Comicsalliance.com is the pre-eminent source for comics journalism and the go-to place to learn about which artists and writers, titles and publishers are hot right now. I drop in quite a bit — it’s interesting stuff and it gives me material for conversations with fellow geeks. That said, I don’t often have the opportunity to actually, you know, read the comics they’re talking about.
One title they’ve been bigging up over there is Mark Waid’s current run on Daredevil. I didn’t know this, but apparently, Daredevil has gotten very very dark over the last few years. Waid was brought in to do an effective reboot — all that bleak back story is still there, it’s just not what the comic’s about anymore. Instead, it’s now fun, light-hearted, swashbuckling stuff. I was impressed by the description, and the writing and art/design looked great, but what eventually convinced to purchase the first trade was the super-stylish covers.
Comicsalliance did not lie. The writing was fantastic — fresh and fun — and the art was just as good. I highly recommend it.
More Daredevil was to follow. I picked up a cheap copy of a short story by Brian Michael Bendis, simply called Ninja. It’s short and sweet — the plot basically extends as far as: “Man! What is up with these ninja!” — but it was pretty funny and had solid art.
Then I chanced upon the comics section of my library. The library is a wonderful thing — in one fell swoop, I borrowed Daredevil: Return of the King by Ed Brubaker; The first volume of Alias by Bendis (again); the first volume of Global Frequency by Warren Ellis; Joker by Brian Azzarello; and the first volume of the much-hyped Casanova by Matt Fraction.
The Daredevil story tells of the Kingpins attempt to find happiness after leaving New York; the inevitable failure of that plan; and his bloody return, in which he teams up with daredevil to do awful things to the Hand (evil ninja). The story ends with Daredevil becoming leader of the hand — an important step on the path towards darkness and misery alluded to above. It was pretty good (though nowhere near as good as Waid’s stuff).
Alias was extremely good. Bendis excels at non-exploitative superhero deconstruction and the intersection between superpowers and the real world (also seen in Powers). He’s also got a mean ear for dialogue. Here he recasts Jessica Jones, once superhero C-lister, as a New York private eye specialising in superhero-related cases. There are some lovely stories in here with some great insights about the human condition (backed up by some lovely artistic contributions from the great David Mack). The fact that some of the characters have superpowers just adds a delicious bit of spice to the mix. This one’s a lot more grown-up than typical Marvel fare. There’s swearing and unfulfilling casual sex a-plenty. You certainly get to see a whole new side to Luke Cage…
Global Frequency was tremendous fun and Ellis to a T. Miranda Zero has set up an anonymous network of about a thousand extremely (diversely) talented people around the globe, called the global frequency. Each issue is a stand alone story (there wasn’t even a glimmer of an arc in any of the stories I read), in which one or more of these people are mobilised to solve some extravagantly comic book problem. For example: a parkour expert must run across the rooftops of london to defuse a bomb that’s at the top of the London Eye. Brilliant. I also enjoyed the one about a memetic virus causing people to bleed from their eyes…
Joker was a good concept piece. Batman figures not at all until the last few pages. Instead, the action follows the Joker’s attempts to reclaim his turf after getting out of Arkham. These events are seen from the perspective of the hapless Jonny Frost – a minor gangster who aspires to be part of the Joker’s inner circle. I felt a genuine empathic unease while watching him try to cope with his volatile employer — the Joker is not a man that I would want to work for. Eventually, after the Joker is done terrorising the various criminal powers in Gotham, the Batman steps in. Things do not end well for poor Jonny.
Finally, there’s Casanova. This was the other standout from the library haul (along with Alias). Casanova is a sort of super-bombastic sci-fi alternate-universe spy-thief thriller type thing. It reminded me at times of Grant Morrison’s stuff (especially the slightly hard-to-follow dimension jumping stuff near the beginning), but Fraction very definitely has his own voice. The eponymous Casanova is a Jagger look alike and thief without peer, simultaneously working for both E.M.P.I.R.E. and E.M.P.I.R.E.’s evil counterpart, W.A.S.T.E., headed by the enigmatic Newman Xeno. Through a combination of copious shagging and drug use (and amazing leet skillz) Casanova makes this seemingly awkward task look easy. Huge fun — I very much want to read more.