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Derek Mainhart: Who woulda thunk it? A few months into the overblown hype-balloon that is Marvel NOW!(!!!!) and here we are about to sing the praises of not one, but two Marvel titles.

Scott Carney: Are we eating crow again?  How would you like that prepared?

DM: Not really. This particular peccadillo is perfectly understandable when you consider that the titles in question are both written by one Mr. Mark Waid. Care to start?

SC: Well, the Marvel NOW! Revolution has been, shall we say, less than revolutionary. But despite one awful X-book after another and four billion Avengers books, each less interesting than the next, Mr. Waid is single-handedly making mine Marvel again.

This week, for instance, Daredevil #23 opens up brilliantly, with a scene that Waid develops so effortlessly that it seems like this is exactly where we’ve been headed ever since Murdock first donned the double-d.  And to let Matt lead us by the arm from panel to panel, page to page, even past the point where we know something’s up, is a stroke of genius–a one-in-a-million, not unlike the circumstances that prove so elusive to the mysterious–and presumed–mastermind behind the toxic attempts to create a DD doppelganger, of sorts.

DM: Waid had a wonderful way –

SC: Say that three times fast!

DM: – of taking the familiar and making it seem new. You’re right about that opening sequence; DD’s well-known origin is told in a manner that is not only incredibly inventive, but also manages to advance the overall arc of the series.

SC: From there, it’s a rollicking good time–even with a hint of mortality in the midst of it all–with a soon-to-be classic Chris Samnee splash setting off a strikingly intimate sequence between ol’ Hornhead and his pudgy pal, Foggy.

DM: The Chrysler Building’s never looked better.

SC: Despite the visuals changing hands a few times on this title, Samnee really owns the art side of Daredevil at this point. He takes full advantage of the opportunity to put the protagonist through his paces–as he’s done so expertly, issue after issue, with issue #19 as a spotty (in a good way) standout–as Waid whips out a horde of hypersensitive newborn daredemons, who prove no match for the man who has had a lifetime to make the best of his chemically-cast curse.  The intensity of the fight scene–again, its outcome never really in doubt—is pumped up to a palpable level by DD’s having to struggle with another–in this case intangible–antagonist: time.  See, prior to the fracas at the fundraiser, he promised Foggy he’d meet him at the doctor’s office; and we’re left hoping, wondering if, even in victory, Matt will let his friend down again, as he had–even if inadvertently–during the Coyote arc.  And while Matt does fulfill his promise, allowing us to breathe easier, if only for a moment, he’s left powerless–despite his superhuman skill set–against the crushing news to come, its deadly delivery amplified by our hero’s hopeful misinterpretation of the heartbeat, which, in the end, leaves him and his best friend heartbreakingly beaten.

DM: Again, Waid takes a well-worn cliche – the doctor bearing bad news – and puts a spin on it that feels completely fresh and organic within DD’s universe.

SC: And that’s only half of it!  Now, four books into Indestructible Hulk, it’s clear that Waid knows how to handle the Big Green Guy; Number 4 is yet another muscled-up example of Waid’s superior vision: by highlighting the man, he’s getting more mileage out of the monster.  And, on a selfish note: I love, love, love the tack taken with Banner!  Wouldn’t you know: it seems I sold Waid short.  Ends up, he’s not just building a House (a glorious homage to the late, great Dr. Gregory House–in all his manipulative, wisecracking glory–and his white-coat coterie: an eager yet exasperated team of young experts and one seriously sexy supervisor); he’s building a goshdarn mansion–with plenty of room for the “mightiest creature…on Earth” to thrash about without too much damage.  To the story, anyway.  If I’m being honest, I kind of shut it down once Banner Hulks out.  In fact, the weight of the final splash is pretty well lost on me (despite Leinil Yu’s and Gerry Alanguilan’s impressive art). I just don’t feel for the Hulk–he’s indestructible, for goodness sake!–the same way I do for Foggy.  Know what I mean?  But it’s a natural flaw in the character, one that necessarily can’t be done away with–one I hope isn’t done away with; because plugging up that hole would mean poking one in his more relatable alter-ego–the one who is, for me, anyway, the star of this smashing show.

DM: Between these two titles, and the plethora of other projects he’s taken on (including his industry-leading experiments on Thrillbent), Mark Waid is the comic industry’s James Brown: not only the Hardest Working Man in Show Business, he may also be the best.

SC: That’s gotta be the first time anyone’s compared Mark Waid to James Brown. Moving on, who woulda thunk this: my hands-down favorite, Matt Kindt’s mind-bogglingly good Mind MGMT #8 came out this week and the only other book I want to talk about is Saga #10 (Image).  Saga?  Yeah, that’s right: I’m finally on board–full time.  And I have you to thank, sir, for your continued celebration of Vaughn and Staples’ astounding epic.

DM: I do what I can.

SC: See, I tried it back in the day, even if only on Comixology.  I thought it was OK enough to read through #4.  At that point, I was turned off–if I’m remembering correctly–by the whole Sextillion pit stop.  At least that’s why I think I kinda gave up on it.  Well, I saw #10 on the shelf at one of my shops; and I figured, if I’m willing to drop $3.99 on underwhelming books like the All-New and Uncanny X-titles, I might as well invest $2.99 on a book that readers rave about on a monthly basis.  So, I picked it up, knowing that I’d have to click back over to Comixology in order to play catch up.  And catch up I did: I read #5-#9 before reading anything else from my big ol’ Wednesday haul.  The result: I was hooked.  Hooked!  There is something absolutely magical about this book; and #10 simply cemented the fact.  What an issue.  What an experience!  Vaughn exhibits such masterful control over his characters that they seem so very real.  Every utterance is perfectly tuned to its utterer.  Every expression, every gesture, as rendered by Staples, breathe life into the lovers–especially in the bit of back story to kick things off; and here I am, sucked into their plight something fierce and, as a result, left vulnerable to Vaughn’s terrifically-timed twists.

DM: Exactly. I’ve written before about the breadth and fertility of Vaughn’s imagination, but just as impressive is his sense of pacing. His transitions are wonderful. From that first page that literally invites the reader into the story, we are expertly guided through lyrical non sequiturs; text contrasting with images lending greater depth to both – nowhere so powerfully than at the very end, highlighting that other Vaughn trademark: the plot twist / cliffhanger.

SC: I mean, talk about collateral damage.  The last three pages?  Remarkable.  Hazel’s narration, insinuated smartly, builds toward the final page turn with stunning subtlety, even as The Will’s ship shatters around it.  Speaking of shattering: turn to that final page and tell me your heart didn’t break into sextillion pieces.  Yeah, tell me that, and you’d be lying through your canines.  I’ll tell you what isn’t a lie: I’m on this one for good.  And, again, I have you to thank; so, thanks, pal. Book of the Week.

DM: Ok, fine, I’ll give Mind MGMT another look. Geez…

Turning pages,

Scott & Derek