lördag 17 november 2012

Mark Waid, Paolo Rivera & Marcos Martin: Here Comes… Daredevil, Vol 1

I always liked Mark Waid. He's a solid comics writer well grounded in characters' history, and prepared to take a refreshing look at them from new angles, and to introduce some surprises in his stories. He's not quite in the Moore - Gaiman - Morrison league, but always enjoyable, so perhaps a notch below that top tier, pretty much like Peter David (IMO).

So I had high hopes for his Daredevil. And I wasn't really disappointed. This book starts off with Daredevil crashing a Mob wedding to stop a kidnapping by the dimension-jumping Spot. Paolo Rivera's art for this chapter is especially nice – and reminds me a bit of David Mazzucchelli, possibly because of how he depicts DD's body in motion (and possibly also from how he spots the shadows on it) dramatically but not overly flashy, making it look positively naturalistic by Marvel standards.

Waid then proceeds to give a solution how to move on from DD's secret identity having been outed previously – in this internet/paparazzi age, memes like that tend to lose power over time, so the notion that Matt Murdock is really Daredevil is now in the "some people are sure of it, others don't really know" category. Clever, if not earth-shattering, and opening up a nice venue of subplots and clever story details.

Since everybody now knows – or "knows" – that Matt Murdock is Daredevil, his legal career goes down the drain, because, well, somehow the prosecutor working the word "Daredevil" into every other sentence makes it impossible for Matt to win cases. I'm not really with Waid on how this works, actually, but I'll go along with it for the sake of the story. It's because Waid is a good writer that I'll, as a reader, choose to go along, but it's also a mark of how he's not top-notch (to me, at least) that I'll still have reservations. I've followed – for example – Grant Morrison along on far less logical story developments, but that's because with Grant Morrison, I'm usually just swept along with the inexorable flow of brilliant storytelling.

Anyway, Matt Murdock comes up with a new way of helping people, now that he can't be their lawyer: he'll teach them how to represent themselves, and coach them towards victory. This is, again, clever, and actually reminded me of the feeling I got when reading my very first DD story many, many years ago, with Stan Lee depicting a Matt Murdock able to come up with a clever way of helping his client, regardless of what conventional wisdom said.

So far, so good. What about the actual action? Well, DD faces two menaces in this collection. The first is a new take on a classic Marvel villain (again, in keeping with Waid tradition), the second a somewhat more prosaic criminal/superterrorist organization(s) threat against a – get this – blind kid. Of course Daredevil has to get involved. And they bring in the Bruiser, who's out to show he can take on all sorts of lower-lever superbeings in the Marvel Universe, crossing them of his (smartphone – another nice touch) list as he beats them, one after one. (DD is just above Spider-Woman on that list, something Bruiser regrets after handily beating DD in their first encounter.)

On the art: Paolo Rivera is the artist for the first half of the book, and as noted does an excellent job. Marcos Martin does the second half, and his figure and action drawing is excellent as well, but he needs to work on his faces – they're too cartoony, and not in an elegant cartoony style either, unfortunately. It's not terrible, but there's plenty of room for improvement.

Anyway, I'll give away a bit of the ending because it speaks to a larger point I've been making: the showdown with the conglomerate of criminal organizations is resolved with some clever lawyeristic wrangling by Daredevil – but I don't really buy it, because I can see the counter-argument to the point DD is (successfully) making to the crooks. Had it been Moore, Miller etc writing the story, I can well see how I'd be carried along by the strength of the narrative and/or the cleverness of how the argument is formulated, but that doesn't happen with Waid. He's merely in the "damned good" category of writers for me, not quite in the "superstars" one.

But you know what? "Damned good" is still damned good, and this book has plenty of clever and just plain good things going for it. This is excellent superhero fare. Heartily recommended.

(Second opinion: Comics Alliance has a good review of the book here, which among other things points to how Daredevil gives a little smile when he's about to throw himself into a fight against tough odds, giving emphasis to his "daredevil" moniker. Good catch, that.)

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