Sorry we’ve missed a couple of weeks; it takes some time to read through books for your entertainment! This week we have a bit of an all Marvel week going, so strap in True Believers!
Writer: Stan Lee
Pencils: Bill Everett (issues 1-5) & Wally Wood (issues 6-10)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Number of issues: 10 (written about here but 380 in the first volume)
Going all the way back to the Silver Age, Marvel’s “Golden Age” if you like, Stan Lee and Bill Everett created the Man Without Fear, Matt Murdock. Just like the other characters created at Marvel at this time Matt Murdock lives a double life, as the blind defence lawyer during the day and the masked vigilante at night. It is an interesting idea meant to explore, in four colour storytelling, the contradiction in defending criminals while also being the one to hunt them down and bring them to justice.
And on the whole the initial run ignores the drama that could be wrung from that device, instead focusing on Matt’s heroics as Daredevil while just trying to keep his identity and powers a secret from his oafish best friend and law practice partner, Franklin “Foggy’ Nelson and their secretary, Karen Page. In fact, the only drama on display is melodrama in the form of the silly unrequited love story between Karen and Matt with Foggy thrown in to create a love triangle. Much like the Jane Foster/Donald Blake love story, our hero believes his disability, not his double identity, means he is unlovable, while the love interest fears rejection and so doesn’t confess her love.
Despite that silly melodramatic plot line running through the comic, the stories feature the debuts of some iconic villains such as the nefarious Owl and silly, yet still dangerous Stilt-Man. The rest of the villains are forgettable such as The Organiser and his animal themed henchmen as well as a Doctor Doom wannabe dispatched in two issues never to be heard from again. DD’s acrobatics positively, ahem, leap off the page continuing Marvel’s run of dynamic artwork showcasing death defying tumbles and last-minute ledge catches across New York.
Unfortunately, DD wouldn’t attain the popularity of Spider-Man, but that made him ripe for a soft reboot under the masterful direction of Frank Miller in the ‘80s. The character, with his radar sense and enhanced senses, is an interesting concept, always straddling the line between the darkness of an anti-hero and the light of a true hero such as Spider-Man. Despite the fact that he isn’t as popular, and nor are his rogues, as the web slinger, I’ve always had a soft spot for him and cannot wait to get later into the book when he truly shines.
Writer: Gerry Duggan
Pencils: Mike Deodato Jr
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Number of issues: 6
With the MCU making Thanos and the Infinity Gems the centre of their universe, it was only a matter of time before the comics followed suit. In wonderful coincidence, of corporate synergy naturally, Marvel released a small event series called Infinity Wars featuring the return of the Infinity Gems, but curiously not Thanos.
The story is simple, Requiem, a mysterious character wants to wield all six gems and to do so kills Thanos and then shows up on Earth just as all the new wielders of the stones gather to discuss how to keep them apart. Yep Dr Strange was not thinking clearly when he thought that one up. What follows is the usual battle royale pitting all the heroes against the villain who comes up on top, gains the stones and then does exactly what Thanos did; halve the universe’s population. This time, however, instead of wiping out half the souls in the universe, Requiem folds the universe in half and merges souls. Different solution, same outcome.
Unfortunately for Requiem, Loki from the main universe survives as a whole and so goes on a quest to gain the stones using the new universe’s inhabitants so that he can breakthrough the barrier at the God Quarry to see if he has been manipulated by a god of gods. Long story short he brings the heroes together to form a new, if temporary, Infinity Watch that defeats Requiem and restores sanity to the multi-verse.
The book is short and sweet, just like the events of yore. It is contained in this mini-series as well as the Infinity Warps two-shots that I’ll talk about next week. Duggan’s writing is clear and concise as possible, no Ellis, Hickman or Bendis deconstructionist speeches here, ensuring that the story zips by without much fuss. The book has no, as far as I can see, crossovers into any other books and that’s great for all of us on a budget as well as not wanting to have our other books interrupted unnecessarily.
Deodato’s art is gorgeous as ever, but if you compare this to his early work, especially on Wonder Woman back in the day, he has stopped those unnecessary cheesecake and pose panels. He does use an odd panel structure, one that looks like he drew large splash pages and then cut them up as if you are viewing them through a multi-paned panel of glass. It is a distracting art choice but does work. I’m sure those of you with more artistic interpretive skills than I can work out some deeper meaning, but to me they were just jarring until you got used to them.
Infinity Wars shows some respect for the reader’s time and wallet, but giving us a contained, yet significant cosmic event. It is fun, takes characters into interesting paths and is great for anyone who hasn’t been following the Marvel books of late.
Writer: Greg Pak
Pencils: Giovanni Valletta (issues 1-2) & Matt Gaudio (issues 3-5)
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Number of issues: 5
John Wick is a killing machine. If you didn’t know that already, go watch John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, but who is he and how did he become the Baba Yaga. Greg Pak starts us on that tale with this five issues miniseries.
We start off with a recognisable, yet younger John hunting down some men and we later learn that these men massacred his village because of a prank he played on them. Yep about as senseless as the crimes committed in the first film. John, unaware of the High Table and all the niceties surrounding murder for hire that the film’s have created, continues on this road bringing him into direct confrontation with a killer nearly as unstoppable as him. Instead of being skilled, she’s just psychotic making her just as dangerous and the real perpetrator of the massacre. Across the five issues John and these villains wreak havoc across various cities, drawing the attention of the High Table. Needless to say John wins out in the end and ends up recruited to the Russian faction who trained him as this unstoppable killing machine creating the first steps towards the Baba Yaga.
The story is, surprisingly for a Greg Pak book, light, like the films focusing on some world building and a lot of murder and mayhem. The five issue positively whirl by, I swear I read these in about ten minutes, as you are dropped into this insane world. The art style is not the most detailed, but energetic enough to convey that unique blend of gunplay and martial arts. The cover art is misleading though, making you think that you will be following the movie John Wick, but this is a prequel story so don’t expect to see the John Wick of the films in this story.
The book adds some colour to the character but is not essential reading unless you are wanting to delve deeply into the world of the High Table. But it isn’t required reading.
Grumpy Old Man who still collects toys (THEY. ARE. NOT. DOLLS), PC Gamer lured to the Dark Side of console gaming, comic book reader and fan of all things pop culture.
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