Monday, April 24, 2017

DAREDEVIL #174

"THE ASSASSINATION OF MATT MURDOCK"
Story & Art : Frank Miller | Finished Art : Klaus Janson
Colors: Glynis Wein & Klaus Janson | Letters: Joe Rosen
Editor: Denny O’Neil | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Elektra is on the trail of a bounty in Paris when her prey is killed by a ninja assassin from the Hand organization. Elektra follows the ninja back to his lair, where she learns the Hand’s next targets are Matt Murdock and his current client. Elektra hops a plane to New York.

The next night, after a court date for Melvin Potter, Daredevil returns home where, as Murdock, he's attacked by the Hand. Matt fights them off with some aid from an unseen Elektra. The next day, Matt arrives at the law offices of Murdock and Nelson to find Foggy present. As they talk, the Hand move in on the building but Elektra fights them off — however one ninja launches an explosive which hits the building and injures Matt.

Matt comes to in the hospital to find his radar sense gone. But before he can dwell on this, he learns that Melvin is being transferred and takes off to protect him. Meanwhile, Elektra busts Melvin out of a paddy wagon and provides him with his Gladiator paraphernalia. They're attacked by the Hand and are on the defensive when Daredevil shows up to help. The Hand retreat, leaving DD and Melvin alone. As Melvin describes the woman who aided him, Daredevil realizes who she is.

Meanwhile, the defeated Hand operatives are executed for their failure by a towering ninja, who is then presented with a photo of his next target: Elektra.

Friday, April 21, 2017

ADVENTURE COMICS #449, 450, 451, & 452

”THE MENACE OF THE MARINE MARAUDER”
Reuniting the twin titans of Aquaman’s past:
Writer: Steve Skeates | Artist: Jim Aparo
Aided and abetted by: Colorist: Liz Berube

It occurs to me that in two posts covering several issues so far, I haven't once said anything about Jim Aparo’s artwork! I know I've seen “Aparo’s Aquaman run” referenced here and there on the internet over the years, and I must assume those references are to this run of issues specifically. And since most of those references have held the work up as excellent, I must concur with them. This is really good stuff!

Mind you, I have no real baseline to go off of; I've never read any other Aquaman comics. But Aparo has a great handle on the character (I love the wavy locks he gives him; all the better to float about in the seawater as he swims), and his grasp of the supporting cast and environments is just as good. His Mera in particular is very fun to look at, with her massive mane of flowing red hair.

It's interesting to me that Aparo is working on Aquaman here just after his brief run with the Spectre, and he has adapted his style accordingly. Where the Spectre stories featured glorious use of heavy, overwhelming blacks, Aquaman is much more open for traditional superhero coloring. It's quite a remarkable adjustment in the span of only a couple months.

Oh, and Aquaman fights some guy named the Marine Marauder in this issue.

Monday, April 17, 2017

DAREDEVIL #173

"LADY KILLER"
Story & Breakdown Art : Frank Miller | Finished Art : Klaus Janson
Colors: Glynis Wein | Letters: Joe Rosen
Editor: Denny O’Neil | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: On his way to meet with his new client, Melvin Potter, Matt Murdock is accosted by a group of hoods who he efficiently dispatches. But during the skirmish, a pair of nearby reporters are attacked by a hulk of a man who is soon misidentified as Melvin.

The next day, Matt and secretary Becky meet Melvin in jail and Becky immediately faints. Later, she confides in Matt that she was assaulted on her college campus years ago, an incident which cost her the use of her legs, and that she saw the assailant’s face: it was Melvin. Upon learning that Becky never contacted the police, Matt throws a fit and leaves.

The next day in court, Matt is granted a delay in jury selection in Melvin's existing case until the defendant can be cleared of the new assault charge. Matt changes to Daredevil and searches the city for the truth, but comes up empty-handed. Later, Melvin escapes police custody and heads to the Dibney Museum for his Gladiator paraphernalia, but Matt shows up and convinces him to turn himself back in.

That night, Melvin’s social worker, Betsy Beatty, is assaulted by the Melvin lookalike. He’s scared off by neighbors, but Betsy’s experience allows her to tell Daredevil the sorts of places he should be looking for the guy. He finds him in a leather club and after a barroom brawl, defeats him.

The Melvin lookalike is indeed Melvin’s doppelganger, and Melvin is exonerated in the assault case. Matt convinces Becky to testify against the lookalike to put him behind bars.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

THE UNBOXING - APRIL 2017

One lone item this month, courtesy of Marvel: The CAPTAIN AMERICA EPIC COLLECTION: JUSTICE IS SERVED. This volume marks another nice chunk of Mark Gruenwald's long CAP run in Epic format, and, even better, it plugs a gap between 2014's SOCIETY OF SERPENTS Epic and 2011's "prototype" Epic, THE CAPTAIN. Between all three books, that's CAPTAIN AMERICA issues 302 - 350, plus associated annuals and tie-ins -- roughly one-third of Gruenwald's run -- collected consecutively!


(And by the way, if you want to extend that streak backwards, 2012's DEATH OF THE RED SKULL collects issues 290 - 301, by J.M. DeMatteis and Mike Zeck, too!)

Furthermore, with this volume now released, there's only one unknown Epic Collection remaining to fill in the gap between THE CAPTAIN and 2015's STREETS OF POISON book. Hopefully that volume, which would include the fan favorite "Bloodstone Hunt" serial (and which I'd be willing to bet will be named for that very storyline since the 2010 collection is long out of print), will be the next Gruenwald-era Epic to see release, because, being the anal-retentive fan I am, I much prefer unbroken runs on my bookcase rather than those that skip around. But in any case, the clear takeaway from all of this is that it's a very nice time to be a fan of Mark Gruenwald's CAPTAIN AMERICA.

Friday, April 14, 2017

ADVENTURE COMICS #444, 445, 446, 447, & 448

”AND DEATH BEFORE DISHONOR”
Plot: Paul Levitz | Script: Gerry Conway | Art: Jim Aparo
Editor: Joe Orlando

Beginning here, the Aquaman serial truly ramps up, and it's in a style that I enjoy. See, I have maybe an odd take on serialized fiction: I believe that “filler” is necessary. Not “fill-ins”, mind you, but filler. One of my favorite examples of this in the field of comics is Roger Stern’s final year-ish on AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. The Hobgoblin was the overarching story of that entire run, accounting for seven out of fourteen issues from #238 – 251. In the meantime, Spider-Man had other adventures unrelated to that villain, even as his presence lurked in the background, informing some of the wall-crawler’s choices in that time (such as his actively searching for the goblin in #246 and 247).

Most all the stories in that run of issues are fun adventures, but only about half of them relate to the overarching story. I really like this approach. It makes the “main” story feel more important when it’s touched upon if you have unrelated adventures interspersed among those that advance the main plot.

Side note: This is one area where I believe pretty much all of the Marvel NetFlix series fail dramatically. They have thirteen episodes per season, and they tend to devote every one of those thirteen to the main plot with no divergences or side-stories. Wouldn’t the Purple Man’s machinations be a lot more meaningful if he only appeared in about half of JESSICA JONES’ episodes, with Jessica taking on “case-of-the-week” style adventures in between? Wouldn’t DAREDEVIL be more fun if Murdock & Nelson spent a few episodes per season on some court case that had nothing to do with the Kingpin or the Punisher or whoever else? I think so, at least -- and this would also help to alleviate the Netflix shows' universally recognized flaw of treading water during the back half of every season.

But I digress; we're here to talk DC comics, not Marvel TV. As of this issue, Aquaman is voted out as kind of Atlantis, replaced by a usurper named Karshon while he was off fighting his villainous half-brother, the Ocean Master, and from this point, the Aquaman serial will feature a mixture of stories dedicated wholeheartedly to the “king in exile” saga, interspersed with others which have nothing to do with it.

Monday, April 10, 2017

DAREDEVIL #172

"GANG WAR!"
Writer/Penciler: Frank Miller | Inker : Klaus Janson
Colorist: Glynis Wein | Letterer: Joe Rosen
Editor: Denny O’Neil | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Daredevil awakens in a water main and escapes into a community of underground vagrants. He returns to Josie’s to question Turk. Meanwhile, from his underground lair, the Kingpin supervises a gang war against his treacherous ex-lieutenants. Bullseye sets out to track the Kingpin down and learns the location of his stronghold. Meanwhile, Daredevil raids that very place and recovers what he believes to be the Kingpin’s files, but which turn out to be newspapers.

Bullseye and some men attack the Kingpin’s lair but find it booby-trapped. Later, as Bullseye berates his employers for their incompetence, the Kingpin arrives and hires him away from them. He forces his former men to sign confessions holding them responsible for the gang war, then he turns his attention to Lynch, his right-hand man who he has deduced killed his wife, Vanessa. The Kingpin kills Lynch in a fit of vengeance.

Later, Daredevil learns from a neighborhood hooker that there's a gangland meeting going down. He heads for the Kingpin’s office tower and shuts down its generator, which lures Bullseye into the basement for a fight. Daredevil bests Bullseye but is surrounded by the Kingpin and his men. Kingpin offers DD the files on the men who signed his confessions, as well as Bullseye, to get him to leave. Daredevil does so, departing with an implied promise that their feud is not yet over.

Elsewhere, beneath the city streets, the Kingpin’s wife, Vanessa, awakens and wanders off, amnesiac and hungry.

Friday, April 7, 2017

ADVENTURE COMICS #435, 436, 437, 441, 442, & 443

”AS THE UNDERSEA CITY SLEEPS” | “THE KING IS DEAD; LONG LIVE THE KING!”
Story: Steve Skeates | Art: Mike Grell | Editor: Joe Orlando

“A QUIET DAY IN ATLANTIS”
Script: Paul Levitz | Art: Mike Grell | Editor: Joe Orlando

Déjà vu! I already wrote about these three issues of ADVENTURE COMICS a few years ago when I covered The Spectre by Michael Fleisher and Jim Aparo! But, even while the Spectre was the lead feature in the bimonthly series, Aquaman served for a time as his backup serial before eventually — as well see below — graduating to top billing.

Unfortunately these early Aquaman tales are nothing to get too excited about. I've known for years that Black Manta is Aquaman’s main villain; his Joker or Lex Luthor, of you will. But to read these stories, one would get the impression that he's the Sea King’s only antagonist! He appears in all three stories, and unfortunately they're all pretty pedestrian. And, mind you, this is partly Aquaman’s fault, as it’s established in the first story that when he captures Black Manta, he just tosses him back out into the sea rather than incarcerate him anywhere.

Anyway, I can only assume things will pick up moving forward; otherwise what's the point of collecting this stuff in a trade paperback?