Bad Writing in Civil War #5

By | Wednesday, November 15, 2006 16 comments
Okay, let's put aside all of the gross character assassinations that are taking place because of the "Civil War" storyline. Let's put aside that the pro-registration side are pretty flimsy and seem to be very much of the straw man variety. The final scene of the Civil War #5 is written badly.

The basic idea -- and I don't think I'm really spoiling much here -- is that Daredevil is captured and being hauled into a prison in the Negative Zone. Tony Stark is talking at him and one of the guards finally says, "Actually, he's barely said a word since we brought him in, Mister Stark. But we found this silver dollar under his tongue." Another guard adds, "He said he's been saving it for you."

Stark: "A silver dollar. I don't understand."

Daredevil: "Guess that's thrity-one pieces of silver you've got now, huh? Sleep well, Judas."

... and the issue ends.

Excuse me? Hello? Um... not everyone reading is a Christian, thank you. I know Judas is a character in The Bible, but I suppose I've seen him referenced enough in pop culture to understand that he was a traitor of some kind. But what the hell is up with the silver reference? Unless you actually know the story of Judas, the scene doesn't really make sense. Daredevil's clearly making some kind of metaphoric statement, clearly, but the meaning was completely lost on an atheist like myself.

What about Jews, Muslims, Buddists, and Hindus to name a few? Granted, Christianity is the dominant in the United States but it's not the only one by far. Not to mention that the book will not be limited to a U.S. audience -- these stories are reprined around the world. Furthermore, I should think the actual amount of money Judas was paid to betray Jesus (yes, I bothered to look it up) is rather a minor point in the context of the story and it seems unlikely to me that even a majority of self-proclaimed Christians would get the reference.

Now, if this book were being published through, say, the Catholic Church and distributed to church-goers, then the reference is fine. But given that it is published internationally and distributed to a mass market audience, I think the reference is so obscure as to be a hallmark of bad writing. If a decent portion of your audience cannot understand what you're trying to tell them in a story, then you have failed as a storyteller.

For as much hype as Mark Millar has gotten over the past few years, I have to say that it is wholly unwarranted. I have yet to read a story of his that I actively liked, and many of them that -- like Civil War #5 here -- I had significant problems with.

Now, let's bring in the character assassination angle back. The Daredevil that has been shown to be appearing in the "Civil War" storyline is not Matt Murdock, but Daniel Rand, better known as Iron Fist. While Murdock is a rather devout Catholic, Rand believes in form of Eastern mysticism known as K'un L'un. So even if, as a writer, you believed that your entire audience would understand the religious reference, the character himself would be highly unlikely to make the reference in the first place! Christianity is not a significant part of people's lives if they're not Christian and, unless you were 100% certain that your advesary WAS a Christian who knew his Bible stories even trying to make a religious gesture like this seems far-fetched. (Tony Stark, by the way, has expressly stated that he does not believe in gods, implying that he's either an atheist or humanist.)

So, we've got a complete and total misfire on just about all points for this scene. The only way it could be worse would be if there were some grammatical errors as well!
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I'll just point to the last time they brought up a registration act like this back in the 1990s. Reed stood before a Congressional committee and explained how foolish it was because there was no easy way to define who was or wasn't super-powered. What qualifies as a super power? Do you define it as a percentage deviation from the human norm of DNA? If so, what percentage? And wouldn't that qualify aliens from another planet even if they're not what we would consider super-powered? And what about androids and robots who don't even have DNA?

Of course, it's still not as illogical and ill-conceived as that zombie universe that been so popular lately...

Anonymous said...

A lot of figures of speech come from the Bible (seeing the writing on the wall, etc), so I don't really have a problem with them using the 30 pieces of silver thing - it's easy enough to just see it as a reference to a work of literature. And as a work of literature, the Bible, especially the King James, is a pretty important part of Western culture.

According to the story of the Bible, Judas sold out Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. That works as a reference to literature whether or not you believe it actually happened, or if you believe Jesus was the son of god, etc.

I can't really think of any other traitors who are as well known, even among non-believers.

My problem with the scene is that, if I recall correctly, silver dollars are kinda big to be held under your tongue.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and for what it's worth, I've never been to church, and went to one session of Sunday school when I was little, but they had some kind of cake I didn't like and I never went back.

These days, I'm mostly an agnostic or atheist, with Buddhist leanings.

Anyhoo, I think the 30 pieces of silver reference is pretty well known, world-wide. I mean, this is a world where DaVinci Code has (alas) sold millions and millions of copies worldwide.

I've got no problem with the Judas reference in general. I think the concept of Judas-as-traitor is relatively common and indeed a reference to a piece of literature in the same way one might reference, say, Alice in Wonderland. My problem is that the reference is more specific than common knowledge would suggest. Using the Alice analogy, it might be like having one character give another sealing wax as a way to protest how he had horded all of the seafood at a buffet, and wasn't able to hold a conversation. It's too specific of a reference to hold any weight with anyone expect fans of Lewis Carroll and/or Alice in Wonderland. THAT'S where the bad writing comes in, IMO.

notintheface said...

Don't forget, also, that one of the classic Teen Titans sagas was "The Judas Contract".

Anonymous said...

Nothing wrong with the reference. So you are an atheist. If you didn't know the reference, you found out. When it comes to literary allusions, if you don't know, then hopefully you are prodded to find out what it means. Not everything written in comics must be transparent and it is a little fitting with what is alluded to of Daredevil having a Catholic background.
As for the silver-dollar size that Joh H mentions..current ilver dollars are the size of quarters and are often misused as them.

Michael Hanrahan said...

Daredevil is catholic (as is Nightcrawler), just like the Thing and Shadowcat are jewish, just like many other superheroes are christian and some are atheist/agnostic..get over it. Not everyone is going to have the same belief system as you.

Michael Hanrahan said...

Also, Namor is actually a mutant, his powers do not come from his ethnicity, Plok.

Anonymous said...

Who the fuck is dumb enough to write this article? So what if you're an atheist, you still should have basic knowledge about some religions, dude. I am not religious in any way, really, but I knew what the silver reference was because I bothered to read and learn about Jesus and his story. Just because you don't share a belief in something, it does not mean you can bitch about how you've chosen to remain ignorant and then blame THEM for making a reference that went over your idiotic head.

Anonymous said...

Basically what this last guy said. Your ignorance is no excuse to bitch about it. You don't need to be a christian to know the Judas story. It's just a reference that almost everyone should get with just a little cultural background.
Again, you went full retard. Never go full retard.

well, I'm not going to get angry or tell you anything about you being dumb, I didn't get it either cause I never knew that judas got paid thought I did know who he was but I' with everyone when it comes to you being ridiculous about getting mad for this.
this scene is actually incredible because it not only shows that DD is a Christian who has a good knowledge about his religion (which some don't) but also his view on Ironman's actions.
It's nice seeing him act like a human since that's what it is! This scene also made people investigate about it and that made us know more about someone's beliefs! and that's cool! I've read comics with Black widow that says something that confuses me just to google it and see it's something from her homeland (Russia~) and Captain America has made statements that make you see things about American history which for a Mexican who doesn't need to learn about it finds it as an interesting thing!

So don't look at this as something bad cause it's something people might not get but as something good that makes people understand others

Ted said...

What are you TALKING about. i mean... Matt Murdok is Christian he spend hours in a church, he es a very religious man.... THATS why he said that. is not bad writing is know your characters. if you dont get the reference mean your believes are diferent from the one of the character, as it happen with real people. Duh...

im also atheist and i found cool that they used the character background...

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

Oh no I'm too dumb to understand the reference hence it's a case of bad writing, not only does the reference for the character make sense for the character being as he's catholic and all it's also a quite a good parallel to one of the most well known traitors in history showing how daredevil truly feels about the situation. I'm an atheist too but I know I'm an atheist because I educated myself on the alternatives before decideing they weren't for me. How can you disagree with something if your not educated about it, using that as an excuse for your ignorance makes you look so dumb.

Anonymous said...

People who read a lot are called smart in some places, the reason for this isn't because they read a lot, it's because they will oftentimes run into something they don't understand and then look it up so that they can learn about it.

That being said, whether you're a Christian or not, Judas is widely known as a traitor. Tony is starting to become wracked with guilt but be has yet to admit that he may have made a mistake, Judas admitted he made a mistake and tried to return his thirty pieces of silver in an attempt to fix things, this meant nothing to the priest. Tony has not admitted to himself (or anyone else) that he has made a mistake, and not only has he held on to his thirty pieces of silver (this may mean his increasing fame and sense of accomplishment from this) but he has just been gifted his 31st piece of silver (a reminder that the extra amount of fame that will come his way is the product of this betrayal), so his apologies (like Judas') are meaningless. Daredevil saying "sleep well" is kinda dark, because he may be talking about eternal sleep and is encouraging Tony to find it the way Judas did.

Anonymous said...

Coming in from the far future of 2022, 16 years later, to say this is still an embarrassingly cringy article. Sincerely hope that chip on your shoulder is thoroughly polished out by now I doubt it. Anyway I think the real bad writing comes from the fact that this wasn't Daredevil but Iron Fist masquerading as him, as far as I remembe..