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Mark Waid, Chris Samnee, Paolo Rivera et al’s Run on Daredevil (Vol. 3) (Review/Retrospective)

This April, to celebrate the release of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, we are taking a look at some classic and modern comics featuring Spider-Man (and friends). Check back daily for the latest review.

Daredevil had been one of the most consistently reliable books at a major comic book publisher over the last decade or so. Under creative teams from Kevin Smith to David Mack to Brian Michael Bendis to Ed Brubaker, the gritty street level superhero has enduring a whole host of twists and shifts that have made the book a compelling read. Indeed, the only real problem with the run was that Andy Diggle couldn’t quite stick the landing and so we ended up closing out that incredibly run with a bland and generic crossover like Shadowland.

Still, Daredevil remains an exciting book – a comic that affords the writers and artists a bit more freedom than they’d enjoy working on a more high-profile or major character. When Spider-Man’s identity was revealed by J. Michael Straczynski during Civil War, the publisher almost immediately hit a reset button in the form of One More Day to tidy up everything. When Brian Michael Bendis revealed Matthew Murdock’s secret identity to the world, there was no attempt to stuff the genie back in the bottle. That radical shift remained in play for the rest of Ed Brubaker and Andy Diggle’s run, casting a shadow over Mark Waid’s as well.

The big smoke...

The big smoke…

However, reading Andy Diggle’s Daredevil, it’s easy to get a sense that the character was suffocating under the influence of Frank Miller. Frank Miller and Klaus Jansen enjoyed a character-defining run in the mid-eighties. For Miller, it paved the way to The Dark Knight Returns, and it really shook the foundations of the superhero genre. Suddenly superheroes weren’t infallible; suddenly fights could get genuinely dirty; suddenly dressing up in a silly costume to fight crime was treated as something that might be deemed a little eccentric.

This had a dramatic impact across the superhero genre. At the same time, however, it really defined the character of Daredevil. In his year years, Daredevil often seemed like a cheap knock-off of Spider-Man; an imitation of a far more popular hero. With the work of Frank Miller, Matthew Murdock become more conflicted and more complex. He became a hero who could make mistakes, a hero who didn’t have the best judgement, a hero who could fail. This pushed the character of Daredevil more towards gritty urban crime and film noir conventions, and further away from superhero conventions.

Radar love...

Radar love…

Decades after Born Again, writers are still drawing on that iconic take on Matthew Murdock. The Kingpin is still considered one of the – if not the – greatest foe of the Man Without Fear. Kevin Smith killed off Karen Page, the character who betrayed Matthew Murdock in Born Again. Brian Michael Bendis wrote a story featuring the character who planted the bomb in Born Again, two decades after that story was published. Miller cast a long shadow over the character. One of the (many) problems with Andy Diggle’s Daredevil was the way that it demonstrating that riffing on Frank Miller was getting old.

And so, Mark Waid’s run on Daredevil is absolutely fascinating. It’s a clear departure from the grounded urban realism that came to define the character, often feeling like an attempt to reconnect with the character’s Silver Age roots. Brought to life by some of the best artists in the business, the run just pops off the page. At the same time, Waid doesn’t ignore or avoid or overlook what has come before. He just seems to realise that there are other ways of approaching the character.

On top of the world...

On top of the world…

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Stan Lee and John Romita’s Spider-Man – The Amazing Spider-Man Omnibus, Vol. 2 (Review/Retrospective)

I loved Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s Amazing Spider-Man. In fact, I think it might be the most accessible Silver Age comic book that I’ve ever had the pleasure to read. However, all good things must come to an end, and Steve Ditko left the title after thirty-eight issues. As such, the title went through a transitional period, with John Romita Sr. taking over the art on the book. Romita would arguably end up a much more proactive guiding light on Amazing Spider-Man, doing a lot of work outside the main title that undoubtedly helped cement the character’s place in popular culture. There’s a wonderfully “sixties pop” feelings to the issues collected here, even if they feel a bit more conventional than Ditko and Lee’s collaboration. Still, it’s easy to see why The Amazing Spider-Man is among Marvel’s longest-running books.

Reflecting on a fun run…

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Legends of the Dark Knight: Marshall Rogers (Review)

To celebrate the release of The Dark Knight Rises, July is “Batman month” here at the m0vie blog. Check back daily for comics, movies and television reviews and discussion of the Caped Crusader.

I do appreciate these nice hardcover collections that DC are putting out, collecting the work of iconic artists on iconic characters. There have been a number of Legends of the Dark Knight and Tales of the Batman collections, and DC will soon be publishing an Adventures of Superman: Gil Kane collection. So it is great to have pretty much all of Marshall Rogers’ work on Batman collected in one nicely-sized hardcover for the reader to digest, especially considering the monumental impact that some of his work has had on the character and his mythology. That said, there are unfortunately some production issues with the hardcover that take away from the experience of having all these stories released in a high-quality format in one place.

Na na na na na na na… Batman!

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Batman: The Dynamic Duo Archives, Vol. 2 (Review/Retrospective)

To celebrate the release of The Dark Knight Rises, July is “Batman month” here at the m0vie blog. Check back daily for comics, movies and television reviews and discussion of the Caped Crusader.

DC’s archive line for their Silver Age Batman and Detective Comics line begins considerably later than it does for most of their other superheroes, including Superman, The Flash and Green Lantern. The Archives series are devoted to offering readers a chance to browse various comics from a character’s history in a chronological manner, often from the first book published featuring a character or at an appropriate point. For Batman, in the Silver Age, the point was deemed to be editor Julius Schwartz’s “new look” Batman.

The first collection of these comics showed potential. It was clear that the editor who had revived The Flash and Green Lantern was trying to pull Batman away from the wacky alien adventures of the fifties. While the creative teams hadn’t yet refined the darker avenger that would take root in the Bronze Age, it felt like a step in the right direction. Unfortunately, the second collection of the “new look” Batman and Detective Comics run feels like something of a regression, a step backwards rather than forwards.

“This looks like a job for… err… Batman, I guess!”

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Flash: Rebirth (Review/Retrospective)

This January, I’m going to take a look at some of DC’s biggest “events.” I’ll be starting with the most recent one, Flashpoint, but – in the spirit of the character – we’re going to have a marathon run through Flash stories before we get there. Check back daily this week for more Flash-ified goodness…

From the outset, Flash: Rebirth was going to be an infinitely more complex endeavour for writer Geoff Johns than Green Lantern: Rebirth had been. Both miniseries aimed to firmly establish an older legacy character (in both cases, the iteration of the character active in the late fifties/early sixties) as the core of that particular franchise, replacing their replacements, as it were. However, Hal Jordan had been absent for about ten years, and had been hovering around the DC Universe in various guises during his absence from the role of Green Lantern. Barry Allen, on the other hand, had been gone twenty years and his appearances had been far scarcer. There had been a whole generation of fans (including the author of this miniseries) who grew up with Wally West as the Flash. Bringing Barry back was always going to be tricky, but here it becomes evident just how tricky.

A darker shade of red?

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Absolute All-Star Superman (Review/Retrospective)

This post is part of the DCAU fortnight, a series of articles looking at the Warner Brothers animations featuring DC’s iconic selection of characters. I’ll be looking at movies and episodes and even some of the related comic books. With All-Star Superman confirmed as the next animated DC feature, I thought I’d take a look at Grant Morrison’s original comic book story. In case you haven’t noticed, it seems the DCAU guys are big Morrison fans.

Doomed Planet.

Desperate Scientists.

Last Hope.

Kindly Couple.

Superman.

– Grant Morrison reduces perhaps the most iconic origin story down to fewer words than this synopsis, …Faster… (Chapter 1)

I have to admit, nothing quite psyches me like holding a Grant Morrison book in my hand – save maybe holding an Alan Moore book in my hand. Sure, I might not love what he’s writing and it might not necessarily be the most complete narrative experience that could have been provided, but I always want to read it again after I’m done – even if I hated it. As a writer, Morrison can crank out crazy-yet-clever concepts like nobody’s business, finding a way to put a new slant on an old piece of mythology or making a change seem like a logical extension of what came before. All-Star Superman is perhaps his most widely respected work, an attempt to boil the iconic Man of Steel down into twelve easy-to-disgest chunks, for new and old fans alike. It’s a stunning piece of comic book literature and perhaps the closest experience one could have to holding the quintessential elements of Superman in your hands.

Last sun of Krypton…

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Final Crisis (Review/Retrospective)

This post is part of the DCAU fortnight, a series of articles looking at the Warner Brothers animations featuring DC’s iconic selection of characters. I’ll be looking at movies and episodes and even some of the related comic books. Later on today, we’ll be reviewing Superman/Batman: Apocalypse, so I thought I might take a look at a comic book tale which was heavy on Superman, Darkseid and Batman…

This epic elegy for a doomed civilisation, declining from splendor to squalor. This Final Crisis. This last ditch attempt to save creation itself from a loathing and greed beyond measure.

– Grant Morrison outlines the whole point of the book, in case you weren’t paying attention… in a narration which deserves to be read in the most pompously ridiculous style possible

Look, I could hitch a ride back with you. I have a real talent for gritty drama no one’s ever thought to exploit.

– Merryman makes a pitch for “relevance” in the hopes of escaping comic book “limbo”

Destruction or creation. Everything or nothing. A universe full or a universe empty. Life or anti-life. Grant Morrison certainly lives up to his reputation as a frustrating and challenging author – is Final Crisis the statement of a genre looking to make peace with itself, or nonsensical Silver Age surrealism repackaged for a modern world? Is it pretentious or profound? Insightful or devoid of interest? Can’t it be both, or are these mutually exclusive states?

We all knew Obama was Superman…

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