Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Review of DAREDEVIL #1 and some Ardden & Atlas Comics...


Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Paolo Rivera
Publisher: Marvel Comics

"Eventually I had to leave the city, my legal practice, my friends. But now I'm home, determined to put it all behind me and start fresh...because it's either that, or succumb to insanity.

-- Matt Murdock

Pardon the pun, but I went into this comic blindly and came out feeling like a kid again. My formative comic-reading years were the Frank Miller years on DAREDEVIL and as far as I was concerned, the story of Matt Murdock came to a pretty definitive close in 1987 with the "Born Again" storyline. I've never held any interest in any run on DD since then. So, that would make it, what? 24 years since I've picked up a DD comic? Just about. I did pick up THE MAN WITHOUT FEAR retelling of his origin by Miller and John Romita, Jr. (loved it) and I did eventually pick up the trade of the Kevin Smith and Joe Quesada story where Karen Page got killed (didn't love it, though the art was pretty good).

So, what happens when someone weaned on the gritty and dark world of the Miller version of DD comes back to try out this relaunch? He finds one of the most enjoyable pure super-hero comics he's read in a long time. Without the need to retcon out the last 20 or 30 years of increasingly horrible events in Matt's life and the utter lack of humor and fun in his exhaustingly depressing existence, Waid embraces it all with great humor and a positive outlook.

Basically, DD is at a point in his life where he either spirals into a suicidal depression or decides that it's not the world that needs to change, but his own outlook on life. Matt Murdock has rediscovered the joy of life and it spills over into an enthusiasm throughout the entire comic and a whimsical approach to his derring-do that has been missing for way too long.

This does not mean that there's no danger or that the comic has slipped into parody zone. What this means is that Matt remembers who he was before his world started falling apart around the time that Elektra reappeared in his life. Yes, he has lost everything, including his secret identity, over the years (over and over) but he has decided to step up his game and start moving forward in control of his life rather than letting circumstances control him.

What this means for the reader is that we feel the enjoyment that Matt is feeling. It is infectious. Rather than being frustrated by those around him trying to continually bring up his DD identity, he instead just relentlessly holds the position that he is not DD and just smiles. The logic here is that really, only a few people "actually" know Matt is DD for sure. The rest of the people have "heard" it or "read" it, but we shouldn't believe everything we read on the Internet and in papers *wink*wink*. To the public, DD doesn't appear to have any special powers, so how in the world could he be...blind? It's a great way for Waid, as writer, to deal with the loss of identity and eventually be able to remove it from the platter of plot complications.

I just really enjoyed everything about it. I loved the creative way that DD prevented the kidnapping at the start of the book. Waid took an otherwise lame villain and turned him into someone who should be almost impossible for DD to defeat. The cleverness and quick-thinking of DD used to be one of charms of the character. It was a thrill to see that in play here. The visual representation of his radar sense was fascinating to see (and read). I particularly loved the "voice-over" monologuing of Matt throughout the book. It helps the reader truly see the world through his "eyes." The visual choices made in this book demonstrated some serious thought and consideration on how to visualize this aspect of the character.

Paolo Rivera does an amazing job, as artist, with this comic. Amazing. Flawless artwork and storytelling from cover to finish. The cover, particularly, is an astounding work of art and sums up DD in a single, smiling, image. The backup story by Waid and artist Marcos Martin was a brilliant piece of work to catch up any new readers on exactly what this "radar sense" actually is and how Matt uses it in his daily life.

I loved the one-page origin recap by Fred Van Lente and Martin. That is the way to do it. Get in; get out. On with the story. Sweet cliffhanger moment too at the end. My highest recommendation for fans of super-hero comics.

Atlas Comics

Great cover and a cool comic. I've been thoroughly enjoying the unfolding story of the mysterious (and dangerous) Grim Ghost. Each issue so far has been focused on telling strong character story while adding elements to the larger ongoing story. Well-paced with strong story-telling from Kelley Jones. The art is inconsistent at times, especially when dealing with females for some reason. The art shines, however, whenever the focus is on the dark, moody, and shadowed ghostly apparitions and monsters in conflict within “The Fringe.” My favorite aspect of this and all the Atlas books thus far is that I feel like I get a full plate of action, character development, and plot with an exciting cliffhanger that always leaves me anticipating the next issue.

Ardden Entertainment

One of the bright points in an otherwise cynical downer of a summer in terms of comic books (rather than the rather impressive showing of comic-based movies this summer) continues to be the current FLASH GORDON mini-series from Ardden Entertainment. I recommend you pick up this issue (and the previous two if you missed them) and jump on in. The interplay between unlikely partners Flash and Ming creates a lot of tension and entertaining interchanges. Great cliffhangers and an artist who loosens up with each issue creating his own style and nice, clear storytelling. This is a good, fun comic and worth checking out.

Atlas Comics

Another thrilling issue of PHOENIX. This time an all-out battle between our hero and his alien-manipulated evil doppelganger. A subtle, but amusing, wink-wink-nod-nod callback to the original PHOENIX series in the 1970s that I got a kick out of. I continue to be impressed by artist Dean Zachary on this series. The writing by Jim Kreuger and Brendan Deneen is solid sci-fi with a dash of soap and paced to hit the ground running, then take a breather for a little plot and character development, then kick back into the action and build to an exciting climactic cliffhanger – this time with an intriguing new character that could potentially be a force to reckon with on the side of the angels...or the demons.

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