Best Shots Extra: DAREDEVIL #1, REPULSE, ONE SOUL, More

Mark Waid Talks DAREDEVIL - LIVE!

Afternoon readers. We have four new reviews for you today, with ends of storylines and beginnings alike. As always, you can find all the Best Shots reviews at the topic page.


Daredevil #1

Written by Mark Waid

Art by Paolo Rivera, Joe Rivera, Javier Rodriguez, and Marcos Martin

Letters by Joe Caramagna

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by George Marston

I've never been what you could call a Daredevil fan.  Sure, I think the character is cool, and I've certainly enjoyed story or a creative run here and there, but unlike some characters, I've never specifically followed Ol' Hornhead.  That said, I think I've been looking forward to Mark Waid and Paolo Rivera's take on the character probably more than any other upcoming comic since the team was announced a few months ago.  Something about the pairing of creators and character really struck a chord with me; I'm a huge fan of both Waid and Rivera, and, honestly, the thought of a fresh start for a character that has been hopelessly grim and downtrodden for nearly 25 years getting kind of a fresh start is really appealing.

When Andy Diggle took over the title a while back, I read an interview with him, and outgoing Daredevil writer Ed Brubaker wherein one of them said, essentially, that the tradition with the character had been to leave poor Matt Murdock in a situation so daunting or hopeless that the next writer would have to wrack his brain trying to dig him out of it.  That's kind of an interesting model for an ongoing character, especially one whose hallmark has been tragedy for such a long time, but it's not particularly sustainable.  A person, even an extraordinary person, can only endure so much before reaching a breaking point.  For Matt Murdock, that came during last year's "Shadowland," leading to an absence of the character from the Marvel Universe at large, and necessitating a back-to-basics "Rebirth" story. 

It's on the heels of this long cycle of falling, climbing, falling farther, and climbing back up again that Mark Waid begins his Daredevil run.  The opening scene, in which DD takes on goofball villain The Spot, sets an immediate pace for the tone of this book, and buddy, it's killer.  This is a Daredevil we haven't seen in a long time, like maybe 30 to 40 years.  A Daredevil unencumbered by the weight of his past who, as Waid puts it in his summation of the character, lives entirely in the moment, confident that, whatever lies ahead, it can't break him.  Every page of the opening sequence builds to a moment of cavalier joy, wherein Daredevil truly shows his willingness to grab life for all its worth, not concerned with tomorrow.

There's an element of tragedy underlying the triumphant feeling though, painting Matt as a man in denial of what's come before.  Daredevil may be carefree, but Matt Murdock is a man who is clearly disturbed.  It's not that he's dealt with his issues, it's that he's cast them aside, choosing make his life about the present, rather than the past, or even the future.  From his constant denial to the public that he's Daredevil (a fact that became public knowledge some time ago), to his tenacity in attempting to practice law in a city that doesn't want him, Matt Murdock is a man who's clearly not exactly in touch with the reality of his situation.  And you know what?  It's great fun.  While I can't help but feel that Matt's new outlook will come to a destructive head, there's nothing stopping me from enjoying the same thrills that he gets as he careens wildly over the skyline of the worst parts of New York City.

For his part, Paolo Rivera absolutely nails the art on this book.  Every page has a defining moment, from the smirk on Daredevil's face as he dives headlong into his confrontation with the spot, to the way he casually cradles a cellphone between his ear and shoulder while tumbling backwards over the ledge of his apartment building, that succinctly illustrates who Daredevil is.  The way Rivera portrays DD's "RADAR sense" is off-the-charts perfect.  There's also a brief back up story featuring art from Marcos Martin, who has a brilliant way of showing the effect of Matt's heightened senses.  Martin is scheduled to rotate arcs with Rivera, so based solely on the art team, you should be reading this book.

The fact is, this book is a bit of a gamble.  There's an image of Daredevil that people have from the last couple decades of his story, and this isn't exactly in line with that.  Honestly, though, that's kind of a good thing.  After reaching the murderous apex of his long downward spiral, Daredevil deserves a return to the swashbuckling heights of his early years.  Mark Waid manages to bring back those elements of the character, while still staying in touch with his more modern roots.  It's a delicate balancing act, but Waid and Rivera handle it like the man himself, with tenacity, and aplomb.  There's no better place to start with this character, so whether you've read Daredevil in the past, or you're just curious, this is a must-read title. 



Written by Szymon Kudranski

Art by Szymon Kudranski

Lettering by Scott O. Brown

Published by Image Comics

Review by Wendy Holler

Repulse offers a few perfect moments of storytelling. In these sections, the comic's energetic ideas and impressive art shine, and the work feels like a rare and remarkable read. Unfortunately, the story can't sustain the comic's premise, and the central conceit falls apart under any amount of scrutiny. Repulse is a book that almost works, and that near miss is both intriguing and frustrating.

Repulse is a black-and-white one shot. The story opens on the image of a robot whose power meter leaps to life in an abandoned warehouse. The focus then jumps to Sam Hagen, a cop in the After Crime division. After Crime lets detectives experience the last moment of a victim's life, including the victim's death. These early panels strike a good balance between conveying information and letting the characters live in a moment. Art and dialogue in the After Crime section belong to two different periods of time, but they tell a consistent, burgeoning story. At this point in the comic, the pacing is nice, the story is interesting, and the art steals the show. The rest of this comic follows the robot, the detective Sam Hagen, and a series of murders that link the two characters. The details of Sam's past come to light along with the details of the cases, and the comic maintains the tone and conventions of a crime drama with a few sci-fi twists.

The art of Repulse is consistently good. Emotion is conveyed through body language as much as through facial expression. The settings are dark and gritty, and the weather of the comic reveals emotional as well as meteorological states. The pages change from full bleed to looking bled-upon, and the panels use clever transitions and framing to convey plot points. Kudranski's able and willing to let art carry parts of the story, and that helps maintain the cool tones of a murder mystery even when there's no actual mystery here.

The place where the comic falls apart is plot. The problem isn't a lack of explanation for why things happen since plenty of comics work without offering a clear explanation about why things are possible. The problem with Repulse is a lack of connection. In the midst of a comic that's otherwise all about connection, the comic's main plot device occurs just because - just because it's neat or perhaps just because it's useful for the storyteller. The premise has all the arbitrary force of deus ex machina despite the fact that it's well telegraphed and clearly intended to be part of the story. The dialogue - not the strongest part of the comic - suffers even more when it struggles to put the comic's premise into words. This central failing is particularly disappointing because the idea is a fun one, and it really might have pulled the story together.

With many other storytelling elements, the comic succeeds just fine. The characters are quickly sketched, but they're believable, realistic, and sympathetic. The setting blends science fiction elements into a realistic world perfectly, and this tone sells the morbidly fun idea of the After Crime division. The ending creates predictable symmetry with the story's beginning, and the use of water throughout the comic turns out to be symbolic and not just artistic flare.

Aspiring comic creators in particular should check out the comic since it's a great example of how visual storytelling can both work and struggle to work. For everyone else, Repulse is still a decent bet. The gradual and revelatory pace of the introduction, the sense of empathy the comic builds in individual scenes, the gritty art, the clever framing, the concept of After Crime: all of these elements are entertaining and impressive. They don't cohere into a great whole, but the comic's individual parts are rewarding. Sometimes, in life and in art, the moments are worth everything else.


One Soul

Written and Illustrated by Ray Fawkes

Published by Oni Press

Review by Deniz Cordell

This is one of the most beautiful works of graphic storytelling I have ever read.  One Soul could have easily been pretentious and self-important, and blessedly, it is neither.  It is poetic in all regards, and has a probing quality that creates the feeling of a meditative reverie that carries through the entire work.  It is a multitudinous narrative universe here, combining various tones, tempos, and notions.  The various actions are all glued together by a series of captions which progress in such an effortless fashion, shifting voices with each panel, while finding a note of grand consistency – the voices are different, yet they are the same – and that proves to be one of the thematic threads of the book.

There is a highly musical quality to the entire work – from the rhythmic constancy of the nine-panel grid (it provides a necessary structure and form to every page), to the thematic and textual recapitulations and variations that continue throughout the entire work.  To say almost anything about the “story” would be to give away too much, as it is something that needs to be discovered by the reader on their own.  I will note, however, that One Soul follows the lives of eighteen people from birth to death – with all of the side-roads that such a journey consists of.  Every one of these people is given one panel per two-page grouping, and the progression of their lives never once seems disjointed or confusing.

It is as much a rumination on the unexpected inevitability of death as it is a celebration of the unique qualities that create not only a commonality between all of the lives on display, but also making them distinct and unique as people we know, or would have liked to have known.  It is a refreshingly humanistic work that is unafraid to be dark or funny or genuine or operatic – it overflows with a restless curiosity as writer and artist Ray Fawkes not only delves into the human experience, but tries to make his own personal sense of it.

It is not a work that should be read casually – though it certainly can be – it requires, and demands, attention and thought.  It’s a dreadful cliché, but what you bring to your reading of the work will determine what you get out of it – it’s the manner in which you read it, and the fact that every reader will probably come away with a different element resonating for them that makes the work a rich experience.  There are archetypes on display with the characters, each belonging to different eras and different ways of life – but this is a work of primal, pure storytelling, and it is an incredibly appropriate choice.  Perhaps you’ll be more interested in the life of a temple High Priestess, or a medic in World War II, or a singer/actress trying to find love and happiness in music.  There is a personage for every reader to latch on to, and the interconnectivity and separateness that they possess, and the stark beauty of Fawkes’ captions creates cross-rhythms that are able to flow and burst forth when necessary, and become subdued and minimal at other moments.  This will be a book that will doubtless inspire much discussion among those who read it – and for that alone, it deserves praise.

Fawkes’ art is a clean black-and-white, his distinctive line work creates faces of great emotion, and scenes with an absolute clarity of intent.  There is nothing extraneous about his artwork – the high-contrast works to the books advantage, as well – with several panels having the sense of a relief print.  The integration of this aesthetic with the elegant, eloquent captions – which also possess a sparing, airy quality – strengthens the impact of the art.  One of the more fascinating elements of the work (to give this much away) is the staggering of death amongst the characters – but, in a masterstroke, death does not end the character’s involvement in the story – instead, they become forces of internal questioning, working in juxtaposition with the acts of the living.  It’s a powerful effect, made more so by the strength of the writing.

Merely writing about the book makes me want to revisit it, and spend more time delving into the specifics of each panel, the switching of the voices, the truth and emotion laid bare for the reader.  One last word – the decision to open and close the book in total blackness is fully appropriate, drawing an equivalency between death and the moments before life – and, towards the end of the book – when only one of the characters remains alive, Fawkes pulls off a moment – based solely on his panel breakdown – that illuminates and highlights one of the main points of his book.  It’s an incredibly rewarding book, filled with subtle observations, and enraptured with every element of life – love, pain, friendship, pride, war, work, sex, art, and – ultimately – death.  One Soul expresses itself in raw, bluntly human terms – but has a veneer of beauty to it.  Fawkes proves himself in every panel to be a great observer and commentator.  There’s little else to say but “Thank you.”


Walt Disney Treasury: Donald Duck Volume 2

Art and Stories by Don Rosa

Colors by Lisa Moore, Jo Meugniot, Gail Bailey, Hachette, Tom Luth, Nea Aktina A.E., Ehapa Verlag GmbH, Susan Daigle-Leach, Susan Kolberg, Egmont and David Gerstein

Lettering by John Clark, Teresa Davidson, Deron Bennett, David Gerstein

Published by BOOM! Studios

Review by Deniz Cordell

“St. Peter… why is heaven full of parsley?”

“Give this boy a tip!”

“Okay!  Never use radioactive underwear!”

I could easily fill up this space with all of the various bits and quotes that tickled me from stories contained in the new Walt Disney Treasury - which is filled with innumerable delights – but I shall now endeavor to discuss things in a good and proper fashion.

Okay, fine, one more.

“*Sigh* Another red letter day in the life of Donald Duck – off to yet another new job!  I’ll probably be fired by lunch, so expect me home early!”

This new trade edition contains stories by Duck expert Don Rosa (best known for his brilliant love letter to Carl Barks’ - The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck*), who handles the writing and art chores, creating stories built upon plot engines so meticulously constructed that each story is fully capable of serving as a master class in MacGuffinry, and how character defines action.  To call him the heir apparent to the Barks tradition would be a propos certainly, but it would also dim Rosa’s considerable talents as an original.  The stories are homage, but they’re also their own unique, clever tales that work off their own vibrant energy.  The coloring in all of the stories is crisp, bright, and very pure in its lack of shading.  Rosa’s art is – as one would expect – clean and almost effortlessly assembled – his ability to structure jokes through layout and payoff is expert, and the expressions he brings to each character are marvelously revealing.

Every last story is a winner – each one offering comedy, gizmos, gadgets, globe-hopping, high-concept science-fiction conceits, and glimpses into the characters personalities and private lives that give them all depth and subtlety.  Oh yes, and Uncle Scrooge has prominent appearances in many of these stories, as well, and there’s a moment wherein we learn that his love of money extends far beyond that of a numismatist or any stodgy type figure – it’s a wonderfully humanizing (or Duckizing, I suppose) moment – that takes place in the course of a single panel, and it’s a sweetly charming moment all around.

My favorite of the stories contained herein though, is Incident at McDuck Tower, which is a nonstop progression and escalation of physical gags that would make Harold Lloyd envious.  It also grounds Donald’s character as existing in that nebulous realm between fear and carelessness.  He is never quite as clearly defined as he is in this story – as he attempts to prove to his nephews that he is no longer scared of heights.  Naturally, these plans go quickly awry, and the visual variety that Rosa brings to the gags, as well as the manic invention in the plotting and dialogue (Let it be said here and now, for all time, that Rosa is a brilliant dialogue writer) build up to create a simmering pot of comedy stew that is unrelenting in its ability to combine tension and absurdity.

Another tale - The Lost Charts of Columbus is predicated upon Donald’s unerring misfortune.  This is a quality that I find tremendously compelling and interesting in fictional characters – the idea that they’re always the foilers of their own would-be good fortune, whereas a character like Donald’s cousin Gladstone, will always be gallivanting and coming up on top simply because of his luck.  Though part of that story deals with the Donald/Gladstone dynamic to great effect – the rest of it is a fast-paced international adventure that takes Donald and his plucky nephews to – among other places – Cape Cod, Meso-America and Alexandria.  Again, the detail Rosa puts into his art – the backgrounds in this story are particularly rich and fascinating – lends the story a greater meaning and sense of “reality” to the action.  It’s a sharply assembled action story that is in constant motion – told with a breathless abandon, and drawn in such a way that the whimsy and drama are integrated seamlessly.

The other stories are just as good – dealing as they do with Donald’s various attempts to either find and hold onto steady employment, impress his nephews, or come out a winner.  The Beagle Boys show up in one story, with a time-stopping stopwatch.  In another stand-out story, Donald gets the George Bailey treatment, by being shown a sobering glimpse of what Duckburg would have been like were he never born.  It’s simultaneously moving and funny – and the one character that remains – more or less – unchanged by Donald’s absence is one of the comic standouts of the story.  I shall leave the pleasures contained within the other stories – including one tied into the 1992 Winter Olympics – for you to discover.

There’s also a gallery of various Rosa-drawn covers at the end of the trade – including an unused one that parodies one of the most famous comic book covers of all time – and they are all energetic and stylishly drawn.  It’s a fine supplement to an attractively assembled collection, which – at $14.99, is something of a steal.

Praise is also due to designer Stephanie Gonzaga for elegantly designing the trade, and editor Christopher Burns, whose story selections are spot-on.  These stories are smart, hysterical, and ultimately affirming. Whether you’ve read these stories countless times before, or you’re just picking them up for the very first time, there’s no better way to spend a few hours than by a visit to Duckburg by way of the two Dons – Rosa and Duck.

*=To be honest, if you haven’t read The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck, I’m not sure we can be friends anymore.

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