2.18.2010

2.17.10 Reviews (Part 2)

Daredevil #505 (Marvel): If I had to say, aside from the premise of the X-Men, Daredevil is probably my favorite Marvel character. I haven’t really followed him regularly since the old Frank Miller days, though I did pop in for the Kevin Smith Death-of-Karen-Page era and followed that up through some of the David Mack issues with Echo, but that’s about it. So, I’m coming into this out of creator loyalty, following Antony Johnston basically wherever he goes. With that caveat out of the way, let’s get to it. I instantly liked the gritty art of Marco Checchetto, who is a new name to me. His pencils are complemented perfectly by stalwart Daredevil colorist Matt Hollingsworth, who offers up a murky dark color palette that’s right at home, feeling the way a DD book should feel in my estimation. The opening dialogue that brings the audience up to speed is couched very well as a sensible exchange that, well, I don’t want to invoke the “e” word (exposition), but I will say that a lot of information is being relayed to inform us about the arc. I like the idea that Matt is willing to do whatever it takes, to get his hands dirty, in order to protect the city in the face of corruption in the bureaucracy with guys like Norman Osborn and Kingpin in charge. The snow-swept meeting of the heads of the five fingers of The Hand is a terrific scene that calls to mind so many blood-soaked kung-fu flics. It’s all about honor and respect, ethnocentrism, and bristles with life. You can really feel the melding of Diggle’s subversive crime oriented plotting with the twinge of social elements that Johnston is so good at infusing his works with. This is a dense and intricate plot that’s never boring or unclear. I know it’s a ruse to destroy The Hand, but Matt’s proposal is an interesting notion. The idea of turning the organization into a justice oriented force for real change, perhaps establishing some profitable legitimate business endeavors in the process reminds me of Michael Corleone wanting to make the family holdings legitimate. It was during that quest that he saw true power and wealth beyond the street-level hustles that had been the bread and butter of organized crime for so long. At the end of the day, I’m not understanding this arc’s role in the larger context of the Daredevil mythos (since I haven’t been reading the title), so I might be missing some of the urgency or consequence, but there’s no doubt this is an entertaining read with art that quickly grew on me. Hey, it looks like I might be reading DD for a stretch. Grade B.

Uncanny X-Men #521 (Marvel): Greg Land’s backgrounds are still quite lacking, but his figure work in the foreground has calmed down some so that the characters appear like more normal looking people and not borrowed clippings from Entertainment Weekly. The action choreography is still difficult to slog through; scenes like the Psylocke fight sequence up front require multiple trips through to discern meaning. Taken on its own, Fraction’s script would be clever, but since I read more than just X-Men comics, the whole invasion by secret mutant baddies just really smacks of familiarity. It is essentially how Prometheus takes down the JLA on occasion, with pre-loaded counter-programming to their tactics. Fantomex’s ability to resist that is basically him operating in the recent Shade role, he can defeat the baddy because he himself isn’t a hero. So, yawn. I’ve seen this before. Total unoriginal snoozer. I enjoyed the members of the Science Team showing up down below to help Namor, but I don’t get why they were talking to Abe Sapien. The dialogue with Scott and Emma up on Mount Tamalpais is interesting with their investigation of Magneto’s endgame, but that seems to be an isolated bout. The HX-N1 bit is pretty clever, if a bit of forced topical relevance. John Sublime’s involvement certainly helps explain Fantomex’s presence a little, and his charming dialogue with Scott, self-identifying as part of the X-Men, was smile-inducing. Overall, the issue feels all over the map, still juggling unwieldy plot threads that never seem to coalesce properly, the art is inconsistent at best, and a small scattering of enjoyable moments doesn’t make me want to hang on to this title very much longer. At this point, I’m ready to drop it, only sticking around to see how the Kitty Pryde situation gets resolved. So, let’s talk about that “big reveal” at the end that’s been spoiled all over the interwebs for weeks now. It’s just one page really, but it manages to piss me off nonetheless. I guess I can sort of buy the Master of Magnetism doing his best Yoda impersonation and force-willing the bullet carrying Kitty into a trajectory that’s interceptable (yet, as I've said from day one, why not contact Havok and the remnants of the Starjammers?). However, the deliberate and sudden reference to the bullet as a “starship” really bothers me because it’s a tremendous cheat. Not only is it just plain inconsistent since in every prior reference it was described as a missile, then more properly described as a hollow point bullet, but the insinuation that it’s a ship allows for a convenient dodge that could explain how Kitty’s breathing. If it’s not a bullet (in which, we’d question how she could survive without air to breathe, a heat source to prevent her from freezing to death, not to mention food and water), but is now magically a ship, then we can easily extrapolate from this new position that a ship would have onboard life support, and I’m sorry, but that’s a cheat. The bullet was never designed to possess occupants, yet now we're suddenly calling it a ship! If it’s a ship, well fuck, it might as well have the onboard life support with heating and oxygen, food, water, satellite TV, a navigation system so she could drive, a dry cleaner to press her uniform, hair and makeup artists, an infirmary, and a masseuse. It’s a cheat, through and through. She was written into a corner that I’ve talked about multiple times, provided possible explanations for, and now we get to see how she’ll lazily be worked out of it. Half of me wants to know how, the other half knows I’ll be disappointed because I’ll be able to poke holes in the explanation in about 5 seconds flat. Grade C+.

I also picked up;

Meanwhile: Pick Any Path. 3,856 Story Possibilities. (Amulet Books): Jason Shiga is a creator I’ve followed loosely over the years. While I haven’t had the opportunity to read all of his work, I really enjoyed Bookhunter and Fleep from Sparkplug Comics, and also read Double Happiness. When I heard the premise of this book was analogous to the old Choose Your Own Adventure style books that anyone in my generation is familiar with, I was sold. The mathematical implications sounded right up Shiga’s intellectual alley, and he’d be sure to make it highly entertaining in the process. I can't wait to read it.

2 Comments:

At 1:12 PM, Blogger antony said...

Heh, it's OK, you can say it — that first page is pure catch-up exposition, and there was no getting around it ;)

 
At 2:11 PM, Blogger Justin said...

Haha! Thanks for absolving me of guilt, Antony. Not saying I didn't enjoy it, but yeah, an info dump, probably necessary to kick your arc into motion. Looking forward to reading the rest!

 

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