DAREDEVIL HITS THE SPOT
1. Mark Waid’s DAREDEVIL is finished. It’s one of the best runs the book has ever had, up there with Frank Miller in the 70′s and 80′s (and I understand people really love the Bendis run from the early aughts, though it leaves me a little cold). What’s interesting about this run is that it could just as well be called Marvel Comic Book. It’s an engagingly PG take on the character with reliably lovely art from Chris Samnee, who is of the J H Williams III school of innovative panel layouts, and so it hums right along at a reliable pace for years, never stalling out or overheating, until Waid has Daredevil’s final showdown with the most interesting villain of the run – an erstwhile hero, naturally – pan out in exactly the right way, despite impossible odds. One of the qualities that makes Waid such a clever storyteller is his ability to stack the deck against the hero and then solve the problems he’s created in a satisfying way. It’s easy to either give away the coming solution or beggar belief with a ludicrous denouement, but Waid keeps avoiding that pitfall. Waid’s take on a Daredevil love interest, his version of Foggy Nelson, his contributions (and twists on) the villains pantheon – all of them make for a really fun, polished book, and it’s one I’ll reread. And the first villain in the run, The Spot, is one of my favorite Marvel creations in a while.
2. KLAUS, Grant Morrison and Dan Mora’s reimagination of Santa Claus is a Conan the Barbarian-style swords-and-sandals avenger, is very fun. It’s only just begun, but I recommend it already. Fingers crossed, but I think Morrison has finally stopped setting his stories in the fevered brains of characters who’ve been hit on the head or revealing the imagination is the only real superpower, so I have high hopes for this one. I really enjoyed his and Darick Robertson’s piss-take on ultraviolent superhero comics, Happy, last year; props to him for trying something similar here.
3. Here is a disappointment I visit on myself every few years: Garth Ennis, an undeniably talented comics scriptwriter, has been appallingly limited in his interests and ideas for a long time. I wish this was not the case, given how well Ennis can pull together a story and how rich his characters often are (though he often reuses them). I wish I could tell you how the things I loved about Garth Ennis overwhelmed the things that make me nuts about him, but they absolutely don’t. They are starting to get there, though.
3a. CALIBAN, an Alien-style horror story of interdimensional space nonsense, features as its heavy – the character Ennis likes best, since his work is reliably competence porn of the rankest vintage (or the first water, depending on how you feel about competence porn, and I’ll be honest, my opinion on this weird subgenre is somewhat fungible. I like Ratatouille) – happens to be a gay woman, which is kind of nice considering how awful he is about gay people in Preacher and how clumsily he tries to non-apologize for it in The Boys. Anyway, the book is violent and weirdly vindictive about people who have done nothing worse than sleep together, but it’s also pretty compelling and the central emotional relationship is wonderful. Our heroine (not the badass gay woman, a different woman on the same crew) never declares her sexuality despite the fact that the badass character is in love with her, and that, not the alien kungfoolery, is the heart of the story. I normally resist this kind of checklisty politicking by someone who’s trying to disguise his predilections but Ennis truly appears to be trying to change as a person, or perhaps to understand that he is changing. It’s quite interesting.
3b. Who’d have thought that the Crossed universe, of gross murderzombies, would be so long-lived and so consistently interesting? ROVER RED CHARLIE, Ennis’s most recent contribution to this truly disgusting universe (or his personal creation, naturally), is another improbable winner, right up there with Alan Moore’s Crossed +100 from earlier this year. I mean, I’d really like to be recommending different books to you guys. I understand that these are really gross. But Ennis seems to have a solid handle on how far he can go in these books and in this one he’s had an admittedly fantastic idea – Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey set during the zombie apocalypse. It’s often adorable, and has a happy ending, and features cute talking animals. Of course it’s also super R-rated and has some really disgusting stuff in it (no rape) but it’s a lot of good animal jokes, one after another, and if it gets a little too vile in a couple of places it redeems itself pretty handily. Also the way Ennis translates his animal characters exclamations (Dogs barking: “I’m a dog! I’m a dog!” Chickens clucking: “Shit! Shit! Shit!”) and so, you know, for the Unconventional Zombie Box Set you’re putting together, may I recommend Rover Red Charlie?