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Posts Tagged ‘Daredevil

A new decade has begun, and with it, High Five! Comics will soon be unveiling our special “20 (Or So) Best Comics of the Decade” event (take that, Siege). But before we reveal the big list, we’ll start with a series of supplementary entries from HF!C’s contributing writers about those comics we each individually loved, but that didn’t quite have the mojo to make the final ranks.

Today, Brendan talks about some of his personal favorite books from the last decade.

Daredevil – Brian Michael Bendis; Ed Brubaker (Brendan’s #4)

Don’t let our list fool you- this decade belonged to Brian Michael Bendis. Before DC handed the keys to their mainstream continuity to a handful of writers in the mid 2000s, Bendis was setting the trend with his monolithic presence at the publisher across the street. But before he was running every annual blockbuster (New Avengers, House of M, Secret Invasion) he built his cred by raising street-level characters like Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist to new prominence in the Marvel U. Bendis’ four-year run with primary Alex Maleev on Daredevil was his most critically-acclaimed, and best, superhero writing in the 2000s. That Ed Brubaker took the reigns to continue a pitch-perfect showcase for the Man without Fear cemented its place in my top five for the decade.

The Goon – Eric Powell (Brendan’s #12)

Eric Powell’s “The Goon” initially appeared to be merely another attempted successor to Hellboy’s brand of smash-em-up paranormal adventure, but quickly managed to separate itself as an entirely different animal. Sure, The Goon would be plenty of zombie-thrashing fun even if Powell only played up the title for action and yuks, but after 40-some issues and assorted specials, the most memorable impression that it makes is for a deep-seated pathos underneath its surface elements. To experience the darker-than-noir world of The Goon is to immerse yourself in a place for gown-ups that’s scary in the way things were scary to you when you were a kid, when everything was big and spooky and unknown.

Daredevil: YellowJeph Loeb (Brendan’s #13)

Jeph Loeb didn’t exactly have a quiet decade, per se. He certainly wrote a lot of stuff. But the things he wrote didn’t seem to resonate with audiences the way his best work has in the past (Soulfire, anyone? Anyone?) If you need evidence, look to his flash-then-fizzle 5 issue arc following Mark Millar on The Ultimates, a borderline disaster that might have single-handedly derailed any plans for a fourth installment any time soon. But Loeb did capture the old magic once or twice by doing what he arguably does best: roots-revisionism of classic character continuity. Cherry-picking the biggest moments from a hero with such a singularly piquant history, Loeb and artist/soul mate Tim Sale connect a modern storytelling sensibility with retro crime comic style that manages to never feel gimmicky or cheap. Instead it does the character a faithful service, adding to the richness of that lush backstory and to the depth of the man behind the horns.

The Ultimates – Mark Millar (Brendan’s #14)

Ultimate Spider-Man kicked off the Marvel’s “Ultimate” universe, and Ultimate X-Men broadened its horizons, but The Ultimates is the series that kicked its popularity into the stratosphere. Three years before Earth’s Mightiest Heroes were Disassembled and eventually made “New”, Mark Millar’s two-series run on The Ultimates was a reimagining of those classic characters in a form so dramatic and astounding that we couldn’t help but sit up and take notice- and be in awe- of them again. Those epic 26 issues gave us more than one indelible moment, but is perhaps most notable for giving Cap his most famous line of dialogue since he called the Avengers to assemble: “Surrender? You think this letter on my head stands for FRANCE!?!” Feel it.

The Authority – Warren Ellis; Mark Millar; Robbie Morrison; Grant Morrison; Garth Ennis (Brendan’s #15)

Yes, the action is as insanely over the top as it is awesome. Yes, the characters evoke comics’ archetypal icons only to openly subvert them. And yes, a lot of the critical ground it stakes was covered by, like, everybody since Watchmen. But people too often confuse and conflate abstractions like deconstruction and irony. Just as Robert Kirkman’s Invincible did for the true believers and classicists (main list spoiler!), DC/Wildstorm’s The Authority spent the better part of the decade being the modernist’s favorite study of the superhero. And the fact that it’s also just totally fun to see them fuck some shit up is just a bonus.

Hellblazer – Brian Azzarello; Mike Carey (Brendan’s #16)

Anyone who reads comics can tell you that John Constantine is one of the mediums absolute best characters. But despite his more than 20 years of continuous continuity in his own title, not many people can agree on what has been our favorite run with the occult detective/part-time sorcerer in Hellblazer. During his ridiculous hot streak early this decade, Brian Azzarello took a stab at John that brought him stateside and into new depths of deviousness, before Brit writer Mike Carey brough him back to England and shifted Hellblazer more definitively back to its horror roots. All told, the 2000s gave us 6 years of John Constantine at his best, setting a bar that every writer since has gloriously strived to surpass. Fans of Hellblazer couldn’t be happier.

Powers – Brian Michael Bendis (Brendan’s #19)

Independently, both superhero sagas and police dramas often deal in similar themes: justice, social order, honor, and the nature of public service, to name a few. In this creator-owned series Bendis marries the two genres to create an atmospheric, engrossing slow-burner of a book, something much closer in tone to his earlier crime thrillers than his Marvel megahits. Compared to all the flash and spectacle of a title like New Avengers, Powers is downright austere, but it’s also frequently tense, exciting, and (despite its general dourness) wryly funny. Most of the credit for its success is due to the series’ main characters- the laconic Christian Walker and live wire Deena Pilgrim are the heart of the book, and watching mysteries from their personal backgrounds unfold as they struggle to relate to one another through the Job is just as compelling as the cases they work to solve. Walker and Pilgrim made Powers a book to keep coming back to, even almost 70 issues in, just to see more of the decade’s most dynamic duo in comics.

Ultimatedaredevilandelektra1As I said in my last post about Greg Rucka’s female characters, I’ve been hunting for a copy of his four-issue run on Ultimate Daredevil and Elektra for a while now. I finally came across a copy earlier today, in a discount bin at my favorite hometown comic shop. I snapped it up and immediately sat down to read. As he’d done with the Huntress and other angst-ridden female characters in the past, Rucka took another crack at defining what drives angry, tragic vigilante women and his conclusions were, as usual, thought provoking.

In everything I know of normal continuity, Elektra Natchios is the kind of character who seems to hold no allegiance to anyone except the highest paying bidder for her ninja assassin skills. I know that Frank Miller tied Elektra’s decision to become an assassin to the death of her Greek ambassador dad, Hugo at the hands of terrorists in Daredevil Vol. 1 #168. Elektra watched her father die. Fuck. So she quit school and joined the Hand.

But this is the Ultimate Universe! Continuity be damned! This is Greg Rucka’s chance to add his feminist flair to an extremely well-known character!

Just a heads up, I’m totally gonna have massive spoilers coming up. (I mean, come on, the issues were released in 2001-2002. But you know. You’re warned. Just in case.) In Ultimate Daredevil and Elektra, Elektra still attends Columbia University and ends up dating Matt Murdock pre-tights, but those are pretty much the only parallels to regular continuity. Rucka gives Elektra much humbler beginnings; her father is a mere Greek immigrant who runs a dry cleaning business in Queens, her mother died of breast cancer (rather than as the victim of a hitman). In lieu of a bunch of ambassador-murdering terrorists, her first real nemesis is the school’s token macho rich white kid (think Stan Gable from Revenge of the Nerds). She emasculates him in front of his peers and he retaliates by raping one of her two best friends and hiring some street thugs to firebomb her dad’s shop (unlike Miller, Rucka lets Hugo live). After charges are dropped against Rapist Arsonist Jerk, Elektra’s gateway act of vigilantism is to break into his loft and threaten him with physical violence. As a means of protecting her from herself, Matt suits up for the first time (although not in the traditional Daredevil garb) and is forced to decide whether or not he can be in a relationship with a girl who is willing to kill in the name of justice.

Ultimatedaredevilandelektra2OK, re-cap over. Time for me to get to the fucking point. Both versions of Elektra strive for justice while using completely unjust methods, but what is remarkable is that both versions turned to vigilantism even though their early years couldn’t have been more different. The Elektra of the normal Marvel Universe was born into a family of corruption and violence and the Ultimate Universe version was born into innocence and, uncharacteristically for a comic book character, contentedness and happiness. This makes the Ultimate Elektra’s decent into the underworld all the more tragic (especially what she’s become in Ultimate Spider-Man). Basically, Greg Rucka has managed to take Elektra and make her much more relatable without sacrificing the heartache and complexity of the original character.

Anyways, I highly recommend this read, even if the trade is now out of print and you’ll spend forever looking for it. Pair it with some decent merlot.

batjoker

So, you’ve gotten yourself some powers and established a secret identity, but if you’re gonna be a real superhero, you’re going to need an ass to kick. I mean, after a while, using your superpowers to take down petty criminals will start putting the cops out of a job. And we all know how productive bored cops are, right? When it comes to getting a foil, some guys have it lucky. All they really have to do is put on some Spandex and break up a bank robbery or two (see: the Flash’s entire Rogues Gallery). Chances are pretty good, however, that you’ll have to put a lot more effort into it. And remember, the first step to finding your mortal enemy is to always make sure that it was totally an accident!

hush-shot-x350(1) Reunite with your childhood enemy! Seriously, it doesn’t matter how much time passes, that one kid who hated six-year-old you is definitely going to resurface the second you slap on some tights and make a headline or two. It doesn’t matter which one of you was taking lunch money from the other, he still hates your guts. And since you ended up being a good guy, he’s pretty much destined to knock over liquor stores until you show up and give him a fight. O’Doyle rules!

Hal vs Star(2) Make an ex really, really bitter! We all have those exes that we really wish we could forget. Problem is, they really, really don’t want to forget us. Somehow, they will come across a crazy power source and, dammit, if they can’t have you NO ONE WILL. The list of these cases goes on and on: Star Sapphire, Lady Deathstrike, Star Sapphire, Elektra, Jean Loring, and Star Sapphire! Sorry, super-ladies, this rules does not apply to you (whoa, whoa, don’t blame me, blame the industry).

thingsilearnedfromwonderwoman(3) Get a double! Whether you get replicated via shadowy government agency, alien abduction, or the workings of a mad scientist, there’s a good chance somebody will try to clone or otherwise make a copy of you (or make a robot double of you.) I mean, who wouldn’t want a superhero of their very own? Except that’s not how comics work, like, ever. Most likely, they’ll end up with your looks, your powers, and the moral compass of a complete bastard. Then you gotta deal with at LEAST two issues of everybody thinking he’s really you and you’re a jackass. BONUS HINT: Fix this problem by taking the fight somewhere public. As soon as the first stereotype of an Irish patrolman rubs his eyes and says, “I’m seeing double!” your dignity will be restored.

kingpin(4) Foil a drug smuggling ring! Or any mob-based crime, really. The world is full of mob families, gang lords, and drug kingpins trying to make a quick bajillion dollars. These are the kind of guys who beat up old dudes for protection money and you’ll be damned if you’re gonna let these guys claim that this is their town! And when you take them down, they won’t handle it well at all: “Nobody makes a mockery of the Blah-Blah Family / Gang and gets away with it!” Let the years and years of fistfights bookended by “I’m just a businessman” speeches begin!

asm595_cov_col(5) Accidentally kill someone’s relative! Kill, indirectly cause the death of, whatever. Look, there will always be collateral damage in fights, there will be always be villains who won’t give you very many options, and, at some point, somebody will die. When this happens, their kid/sibling/second cousin twice removed will blame you. Look what Harry Osborn did when he saw what Spider-Man accidentally on purpose did to his dad! Actually, speaking of Harry…

sbll(6) Alienate Your Best Friend! Bad news. Once you don the cape and tights, your best friend will try to kill you. I know, it fucking sucks, but it’s the way it works. One too many philosophical disagreements? Accidentally destroy that laboratory you built him? Take the last beer out of the fridge? Well, great, now you’ve done it. And the worst part is, chances are pretty good that he knows everything about you and will be your worst enemy. On the plus side, it makes that “keep your friends close and your enemies closer” thing one a little bit easier to manage!

Now go forth and kick ass!

I’d go fucking crazy if I didn’t have friends to rely on. So, really, why should superheroes be any different? As it turns out, a lot of comic characters have a super-buddy that they can sort of relax with and confide in outside of costume heroics (although that doesn’t necessarily mean they take the costumes off). So, who are the best besties to ever be best besties?

bff1(5) Daredevil and Spider-Man – It should pretty much be a given that two superheroes who fight the same criminals in the same city will hang out at some point. The thing about these two, though, is that they always seem to meet under the shittiest, angstiest of circumstances. They are more of a shoulder for each other than drinking buddies. Case in point, when Karen Page got shanked by Bullseye, Spidey brought Daredevil to the spot on the George Washington Bridge where Gwen Stacy got killed. Maybe there’s a reason the soundtracks to their movies were full of Dashboard Confessional and Evanescence (yet there’s still no excuse for the Nickelback).

bff24. Boy Blue, Flycatcher, and Pinocchio – If there’s one thing I can attest to, it’s this: boys love hanging out on stoops readin’ comics and eatin junk food. And seriously, when they weren’t out fighting in epic battles or reigning over their own kingdoms, Boy Blue, Pinocchio, and Ambrose could pretty much always be found on the steps of the Woodlands, listening to Blue’s trumpet and shooting the shit (until, you know, Fabletown got all imploded and Boy Blue got all dead). They were kind of like the Three Musketeers of Fabletown, except the Three Musketeers might actually live in Fabletown. Great, now I’m all nostalgic for my old stoop days.

bff33. Hal Jordan and Barry Allen – Both are original members of the Justice League of America, so it makes sense that they’d be cool with one another despite their differences in personality. But to the extent of going on camping trips on other planets together? Dang, dudes, you guys are such best friends. And now that Barry’s back from cruising the Speedforce for 23 years, he can go back to hanging out with Hal Jordan and doing the stuff they love together (I mean, I assume they love getting the shit kicked out of them by undead J’onn J’onnz).

bff42. Ted Kord and Michael Carter – Oh man, the bond these two had between them was off the fucking chart. Blue Beetle and Booster Gold met, befriended, and eventually bro-crushed each other hard when they both joined Justice League International. After watching Kord take a punch from Doomsday, it turned into full on mutual respect. Later on they formed the Super Buddies and worked together in a fast food restaurant in Hell (really, don’t ask). This duo took one tragic fucking turn after Maxwell Lord shot Kord in the face during “the OMAC Project,” causing Booster and Wonder Woman to investigate the murder which led to Maxwell Lord’s death which led to “Infinite Crisis” which led to the DCU as we currently know it. Didn’t realize that the Booster/Beetle pairing was so fucking important, did ya?

bff11. Erik Lehnsherr and Charles Xavier – “Foul!” cried the readers. “Boo this man! Boooo!” But, wait! Think about it! After meeting each other at the Holocaust survivor clinic in Israel, they TOTALLY became best buds! Which of you don’t ever have little squabbles with your closest friends over ideology? Honestly, the only real difference is that you don’t grow up to try to defend those opinions to the death (usually, I mean). Also, look at the admiration Erik has for the dead-in-this-reality Charles in “Age of Apocalypse.” It borders on being totally get-a-room-you-two creepy! Plus, these two haven’t really ever killed each other. What’s stopping them? Maybe remembering back to when they sailed the S.S. Friendship together?


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