Eye on Comics

Comics criticism and commentary from Don MacPherson

Quick Critiques – July 10, 2014

Posted by Don MacPherson on July 10th, 2014

Daredevil #5 (Marvel Entertainment)
by Mark Waid & Chris Samnee

Daredevil, as guided by Mark Waid and his creative partners on these various series, continues to stand out as one of Marvel’s best titles, mixing Silver Age fun and traditions with more modern, sophisticated sensibilities. That being said, this was one of the more lackluster issues in Waid’s tenure. This episode answers the question as to how and why Foggy Nelson’s death was faked in between the previous series and this relaunched one, but it wasn’t such a deep mystery that it required a full flashback issue. Still, there are some strong characterization bits to be found here. I am starting to get a bit tired of Waid’s repeated use of the original Ant-Man as a cure-all for any sci-fi/super-hero-genre plotting challenge that arises. If Waid took the time to foster a stronger link between the title character and Hank Pym, a developing friendship, his repeated appearances mightn’t seem so jarring. Mind you, I can’t deny that Waid’s use of a wider and more colorful array of characters and concepts from across the Marvel Universe in Daredevil’s previously small little corner of it continues to entertain.

Samnee’s art is a wonderful match to that more wondrous feel. Most striking visually in this issue was his depiction of Foggy, thin and frail but not seemingly deathly ill. He seems so much like a regular guy, and the way his body moves under Samnee’s hand looks quite natural. The robotic/armored villain who appears in this issue harkens back to DD’s old days, but the design didn’t bring that character to mind right away. I didn’t make the connection until the script points it out. I think something campier might have been in order, but I acknowledge that might also have run contrary to Foggy’s big moment. Like I said, this was far from the strongest issue of Waid’s run on the Man Without Fear, but even a subpar issue of his DD makes for a good read. 7/10

Grayson #1 (DC Comics)
by Tom Seeley, Tom King & Mikel Janin

I’m not surprised Grayson #1 is getting a number of positive reviews and a solid buzz among mainstream comics readers. It’s a fun, action-packed issue, full of personality, and it looks sharp as well. I thoroughly enjoyed Mikel Janin’s art when I first glimpsed it on Flashpoint: Deadman and the Flying Graysons about three years ago, and he continued to offer enjoyable, photo-realistic comic art on Justice League Dark in the subsequent New 52 relaunch at DC. Despite the realistic bent in his work, he’s nevertheless able to convey the acrobatic action that’s usual part and parcel of stories featuring this title character. I was also pleased to find that despite this series being set in the espionage genre, the visuals are brightly colored. The mishmash of spy and super-hero genres is handled quite well too.

Despite those strengths, though, I don’t think I’ll be following this series. While fun, it feels rather inconsequential. We see Grayson working for what it a possibly corrupt spy agency, but we know he’s not corrupt. I don’t get a real sense of what’s on the line here, or how Dick Grayson ended up in this new life. I don’t get why there’s a new Helena Bertinelli in the DC Universe. It’s clear the writers are taking a number of elements from Grant Morrison’s contributions to the Batman mythos in recent years and trying to build on them here, but it’s not nearly as inventive. Overall, Grayson is a good-looking, fun comic book, but at a time when so many other comics are achieving more entertaining, challenging and engaging stories, I need a little more than fun and good looks to hold my attention. (And yes, I’m aware the last line sounds more like something from an online dating profile.) 6/10

Madame Frankenstein #3 (Image Comics)
by Jamie S. Rich & Megan Levens

People have gotten really excited about Image Comics over the past couple of years, and for good reason. The publisher has finally become the haven for creator-owned, experimental comics it should have been from the start. Comics readers are buzzing about Saga, Sex Criminals, Revival, East of West, Pretty Deadly and so many more. But for some reason, I’m not hearing the same sort of buzz about another Image book: Madame Frankenstein. It merits just as much talk, but its creators aren’t as high profile as some of Image’s other recent partners. Madame Frankenstein is a fascinating new spin on the Frankenstein concept. Rich has opted to set it in a different period, and the early 20th-century society that serves as the backdrop is really one of the most interesting characters in the book. Artist Megan Levens brings the time to life adeptly. Her style reminds me a great deal of that of Joëlle (Helheim) Jones, which should come as no big surprise. Jones and Rich are frequently collaborators, and she provides the cover art for this series.

What makes Madame Frankenstein (which I feel should really be titled Mademoiselle Frankenstein, but it’s a minor gripe) such an engrossing read is Rich’s characterization. This issue focuses on the rivalry between protagonist Vincent Krall and Henry Lean, the well-to-do son of the rich man his family served for years. Henry’s cruel bullying and sense of ownership of Vincent makes it easy to root for the latter, but what’s more interesting is the fact that Vincent directs the same sort of behavior toward his late object of his affection and newly resurrected creation. Just as Henry uses Vincent to elevate himself, so does Vincent treat as a means to his ends. Vincent is both the hero and the villain of the story, and that dichotomous approach in the storytelling keeps pulling the reader in different directions. 9/10

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2 Responses to “Quick Critiques – July 10, 2014”

  1. steph Says:

    Subpar issue of DD??? Read it again

  2. Don MacPherson Says:

    Well, subpar as compared to Waid’s other work on the series.