Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday - Ten Things The Daredevil #1 Preview Does Right

Daredevil is getting a relaunch #1 near the end of July and recently Marvel let slip some preview pages from that glorious issue. The book is written by Mark Waid and drawn by Paolo Rivera and Marcos Martin and it looks good, something I've discussed before. So good, in fact, I wanted to highlight just ten great things I noticed about the preview pages. This series is going to look amazing, feature some real smarts, and possibly creep out a generation of children. Hit the jump to see how and why.

1. The Cover

What isn’t there to love about the cover? Every time Daredevil has launched with a #1 he’s been front and centre with some swinging contortionist feat that captures the eye and lights up the heart. Here we have Daredevil swinging through his swinging city with his new billy club and he just looks like he’s having fun – something Waid says he is bringing back to the title after such a long absence.

The other main attraction is the more subtle rendition of an onomatopoeic New York in the background. The city thuds, vrooms, and whrrrs behind him as water towers glug and slosh and birds flap by. This is Daredevil in his element – because, if you didn’t know, he sees the world differently than we all do. See Point 4 for more info. The city being rendered in angular sounds is a genius concept but one executed perfectly. The city is a living thing and it often has been treated like a character in the book so it deserves to get some serious time on this debut cover.

They’ve dropped the ‘Man Without Fear’ moniker, while Black Panther co-opts it, and they’ve brought back the ‘Here Comes…’ intro. This cover is fun and it uses every square inch to sell you on that. If you don’t like this cover then I don’t know what to do with you but disagree with whatever you say.


2. Cover Your Eyes

Just to highlight one very specific aspect of the cover – Daredevil’s eyes are obscured by his billy club. This isn’t just a coincidence or a problem because that’s the only good shot available. Daredevil’s eyes are obscured by choice and there is surely plenty of meaning to this. Waid had tweeted a while back, before anyone knew he had the gig, that he wanted to know if Matt Murdock had ever gotten his eyesight back and when. Could that and this image each have something to do with any future plans on the book? Who knows?

When people talk, or you remember someone’s face, the eyes are what take most of the focus. They are the windows to the soul and while Daredevil can’t use his to look out now we can’t use them to look back in on him. It puts us all on a secretive even playing field. This book is coming in and trying to wash the coat of Shadowland off and it wants to be treated on its own merits. Good luck to it.


3. Beautiful, Near, Symmetry

This is the second panel of the first page we have been previewed, the first was a nice establishing shot for the scene. This panel is quite simply gorgeous. The near symmetry of the panel is a sight to behold, and here’s why.

Daredevil commands an authorial presence in the middle of the page. He legs hold him up, high above everyone else in an access area no one would think to police. At first, he appears symmetrical with his immediate surroundings, as if he’s a part of the architecture, his head even slots right into the circle on the window. Daredevil is back, kids, and he belongs – that’s the message. But then we see Daredevil isn’t a mirror image; one hand holds his cane out, the other has a glove off and is holding a slip of paper between softly clenched digits. Daredevil is just ever so slightly warping his perfect image, whatever it takes to get the job done. He needs one hand free to “read” the invitation. He needs to be a little different if he is to be effective.

Then you pan back and realise the panel isn’t symmetrical, the building shoots off further to the right side. Daredevil is accessing the right side of his brain, perhaps, the creative side. He’s always had a flair for the theatrical, and yet he uses his right hand to read the note which is controlled by the logical left half of the brain. Is Daredevil planning to re-enter his old role with a mix of smarts and fun?

The single caption says, “I bet it’s a beautiful sight.” It’s always fun to have Daredevil use sighted reference words but the caption could also stand for the panel we are seeing. It truly is gorgeous.

It is also appreciated that the cheesecake shot of Daredevil’s derriere is not taken advantage of, instead a splash of ink creates some shadow. Thanks the lord for that because less is more.


4. Secret Origin

If you’ve read enough Daredevil comics, you know the secret origin has to be seeded into the issue at some stage. Some creators in the past used up precious pages reminding the audience Matt Murdock lost his sight as a boy when a radioactive isotope clocked him in the face. When he came to he couldn’t see the world like you or I but he had developed a new sense, part echolocation, part something else, Murdock sees and hears the world better than any of us could and he uses these abilities to do the best he can at all times.

Waid drops this knowledge, in a quite succinct and abridged manner, into one little panel on the first page. He doesn’t waste our time, he can be pretty sure most readers already know what’s going on or have researched this nearly 50 year old character before dipping the toe in on this #1. If not, if the reader has done nothing at all, then this panel clues them in that something is different about Daredevil. I guess the onus is then on the reader to maybe go off and find out why. I have no problem with that.


5. Shadow Vision

Daredevil’s approximation of “vision” has been artistically represented in different ways by different artists and here we get a pretty good look at what Matt Murdock ‘sees’ when he looks upon the world. This panel, in league with the previous panel, should really clue any reader in that Daredevil is a very different hero indeed.

Or they will just think Daredevil sees the world as being constructed completely of Norman Osborn’s hair.

This view of a courtyard as a geographical map is a delicious visual and one I look forward to seeing more of as the coming months pass. There’s the right level of obscurity and depth to get the scene but need to work harder to earn it. That’s how Daredevil does it every moment of every day.

It is also appreciated that Waid drops in such a lyrically descriptive phrase as “folding chairs that creak like wooden ships.” It’s that level of word play that shows me Waid wants the Scarlet Swashbuckler back, and I do, too.


6. Masterful Composition

The villain of this first issue is The Spot, a guy dressed in spots who can open up little spot shaped teleportation hole and punch you through them, or pinch you on the backside, or attempt to kidnap mob daughters. I love how in this panel, as well, the words work together with the image to begin the conflict of this narrative. A spot opens up ahead of the wedding procession and a small round inset panel clues us into this fact. It’s like a little zoom in for us, a wink, and a pause to let us soak in what is happening. As we see it, Daredevil’s words show us how he discovers this is occurring – it affects the acoustics of the wedding. This empty hole of nothing sucks in sound but doesn’t let any escape and such a mild distortion is enough for Daredevil to know something is amiss.

If the sequences of Daredevil are going to be framed this well then we’ll all have plenty of fun reading these comics again and again.


7. Negative Space

Daredevil is fighting a foe who uses black spots of teleportation to gain the advantage on his enemies and here we see Daredevil saving the day, swinging off with the little girl intended to be kidnapped, and launching straight into an all white panel. It’s as if he’s gained a moment’s reprieve from the villain and all might just be safe.

We’re smart enough to know this most likely isn’t the case, a victory is never so easily assured, but it’s nice to have this one panel where Daredevil is getting it right. It shows us he’s on the right path, he’s doing his best.

Negative space can be a hell of a thing to focus the reader, or condense an image to it's base elements and I trust these artists to use it with a masterful brain for reason.


8. Join The Billy Club

Daredevil’s Billy Club has long been a staple of his repertoire of tricks and individuality. Back in the day, Stan Lee would hide all sorts of gadgets and fun inside the walking cane turned weapon and even ran a cross section image to show where the hidden microphones and other knick-knacks were hidden. It’s a part of who Daredevil is, as well as being functional for the blind Matt Murdock.

Here, the club is used simply, Daredevil holds it down to stop himself falling into The Spot’s grasp within one of his holes. It’s a simple method yet executed so perfectly as to seem graceful. I love that Waid plans on using the whole Daredevil mythos in such a smart and effective way. It’ll be little things like this each month that will make old Daredevil fans like me happy.


9. The Creepy Spot

The Spot is a freak of nature, a scientific accident. He’s generally been relegated to a C list status, Spider-Man laughed at him in his first appearance but this preview, and this panel in particular, make The Spot finally matter. This guy is a nightmare and no more so than when we see him the way Daredevil sees him. The concept that his body is riddled with teleportation energy, which has left his form a patchwork mess, is a cool idea but Daredevil sees him as almost a wooden doll with drill holes everywhere. This creature, and The Spot does look more bogeyman than actual man, crawls out of a teleportation hole that looks like a sink in reality and he leers at the world around him. He is a monster and he looks and acts accordingly.

If I were a kid picking up this comic, The Spot would forever more be a favourite villain of mine based purely on this panel. That is a power comics can have and certainly does right here.


10. The Final Page

There is no context laid out for the final teaser page. No dialogue, no colour. We don’t know what is happening but being art we know how it makes us feel. This page is eerie and devoid of life and extremely sad. The clenched eyes at the top make us not want to see what is ahead. The barren and endless landscape filled with gravestones is a jarring and abstract symbol of the death that has surrounded Daredevil for far too long. This feels like a dream sequence, a moment of internal reflection on a time and concept Matt Murdock is going to work hard to forget – yet never be able to.

At the end of death, is that Hell waiting for our devilish hero? Hopefully it can be avoided, at least for Waid’s run.






Conclusion

There might only be a handful of pages but this teaser for Daredevil #1 strongly states what Waid, Rivera, and Martin intend to do with the title. It’s going to be fun and smart and the sort of comic you don’t forget quickly. Daredevil has been so melancholy and nourish for so long and it is nice to see a change coming down the pike. This book feels like it will capture the attention of a younger generation by being openly entertaining but also by not being aimed at children. This book is more focused on being a good comic and if the rest of the book is comparable to these pages then the creative team will have succeeded in droves. I’m certainly excited for it. What do you think about the new Daredevil relaunch?


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5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for not including a link to the preview.

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