daredevil

STK529420You guys…seriously, you guys…I mean seriously…wow, just wow.

This is easily one of the best comics I’ve read this year.  I know we’re not very far into the year, but this one’s going to hold up because man it is good.  This is one of a handful of Marvel titles that you absolutely should be reading and it’s one of a smaller handful titles that I can recommend to anyone without reservation or caveat.  From top to bottom, art to coloring to writing, there is literally nothing in this series that is not firing on all cylinders.

By way of background, Daredevil enjoyed a substantial period of tremendous creative quality.  Brian Michael Bendis turned mainstream comics on it’s ear with his wickedly experimental work on his Daredevil run before passing the baton (ha, see what I did there…) off to the able hands of Ed Brubaker.  Brubaker dragged Matt Murdock through a torturous and brilliantly written run in which no punches were pulled.  Then Shadowland happened.  The less said about that particular creative debacle the better.  Thankfully, Marvel handed the series editing duties off to Stephen Wacker and brought in Mark Waid to right the ship.  Thus we are 26 issues in to what may be one of the best single character runs I have ever read.

Issue 26 is a culmination of threads which Waid planted back in issue one over 2 years ago.  Mark Waid picked up Daredevil at his lowest point in years, both creatively and in terms of Matt Murdock’s life, and set about the work of rebuilding the character from essentially scratch yet managed to maintain strong ties to the work that was done before, including adding validity to the absurd events of Shadowland.  Waid, in what has become his characteristic fashion (see Legion of Superheroes and more recently The Indestructible Hulk), stripped the character bare and pulled the true essence to the forefront.  From that point, Waid has weaved a tale spanning 26 issues and presented a series of ever increasing dangers and more complex questions for the reader to puzzle through.  For the last several issues, it’s been clear that someone has been pulling the strings and systematically tearing Matt Murdock apart.  This issue finally clues the reader to who that someone is and its excellently crafted revelation that I won’t spoil here.  I will only say that it works.  Well played, Mr. Waid.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t give credit to the stellar artwork.  Chris Samnee has been working on a Daredevil for quite some time now and we should all be hoping he sticks around for quite a while longer.  His deceptively simple style lends itself well to the character and the way he presents Daredevil’s senses to the reader is a masterstroke.  It’s definitely some of my favorite art in comics at the moment.

So, to sum it up…you need to do yourself a favor and read Daredevil.

 

10/10

…And So Enters the Amazing Spider-Man

Stan Lee – Editor

Gerry Conway – Writer

Gene Colan – Artist

Cover Price $0.15  (Purchase Price $4.00)

This comic is a perfect example of a Marvel Comic.  This issue hits every Marvel note of the period.  We’ll start with the cover and it’s great use of the Daredevil red to give the cover just enough pop against the mostly light blue background.  The cover artwork is an entire Marvel story itself.  Three heroes; two locked in battle and one in need of help.  A pair of mighty Marvel alliterations and a glorious bottom banner listing the guest stars completes the cover.  Color, action, and bombast all crammed into one panel that made me frantic to find out what is going on.  Sal Buscema hit a home run with this cover.

Once inside the comic I am treated to Gene Colan at his best.  Gene delivers the great NY skylines with our heroes swooping and tumbling through the gaps and over the rooftops.  Heroes are given a few pages to stretch out and whine to themselves.  Against the artwork Gerry Conway channels his best Stan Lee to layer in dialog that could’ve come straight out of a Romance comic.  All three heroes (Daredevil, Spider-Man, and Sub-Mariner) are coping with some sort of romantic loss and heaps of self-doubt.  It’s this juxtaposition of sappy dialog and sweeping visuals that defined Marvel comics.  Inside the inner dialogs we, the reader, get glimpses into our heroes’ mind and heart that no one else ever does.  That’s the hook.  Everyone knows Superman, only I really know Spider-Man and Daredevil.  Marvel manages to make the reader feel connected to the stories instead of being only an observer.

 

Once our heroes meet up they of course fight each other.  An outside force has arrived and confused the heroes and public.  During the hero battles each character is also fighting themselves on the inside.  For these stories to work you can’t break the panels too often and so Marvel used the top half of pages 12-13 to keep the story going unbroken and allow for some advertising space.  I found this less distracting then I thought it might be.  It seemed to me that more time and attention was spent on pacing and page breaks in the page layouts here than I see in many of today’s comics and the series of splash pages that mascaraed as storytelling.

Of course there are some groaners in this book too.  It is over 40 years old so not everything holds up.  The mystery that brings the heroes together is a golden tear dropped energy portal.  It hovers and scares people until it opens and a mystery woman appears from inside.  Then Spidey and Daredevil both climb inside and disappear.  The story felt proto-Beyonder and the hovering “teardrop” looks too much like a floating vagina for my taste.  This of course led to all the wrong associations with the plot points and visuals on the page.  The issue finally ends on a sad and lonely note, the unanswered/missed phone call followed by Next: Beware the Bull!  I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.  One other nit pick, when did Mary Jane Watson ever have blonde hair?

In the end for $4.00, the cost of a current comic, I was treated to a slice of Marvel history.  This issue also contained Bullpen Bulletins and a Stan Lee Soapbox that discussed word balloon use on comic covers, interesting stuff considering the cover of this book.  The letter page started with a very detailed critique that named names and made recommendations for changes by a J.A. Salicrup, is this a young Jim Salicrup?  Jim started as an intern and then worked his way up editor at Marvel in the 80’s and 90’s.   I’ve spent more money and gotten less enjoyment from more comics than I care to list but this bronze aged gem delivered extra innings for the same price.

The Most Important Boxie!

year end comic book boxiesHere at Short Box, we cover lots of different geek mediums. That said, we favor our favorite medium the most…comic books! We freely admit to reading much more super hero comics than other genre because…it’s what we like. That’s not to say we don’t read a good amount of Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy but Super Heroes dominate our pull lists. This year was a year of change in the comic book industry. From the first full year of DC’s New 52 to the start of Marvel Now, the Big 2 made big moves (including stepping up the importance of digital comics). Our favorite comics this year are a mix of books from Marvel, DC, and Image. In fact, we picked two from each publisher.

The Boxie goes to:

  • Batman by Scott Snyder & Greg Capullo

The other nominees:

  • Wolverine and the X-Men by Jason Aaron & Chris Bachalo/Nick Bradshaw/Ramon Perez
  • Daredevil by Mark Waid & Paolo Manuel Rivera/Marcos Martin
  • The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman & Charlie Adlard
  • Saga by Brian K. Vaughn & Fiona Staples
  • Animal Man by Jeff Lemire & Travel Foreman

Let’s get into our top pick first and a little bit about the others after.

Batman

Snew 52 snyder court of owlsnyder and Capullo’s Batman relaunch had four issues released in 2011 with all the rest appearing in 2012. Adam and I had the chance to interview Scott Snyder on the Pittsburgh Comic Podcast after issue four came out and then again after issue five. This is significant because with issue four we were already blown away but he told us the best was still yet to come. Boy was he right! The introduction of the Court of Owls, Gotham City’s further personification, and the twist at the end of the first successful crossover in the New 52, “The Night of the Owls”…2012 was a big year for the Bat.

scott snyder new 52 dc comicsGreg Capullo’s art work has evolved through the year into one of the most memorable depictions of Batman in years. The emotions Bruce goes through and decent into sheer madness in his dealings with The Court of Owls were eerily drafted by Capullo. His previous Spawn work has been combined with a style almost Bruce Timm-like that has made this book look like nothing else he has done before.

This collaboration continued later in the year for what is already one of the most memorable Joker stories ever. Waiting to bring the Joker in this way makes his appearance feel like a true event. Snyder’s twisting of the Joker’s motivation is something that hasn’t been done with the character before and sets him apart from other super villains as something totally different. There’s still so much to come but the Joker’s return in Batman #14 is one of the most memorable appearances of the character’s long history.dc comics new 52

The issue where I knew something was really different was issue #5. Snyder knew this as well when we talked with him a couple of weeks before it came out. He said he needed to talk with us again after that issue dropped because he felt like it would blow our minds. Well…he was right! Even the formatting of book was up for grabs in this book that made the reader feel, at times, claustrophobic, freaked out, and angry thanks to Capullo’s layouts. We went through this maze with Bruce and we came out knowing that this new threat was one that would forever change the Dark Knight. This team is creating stories that could only be told like this in the comic book medium with a character who already has thousands of stories told about him. Here’s hoping to AT LEAST another year of this team on the book!

The Walking Dead

The number one best selling single issue of a comic book this year was The Walking Dead #100…a book published by Image Comics. That’s impressive! The Walking Dead comic has been doing great for years and isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. The AMC TV series is actually bringing new readers into the comic stores in ways big budget Marvel and DC movies even haven’t. The reason? Strong characterization, risk taking, and big moments that matter. Unlike your popular super hero comics, you really don’t know what’s going to happen in this book.

Pretty much anyone could die or be changed in lasting ways at any point. In fact, some characters die in ways not nearly as grand as you would expect. The reason for that is…that’s life. We don’t all get to die a hero. This year escalated the danger and brought in a new villain who rivals the Governor. This isn’t REALLY a horror comic…it’s a survival comic. I hope it survives for years to come!

Daredevil

marvel comics mark waid

Daredevil’s success comes from Mark Waid knowing that the book needed to go in a different direction than was obvious. By taking Daredevil out of the Noir of Frank Miller and Brian Michael Bendis, the book could be judged against a totally different light. Here’s an action/adventure book that is a little more super heroic than year’s past. Through strong characterization of the supporting cast, mixture of new takes on villains, and shorter more succinct stories, this run is one of the most loved books out there today. The chemistry between Waid and Paolo Rivera and Marcos Martin (as well as Mike Allred) have created some of the most fun and beautiful books Marvel has produced in years.

Saga

creator owned comic books

This is how the Image comics solicit for Saga sold us this book: STAR WARS meets ROMEO AND JULIET meets GAME OF THRONES. Umm…YES?! So much has already been said about this book in the few months since it’s initial release because this is something totally different from anything out there right now. Somewhere between Science Fiction and Fantasy, this is a story destined to be told in other mediums. One of Brian K. Vaughns greatest talents is pairing himself with an artist who really puts a definitive stamp on the book. His collaborators are often known primarily for their work with him from that point on. I feel like that will be the case for Fiona Staples with this book. That fact that you become so invested in these characters so quickly is only overshadowed by how fascinated you can become in this new universe of the book. BKV always does a great job of telling stories with definitive beginnings, middles, and ends. Here’s hoping the end doesn’t come to quick for this book.

Animal Man

It was between Animal Man and Swamp Thing for the best breakout hit from DC’s New 52. In my opinion, Animal Man has the slight advantage over Swamp Thing because of his cast. Swamp Thing’s cast is cool but there’s not much in the way of supporting characters. Animal Man, however, has a whole family of characters who are central to the very straight forward plots. The fact that Animal Man and Swamp Thing are both two sides of a war against the third is why they are often compared and why they are crossing over in one of the best storylines of 2012, Rotworld. One difference between Animal Man and Swamp Thing that a lot of readers don’t care for is the rotating artists. To me, each one has brought something different to the table while still being in a similar dark style. I think it’s what ties this book to it’s super hero roots.

dc new 52

Animal Man is not a super hero book but it has a super hero past. I think this is something that makes it feel like a hybrid DC/Vertigo Book. His past adventures as a super hero make for some cool vignettes but the further we unravel his true purpose the more we find out that it was just ruse put on by his creators. Between his family dynamic, his role as a substitute the true chosen one (his daughter), and never knowing what is going to come next, this book has proved itself worthy of comparisons to the book’s most famous run by Grant Morrison. Easy to pick up and get hooked on by non-comic book readers, Animal Man is all the things we were promised with the New 52 and the ultimate answer to the critics of the reboot.

Wolverine and the X-Men

This comic has it ALL! Each issue is jammed with tons of characters both new and old in a celebration of all eras of the X-Men. The Jean Grey School for Higher Learning is even crazier than Hogwarts! The new characters in this book instantly make you want to read more about them. Characters like Kid Omega, Broo, Kid Omega, Indra, and Genesis make you want more stories to feature them as opposed to the already well known and liked members of the X-Men. No easy task. The plotlines in this book are so weird and executed so well that these comics need to be immediately read again in order to believe what you are seeing. Some examples are Krakoa as the living security system/school grounds, fighting microscopic brood inside Kitty’s body, Toad and Husk’s romance, Angel’s new personality, and Wolverine and Kid Omega going to a space casino in order to get money to pay their debts.

wolverine broo kid omega

One single issue should be enough to tell you anything can happen in this book. That issue is #17 which stars Doop. Easily the weirdest character in the X-Men universe, Doop’s role is explained here in this packed issue without taking anything away from his mystery. A true test of how great this book is how it crosses over with the mandatory involvement with AvX. What often derails books actually worked beautifully in Wolverine and the X-Men. The last date between Colossus and Kitty is gut-wrenching and possible unforgivable. Professor X’s goodbye was so strong that it felt inevitable he was going to soon die. Everything said, this book is the densest most fun super comic on the market.