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The Amazing Spider-Man – The Gauntlet: The Rhino – Rage of the Rhino/Endangered Species (Review)

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.

The Gauntlet is structured very carefully. The opening salvo of The Gauntlet is comprised of stories spanning a reasonable number of issues. These aren’t epic six-month-long encounters with classic bad guys. Thanks to the thrice monthly shipping schedule of The Amazing Spider-Man, few of the stories lasted longer than a month of real time. Still, stories like Power to the People, Keemia’s Castle and Mysterioso unfold across a number of issues.

As The Gauntlet races towards its climax, the stories get shorter. We begin to get a series of one-issue interludes, like It is the Life or The Sting. These are shorter, quicker affairs – they create a sense of heightened pace, as if the story is speeding up and gathering momentum as it moves towards its endgame. This is the middle act of The Gauntlet, working from the premise that the stage has been set and the band is engaged.

A smashing success...

A smashing success…

Then, as we push on into the third act of climax of The Gauntlet, we get three extended storylines. Something Can Stop the Juggernaut serves as something of a breather story arc, insulating the events of Shed and Grim Hunt from the rest of The Gauntlet. However, the four-part Shed is very much the climax of The Gauntlet – pushing much of the arc’s tones and themes to their logical endpoint. After that, Grim Hunt is the culmination of it all; a meditation on what this has all been about.

This clever structuring is in evidence for Joe Kelly’s story about the Rhino. The two-issue story arc is structured as two one-shots cleverly split over the course of The Gauntlet. The first part of the story, Rage of the Rhino appears nestled between Keemia’s Castle and Mysterioso. It appears to stand alone. And then, as The Gauntlet gathers pace, Endangered Species hits. And it hits with the power of a freight train.

Building up momentum...

Building up momentum…

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Andy Diggle’s Run on Daredevil (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.

One of the most remarkable things about Daredevil was how consistent the quality of the title had been. Andy Diggle inherited Daredevil at the height of its popularity. Ed Brubaker’s Daredevil was well-loved and enjoyed, climaxing on a celebratory 500th issue. Brubaker had come on after Brian Michael Bendis’ much-lauded run on the title. The two are considered among the best writers to work on the character since Frank Miller redefined the Man Without Fear. Diggle was succeeded by Mark Waid, who has made a reinvigoured and nostalgic Daredevil into one of Marvel’s best-reviewed and best loved books.

These are all great runs. Andy Diggle’s Daredevil run is not well-remembered. Diggle essentially wrote twelve issues of the main title, and almost the same number of crossover tie-ins, miniseries and one-shots. Whereas those other successful runs of Daredevil existed with their own space and freedom, Diggle’s Daredevil was very much event-driven. The big moment in all of Diggle’s Daredevil writing is the street-level crossover event Shadowland. It’s a problematic event, and quite a few of those problems reverberate back into Diggle’s work on the main title.

And yet, despite that, what’s most frustrating about Diggle’s Daredevil run is that it really could (and should) have been so much better.

The Devil you know...

The Devil you know…

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Greg Rucka and Marco Checchetto’s Run on The Punisher, Vol. 9 (Review)

This March, to celebrate the release of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, we’ll be taking a look at some classic and not-so-classic Avengers comic books. Check back daily for the latest updates!

The Punisher isn’t really a complex character.

Indeed, despite his popularity and appeal, there’s really only so much you can do with the character before it feels like you’re repeating yourself. He is a vigilante who brutally murders criminals, possibly because criminals killed his family. That’s part of the reason why Rick Remender’s Punisher run was so exhilarating. It genuinely felt unlike anything that had been done with the character before – even if Remender had to take Frank Castle off the reservation to do it.

Writer Greg Rucka and artist Marco Checchetto came up with their ingenious way of making the Punisher seem novel again. Realising that readers have probably become a little too over-familiar with Frank Castle and his world, Rucka and Checchetto shrewdly decide to look at Frank Castle from the outside, treating the Punisher as something like a force of nature, a terror glimpsed fleetingly as he stalks the concrete jungle.

A smoking gun...

A smoking gun…

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