Monday, July 25, 2011

The Week of July 20 in Review

So recently I found myself once again asking myself, what should a good review of a comic book do? That question led to my favorite format of What I Liked, What I Didn’t Like and Overall, but it is not answering the question.

First and foremost a review should tell the reader what the comic was about. Let’s use Daredevil #1 by Mark Waid (writer), Paolo Rivers (pencils) and Joe Rivera (inks) as an example. Of course this book has a second Daredevil tale by Mark Waid (writer) & Marcos Martin as a backup story but this is about the main story. The story starts with Daredevil going to a wedding of a mobster’s daughter because he heard a rumor that a hit was going to happen. Instead it was a kidnapping by a super villain named Spot and DD foils the plan. The second half of the story is about Matt Murdock trying to rebuild his and Foggy’s law firm. Matt’s efforts to defend a client is wrecked by the fact that most people understand him to be Daredevil. Clues are laid that Matt’s client had other attorneys scared off the case causing Matt as DD to go tracking down some leads. DD is attacked and the cliff hanger shows the attacker maybe Captain America.

Now the review has accomplished its task of telling us the plot of the story, but it does nothing to convey how well (in this case) the information was conveyed or the purpose of this comic. Number one issues are usually reserved for jumping on points, starting a new character, starting a character as a solo adventurer or bringing a character back to prominence. In this case DD had been tainted by all that had gone before, especially the horrible Shadowland crap, and was in need of a fresh start. Mark Waid got the assignment. What Mark has brought to the table is a new approach to Matt Murdock taking his unique enhanced senses and bringing us into Matt’s world and how he sees it. We get into his head and understand the echo location of how he reads people. We also get a feel for his heroics as he saves the day from a teleporter called Spot and a taste of his Zorro like attitude as he steals a kiss from the bride. In the opening sequence we see DD is a hero and get an idea of what his world is like. DD is unique as he is a blind man in a sighted world and learning how even with enhanced senses he survives has never been done as well as the first few pages did it. Later Mark sets up what Matt’s world is like with his secret identity being an assumed common knowledge and Matt is just almost trying to ignore it, hoping the 24/7 news cycle where make him yesterday’s news. So in the first story Mark has re-established DD as a unique hero giving us a reason to want to read about his adventures and established his new reality of a private life which gives the reader something they can relate to. The artwork was superb and I’m guessing this was a full script as most comics are done today. Still in a lesser artist’s hands the book would have been a miss. So many great shots and panels from the opening page, to the kiss and to Matt jumping off a building were just gorgeous.

Then a review often has issues or complaints. Mine is a minor quibble as I know Waid’s politics are few left and his immediately using a poor Muslim person as being slurred and having racial epithets thrown at him by the police being Matt’s client. I personally have grown tired of this incessant need by many of the far left crowd to constantly never portray a Muslim as a bad guy. Radical Muslims were bad guys, are bad guys, just as home grown terrorists and other groups are bad guys. It is not the actually story line itself or even the idea of portraying that Muslims are like everyone else, most decent, some not; it is the fact I can read where the story is going from the jump. I’m against our involvement in the Middle East and fear we have created half of our own problems; I defend the right to the far left and the left to the far right, so it is not the politics it is the “typical” non-inventive nature of that plot point. A minor quibble but if Waid gets to be a little preachy my complaint is making the book predictable for certain plot points.

Finally a review may wrap it up with a rating or some summation of the reviewer’s opinion of the comics. For me this book was a tour de force and should be given a solid “B” maybe even an “A”. It does what a first issue should do, along with the backup story we know why Matt is approaching his life this way now, basically ignoring his past and moving on. Matt is deciding to be happy in some ways. We also see some great action, get introduced to a supporting cast and are left with a slight mystery of what is going on with this new case and how is Captain America involved? Also we are learning what DD’s world is like. Heck I bet Mark Waid will even address that the digital age is creating problems for Matt as he can’t “read” digital displays like he could newspaper or print.

The problem with a review is it can take way too long to convey all the right elements, so the week in review always becomes more of a hodgepodge of formats. Still if I had more time I think I would do more of the full reviews as the good books deserve it and Daredevil was a good book.

Now for the rest of the week in review, not all books mentioned need to be reviews, such as Locke & Key – Clockworks #1 (of 6). This is the penultimate arc to the story of the Key family and we are just now getting to the origins of the keys themselves. A jump back into revolutionary times finds the keys are forged from metals that came from a dimension of evil demons. With this type of finite series I have no desire to tell you the story as it is redundant. Telling you about the individual issue also only caters to those who are reading the series, so just suffice to say that every issue of this book is a joy and if you have not been getting this book you are missing out on one of the best books on the stands. It is in the same category of greatness as Terry Moore’s Echo and other great graphic novels of varying length.

One last book to mention before we end this week is Spirit #16. The story was told in a series of splash pages, each with the signature “Spirit” being done in different ways on each page. David Hine and JP Leon deliver a great story about one man taking the law into his own hands and why the Spirit is about justice and not vengeance. I believe next issue brings this run of The Spirit to a close and I have to say that I enjoyed this book and will David Hine’s work on this character.

In general many of the books coming out are decent but not review worthy. I have sucked myself into Flashpoint and trying out the DC Retroactive stuff and find that I’m getting too many books. The Flashpoint stuff is fun but with some weak art, the Retroactive books are amusing also, but the backup reprints can highlight how poor some of the books from those eras were compared to today. Many of the Marvel books I get are being interrupted by the Fear Itself event and that has been annoying. Fear Itself has fallen flat from my viewpoint and I have no interest at all in the story line. A lot of independent titles are living off the corpse of older characters or other work, very little original. Dynamite is working off Green Hornet, Vamperilla, John Carter of Mars, old Kirby concepts, very little fresh and new except for Garth Ennis. IDW has GI Joe, Star Trek and Godzilla, Dark Horse is doing all sorts of Robert E Howard and Star Wars material. We have Locke & Key, Next Men, Mignolaverse, Goon and other stuff, but way too much is just as derivative as Marvel and DC continuing to use other’s concepts, little fresh and new. Thankfully we still have Vertigo, Rasl, Terry Moore and others to give us some newer material. All of this and tells me it is time for another purge of my list.

Next week’s list is way too long again. The list is Action, American Vampire, Batman Dark Knight, Brightest Day Aftermath, DC Retroactive Green Lantern 70’s, DC Retroactive JLA 70’s, DC Retroactive Superman 70’s, Detective, Fables, Flashpoint Hal Jordan, Flashpoint Kid Flash, Flashpoint Lois Lane, Flashpoint Project Superman, Gotham City Sirens, Green Lantern Corps, Green Lantern Emerald Warriors, JSA, Teen Titans, Wonder Woman, Amazing Spider-Man, Astonishing X-Men, Captain America and Bucky, Criminal, FF, Mighty Thor, Secret Avengers, Ultimate Fallout, Uncanny X-Force, Venom, X-Men Legacy, X-Men Schism, Invincible, Amazing 3D Comics (HC), GI Joe Cobra, Godzilla, The Cape, Next Men, Grim Ghost, Phoenix, Vamperilla Scarlett Legion and Warlord of Mars Fall of Barsoom.

Tell next week, be good or be better.

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