Monday, December 6, 2010
I’m going to fill in for Kirk this week to talk about some special books I picked up this week. Hit the jump to read reviews on this week’s American Vampire, the finale to Shadowland and Daredevil, as well as the debut of Heroes For Hire. There’s a mixture of sublime and sub-par on offer. Hit the jump to see what's where.
Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Rafael Albuquerque & Mateus Santolouco
Colours by Dave McCaig
The second arc of American Vampire, and the first written solo by creator Scott Snyder, came to a close this week and it did not disappoint. Las Vegas has been littered with vampire killings but the final showdown happens off city limits, and it’s a vampire gang war that’s been brewing a while. Sides are chosen, forsaken, and betrayed. This is top notch creator owned comics and here’s a few reasons why.
Snyder has done a great job in this arc of expanding his already wide and epic landscape of characters. The top cop in Las Vegas, Cash McCogan, is the sort of hero this series needs. It’s got Daisy but she seems a little too reckless to be the true moral backbone of this comic. Cash comes along and all he wants to do is protect and serve. It makes for great play against Skinner Sweet who has helped establish Las Vegas as the town many know and love, repeatedly, today. The original sin in this location was vampirism.
A flashback shows us that Cash was an orphan taken in by his new father in Las Vegas. Bred into the police force he was obviously raised to be the best a man could be. Interesting then that his father is a different kind of man completely, as revealed at the end of the last issue. Cash has a lot of false history to battle, and Skinner Sweet becomes an unlikely ally, but only for a brief moment.
One of the greatest strengths of this issue is that it explores the mythology of these disparate vampire breeds in a little more detail. We know that Skinner is a new breed, but then we find there is an even older breed from before those who we already see as the old guard. Vampires have always evolved, and each new breed hates the older ones. They also have different ways to die, which is very cool.
Everything culminates in this issue and Snyder manages what so many scribes struggle with today, he nails the ending. Crescendos build, double crosses take place, danger is averted (sometimes), and the pace is break neck, but by the final page you feel satisfied. Things have worked out with meaning, every connection is earned, and we see into the true heart of our major players. Cash is a man who can’t stop himself being good and Skinner is the exact opposite. It’s their nature and no doubt always will be.
This comic isn’t just about vampires – it’s about history, and men, and generations of war. The first arc ended with the birthing of new generations and new breeds and this arc is no different. The dynasties of blood we continue are timeless and the battles aren’t won or lost, they are simply concluded to be continued another day, another way, another era. It’s a cycle and you’re a fool to think you can escape it.
Verdict – Must Read. There are only so many great reviews you can read before you understand this comic is one of the best on the shelves right now. It is a testament to the entire creative team that there hasn’t been a bad issue yet, there’s barely been an issue that wasn’t brilliant. This is the sort of comic more people should be reading because those who are certainly are loving it. The second arc was easily as satisfying as the first and from the time skipping way Snyder is pacing things there’s no reason he can’t segue straight into something else brilliant and yet slightly different.
Written by Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Art by Brad Walker, Andrew Hennessy
Colours by Jay David Ramos
Why does this title give the hard sell to Ghost Rider on the cover when he doesn’t even appear in the issue?
This title is always going to be a hard sell. It’s a bunch of fan favourites who never quite manage to carry their own title. Even together, can they survive? History tells us a resounding “NO!” Even if the title is exceptionally well written I give it two arcs, tops, and even that is extended beyond one purely for the creative team and the fact I’m an optimist at heart.
This issue is really well created because it buzzes along like a great introduction to the characters, the set up, the main case they’re all working collectively on, and the final reveal at the end is pretty damn good. DnA manage to write a variety of characters effectively, and I love that they make Black Widow sound like she should, instead of Bendis-hole she had become for far too long. They each play their part and are used in a meaningful manner. No one is in panel just to say they were a part of the experience, there is no shoehorning of those who don’t belong (expect for the aforementioned cover).
This is a good team, and it makes sense that they’d be working ‘for hire’. They just get the hot tip from Misty Knight, it’s not like they actually have to bud up and shazam rings together at swap meets. They do their things but for a collective good. And Misty stays out of the action and essays her best impression of the late night talkback queen in The Warriors. A golden homage if comics ever had one.
The final splash reveal is surely enough to keep readers around for the next issue. I was really, really (really!) hoping the reveal would be that Matt Murdock was secretly running this team, but it wasn’t to be. I’m happy enough with how DnA manage it here. I’m in, though I can’t help feel I’m happy to add this to my pull list because I don’t think it will be for long. I’d much rather throw my support in now than on the trade after the damage has been done.
Verdict – Buy It. This comic is good. Each page is filled with character and dialogue, the writing and the art are not lazy and both are exceptionally enjoyable. There are enough good character on show here that surely one or two tickle your fancy. If so, then jump on board and find out the tale before it gets spoiled for you.
Written by Andy Diggle
Art by Billy Tan, Victor Olazaba
Colours by Guru eFx
This event for my favourite comic character has been a fair let down in nearly all aspects. The writing feels a hack job on most pages, the art is inconsistent, and the entire vibe of the tale is not well crafted. It’s a shame to have to dump on the hard work of others but perhaps we can dissect to at least avoid this problem in the future.
So far, the hero friends of Matt Murdock have tried to help him not be the terrible leader of The Hand that he has become. They’ve tried to play nice, they’ve tried to talk, then they’ve tried to kick his ass. Not much is working because Daredevil just seems to be getting stronger and his ability to defeat them is easier. The control on him by The Beast seems to have created the ultimate villain. It has also inspired Hell’s Kitchen to lose its collective hive mind and descend into violence. That’s where we are.
My major issue with the whole tale is the cast. The clandestine Snakeroot group within the Hand who orchestrated all of this don’t show their faces and I don’t really know what they wanted. They set the Beast onto Murdock but then don’t seem to be capitalising on it at all. Ghost Rider races back to Shadowland, after the events of his one-shot, but what’s his motivation? When he arrives the other heroes are all knocked out. That’s right, Daredevil, with some assist from the Beast, manages to wipe the floor with Iron Fist, Spider-Man, Luke Cage, Elektra, the Punisher, and Wolverine. And we don’t even really see how he manages most of this, it’s just implied. He then sucks up Ghost Rider’s flame like it’s fairy floss.
It only takes one sneaky chi punch from Rand to sort it all out and reawaken the Murdock within. I call foul on this purely because it’s actually a good premise but Diggle does no work to set it up. He just throws it in and makes it play. If he’d spent any time loading this gun in the third act I would have been more excited to see it all pay off. Because that’s what fiction is, a series of payoffs but this series didn’t do anything to earn its moments.
Matt Murdock takes true victory in his hands but it’s not really explained how he did this. It’s not clear in the slightest, though you can probably surmise roughly what happened, but I don’t want to. It’s one thing to leave something open to interpretation, it’s another thing entirely to not explain it because you can’t or won’t. And don’t even get me started on the quick disappearance of the body at the end. That’s just lazy like a Sunday afternoon.
Typhoid Mary had been in this title for all of about 7 panels but suddenly she’s got Daredevil’s back because he’s the only one who believed in her and gave her a second chance. Please, he was willing to keep her around but wouldn’t even show her off around his other buddies. Even in polite circles we have a name for that sort of arrangement and it rhymes with buckfuddy. Her motivation and complete attendance is a non-event. She was a mole for Fisk, so hidden she didn’t even know it herself. But she barely gives him any information and he really didn’t need her at all.
The final scene, of a redheaded man finally attending confession is actually quite a nice cap on this tale. It doesn’t really appeal to me because they’re basically saying that Matt has just walked away from this whole mess and that seems far too easy but I like the theme behind it all, shame it’s not narratively sound.
I actually thought Tan had done some pretty decent art in this title, up until this issue. I understand he’s trying to show Daredevil as looking differently due to the Beast being in control of him. I get that, even if it doesn’t make sense on an actual biological plain – was Murdock’s body being twisted and contorted? Because if so he’s going to have one hell of a set of rehabilitation to go through to get his body back into use. Tan draws the sections between muscles as elongated and it comes across as extremely awkward. There’s the feeling Tan may have been going for this style but when Iron Fist is shown as about half the size, literally, of Daredevil it all becomes too surreal.
Verdict – Byrne It. I would say Avoid It but there’s no way you can read the whole of the event and not the final chapter, and if you haven’t read anything else then there’s no reason for you to pick up part 5 of a thirty piece puzzle. Shadowland has been a lazy and thankless event but this nowhere more evident than in its conclusion. Characters wander scenes for absolutely no reason – if you don’t believe me then pick any of the many cameos and tell me how they impacted this tale? The most telling aspect of this entire event comes in the back matter as Joe Quesada discusses how “with Shadowland, we wanted to wipe the slate clean.” It feels like a reset of a character and not a satisfying one.
Written by Andy Diggle and Antony Johnston
Art by Marco Checchetto
Colours by Matt Hollingsworth
Hell’s Kitchen is in a state of damage control. The demonic fever has broken and while this means it might be safe once more it also means they are without their horned protector. We open on Detective Kurtz as he helps with a final tidy up and then states his intent to quit the force. His superior knows this won’t happen when he’s charged with bringing in Daredevil. It’s the start of a big case, but that’s all we get, the start.
The rest of the Matt Murdock All-Stars, Foggy, Dakota, and Becky, are back in their old place of work, now a destroyed office set. Foggy should be able to get his license to practise back but the spectre of his old partner will always be looming nearby, and not everyone can handle that.
Kingpin has set up shop as the new leader of the Hand, and it all seems very easy. They’ve been as much as a walkover between leaders as they were against any other heroic opponents. I’d rate them lower than HYDRA at the current point in time. As for why Lady Bullseye wants to be Kingpin’s lady in waiting, I have no idea. She should just assume leadership of the Hand herself. In fact, if that had happened I would have had much more respect for the entire conclusion. It doesn’t seem to be in her character to just accept dominance from some new go, even if he is the Kingpin.
Iron Fist and Luke Cage are back patrolling the streets, because they’re not busy enough with the New Avengers, Heroes For Hire, Thunderbolts, and other team ups and marriages. They think they’re on the trail of Daredevil but they’re not. It’s the Black Panther instead! There’s no actual explanation for why he’s in Hell’s Kitchen, we can only hope that comes in his own title soon.
Dakota North tracks Carlos LaMuerta looking for a team up to the eternal question on all the character’s lips, where is Matt Murdock? It’s a good question because Diggle certainly hasn’t led us to any sort of knowledge so far. He gives us an idea in the final two pages as we see a bearded Murdock debark a bus out in the middle of nowhere. It’s a scenario I’ve either seen at the end of Tales From The Crypt Presents: Demon Knight or it was in a Tenacious D song.
If Marvel wanted Matt Murdock’s slate wiped clean then they’ve got it done now. Pity it took such a filthy rag to make this happen. I’m not sure if we’ve got a Straczynski-esque journey across America to find himself or if he’s just going to take a break but either way it makes me think I’ve seen this before. Didn’t Murdock lose his marbles back in the 90s, rock some stubble, call himself Jack Murdock and get to know middle America then? I’m pretty sure he did. But the 90s also gave us Snakeroot and tales that used lots of cameos and little logic, so why should Diggle start now. He’ll have Laurent Levasseur back on the lam before you know it.
It must be said, however, that Marco Checchetto has come through this gauntlet looking amazing. He manages to create pages that benefit from a soft linger, even if the words don’t merit such treatment. He draws each character exactly as they should look; Foggy is sad but noble, Dakota is still saucy, Carlos looks beat but like a modern warrior, and his bearded Murdock is one of the best in the game. I’m always a stickler for how an artist draws Murdock and Checchetto is up there with Lark and Mann in his representation of my favourite former legal eagle. Checchetto should go onto bigger and better stuff.
Verdict – Avoid It. This issue is just a case of everyone looking out rain soaked windows and wondering where their old friend has gone. It’s a settling issue, no story, but also barely any emotion. Just a bunch of mild set ups to chase down in the future. It doesn’t stand on it’s own and as a coda it doesn’t pack any teeth.
What did you read this week? Throw your own mini reviews in the comments section, or add your thoughts on mine!