Best Shots Advance: DAREDEVIL: END OF DAYS, BATMAN, More

 

Daredevil: End of Days #1

Written by Brian Michael Bendis and David Mack

Art by Klaus Janson, Bill Sienkiewicz and Matt Hollingsworth

Lettering by Joe Caramagna

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by David Pepose

'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10

On sale in October

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Whatever happened to the Man Without Fear?

A true "end times" story about the blind vigilante Matt Murdock, Daredevil: End of Days is the product of no less than four comic book heavyweights operating at the height of their powers. Beautiful in its ugliness, wonderful in its bleakness, the eight-issue End of Days could very well be the definitive conclusion of Matt Murdock's tragic, heroic career.

Of course, this isn't just Daredevil's story. Like the knights of old, Matt Murdock's life and times are being retold through a faithful bard — or in this case, burned-out Daily Bugle reporter Ben Urich. Reporting on the last days of the Man Without Fear, Urich may be a smart cookie, but he's still an unreliable narrator... and thus a perfect choice for keeping the reader off-balance. Bendis and Mack start this comic off with a gory bang, and the despair only gets worse from here. As Bendis sneakily recaps his acclaimed run on the series, we learn that things have since changed for Matt Murdock over the years, with shocking decisions that are altogether brutal, tragic, and perhaps even disconcertingly logical. The "whys" can come later — the "what" is disturbing enough already.

Bendis and Mack's writing would have probably been enough to make this comic special, but the artwork is what kicks this comic into the stratosphere. Klaus Janson and Bill Sienkiewicz take the standard which all Daredevil stories are measured against — that's right, the legendary Frank Miller — and drags those craggy lines through the grime of Hell's Kitchen. You can almost feel your teeth ring with every punch as we witness a street fight between Daredevil and Bullseye; you almost feel transported to a distended Hell on Earth when we see the bloated Kingpin survey his kingdom from a penthouse suite. Janson's layouts in particular really evoke that classic Miller style, making Urich's transition from placid newsroom to the cynical, almost kaleidoscopic streets read completely seamlessly.

This may be the end of Daredevil, but Bendis, Mack, Janson and Sienkiewicz have delivered a new mystery that will leave you desperate for more. It's dirty, it's decedent, it's scary, it's sad. It's also well worth the wait. With perfect artwork and perfectly paced writing, End of Days #1 is a bleak, black epitaph that certainly gives this devil his due.

 

Batman #0

Written by Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV

Art by Greg Capullo, Andy Clarke, Jonathan Glapion and FCO Plascencia

Lettering by Richard Starkings, Jimmy Betancourt and Pat Brosseau

Published by DC Comics

Review by Lan Pitts

'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

Here's where it all begins… again.

To be absolutely honest here, Batman #0 should have been the issue that introduced us to the new Batverse. There are actually two stories here, each with their own stars. One, under Snyder's direction, features Bruce coming to terms on what he must become to take down the infestation of crime that has plagued the city he loves. The other, by James Tynion IV, focuses on Jim Gordon, and the young men who would one day don the colors of Robin. Both of these intertwine, even though take place a year apart, leading to an engrossing read.

We all know Batman's origin. It's one of those things we're exposed to as a child. Here, we don't see it from day one, but it's younger Bruce. Hotheaded and out for justice. He's a bit sloppy and understands that he has to up the ante on criminals at large. At this point, Bruce Wayne is the disguise, and the creature of the night lurking inside of him is about to be unleashed. Bruce thinking he should operate as more of an urban legend and not be seen at all is a nice touch. The first part to the story just feels different as well. FCO lightened his color palette and for a moment, Gotham actually seems . Perhaps coincidentally, Capullo's take on the younger Bruce reminds me of Bruce from animated series.  

Tynion's approach to younger Gordon and how he makes a character out of a piece of Bat-lore, the Bat Signal, is impressive to say the least. But it's his handle on Tim Drake, Dick Grayson and Jason Todd that's the real page-turner; each with their own separate attitude and characteristics that will set them on different paths later on in life. The scene with Tim is possibly one of my favorite moments I've read all year. It's a shame he's not handled like this elsewhere.

Greg Capullo and Jonathan Glapion bring their usual A-game to the fold with some neat action shots. Even with the more subtle moments, like Bruce and Gordon talking on a rooftop, it's never boring. You can still see the intensity in Bruce's eyes and Gordon's calm nature almost leap out at you. Also, FCO giving a younger Gordon the same colors as Richard Lewis gave him back in is a nice nod. Again, Team Batman molds this world around existing mythos, but still adds their own flavor to the batch. Andy Clarke is back again, and while last issue he was paired with Becky Cloonan, his style feels more at home here with Capullo and Glapion with his crosshatching and rendered linework. While I did find some of Clarke's facial expressions a bit goofy, the rest of his compositions are stellar and adds a certain level of grit to Gotham.

Batman #0 is a great example of how Scott Snyder and company have taken Batman to a whole new level. It's no wonder why it's the top-selling book of the company. There's more to this book aside from it just being Batman-related — it's opening a world that both a new generation and even older fans can enjoy. It's always fun to see where Bruce got all those wonderful toys and witness the man he was before donning the cape and cowl. While September is still early, this is a contender for the book of the month.

 

Stumptown, Vol. 2 #1

Written by Greg Rucka

Art by Matthew Southworth and Rico Renzi

Published by Oni Press

Review by Aaron Duran

'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

Modern cop and detective shows are fun, but there's something missing to them. These days, most of the adventure and excitement will play off a far-too-hip computer programmer solving the crime. Or worse still, a gruff line delivered from the end of a pulled gun. I miss the shows where the P.I. spent most of the time charming their way out of a fight, or taking a few licks because the clue was worth the bruise. Which might be why I loved the hell out of Greg Rucka and Matthew Southworth's first Stumptownseries. And why Issue #1 of Volume 2, , is no different.

At least on the surface, Dex Parios seems to be getting her life and job in order. No longer working from home, we catch up with Dex as she's setting up a spiffy new office inside Portland, Oregon's iconic Union Station. (Just as in Volume 1, this series continues to act as a visual love letter to Rucka's home). Like all classic detective shows, we learn a lot about Parios' past, as she turns down an easy gig for a local construction company. It's when Miriam Bracca, a talented guitar player hires Dex to find her “baby,” a pawn shop guitar bought by her foster dad, that the real nuts and bolts story kicks in.

Rucka has a real gift for taking a simple premise, an easy-money case over a stolen guitar, and making it feel fresh. We, as the reader know isn't going to be a simple job, but Dex has enough charm to carry us along for the crazy ride. And yet, for all her visible (and likely intentional) faults, we can already see the real Dex behind her layers of clutter and one sentence over-the-line commentary. Even if Rucka hadn't mentioned it in his postscript, the tonal homages to are obvious and welcome. Like I said in the beginning, there is something to the lovable “loser” of a P.I. The P.I. that somehow, against all odds is going to pull off yet another case... even if there's no way she doesn't take a few physical and emotional lumps before this is all over.

Visually, Matthew Southworth feels much more comfortable in Volume 2. While his work in the first Stumptown was great, it always felt a little rough around the edges. That is not the case with this debut issue. At least, not with the setting or Dex herself. Parios acts and moves like a real person. You can feel the confident bravado coming off her as she bluffs her way through a couple of thugs putting the pain on a contact. Southworth stumbles a bit for me with new characters like Miriam or the gun-happy DEA agent. The linework lacks the security you see when he's creating Dex or the city she inhabits. However, this is a minor hiccup in a visually strong book that does a good job in setting the tone for the story. Unlike the muted coloring found in Volume 1, this new Stumptown is bright and vibrant with colors by Rico Renzi, supporting the lighter — for now —tone of a story surrounding a missing electric guitar.

Rucka is rarely better than when he's writing in the crime genre with a strong female lead. Dex Parios and Stumptown #1 is no exception. Rucka and Southworth play with familiar detective tropes, but do it with such charm that you welcome them. Like the busted-up Ford Mustang Dex drives, Stumptown is the book that makes you smile as it drives by. Dents and all, she's a beauty.

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