Natasha: So what tipped him over the edge?
Strike: The Nuke incident. You know, the super-soldier who went amuck. Hazzard fears the same destructive potential in himself. It was as if the blind spot between his eyes… woke up. All the suppressed memories and images and illusions he once had are cascading back. He’s racing backwards now, back to his roots, his infancy, like a rubber band snapping. like a star that burns too hot too fast— eventually the system blows! Next, he’ll either collapse in on himself, like a black hole— suicide, of course— or he’ll supernova… and take a lot of people with him. I fear Hazzard’s a supernova. Your assignment is to force him to go the other way: make him destroy himself. Hazzard loved two things— second to his country, of course— God, and his mother. I doubt you’ll find god anywhere, but you may be able to use his mother to push the right buttons in his brain.
Natasha: Six six six. The number of the beast…
Strike: Excuse me?
Natasha: His eyes. They burn right through you…
Strike: Agent Widow, please. The intensity of his eyes is a deception of the hologram.
Natasha: … An illusion, of course. Excuse me…
Strike: Oh, by the way— according to my calculations, wherever Hazzard is. He’s dreaming. Which means he may be having waking dreams. Flashes to— things that disturb him. That’s all of it. If you run into trouble, there’s always…
Natasha: Yes, doctor.
Strike: Murder, Natasha… is the ultimate intimacy. Good luck.
The “Nuke incident” is, for you Comics 101ers, a reference to Born Again, Frank Miller’s second run on Daredevil and widely regarded as one of the best stories in the history of Marvel Comics. One of the things that makes Nocenti’s run fascinating is that she had follow that.
Notice the disturbing ring of the last line of dialogue, and how it’s juxtaposed with the narrow panels and extreme close-ups. This is a very intimate page, uncomfortable and claustrophobic.
Natasha, significantly, mistakes the menace of the hologram eyes for true intensity. Strike refers to Hazzard’s “suppressed memories” as illusions— these are the things that had been wired out of him, but now they are coming back. It was inevitable, because I don’t think in Nocenti’s world you can write the humanity out of the man. It has to come back, more terrible and vibrant than before. But Strike still calls these things illusions, dreams, even though by some reckonings these brain impulses represent the truest things about Hazzard.
So Natasha is spooked by the hologram. But is she spooked by Hazzard himself, and his awful fate, or by Hazzard’s illusory nature, its unsettling intensity?
When Fear Itself was announced and we had no clue that it was actually going to be about hammers and TRON makeovers, there was a lot of talk about what character’s worst fears might be. This? I think this is pretty close to Natasha’s. Pretty close, pretty intimate.
From Daredevil #236, by Ann Nocenti and Barry Windsor-Smith.