Sunday, March 21, 2004

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What I bought and what I thought, week of March 17

It seems like a book that's as consistently excellent as Bendis and Maleev's Daredevil will, by its very nature, receive consistent reviews from one issue to the next, and it becomes frustratingly redundant to always say something along the lines of "Great, gripping script. Outstanding, atmospheric art. Daredevil is quite possibly the best superhero comic out there, especially when Brian Bendis and Alex Maleev are at the reins. Frank Miller has nothing on these fellows.". But heck, I can't let it go at that- in this issue we get the introduction of the most Tarantino-ish character Bendis has dreamed up yet (or better, re-imagined), the Night Nurse, and exploring all the ramifications of Matt Murdock's new title through the eyes of Ben Urich has given us two more memorable set pieces: of course, the interlude with the Nurse and Matt at the nameless hospital, and the state that Matt's law practice is in now, with a beleaguered Foggy Nelson's sad plight. Daredevil remains one of the few mainstream superhero books you can read and still respect yourself in the morning. A

Once again, Darwyn Cooke is loose in DC's Silver Age sandbox, refining and expanding his take on the DC pantheon with an early 60s setting. In this issue, we get an exciting widescreen re-enactment of the origin of the Challengers of the Unknown, more on Hal Jordan (whose handwriting is kinda teeny tiny for such a strapping young test pilot), Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman (is he insinuating that WW had a fling with Ike? Eww), a lot with J'onn J'onzz, and even manages to work in the likes of King Faraday (I wonder how many of today's readers are even aware how long that guy's been around). He also gives us a new character, a black man in the deep south who was the victim of a failed lynching by the Klan, and isn't very happy about it. He is apparently going to take it upon himself to fight this evil with a hammer and a mask, and will call himself John Henry. All good, but if we get Pecos Bill and Paul Bunyan as well, I'm bailing. It's obvious that this is both a Herculean task and a labor of love for Cooke, and it's staggering, almost on a Peter Jackson level, to imagine how much effort he's put into this so far, especially on splash pages like the one on page 51. We also get a cute homage to the film Invaders From Mars which for some reason Dar renames "Invasion From Mars", and why he does this I don't know. Still, this is great stuff, and kinda puts the wan JLA: Year One to shame, doesn't it? A-

Robert Kirkman plays us like a boxer, stringing us along for three quarters of the book with lots and lots of talk and dramatics, then suddenly we get the uppercut with an intense zombie attack scene (with some atypically quick-reflexed zombies) which is genuinely harrowing because we've come to care about the characters- and as anyone will tell you that's half the battle. And Tony Moore seems to get more confident with every issue as his facial expressions become more facile and his linework gets more assured. Pretty good for a zombie comic. A-

Fine little fantasy story, made better by the appearances of Mazikeen and Elaine Belloc, like the cavalry, at the end. Problem is, I don't necesarily buy this comic for fantasy stories, as it were, but for the machinations of the title character and their effect on those who are in his orbit, and we've been getting very little of that lately which I think accounts for my somewhat lukewarm interest in this otherwise-not-bad four issue story arc. This issue would seem to be a resolution, but the last page shows this isn't the case, so I'll keep the faith 'cause I know it will get better. B+