Review: Daredevil #8

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Daredevil started a new arc this week, as the fabulously smart caption box on the front of the latest issue informed me. Of anything that Marvel has implemented over the last few months, the caption box on the front page which says “all-new story starts now!” has been the most useful, and the one which I desperately hope more publishers take advantage of. I know Image like to have you read every issue of a comic, but it’s nice to have a definitive point where you can start reading a book with relatively little background info and give the whole thing a try.

I’ve not heard much talk about Charles Soule’s turn writing Daredevil, unusually, given that his time with She-Hulk was so memorable. For those unaware, Soule is also a practising lawyer himself, and he brought that knowledge into his run writing Jennifer Walters in a convincing and arguably star-making performance as writer. Here, with Marvel’s other big lawyer, I’d not heard anything, to be honest. All had gone quiet.

Soule’s run has started with the gambit “he’s hidden his identity again” and is running from there, with the big reveal of how the character managed it looking to be the big hook of the overall narrative. This current arc though, seems like a deliberate step away from the standard type of Daredevil story and an attempt to try something different and new with the character – hurling him into a crime caper in China, where he’s participating in a poker tournament. It’s all fairly simple to keep up with, although the narrative breaks from Matt Murdock across to Daredevil slowly introduce a more confusing thread, as we reveal that Matt’s activities are just a bluff for his alter-ego to investigate something else.

Which is quite neat, bluffing the reader into thinking this was Matt Murdock trying to make some extra money when actually there’s some kind of villain in the hotel he’s actually trying to get closer to. It draws from the Waid/Samnee characterisation of Daredevil before pulling away into something different, and perhaps more in-line with whatever the Charles Soule iteration of Daredevil will be. As someone jumping on the issue with this arc, it was a little disappointing to realise that the Matt Murdock I’m reading about is actually lying to me, so I don’t get to see what his actual character is – but then hey, I suppose that’s character as much as anything.

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So I was fine with the story, which takes a few interesting detours although does feature a slightly dour, less appealing version of Matt Murdock than the last few years have gotten us all attuned to. With Goran Sudzuka presenting him as basically a blank slate for the entire issue as well, the comic doesn’t make him a particularly compelling protagonist, which slows the issue down and draws things out in order to make the bluff stronger. We’re holding to the interest of the game itself to pull us through the pages, tension building up because we want to see if he’ll win the tournament or not.

Sudzuka is a ridiculous artist who draws a face on every background character, merges the background into the foreground during fight scenes as a way to break panels apart, and generally does incredibly impressive work throughout. His take on the Casino captures the mix of shine, sleeze and dirt which you feel whenever you walk past a gambling table. There’s glamour and elegance, but at the same time everybody looks slightly discomforted by the experience and holds a slight grimace – when you transfer gaze from Daredevil to the people stood around him, things feel sinister and claustrophobic in a completely natural way. It’s not that everybody is out to get him here, it’s just that this is what casinos feel like.

The most noticeable aspect of the comic, though, is the colouring, which I’m not sure I enjoyed. Daredevil is not meant to be a bright comic, but this issue seemed surprisingly grim and dour for what was meant to be a high-stakes poker tournament. Matt Milla uses reds and blacks for the scenes set in the casino, mirroring the look of a roulette wheel but muddying and hiding quite a lot of Sudzuka’s work. Scenes outside the casino drop the red for a dark blue and dark green respectively, which means the whole issue feels less flashy than perhaps it could.

The casino loses sheen, the location work from Sudzuka doesn’t have much pop, and the fight scenes look grimy and harsh (which is the part of the colouring choice that really works nicely). Partway through the issue is a fight scene set in the astral plane, with Daredevil taking on a mind-reader, and it looks drab. Sudzuka does some really nice work on one panel in particular which has a snowy mountain as the backdrop. Daredevil and his assailant have a fight scene laid over the top of the mountain, their movements and swipes of swords throwing up snowy paths down the face of the slope and providing downward momentum which speeds up as the page reads onwards.

However, the colouring mutes absolutely everything, reducing the impact of the sequence dramatically. Perhaps not every superhero comic should have a bright shine to it, but this issue of Daredevil absolutely feels like it needed a pick-up. With everything muted (even the whites don’t have the gleam you’d see in, say, Moon Knight) there’s nothing to grab your immediate attention, and it’s easy to lose tracking on which panel to read at what time. I don’t have any of those pages to show you, though, so uh, just take my word on that one I guess. The preview pages are slick.

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Letterer Clayton Cowles picks up for the reader and offers a route through some of the more dull pages, but it shouldn’t have to be presented like that – with a more dynamic colouring style, like as seen once Daredevil appears on the pages at the end of the issue, the artwork would fit the style of the script in a more convincing manner.

As things are, a reasonably solid comic trades in style for a moody atmosphere which doesn’t quite feel right for what we’re being shown. I found Daredevil #8 to be a mostly fine comic which just feels dull, slowed down, and less effective than it could have been. It’s certainly not Sudzuka holding the issue back, as he sets up the pages in sterling fashion, with a series of brilliantly constructed moments scattered liberally throughout the pages. And whilst Soule’s narrative gambit does hold back on Matt Murdock’s personality, he does offer an interesting story. But the colouring choice really feels like it holds things back, here. I still think the issue was decent, but it loses a lot of razzle-dazzle in an Boardwalk Empire-style palette of dour dullness.

 

Writer: Charles Soule

Artist: Goran Sudzuka

Colourist: Matt Milla

Letterer: Clayton Cowles

Publisher: Marvel Comics

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Special Spire Investigation: A Death-Defying Daredevil Discussion with Ryan K. Lindsay

So NYCC showed us a few bits and pieces from the Daredevil tv show starting in May next year – a few photos, a little bit of the casting, and most interestingly a glimpse of the tone. It seemed to go over pretty well with fans of the character, but I wasn’t really sure what to make of things. I don’t really know very much about what Daredevil is meant to be like, having only caught bits and pieces of his comics over the years.

So I decided – hey, I know an actual Daredevil Expert, so why not go ask him about it?

Ryan K. Lindsay is not only a comic critic and writer, but he’s also the author of ‘The Devil is in the Details: Examining Matt Murdock and Daredevil”, published through Sequart. If there’s anyone who offer a proper professional opinion on this TV show, it’s him! And luckily, he was kind enough to come on across to The Spire and give us all some of his thoughts on the announcements at NYCC. Read on!

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Ryan, let’s just get a bit of comics context. How do you normally prefer your Daredevil? 

For me, the core of Daredevil is his narrative malleability. When I think of my favourite stuff, it’s usually the pulpy stuff, the Lark/Brubaker run stands as my absolute favourite (so much so that I wrote a whole chapter about the run in my Daredevil book [details below, intrepid hornheads] with Miller/Janson close behind, because those hit that crime sweetspot where I live. But I also really dug Gerber’s gonzo run, and the Samnee/Waid run has been spectacular – and while it’s lauded as light hearted it certainly has a lot of cancer and dancing with corpse sequences for a fluffy book, ha.

I think, however, through whatever genre you look at him, the core of Daredevil the book is Matt Murdock, and it’s watching him struggle, be fallible, and yet always continue that makes this book tick. It’s the human condition in operatic tones.

The series is being described as being dark- at NYCC he was described by Jeph Loeb as being “one step away from being The Punisher”. So it looks like he’ll be quite conflicted in this. Do you think that’s the best place to start with him?

I think the idea that Matt Murdock’s origin story is so close to a supervillain’s origin story is a great way to think of it – and thanks to Frank Miller for pointing that out. I think Matt and Frank Castle have a lot in common, but Matt knows when to pull back, and that’s the fun of his character. Seeing how far he’ll go, and then watching him always yield to cleverly be the good guy.

For me, that’s why Shadowland didn’t fly for me, I couldn’t accept Murdock as actually becoming the villain. He’s the guy who knows right from wrong and while fallible is still somewhere wishing he was Steve Rogers, even though on some days you know Rogers wishes he was more like Matt Murdock, haha.

I also think Matt should definitely be conflicted and dark. He’s been through a lot, and yet he’s going to wade into the darkness to punch people in the face. That takes a certain type of guy to do that.

It kinda looks like he has a chemical burn over his eyes, in these photos. That’s… quite dark, isn’t it?

It’s more realistic. That radioactive chemicals would strike the face, enough to permanently blind the eyes, and infuse him with crazy-cool powers, and yet leave the skin intact is ridiculous. I don’t think Matt Murdock works as a deformed troll-man but there should definitely be some damage, let his broken psyche show on his face.

Red glasses, though? That’s pretty classic Daredevil, even if I’m disappointed they aren’t The Fabulous Green Ones from Born Again. Does Charlie Cox look like Daredevil, to you?

I’m huge on judging artists by how they draw Matt Murdock. My favourite Murdock is Michael Lark’s – there’s just something broody and real about him there. I dig Mazzucchelli’s Murdock, but those glasses are not coming out of the 80s any time soon. I like the red tints, I’m not completely sold on the round lenses but the tint of them is fine by me.

Also, just so you know, I also really dug the way Joe Quesada drew Murdock/Daredevil as this bruiser of a man. I liked that interpretation, and I’m also superkeen on artists being allowed to interpret characters in their own style. There should be variation, it shouldn’t ‘ruin’ anything, it should be fun. I mean, Murdock is clearly not this huge guy, but to see him like that in ‘Farther’ was really refreshing.

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How do you feel about the ‘first’ costume we’ve seen, where he has the eyes covered over?

I am all for it. I know people might think The Trial of the Incredible Hulk but they also need to think of John Romita Jr’s early costume in The Man Without Fear origin mini. We’ve seen the red leather version not work on screen and we also know this take is slightly different, I think it makes sense and there’s the possibility of it being cool and fun. I also think the sneakers are a great touch in that Quesada promo art.

What early Daredevil stories could you see as fitting into the series, if this is the direction they seem to be taking? Or would you prefer they don’t touch on the original comics stories, at least for now?

The aforementioned Romita Jr/Miller mini could fit in, to some degree. But I don’t think they need to do a straight adaptation of a storyline. Again, the flick was very beholden to the Miller/Janson work and they showed that sometimes it doesn’t work – the same way Watchmen was reverential and people dogged it for that reason. Something like Batman Begins dances between a few stories, picking and choosing what will work on screen – and we have to remember that the page and the screen work narratives in different ways – and that’s how you get a good adaptation.

In saying that, I want them to do some Mike Murdock stuff soooo bad

(Note: Mike Murdock was the imaginary twin brother Matt Murdock created to throw people off the scent that he was Daredevil after Spider-Man outed him in a letter. True story. Matt dressed in outlandish ways, acted like a real tomcat, and then landed himself in this weird love triangle with Karen Page where he was two points of the triangle and spent most of the time jealous of himself. Ah, lords above praise Stan Lee and his crazy brain).

With the cast we have, we’re a way away from telling Bullseye/Elektra or Born Again – do you think Marvel should be placing seeds towards hitting grand points like the two? With Elektra, the surprise has lost impact now because the first Daredevil film played that story out. Maybe they should avoid that one?

I think with the film doing the Elektra Saga much of that storyline has lost impact. But I still think it could be done effectively, because that saga only works because you spend time attached to that character and then she’s taken away (SPOILERS!), and most movie fans understand sometimes you might see the same storytelling elements done more than once and that it is fine. I mean, look at Zack Snyder’s Krypton, that place was insanely rad even though it covers an origin we pretty much all already know anyway. But at present, the Daredevil TV show is going to be a lead season for four future seasons, so who knows how much Daredevil they’ll plan down the track and when we’d get to it.

I do think Born Again is the type of thing that would work perfectly as a major arc of a second or third season, but you’d have to tweak it because Nuke sucks (come at me haters).

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Nope, Nuke sucks, no argument there.

My guess is Marvel will place seeds for Elektra, and Bullseye will be teased at the end, the way the Joker gets teased at the end of Year One/Batman Begins. I also think they’ll plant seeds for The Punisher, but that’s just a personal kooky theory. I’d love to see Typhoid Mary brought into the show here for use later.

With Rosario Dawson now down as playing Night Nurse – strange role, considering she’s the most well-known member of the cast – do you think we’re already setting up The Defenders a little, here?

I think EVERYTHING will be pointing at that season, for sure. The bad guy in Daredevil will no doubt point, even if only tangentially, to what’s coming in The Defenders. Marvel does longform interconnected storytelling so well right now so you know all of this Netflix well is going to crossover in big and small ways. Does Kingpin connect to Hydra, or K’un L’un? It’s a crazy time to theorise.

So overall, what do you make of Marvel’s take on Daredevil so far, from the little we know? Do you come away feeling more or less excited now about the series?

I’m pretty insanely pumped. I’ve been let down before but this feels good. I trust the way House Marvel are running things now, and the cast looks good, and the tone looks right, and I believe in this series. I think we’re going to get a hardcore crime thriller with a guy in a mask dropping beatdowns but without the theatricality of Arrow and the pomp of Gotham. There was one line in the press conference that has me keen and that’s “Karen IS trouble.” This isn’t going to be Stan Lee’s romanticape book, this is going to be urban warfare. This is going to be crazy fun, and I’m all signed up for it.

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Ryan K Lindsay is a writer of and about comics. You can read his Monkeybrain comic ‘Headspace’ here, his one-shot ‘Fatherhood’ here, and his book of essays about Daredevil from Sequart here: ‘The Devil is in the Details: Examining Matt Murdock and Daredevil’. He is on Twitter here.

Comics Roundup 30/08/14: The King’s Birthday and Archie Takes a Soaking

In which we collect together bits and other bits and yet more bits alongside even extra bits that weren’t covered by The Spire properly this week. Here’s a random gathering of stuff to get you in the mood for a new week of comics!

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It would’ve been Jack Kirby’s 97th birthday last week. Tom Spurgeon offers just a sample of why we consider him to be The King. Also, if possible, please consider making a donation to The Hero Initiative for the occasion.

I wish I had John Martz’s bookshelves.

Chris Sims looks at the life and times of Cassandra Cain, a Batgirl introduced as part of the ‘No Man’s Land’ story with a unique identity and profile – only to later see both vanish entirely as she was swept underneath the rug of continuity and forgotten about.

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In preparation for NYCC, Amy Reeder has created this year’s ‘Brooklyn Defender’ hero, who’ll be keeping a watchful eye on the booze at the convention in October.

Multiversity continue their annotations for The Wicked and The Divine, a series which seems like it was made for such things.

They also start to annotate Grant Morrison’s Multiversity storyline, as Matt Meylikhov goes into more detail than you could ever have imagined – and as an added bonus, I leave a stupid comment right at the end. Whee!

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Andrew Wheeler explores recent superhero designs like Batgirl, Shatterstar and Loki, explaining how a redesign – set up correctly – can completely revitalise a character.

The Outhousers take the piss out of AXIS

I thought Carla Hoffman offered a really interesting take on the most recent issue of Daredevil – the one where he went to visit his mother.

And finally – Archie takes the ice bucket challenge:

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Matt Wilson Announced as New Colourist for Daredevil

The Other Murdock Papers have coverage of the news that Matt Wilson has been announced as the new colourist for Marvel’s ‘Daredevil’ series. This follows a lengthy run from Javier Rodriguez, who recently announced he was stepping down from colouring in order to focus on his pencilling.

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Wilson is one of the top colourists in the business, having worked on Young Avengers, Wonder Woman, Swamp Thing and several other books over the last few years. He’s also currently providing the colours for The Wicked & The Divine over at Image right now, which is proving to be an incredible showcase comic for him.

Having previously worked with artist Chris Samnee for ‘The Mighty Thor’ a few years ago, Wilson had this to say on the announcement:

I was a big fan Chris Samnee’s work even before working with him. So I was shocked when he was one of the first artists I colored at Marvel, and was then lucky enough to do two series in a row with him. Since then I’ve colored some of his covers and short stories, but nothing on a regular basis. Now that I’m going to be on Daredevil I’m really excited to get his pages on a monthly basis.

Wilson’s run on Daredevil begins with issue #8, in September.

Charlie Cox Cast as Daredevil

The first of Marvel Studios’ four Netflix shows has found a lead, as actor Charlie Cox has been cast as Daredevil for the show. The actor, best known for playing the eventually-swashbuckling lead in Stardust, is signed on to play the man without fear for the 2015-debuting series.

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This follows the news that showrunner Drew Goddard has left the production, due to scheduling conflicts, and has brought in his former Angel co-writer Steven S. DeKnight to take his place. DeKnight is best known as the creator of Spartacus.

So that means the first of Marvel’s four shows has a lead actor – subsequently, we can start looking for the casts of Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, and Iron Fist to all start being announced later this year.

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