Batman Incorporated, Bob Crane, Chris Burnham, Chris Samnee, Daredevil, Daredevil: Dark Nights, Daredevil: End of Days, Dark Horse, Dean Motter, Family Guy, George Reeves, Grant Morrison, Howard Chaykin, Image, Lee Loughridge, Lee Weeks, Mark Waid, Marvel, Matt Fraction, Mister X: Eviction, Satellite Sam
Unless you’re blind to what’s been going on in the world of comics lo these past two years, you know that Daredevil’s kind of a big deal: thanks to Mark Waid–and at present, the superb Chris Samnee–the sightless savior of Hell’s Kitchen–and Marvel’s very own messiah–is as must-see as ever. Aside from the flagship series–which has recently earned a number of Harvey nods–ol’ Hornhead has found a home in a couple of minis, including the recently wrapped up–and surprisingly effective–Daredevil: End of Days and the current Daredevil: Dark Nights (Marvel). The former has an all-star team of DD vets attached to it, both on the writing side and the art side; the latter, too, boasts a DD vet, artist Lee Weeks, who, this time around, takes quite a leap by wielding two pens: he’s the hand behind the images and the words. Daring, right?
Issue #1, a serviceable offering on its own, suffered a bit for a couple of reasons, neither necessarily related to the issue itself: for one, it came out on the same day as the final issue of End of Days; and two, it’s yet another DD story predicated upon a potentially fatal medical condition. (Get well, Foggy!) In terms of the story itself, Weeks certainly delivers the danger: thing is, the danger’s doubled: yes, there’s the obvious concern for the young girl who is in need of a new heart; but a more pressing danger rears its deadly head: is Weeks tugging too hard on the ol’ heartstrings here?
With #2, we learn that the answer is a firm no: it’s clear that Weeks was simply setting us up for this fearless issue–one in which the Man Without Fear races selflessly against two indefatigable foes: time and the elements. Weeks himself wastes no time establishing an integral element to his story: Daredevil will not bet deterred. He can’t stop; he can’t help poor Jonny–“Not today”; he’s “made [his] choice”: he’s focused on “precious cargo”–on a heart with a little girl’s name on it. Art-wise, Weeks conjures up a Daredevil who is perpetual motion: as the hero strains against the snow, we feel every muscle, each a snow plow, pushing forward, beating like blood through occluded veins back to the heart; as he hangs on a light post, we sense that the post is hanging on just as tightly as he, and both are profoundly exhausted; as he swims in frigid waters, we feel the cold, the desperation, and we hold our collective breath in hopes of his finding “Hannah’s hope.” With heart in hand, Daredevil continues his treacherous trek, stopping only to clean up a small mess in his Kitchen; see: “[s]ome things can’t be ignored.” And one of those things is: he’s a hero. His choice to save the young woman from an attacker–perhaps the easiest challenge he’s faced this night–comes with a price, however; undoubtedly worn from the effort that got him this far–and so agonizingly close to his goal!–he collapses, leaving him defenseless against time, a tireless antagonist–and he’s in no shape to hold back the hands that so heartlessly hold Hannah’s fate with every tick, tick, tick.
Sure, a cliche hangs over this arc like a threatening cloud, but Weeks transcends it with solid storytelling and gorgeous artwork (with an assist from color artist Lee Loughridge) and guides us on a wintery journey into the heart and mind of a true guardian angel.
In Batman Incorporated #12 (DC), Gotham’s guardian–the still grieving Batman–“SSKKKRRRIIIIIII”‘s himself back into the fray, and he’s unstoppable: he’s heartbroken and breaking heads–more accurately, a figurehead. Busted! Sure, it takes a while to get to that point; in fact, the extended fight sequence is not unlike the classic Family Guy battle between Peter and an ill-tempered chicken; but there’s a clear method to Grant Morrison’s madness: it showcases Batman’s untameable rage, which is as honest a response as one might expect from a father who is facing down his son’s killer; and which is only tempered by a startling revelation: his son’s killer is–“Urr. God. No”–his son! Well, kind of. And as startling as that is, another scene comes out ahead: Talia decapitates her monstrous progeny and then detonates him, bringing about the literal “fall [of] the house of Wayne.”
Despite the previously mentioned protracted sky-scraping scrap, this issue feels somewhat rushed, especially as the final page plays out. However, Morrison’s the master of making an awkward narrative come off as elevated; and, it’s no surprise, he hits the mark here in the series’ penultimate issue, as well. As he brings his own creation to an abrupt end, with an assist from the always effective Chris Burnham, we’re treated to a ballsy Batman story that continues to defy expectations–which is exactly what we expect from the enigmatic–and unapologetically unstoppable–Mr. Morrison.
A series that, sadly, does come to an end this week is Dean Motter’s brilliant Mister X: Eviction (Dark Horse). Oh, we’ve extolled the many virtues of the first two issues in previous posts: here and here; and now with #3, we’re ready to extol some more. I mean, look at this cover, for crying out loud! Pretty grate, isn’t it?
Part A of the Conclusion cock-a-doodle-doos with a robot painting a wall–yet another clever way of insinuating the title of the book into the story itself–and wakes with Rosetta’s reminding us of “the quest for” Mercedes, who is still holed up in the Municipal Purgatorium. Motter makes his way through the remainder of the the first half of the finale by employing inventive panel-to-panel transitions, witty banter, a pair of well-placed stories (a fun one about the Ajax and a philosophical one about anatomically-themed tattoos), and by closing the the whole puppet show with a some silly symmetry: Mister X breaks the fourth wall–not the freshly painted one, much to the relief of a certain robot–as he explains how he “just happened to bring cable cutters” to the Purgatorium: he slyly states, “They were useful some pages back.” I mean, duh. Oh, and, uh, he and Rosetta get captured, so…
After a trippy–and an all sorts of creepy–little interlude, Motter jumps into Part B by jumping forward in time: two-thirds of the extraction team–the adult portion–face “one slight problem”: they’re bound to tables and about to be broken by “Heartbreak.” Thing is, Rosetta knows him; in fact, “at one time, [she] called him ‘Sweetheart'” because they “dated years ago–until he fell in with the wrong crowd.” She uses this “in” to facilitate her getting out: he satisfies her request for a drink and a smoke and ends up with a fireball to the face. A simple “Thank you” would have sufficed! From there, Andy, who had avoided apprehension, sets his teammates free, and the three of them liberate Mercedes and the tattooed Mr. Smith–the former, convinced that Mister X has more of a heart than he cares to advertise; and the latter, revealed to be a “doppelgandroid,” who helps Mr. X bring down the Purgatorium. The reason for the impromptu renovation remains a mystery to Rosetta–so too do the whereabouts of Mister X–but the results are clear: things have changed in Radiant City.
And with a final toast, it seems everything’s all right–even on the aforementioned last page, where Motter juxtaposes the junked–and right-handed–Fasces of Power with Smith’s left hand, a symbol of sacrifice that rests atop some rubble and answers Mercedes’ question with an appropriately “WRONG” answer.
On its own, the issue stands as a testament to Motter’s mastery of the medium; as a part of a whole, it’s a perfectly executed exodus that leaves Mister X–and me–looking toward the future of Radiant City.
But, gosh, as much as I loved Mister X, I enjoyed Matt Fraction and Howard Chaykin’s Satellite Sam #1 (Image) a touch more. Let’s consider the cover, shall we?
What better way to break in the first issue of a series that proudly promises sex and death? Chaykin essentially treats us to a curiously clad couple’s “first time”: in this case, however, it’s the woman–whoever she may be–who has made the man bleed, and she’s got the smoking phallus–er, gun–to prove her primacy.
Once inside–the comic, sicko–Chaykin thrusts us back in time to the ’50s with his glorious black and white artwork, which sets the stage for Fraction’s simmering television studio. The intercourse amongst the many characters–equal parts playful and intense–is reminiscent of Fraction’s fantastically busy FF and his endearingly cavalier Hawkeye. It works especially well here as the writer takes us behind the scenes of a live television show–in this case, one thrown for loop because of a missing star; and then he pulls the curtain back further to show us what goes on behind those scenes: not surprisingly, what ultimately makes its way into America’s living rooms is a means to an end: it’s all about politics, power, and lining the pockets of custom-made suits.
What’s made its way into our hands is a terrific pilot episode. Fraction and Chaykin have manufactured a murder mystery worth solving–one that borrows from real-life mysteries surrounding the deaths of television personalities, including the pervy Bob Crane (Hogan’s Heroes) and the steely George Reeves (Superman)–and have introduced a sympathetic character worth following in the reluctant protagonist Michael White, a Clark Kent lookalike and heartbroken son of the deceased, and decidedly depraved, Carlyle White. Like Michael–who extemporaneously stands in for his dad on the set of Satellite Sam and who, in the final panel, exasperatingly sits on his father’s floor with a Pandora’s Box of pop tarts–I want to know “what the hell [Carlyle] was into.” Here’s something I do know, however: they’ve won me over: Satellite Sam‘s my Book of the Week (7/3)!