Best Shots Reviews: DAREDEVIL #600, DOOMSDAY CLOCK #4, SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #302

Marvel Comics March 2018 solicitations
Credit: Marvel Comics
Credit: Marvel Comics

Daredevil #600
Written by Charles Soule
Art by Ron Garney and Matt Milla
Lettering by Clayton Cowles
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by Pierce Lydon
‘Rama Rating: 3 out of 10

Daredevil #600 might be an anniversary issue best left forgotten. As Daredevil and the rest of Marvel’s street-level superheroes stage their final gambit against the Kingpin, Charles Soule’s script wrestles with problems in pacing and dialogue, overwhelmed by a cast that has absolutely no chemistry under Soule’s pen despite being fairly familiar with each other historically. Meanwhile, Ron Garney’s usually strong work is undercut by a script that underutilizes its greatest asset - Daredevil himself - as well as some baffling coloring decisions by Matt Milla. It may be a milestone for Ol’ Hornhead, but this issue is hardly a cause for celebration.

If you picked this issue up expecting a lot of Daredevil, you’ll be sorely disappointed. He spends most of the issue watching what happens from a nearby rooftop as his team-up with the Defenders, Moon Knight, and Spider-Man goes belly-up, while Muse and Blindspot duke it out elsewhere on a different rooftop. Eventually Soule gets to some meatier Kingpin/Daredevil interaction, but even then this whole issue feels laborious - I don’t think we ever need Luke Cage to declare that he’s bulletproof or have another villain monologue about art, let alone a Spider-Man joke that feels like a swing and a miss.

That said, the Kingpin scenes work a little better. For a book that frequently mentions the importance of New York, it sure doesn’t treat the city like a character, and because of that, some of Fisk’s (and Daredevil’s) dialogue can be tiresome. But Murdock’s stand against his longtime foe is at least somewhat compelling. But the more the book goes on, the more it feels like we’ve been here before - and in another anniversary issue, even. I’m well aware that an issue with a big number like this one is prime time for a big status quo shift, but where Ed Brubaker was able to put an exclamation point on his run, Soule only has a weak ellipsis, and the transfer of power at the end of this issue is almost anticlimactic. Daredevil is essentially playing a supporting role in his own story.

Ron Garney has proven that he’s an artist who is more than capable of doing interesting things with Daredevil. Sadly, he doesn’t get anything to do with him here, and it's clear that some of the other characters are not his strong suit. His Jessica Jones is decidedly off-model, and the other Defenders don’t fair particularly well under his pencil. He uses some Dutch angles in his layouts to add some danger and stakes to the proceedings, but it doesn’t work when every other panel is a different shocked reaction shot of Daredevil. Meanwhile, Matt Milla’s coloring is inconsistent at best but confusing at worst - in particular, the neon palettes used for Matt’s “sight” stand in almost painful contrast to the rest of the book. Milla also seemingly can’t decide if he’s going to use a washed-out filter to communicate that a scene is a flashback or if he’s going to use it in the background of other panels just for fun. A lot of the tone and narrative consistency of a comic lies in the coloring and we’re not seeing a colorist at their best here.

Superhero comic books are always cyclical and self-referential. That’s what happens when you’re working with permutations of a character who has existed for the better part of a century. The number on the cover of this book is going to call attention to it, and that’s a shame, because it’s not indicative of the quality of work that these creators have done together on this character in the very recent past. With a new status quo to explore, hopefully Soule and Garney can recapture some of the magic they found earlier in their run, but they currently feel like a team that’s running out of steam.

Credit: Gary Frank/Brad Anderson (DC Comics)

Doomsday Clock #4
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Gary Frank and Brad Anderson
Lettering by Rob Leigh
Published by DC Comics
Review by Justin Partridge
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

Spoilers ahead.

Doomsday Clock’s new Rorschach gets an emotional origin story in the series’ fourth installment. Though writer Geoff Johns has played this series pretty close to his chest, Doomsday Clock #4 doles out narrative at a pretty decent clip, focused solely on the new Rorschach and his genesis from mild-mannered student to ruthless vigilante to unwilling resident of Arkham Asylum. Once again rendered in reverently rigid artwork and layouts from penciler Gary Frank and colorist Brad Anderson, Doomsday Clock #4 is a compelling origin story for the series’ most interesting new characters.

“Dad said we were all searching for enlightenment,” says Rorschach in this pervasive narration, and thankfully, Geoff Johns shows us his own personal enlightenment which he finds through pain and loss. Neatly cutting between scenes on the Watchmen-Earth and Prime-Earth, Johns takes us through a substantial and well-constructed origin for the new trench-coated anti-hero.While it is a bit disappointing to see other characters like Mime and Marionette on the bench this issue, I am happy to report that Johns is starting to share some the details of at least one of his new creations.

And better still, Reggie’s origin is deeply rooted in the original series, continuing Doomsday Clock’s streak of respect and research. We know that this new Rorschach was in the radius of Ozymandias’ attack on New York, but this fourth issue reveals that Reggie’s connection to the original work is much bigger than just that. By delving into the character’s beginnings, he reveals that this new Rorschach is the son of Dr. Malcolm Long, the shrink who interviewed Walter Kovacs all the way back in “The Abyss Gazes Also.” Though it is a bit convenient that not only is Reggie the only son of one of the last people to speak to Walter Kovacs, but he was also mentored by the eccentric Mothman, one of Watchmen’s ancillary characters, in the ways of crime-fighting. These new twists might prove a bit hokey to some readers, but they give Doomsday Clock a deeper connection to the original work, instead of just the vague hints and clues provided by the previous issues.

Artists Gary Frank and Brad Anderson also continue to keep Doomsday Clock a’ticking with focused, cinematic pages and panel layouts. Breaking slightly from the coveted nine-panel grid, Frank opens up the pages a bit more than the previous issues, but still keeps them contained around Reggie and his violent, heart-wrenching transformation into Rorschach. Set mostly in the sterile halls of the Fitzgerald Mental Home and Arkham Asylum, Frank adds a theatrical flair to his panels this go around, filling them either with characters “acting” or subtle visual easter eggs like the many ink blots throughout this issue and the appearance of a certain symbol from the periodic table we have come to associate with Doctor Manhattan. Along with the naturalistic colors of Brad Anderson, Doomsday Clock #4 adds a more human element to the reverent and stylish Watchmen continuation.

Though Doomsday Clock #4 isn’t the most plot-heavy installment of the series to date, it more than makes up for it with a laser focus on its new ink-blot avenger and the harsh world that forged him. Making good use of his eye for character and development, Geoff Johns slows this mammoth event down in order to flesh out one its main cast members while also adding some much-needed growth to the worlds that he is inhabiting. Couple that with some emotive and methodically constructed artwork from Brad Anderson and Gary Frank, and you have a fourth issue that explores what madness, vigilantism, and legacy means to the Watchmen mythos.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man #302
Written by Chip Zdarsky
Art by Joe Quinones, Joe Rivera and Jordan Gibson
Lettering by Travis Lanham
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by David Pepose
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

With Marvel Legacy, the House of Ideas has committed to putting the spotlight back on the classic iterations of its various characters, but Chip Zdarsky and Joe Quinones might be taking that one step further in Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man, as Peter Parker teams up with… a younger Peter Parker? Yet despite a high concept that might make continuity sticklers pop a blood vessel, this arc provides a showcase for this creative team’s strengths in a way that might actually surprise you.

When Zdarsky was tapped to launch Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man, it’d be easy to argue that it was fitting a square peg into a round hole - Zdarsky’s style didn’t feel quite propulsive enough to make for a good match for blockbuster artist Adam Kubert, and the two creators often felt at cross-purposes with one another. But now that Zdarsky has pushed past all the pyrotechnics and guest star appearances, he’s settled into a storyline that fits his strengths - with Peter Parker, his sister Teresa and J. Jonah Jameson going back in time to the classic Spider stories of old. And what has normally been seen as taboo in most time travel stories winds up becoming the highlight of the book - namely, Peter Parker interacting with his teenage self.

And it’s a real testament to Zdarsky’s understanding of the character that he’s able to portray two different versions of Spidey that feel different from one another yet still feel authentic - for example, seeing Young Peter almost lose his cool on a high school bully, while Adult Peter has years of experience and perspective to help his younger self cool off. But at the same time, Zdarsky also throws off the stipulations of time travel, turning space-time limitations into unexpected and even sometimes shocking plot twists. For example, while he kicks off the issue with a winking cameo with a certain future hard-drinking private investigator, the conclusion of this issue feels genuinely frightening, with consequences that will likely be pretty harrowing.

But so much of this book’s charm also rests on the shoulders of Zdarsky’s Howard the Duck collaborator Joe Quinones, who teams up with inker Joe Rivera and colorist Jordan Gibson. Quinones proves to be the kind of collaborator that really fits with Zdarsky’s voice - his characters feel so expressive and engaging, and like Zdarsky deftly handles the Peters’ voices, the character designs between Young Peter and Adult Peter are astoundingly good, giving a slight nod to the MCU’s Tom Holland but also harkens to classic Steve Ditko and John Romita, Sr. What might be the most refreshing part of Quinones’ art - and honestly, of this arc as a whole - is that he’s not slavishly chasing a “quintessential” Spider-Man style, with the classic swinging poses or compositions. Instead, Quinones (and Zdarsky) commit to just making their characters feel authentic, hooking readers in before sending us off with a major gut punch at the end of the issue.

While there are certainly some drawbacks to this issue - try as they might (and they do try), Peter’s super-spy sister Teresa’s subplot can’t help but feel disconnected to the rest, while the very nature of this time-travel arc means that we lose some of the weight that we’d have with a story that we know will “count,” these are certainly small prices to pay for what has been a supremely well-done arc. Because of his major age shift in Marvel’s otherwise static sliding timeline, there’s been a lot of change and variation in Spider-Man’s characterization over the years, and it’s a particularly shrewd move of Zdarsky’s to lean into that with two Spider-Men. If you haven’t been reading Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man, this is definitely the time to do it.

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