ones self. This is a street level tale that deserves to be widely read, as it harkens back to the days of Frank Millerâ€™s Daredevil. What we see through the course of this story is a vigilante being re-born as a hero, or at the very least given the chance to truly become more than he started the story out as.
The story is credited to Ed Brubaker and Ande Parks, while the script itself is just Ande Parks. Parks shows an understanding of the characters and you really start to think that there may be more to come from Parks in regards to Black Tarantula; does the term â€œbackdoor pilotâ€ mean anything? I had to a little research to find out about Black Tarantulaâ€™s interaction with Matt Murdock within the pages of Brubakerâ€™s DAREDEVIL, but even that little bit of information was not absolutely necessary to enjoy the full effect of this story.
There are some nice exchanges here between Carlos and Matt that hint at a sub-surface tension akin to two alpha males in the same room. I had previously only been exposed to Parks work as an inker, with GREEN ARROW and NIGHTWING, but now I want to pick up his latest original graphic novel/historical fiction called CAPOTE IN KANSAS, with art by Chris Samnee. Speaking of Mr. Samnee, he is the artist for DD: BotT, and a damn fine artist he is. Chris Samnee draws grit like Georgia Oâ€™Keefe draws flowers. You feel that you can taste the pollution and grim in the air when you look at a Samnee page. His costumes are great and you get just a hint that they are fabric (albeit tight fabric) that actually has the ability to fold. The sequences are also nicely done, and the pacing does nothing but contribute to an already great story.
The Marvel Universe has always paid special attention to their street-level vigilantes and anti-heroes. We have seen it time and time again in books like DAREDEVIL, PUNISHER, WHITE TIGER and more, and this one-shot adds to that. While you donâ€™t get the feeling that there is a vigilante under every rock, you do get the feel of a shared universe as Daredevil assists Black Tarantula in finding his family. This is how to do a good crime inspired comic and I suggest it to fans of Daredevil as well as other companyâ€™s vigilante offerings. I hope that the sales warrant at least a short mini-series or series of back-ups to explore this Black Tarantula in more detail, as the taste we get here is just enough to tease. I give DAREDEVIL: BLOOD OF THE TARANTULA 4 out of 5 stars. There is very little wrong with this book, and the few little things I could find fault with are not even enough to really complain about. A very nice â€œdone in oneâ€ story that is open enough for future exploration. Pick it up!