“Tree of Knowledge” storyline. Marvel Comics.
I was all set to plug my favorite Daredevil storyline following the success of Marvel’s show on Netflix; now I hesitate. I absolutely loved 1993’s “Daredevil: Fall From Grace,” written by D. G. Chichester and illustrated by Scott McDaniel and Hector Collazo. But a simple google search reveals that this is yet another thing that I loved and everyone else apparently hates. So we can file it right alongside certain 90’s artifacts like “Alien 3” (1992), “Knightfall” (1993), and “Wyatt Earp” (1994).
Man, the reaction to this was poor, despite its high sales upon release. I actually do understand the criticisms. It’s a complicated story, into which various unrelated characters from the Marvel universe are shoehorned. (A “virus” bioengineered by the Defense Department can “remake what it infects” into anything at all, granting the infected with whatever superpowers they wish. Various Marvel villains and anti-heroes arrive in New York to compete for its discovery, after its loss decades ago in the subway system is made known.)
People hated “Fall From Grace,” describing it as convoluted and difficult to follow. They said Chichester’s writing was incomprehensible and too wordy. The experimental new art style by Scott McDaniel was described as “murky” and equally hard to follow. Today, people wonder why the widely panned story was ever even collected into trade paperback. (It’s pricey, by the way.)
Maybe I’m just nuts, but … this is one of my favorite comic book storylines of all time. I absolutely would not recommend it to a reader new to Daredevil, as I recommended Frank Miller and John Romita Jr.’s “Daredevil: The Man Without Fear” on Monday. In fact, it might only really be enjoyed by someone with at least a bit of familiarity with the Marvel universe.
Yes, Chichester’s writing was lengthy and verbose. But I loved his sometimes poetic and always mood-setting exposition, and his dialogue occasionally really shined. I forgave the story for inserting characters with whom I was unfamiliar. “Hellspawn” (and his Jamaican accent?) was entirely new to me, but damn if that monster didn’t make a unique and frightening enemy for Daredevil. (He’s the demonic looking, tiger-like “doppleganger” you see pictured in the first cover below.)
And look at that art. Certainly, it wasn’t to everybody’s taste. It was abstract, minimalist, dark, and it often lacked detail. It was almost … impressionistic? But I loved it. The radically altered style was perfectly suited to this new, much darker tone and story. (There was a hell of a lot of pathos in this storyline, including torture and assassination at the hands of the government.) It was full of shadow and dark color, served the story’s mood perfectly, and it was nothing like I’d seen in a comic book before.
I couldn’t honestly recommend buying this in trade paperback, given the fact the entire world except me seemed unhappy with it. But, hey … if you can borrow it from a friend or the library, then check it out. Maybe you’ll find some of the magic in it that I did.