Daredevil #1 (Marvel Worldwide)
by Mark Waid, Fred van Lente, Paolo Rivera, Marcos Martin & Joe Rivera
I have to admit I was surprised that Marvel opted to get Daredevil back in the game so quickly, but any chance to get a new Mark Waid-penned comic every month is one I welcome. Waid takes the character in a new direction, focusing on a brighter, more traditional approach to the title character that’s in keeping with his early, Silver Age adventures. On the other hand, he doesn’t ignore what’s come before. The dark, difficult elements from the Bendis, Brubaker and Diggle runs on the character in recent years are acknowledged here. Waid wisely doesn’t ignore what’s come before. In fact, the backup story focuses specifically on the shift in tone within the context of the character, hinting that not all is as bright and shiny as Matt Murdock purports it to be. That made for an impressive bit of character-driven writing. The main story offers up some fun super-hero action, but more importantly, it demonstrates that Daerdevil’s biggest conflict these days is dealing with the public’s knowledge that he’s lawyer Matt Murdock (even though it’s no longer a proven fact in the public eye). My only qualm with the comic is something I normally applaud: accessibility. While it’s important to give the reader everything s/he needs to understand the character and follow the story, information about Daredevil’s origin is offered up repeatedly here. The first page (penned by Fred van Lente, for some reason, and illustrated beautifully by Marcos Martin) recaps his origin, but Waid’s script offers some of the same information on the very next page, making for an irksome redundancy. Still, it’s a minor flaw in an otherwise well-crafted comic book.
The regular edition cover by Paolo Rivera is absolutely stunning, not only for the telling pose in which he’s put the main character but because the background is made up of sound effects, offering a lovely but also effective representation of what sets this character apart from other street-level heroes. The interior art is impressive as well. Rivera is clearly taking some cues from the style of Marcos Martin, who also contributes to the issue with the opening-page character recap but also to a backup story. Rivera’s work on the opening action scene is fantastic. He captures Daredevil’s fluid, acrobatic style perfectly, but I particularly appreciated how he conveys DD’s radar sense as well. Also impressive is the flow that Martin brings to the New York walkabout in the backup story. He conveys the Manhattan neighborhood Matt calls home incredibly well, not to mention the special place he holds in it. 8/10
Flashpoint: The Legion of Doom #2 (DC Comics)
by Adam Glass, Rodney Buchemi & Jose Marzan Jr.
While the various Flashpoint spinoff books have been something of a mixed, overall, they’ve been entertaining, and I enjoyed the first issue of the Legion of Doom limited series. But this second issue is the first Flashpoint comic that I honestly regret purchasing. I know this is intended as a prison drama, but the violence that unfolds here definitely crosses the line. What the main character, Heatwave, does to other characters is abhorrent, and there’s just no need of it here. This title is still firmly entrenched in the super-hero (and villain) genre, and the over-the-top, gruesome and gratuitous violence just doesn’t belong in this context. I don’t need to see a Silver Age Flash villain curbing Animal Man. I don’t need to see a super-hero’s head pop like a bloody pimple. The plotting seems designed simply to lead Heatwave and a malevolent Plastic Man to new opportunities to be cruel and sadistic. I already get they’re bad guys; I don’t need the point hammered home so brutally.
Unfortunately, much of the violence is depicted directly; little unfolds off-panel. Rodney Buchemi’s traditional comic art style serves as an ever-present reminder that the kind of visceral violence here just doesn’t belong. His artwork is actually clear and effective, and on a different story, I suspect I’d enjoy it a lot more. But with this comic book, after the first instance of gratuitous gore, I dreaded what I’d see next. There’s a disconnect between the brutality in the plot and the old-school charm of the line art. There’s also a quality in Buchemi’s work here that put me in mind of the style of Rags Morales’ art. 2/10
Sergio Aragones Funnies #1 (Bongo Comics)
by Sergio Aragones
I picked this comic book up at the shop this week on a whim because, hey, who doesn’t like cartoons by Sergio Aragones? What sets this apart from previous Aragones projects, the artist says in his illustrated introduction, is that this is a more personal project. Aragones flies solo, without his scripting colleague Mark Evanier, and the artist promises to reveal a little more of himself, as well as tickle our funny bones along the way. There are a few one-page, black-and-white gags that are in keeping with what we’ve seen from Aragones in the past in Mad and other titles, but there’s a longer-form humor story as well: the “true” story of the Trojan Horse, with a silly, Home Improvement-like ending. The centerpiece of the book, though, is a story from the creator’s youth and his temporary transformation into a de factor extra casting agent in Mexico, during his college years. It’s a fun yarn and genuine, the sort of story one tells friends over drinks. The problem with the book is that there’s isn’t enough of this kind of material. This is the only truly personal story, and I was hungry for more. A couple of pages are dedicated to cartooning puzzles, such as “find the differences” images and a match-find game. The material skews a bit young. I don’t know that kids will appreciate the movie-set story, for instance, so I wonder who Aragones sees as his audience for this comic book.
While I wasn’t interested in the games, I did appreciate the level of detail the artist put into the images. The comic-shop scene is particularly impressive in its meticulousness and for the fact that Aragones doesn’t sacrifice any of the flair and personality he instils in his art. The same can be said of his introduction. Set in his office/studio, it stands out as the most visually impressive piece in the comic book. One really gets a strong sense of Aragones’ inner sanctum and the irreverent touches he’s included in his workspace. While I had fun delving into his world, the comic reads quite quickly, and I don’t know if I can commit three and a half bucks to such a fleeting entertainment experience every month. 7/10
Soldier Zero #10 (Boom! Studios)
by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Ramon Bachs & Javier Pina
Ramon Bachs provides the art for the bulk of this issue, and it’s a significant departure from the style of regular artist Javier Pina. Still, since the focus here is mainly on action and over-the-top, animalistic alien warriors as the villains, Bachs’ more exaggerated style works fairly well. He handles the kinetic, explosive conflict quite well, and it makes for some fun visuals; there’s a lot of personality to be found in his work. Later in the issue, though, Pina takes over again, and the shift is jarring. While the two artists’ take on the expressionless title character is fairly consistent, the minotaur-like warriors of the Civilization look quite different when Pina’s work kicks in. And the shift happens at an inopportune moment — a big, splashy page that’s easily comparable to the previous moment in the action. Pina’s work boasts a more mature, realistic tone, and Bachs’ more cartoony approach makes for too sharp a contrast. Archie van Buren’s colors are quite dazzling throughout the issue, and they bring the protagonist’s sci-fi/super-hero energy to life quite effectively.
Like I said, most of this issue is one long fight scene, so it pretty much writes itself. It also reads quite quickly as a result. Now, there’s a nice twist at the end of the second act, as a supporting character uses the alien villains’ ignorance of Earth culture against them as a weapon. It’s a funny but clever moment. What’s a little frustrating about this issue is that the extended conflict that serves as its meat ends up being a moot point, as a new plot development brings it to a halt without any kind of resolution. It’s also interesting to see Boom! building a shared continuity for its Pow! Entertainment super-heroes, as there’s a reference to events in Starborn serving as a catalyst for the conflict in this comic book. Fortunately, it’s not such a strong link that one needs to read both comics in order to follow the plot. 6/10
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