The Pulse: The Return of Jessica Jones

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This is a beautiful cover. Wonderful use of negative space. Issue #8; Cover Artist: Mike Mayhew; Source: Marvel.com

Following the success of Marvel Max’s Alias run, Jessica Jones creator, Brian Michael Bendis brought the character back in a non-Max title. This time, with more accessible topics and language choices (read: fewer F-bombs), Jessica Jones would navigate her way into the larger Marvel continuity monster. This was achieved by her getting pregnant at the end of Alias, and winding up with Luke Cage, who was, by now, a rising star in the New Avengers title, also penned by Bendis. Her new series, The Pulse, is so named for her new column at the Daily Bugle, where she will work with Ben Urich to tell superhero-themed stories to increase paper sales. This gives Jessica a good excuse to become involved in some of the central plot lines of the early 21st Century Marvel event calendar, which was also largely orchestrated and often written by her own Brian Michael Bendis. Being a pet project of the leading creative force at Marvel certainly helped Jessica Jones to quickly rise from a no-name side project into a real member of superhero community and an important supporting character to the New Avengers.

Though not as innovative as Bendis’ earlier Alias series, The Pulse does still give some valuable insight into Jessica Jones as a character and serves the primary focus of further elaborating her relationship with Luke Cage, Ben Urich, and a few other key Marvel characters. *Warning* since The Pulse is a direct sequel to Alias, a key event at the end of Alias The 14-issue run encompassed only a couple of different arcs, but the plot developments of each were really secondary to Jessica’s emotional evolution and the further development of hers and Luke Cage’s relationship, along with the birth of their child. The story arcs are far less cutting edge than they were in the Alias run, some of which is inherent in the shift from an R-rated (Max) title to a PG-13-ish normal Marvel title. Regarding the art, it was above average, but not cutting edge. It was exactly the quality you would expect when penciling duties were handed between superstars Mark Bagley, Michael Lark, and Michael Gaydos.

Plot-wise, the first arc was solid, but not amazing. It set up the reason for Jessica’s integration into the mainstream universe: a job at the Daily Bugle. The Green Goblin arc the followed wasn’t particularly engaging, but it did serve its purpose as an intro to the idea of Jessica as an investigative journalist. The next arc, a tie-in to The Secret War, actually did work pretty well, especially since Luke Cage was such an important character in these main events. Her quest to find Luke and uncover the covert operation behind The Secret War made The Pulse the most significant tie-in to that event. Though the story progression seemed somewhat limited by the progression of the main event, it did provide some well-articulated supporting plot-lines for Jessica Jones and Ben Urich. The single issue House of M tie-in was odd and out of place with the rest of the series. Then the final arc *mini-spoiler* followed the birth of Jessica and Luke’s baby and the next steps in their relationship, which would lead into the New Avengers title by the end of issue #14, the final issue of The Pulse.

Overall, Bendis’ work on the Pulse served its primary purpose, which was to bring Jessica into the mainstream universe. Transitioning such a brash and complicated character from the Max line was no easy task, and definitely did feel somewhat abrupt at times — especially with her harsh language being absent in The Pulse. Though it is a testament to Bendis that he managed to transition Jessica without diluting her beyond recognition. The character is still there, even if her story arcs lost some of their edge. The Pulse is still a good solid read for fans of the character and makes a nice bridge between two of Bendis’ finer works: Alias and New Avengers. It’s still an above average comic, even if it falls short of the inventiveness and iconic storytelling of its predecessor. Rating: 7 of 10

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Origin of Spider-Woman

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Spider-Woman: Origin #1; Cover Artist: Jonathan Luna; Source: Marvel.com

The original Spider-Woman has a somewhat odd history at Marvel Comics. Her origins are much maligned as a result of copyright laws, as her first appearance and early stories spun more out of a need to lock down the copyright control over the name than an actual creative desire to tell the story. This meant that a lot of the early material was thrown together unevenly and took longer to develop. This left Spider-Woman, alias Jessica Drew, without a truly definitive origin tale. Her periodic guest appearances in high profile titles like Amazing Spider-Man and Avengers as well as her relatively short-lived solo series in 1978 never really served to develop the character all that fully. Jessica Drew’s lackluster popularity is even more evident by the fact that she subsequently lost even the mantle of Spider-Woman to, not one, but two unique characters during the ’80s and ’90s (Julia Carpenter and Mattie Franklin). Drew wasn’t even popular enough to keep her own hero name.

The result is a dearth of good source material on Spider-Woman, and no definitive origin story to speak of. Therefore, when Marvel powerhouse, Brian Michael Bendis, decided to bring Jessica Drew into the fledgling New Avengers title, there was a renewed interest in her backstory. This five-issue miniseries attempts to fill the void on this character, whose role in Avengers titles and major crossover events has proven the potential for a great story. The tidbits of her origin that had been alluded to showed a complicated past of brainwashing, mixed allegiances, and at least some time as a double-agent between Hydra and SHIELD. The shifting allegiances and subtle espionage elements seemed to bode well for a more expansive origin tale, and the groundwork certainly existed for a great story.

When it came down to it, the story didn’t seem to take as much advantage of its potential as it could have. Written by Brian Michael Bendis, himself, the story seemed to focus more on the family connections to Hydra and Jessica’s inability to decipher the truth when caught between Hydra and SHIELD. The tone and event the art, penciled and inked by the Luna brothers, seems to highlight Jessica’s innocence and a stolen childhood, rather than drawing on her survivalist nature. The result is that Spider-Woman is predominantly a victim, and though she does rise above it as a hero later, she is less empowered or self-sufficient than I think would have done her credit. Rather than emphasizing her childhood in Wundagore, I would have rather seen the creators spend more time in the double-agent period, highlighting Jessica’s cunning and her resolve to stay alive and try to do good, even in a morally ambiguous situation.

Though I don’t think it achieved its full potential, the miniseries is certainly not bad. It does serve the purpose of providing the first consolidated origin story for Spider-Woman. The Luna brothers’ washed color palate and dream-like softer edges, though not my favorite style, was a good fit for the nostalgic childhood memories and the haze of brainwashing. All in all, it’s a solid read for those interested in learning more about Spider-Woman, though it’s hardly essential, as her best material is part of Bendis’ broader New Avengers run.

Rating: 6 of 10

Alias: Introducing Jessica Jones

Though now popular from the Marvel/Netflix show: Marvel’s Jessica Jones, this Max title by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos in 2001 came out of nowhere. Jessica Jones had never appeared in any comics before, but even by the first page of the first issue of Alias, she had made her mark. The brutally honest, crass, tough girl that smoked, drank, and swore her way through every adventure made a quick and lasting impression on the Marvel community. Her success in this solo line eventually brought her into main continuity with follow-up arcs in The Pulse and eventually New Avengers, as well as the incredible Netflix show, years later.

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Issue #23; Cover Artist: David Mack; Source: Wikipedia.org

This 28-issue run collected an interesting array of arcs, covering various cases that Jessica had been hired to solve. One cool and creative thing about these stories was how Bendis wove them in and out of the larger continuity of Marvel, but without requiring Alias readers to be hugely avid readers of concurrent titles. Jessica is very much at the fringes of the larger Marvel superhero community, but she is still a part of it in her own way. Her cases involve everything from accidentally discovering Captain America’s secret identity, helping a strung out guy claiming to be Rick Jones, finding a runaway in a small town who claimed to be a mutant, rescuing the newest and youngest Spider-Woman, and eventually confronting her deepest and darkest fear, the psychotic super-villain, Purple Man. These arcs ranged from psychological thrillers to crime dramas to even off-beat comedies, but they all felt really genuinely Jessica Jones.

There were two single issues in this run that perfectly encapsulated the beauty of what Bendis and Gaydos accomplished here. In #10, JJ Jameson hired Jessica to track down Spider-Man’s identity. After JJ insulted her and acted like his typical self, we see him reviewing expense receipts she submitted, where she scammed him by doing charity work instead of working the case. The art was great and the whole thing was really funny. In #15, Jessica had two really honest and frank discussions with other superheroes about relationships and how difficult life can be as a powered person. The second one in particular, while on a date with Scott Lang (Ant-Man II) was a great dialogue showing a different side to superhero dating.

The most iconic arc, though, was the final one. It featured the Purple Man and his horribly messed up treatment of Jessica. It also presented the first real explanation of Jessica’s origin in issue #22. This arc is definitely the primary influence for the plot of the Netflix show, Marvel’s Jessica Jones, in its first season. They definitely pulled from the whole series for tone and emotional arcs, but the Purple Man plot is entirely self-contained in the final 6 issues of Bendis and Gaydos’ run.

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A scene from Jessica and Scott Lang’s first date. Artist: Michael Gaydos; Source: Marvel Comics, via sequart.com

Overall, this series is the most honest superhero comic series I have ever read. Bendis and Gaydos brilliantly show the underside of being a superhero in the Marvel universe, the self-doubt and emotional struggles that accompany life as a powered individual. Jessica isn’t a great person, so she doesn’t rise to the challenge and become a hero flawlessly like so many Marvel characters do. But she’s also not a bad person, so she never does anything evil or that takes advantage of non-powered people. She’s somewhere in the middle, like the rest of us. She wants to be good, but it’s hard to be brave and selfless all the time. Sometimes, the biggest obstacle to doing the right thing, the hard thing, is ourselves. That is what Jessica Jones knows and it makes for such a unique and groundbreaking story that it is no surprise Marvel chose this for the Marvel/Netflix team-up. She also confronts some very real, disturbing, and gritty problems like abuse, drugs, alcoholism, and the most graphic sexual encounters I’ve ever seen from Marvel. What is most impressive about Alias is that these topics aren’t just added for shock value. They are built into a real story that genuinely cares about character development and depicting believable reactions to these unbelievable circumstances.

Somewhat along the vein of Alan Moore’s Watchmen, Alias is a natural comparison to that seminal work from the mid-1980s. They both seek to break down some of the overly romanticized tropes in superhero comics, and show its readers what kind of flawed individuals can be found behind them. The big difference here is that Alias provides some hope and human decency to ground the story in a truly likable character, even despite her very apparent flaws. Watchmen, on the other hand, is a deconstruction of the genre so complete that its characters flail helplessly against the unrelenting onslaught of reality. Their power is powerless against this pessimistic world view, and most characters are so flawed that they are unlikable. Somehow, despite her many mistakes, her combative personality, and multiple acts of selfishness over the course of the series, Jessica Jones rises beyond her flaws and becomes an instant favorite.

Alias is an incredible read for a mature comic fan, though it is not for the faint of heart. I highly recommend it to adult fans of the superhero genre. It is definitely one of the better comic runs I have ever read. An instant classic.

Rating: 9 of 10

Daredevil (1998) – Volume 2

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Source: Comixology

One of the incredible things about Daredevil as a character is that he works so well in a solo title. With very limited interactions outside of his own series, Daredevil allows his writers to operate in a relatively insulated world, rarely even leaving Hell’s Kitchen. That may be why he has attracted such an impressive line of creators over the years. From his beginnings in 1964 as the first blind superhero, Daredevil and his alter ego, Matt Murdock, have been on a bit of a popularity roller-coaster. Though a very creative and unique character from the start, Daredevil never really amassed the same popular support of his contemporaries (Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, the Avengers).

The great Stan Lee wrote the first 50 issues, but despite introducing a slew of iconic villains and developing the character’s full cast of supporting characters, origins, and powers, he never became a top-selling hero. Throughout the 1970s, a carousel of artists and writers tried to shake up the character and dredge up some better numbers by making the run bi-monthly, teaming him up with Black Widow, moving him to San Francisco, and a bunch of other shake-ups. But nothing truly worked until Frank Miller came onto the scene in the early 1980s, transforming the swashbuckling wise-cracker into a dark and gritty antihero. It was under Miller’s helm that Daredevil really found a home. His world was dark and dangerous, the tone dour and harsh, and Miller’s artwork and innovative redefining of the character propelled Daredevil to popularity for the first time. With his iconic (and highly recommended) Man of Fear mini-series, and the Born Again arc representing the core of this new Daredevil.

Unfortunately, following Miller’s run in the early eighties, the character began to decline again. Despite some solid arcs from Ed O’Neil and Ann Nocenti, the series’ sales started to fall back to pre-Miller levels, and the 1990s brought much of the same flawed, over-indulgent arcs that plagued the innumerable X-titles and Spider-Man titles of the decade. By the late 1990s, Marvel had over-printed and Rob Liefeld-ed their way nearly to bankruptcy, forcing them to sell off their movie rights to the X-Men, Fantastic Four, and Spider-Man. It was at the company’s all-time low that they sought to innovate and bring in some new creative teams to breathe new life into the stagnant company. Enter: Marvel Knights, an experiment with Indie writers and artists with more creative autonomy than a regular Marvel comic. The Marvel Knights initiative gave four under-performing properties to Joe Quesada’s small comic company, “Event Comics,” for some fresh ideas and plot-lines (find a more complete history in my Black Panther (1998) review, here). Daredevil was the highest profile of the four MK titles, and its relaunch in 1998 sparked a new golden age for the character.

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Source: Comicvine

Daredevil’s rebirth as a gritty, but thoughtful hero began here in 1998, under the Marvel Knights label and would soon usher in multiple Eisner Awards, a 2003 movie starring Ben Affleck (that was horrible), and establishing a new level of popularity that surged to the present day, where Daredevil has seen two seasons of the amazing Netflix/Marvel collaboration. A review of the mammoth 120-issue 1998 run (which lasted until 2010) is below. The review is broken out by creators, as that tends to roughly define each chunk’s tone and significance. Some of these runs were pretty long, so they encompass many arcs, making their reviews more about the aggregate of those individual arcs.

Blorgons be advised: I am trying to avoid spoilers, but some of them are inevitable. The further you go in this review, the more likely elements of previous arcs will be discussed. It is difficult to assess each author’s work on the the character without examining the cumulative histories that build on previous authors’ writing. I’ll try to keep them to a minimum but some major plot points in each run are necessary to fully analyze the works. You have been warned!

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Cover Artist: Joe Quesada, Issue #1

Kevin Smith and Joe Quesada (#1-8): In 1998, Joe Quesada, the mastermind behind the Marvel Knights initiative at Marvel, chose the snarky writer Kevin Smith to headline the most famous of the four Marvel Knights properties – Daredevil: The Man Without Fear. Smith, famous for his quirky films Clerks, Chasing Amy, and Dogma, as well as his iconic role as Silent Bob in the Jay and Silent Bob duo, had not written any mainstream superhero comics before. A lifelong nerd and comic fan, Smith had only recently forayed into the comic medium with a tale about Jay and Silent Bob set between his films. I’m sure this seemed like a pretty big risk at the time, but Quesada was confident enough that he did the penciling himself for Smith’s run. His gamble certainly paid off.

Smith built up a complex mysterious plot for the Man Without Fear with a highly allegorical tale of belief, doubt, and redemption. The plot drew heavily on biblical stories of the apocalypse and its parallels to Smith’s film Dogma, which was released a year later, were numerous. A first-time read through the story is very compelling and surprising. Smith does an expert job of gradually revealing plot lines while letting the suspense build. And the big reveal is actually surprising. It is hard to discuss the story too much without giving it away, but the basic premise is that Matt Murdock (currently set up in a swanky law office with Foggy and Foggy’s mom) hears a young girl with a baby fleeing some bad dudes in car and goes down to rescue her. Then, after the girl leaves the baby with Matt, series of mind games and self-doubt circles around Daredevil as he tries to unravel the mystery around this baby and the strange things that keep happening. The result is a surprising and emotional psychological thriller. The heavily allegorical tale is rife with religious symbolism, all of which makes the tale particularly personal for Matt Murdock and is a good fit (if unsurprising from Smith). The dialogue is pretty verbose at times, making each page a little more wordy than I tend to prefer, but the story progresses pretty well.

Rating: 8 of 10 for first-time readers, mostly due to the elements of mystery and handling of the villain. 6 of 10 on re-reading, since most of the value in the series is the unfolding of its mysteries.

 

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Cover Artist: Joe Quesada, Issue #13

David Mack and Joe Quesada (#9-15, 51-55): Taking over for Smith, Mack certainly had his hands full. But I’m not sure that the hand-off was all that clean, as Mack’s run doesn’t really show Matt suffering or dwelling on the earth-shattering conclusion to Smith’s arc. I think it is somewhat implausible for Matt to seemingly recover so quickly and start to develop a new love interest. Perhaps Mack supposed a large time gap or he just wanted to tell this story regardless of how stark a contrast it paints from the previous arc. So, right off the bat, the transition is a little weird and definitely represents a big stylistic change from Smith’s 8-issue run. And oddly enough, it’s only tangentially about Daredevil. However, don’t let that dissuade you. Mack’s work (both after Smith and later in a Bendis/Maleev gap) are really timeless examinations of a new character he introduced in issue #9: Maya Lopez.

Mack’s artistic style is really unique. Paintings with mixed media functioning as a sort of character collage with an interesting amount of repetition, reusing portions of the paintings again on multiple pages to show emphasis. The first handful of issues in his run were actually still drawn by Joe Quesada, but Mack’s storytelling style still influenced the artist layout with the words in sheet music and other stylized choices (issue #12 is the one exception, as it is more of a standalone written by Palmotti/Haynes interrupting Mack’s story for one month). The full Mack-effect is seen in the first few issues of Bendis’ run in #16-19, as well as Mack’s #51-55 full on scrapbook, modern art, paint explosion in the “Vision Quest” arc. It is pretty impressive and definitely enjoyable. Mack’s depiction of dream sequences, memory, and emotion are very unique and involve very artsy representations of his characters. The most impressive visual aspect of all is how Mack integrates the visual representations of sound into the storytelling. He showcases different techniques to show music or silence or other key auditory sensations with visual approximations. The result is definitely enjoyable.

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Source: Marvel.com, Issue #53; Cover Artist: David Mack

I enjoyed Mack’s work as a creative riff on the superhero comic genre and his care for character development, especially Maya: the deaf Native American savant who gradually became Echo, the first deaf superhero, over the course of his run. It is interesting that Daredevil/Matt Murdock falls into more of a supporting character role, as Mack’s focus is on exploring the psyche of Maya: her pain, her memories, and her motivations on the quest for vengeance and eventually redemption through understanding. Mack also deserves some solid recognition for his infusion of Native American cultural histories into Echo’s narrative. He did a great job creating the origin story of his character, Echo, but the result is that is not really a Daredevil comic. Sure, Matt is the love interest and/or adversary for Echo, but it is Maya’s struggle not Matt’s that is the emphasis. At times the narratives became too repetitive, like Mack didn’t trust that his readers would catch the artistic references he made, which seemed to slow down the plot in his later issues. However, the overall feel for these two story pieces is quite good. I hope it is all collected into one “Echo Collection” of sorts soon. I would definitely buy it, if only to skim through the art again.

Rating: 6 of 10, the art is unique and very cleverly rolled into the story. The story itself is solid but nothing spectacular.

 

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Cover Art: David Mack, Issue #25

Bob Gale (#20-25): What started off as an intriguing arc focusing on Murdock in the courtroom, gradually started to go downhill. Gale’s idea for a lawsuit brought against Daredevil for damages made for an interesting idea. He pushed it even further with the notion that it was in Nelson and Murdock’s best interest to take the plaintiff’s suit themselves, so as to best protect Matt’s secret identity from another prosecuting attorney. The Matt Murdock side of the lawsuit was actually fairly intriguing, as the plaintiff’s back story with murky details and a mysterious possible brainwashing sub-plot progressed in a fun way. However, the weird semi-romantic plot between Matt and the defense attorney was pretty forced and didn’t really due either character credit. Even worse was the “multiple Daredevils” development. I would have preferred to see such a complicated legal set up to be resolved with Matt and/or Foggy’s legal genius rather than some cheap costume stunts. All in all, Gale’s run is not bad, but largely forgettable considering Bendis’ incredible writing on either side of this arc. The most important aspect of this story is the legal implications of the Daredevil suit on Bendis’ later arcs.

Rating: 5 of 10, a solidly middle-of-the-road comic, that I won’t seek out to re-read but didn’t mind while in it. I don’t necessarily recommend it, but it’s not a bad read if you’re a Marvel: Unlimited subscriber or a completionist.

 

 

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Source: Marvel.com Issue #62; Cover Art by Alex Maleev

Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev (#16-19, 26-50, 56-81): The first four issues of this run (#16-19) were not actually drawn by Maleev, but were instead a Bendis/Mack collaboration. The short arc was intended as a guest appearance by Bendis, and featured a self-contained story about a young boy dealing with trauma following an altercation between Daredevil and the boy’s father, a B-list villain. The story is told from the perspective of Ben Urich, the intrepid reporter for the Daily Bugle, who interviews the boy, his mother, and Matt Murdock to get a sense for what happened during this altercation. The result is a deeply emotional story arc with expressive and evocative art, along the same style as Mack’s other work on the series. But the key difference is that Mack’s writing in his own arc came up a little short, whereas here, he could rely upon Bendis’ strong characterization to drive the story. This short story is very well done and really sets the tone for the kind of stories that Bendis wanted to write about the Daredevil character. He really touched on the negative ripple effect that even good deeds can have on innocent people, highlighting something almost taboo in the superhero comic genre: touching on the victims of superhero intervention, which so often escalates a conflict into a much broader and prolonged event. Though it is only a short four-issue story arc, it packs a pretty significant emotional punch, and despite only appearing in a few frames, Daredevil’s impact on the plot is crucial, and even surprising.

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Source: Marvel.com, Issue #60; Cover Artist: Alex Maleev

The remaining 50 issues of the Bendis and Maleev run was nothing short of incredible. Maleev’s art is one of my personal favorites and a perfect fit for the dark and dingy corners of Hell’s Kitchen. Maleev emphasizes shadows and uses a lot of black lines to show details and muted colors that make each panel seem distressed. The tone was just as dark, as Daredevil was pushed to new extremes, and the brutal realities of his dual identity and vigilantism came to a surprising head. Bendis did a great job of integrating crucial character history into the story, all while introducing some new characters (Milla Donovan first and foremost) and spinning a completely new tale. Bendis knew all of the right themes to emphasize: loss, faith, identity, violence, and that ever-so-delicate balance between law and justice that has always been a pivotal debate for Murdock’s character. The difference between the man and the mask was written in as well, giving some insight into the emotional relationship a hero has with their alter-ego. Bendis seemed to take some inspiration from Miller’s seminal Born Again saga, but he provided his own spin on those familiar themes. I don’t want to give much away, but I highly recommend it to anyone who likes comics, especially those with a darker, grittier tone.

Rating: 10 of 10, a rare feat. This is definitely one of the strongest comic runs I have ever read and it is in my top ten favorites. I bought all three Ultimate Collections as soon as I finished and will certainly reread this many times. Bendis and Maleev just presented a high quality product with great art, story, and characterization. That’s what the medium is all about. I highly recommend it.

 

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Source: Marvel.com, Issue #84; Cover Artist: Tommy Lee Edwards

Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark (#82-119, 500): The end of Bendis and Maleev’s run had readers reeling with a real cliff-hanger, but if anyone was up to the task, it was Ed Brubaker. Brubaker is the author of my all-time favorite comic run, Captain America (2004) #1-42. His bread and butter is a noir style full of political intrigue and espionage. Daredevil was a natural fit, with his gritty style and the penchant for bloody violence and moral ambiguity that accompanies a high-profile street-level hero. Brubaker, along with the primary penciller, Michael Lark, did an admirable job picking up where Bendis and Maleev left off, delivering a believable spiritual successor in the “Devil Inside and Out” arc. *SPOILER* the fallout of Matt’s prison time, as well as the Punisher’s inclusion, and the attack on Foggy maintained that same dour and hopeless tone that Bendis had cultivated, continuing Daredevil’s downward spiral. The emphasis of his emotional torment seemed fitting, and Matt’s continued struggle with interpersonal relationships is, as always, at the forefront of plot lines.

After the resolution of the first arc, Brubaker and Lark’s run seemed to ebb and flow a bit. Some arcs were pretty strong (Mr. Fear in particular), while others seemed to be affected by the event-apalooza that was taking the Marvel Universe through the Civil War, Secret Invasion, Dark Reign, Siege, and Heroic Age. Some of those events started during Bendis’ run, but the real fallout didn’t seem to trickle into Daredevil until Brubaker took over. Some of these influences (the Iron Fist bit, Daredevil’s foreign travel, Osborn crossovers) had definite impacts on story developments and were, to some extent, unavoidable. Brubaker did an adequate job covering for the stresses that superhero registration and Osborn’s eventual Dark Reign would have on Murdock’s character, for whom anonymity and street-level crime and corruption have always been defining characteristics. It is clear that Brubaker understood Daredevil pretty well, alternating between taking him out of his element to challenge him, and returning him to his roots. The mind games and mysterious noir elements of many of these struggles provide the perfect tonal fit for the character. Michael Lark’s art, while not quite as beautiful as Alex Maleev’s, was perfectly enjoyable. The occasional inclusion of echolocation-type rings around Daredevil’s head was a cool effect and timed well with the story’s progression. Definitely a solid artistic showing.

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Cover by: Marko Djurdejevic, Issue #100

Unfortunately, I did not get the sense that Brubaker really knew Matt’s supporting cast all that well (apart from Foggy), and attempted to undo select pieces of Bendis’ run (Milla, particularly). The characterization of Dakota North was a bit cheap, focused primarily on telling readers how cool she was, rather than giving her much of a chance to show it herself. The weird relationship between her and Matt did not feel natural, and served mostly to jettison Milla from the forefront more than anything else. Of course I definitely enjoyed the Iron Fist cameos, since Brubaker was scripting his solo series concurrently, making the tie-ins and character take seem pretty well developed. His use of Vanessa Fisk and the little-known Mr. Fear were also quite well-executed in their respective arcs. Brubaker also reimagined the Black Tarantula, giving him much more sympathetic characteristics and making him another solid supporting character to contrast with Matt Murdock. In contrast, Lady Bullseye was pretty shmeh.

 

My biggest problem with Brubaker’s run, however, was its ending. The final handful of issues left a cliff-hanger that I fundamentally disagreed with. I don’t want to give it away to those who have not read it, but *SPOILER* if you know what the Shadowland arc is about, you’ll know what happened here. I understand the desire to push a character in new directions or to challenge them in new ways, but the decision to flip on such important issues is unacceptable to a fan of the Daredevil character. The final four issues of the run docked the whole series by at least a point (in my arbitrary rating scale), taking what could have been a great comic run, and turning it into just a solid one.

Rating: 7 of 10, it hurts me to rate Brubaker with anything less than an 9. He penned my all-time favorite Captain America (2004) run and he in unparalleled in writing noir-esque political intrigue into superhero comics. However, this Daredevil run is not quite as consistent as his typical work. Though there are flashes of brilliance (Ryker’s, Mr. Fear), there are also some plot elements that seemed rushed or under-developed. I prefer to give him the benefit of the doubt, blaming some of this on editorial pressure to tie into Marvel-wide events. Either way, it’s worth a read, and at least the first 20ish issues will offer some resolution of the massive cliffhanger Bendis left. I would recommend it to Brubaker or Daredevil fans, though Bendis’ run is certainly a prerequisite.

 

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Cover Artist: Paolo Rivera, Issue #506

Andy Diggle and Roberto Delatorre/Marco Checchetto (#501-507; Shadowland #508-512): It is hard to give Diggle and co. a fair assessment here. They were handed a poor concept and had to usher in this street-level event with just a few months of lead-in time. The art is fine, dark and blurry, with a bit too much computer editing for my taste, but definitely serviceable for the themes. Diggle, whose greatest comic writing achievement was for Marvel’s Distinguished Competitors on the Green Arrow: Year One mini-series. I think Diggle’s attempts to show a gradual descent into madness were admirable, but that doesn’t mean I liked it or that I would recommend it. The whole concept was a betrayal to the character of Matt Murdock, his honor, and his principles. There is no way I can rationalize it to make it seem good. If you like other street heroes (Iron Fist, Luke Cage, Shang-Chi) but aren’t particularly attached to Daredevil, then maybe you will disagree with me and enjoy Diggle’s run along with the Shadowland event (read my review here).

Rating: 4 of 10, an ok story line with a bad premise, makes this just a slightly below-average comic. It could have been worse, but I didn’t like it, though I am not sure who to blame: the writers, the editors, or just the larger culture of eventification.

 

 

Brave Blorgons, thanks for making it this far! But that was just 12 years of comics, you couldn’t have really expected me to do it too quickly! Here’s a little bonus for your dedication:

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And another one:

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Go Team Red; Source: virtualstars.tumblr.com via giphy.com