Monday, January 04, 2016

Reader's Diary #1238- Brian Bendis (Writer), Alex Maleev and David Mack (Artists): Daredevil, The Man Without Fear!

I spent the better part of last year bemoaning underwhelming superhero comic art. While there were a few exceptions (Travel Foreman's Animal Man, David Aja's Hawkeye), for the most part I didn't think anything stood out. It was all serviceable, sure, but felt too generic. I was getting bored.

Suddenly it's 2016 and I have a new favourite superhero artist: David Mack. I was blown away withe his work on Daredevil: The Man Without Fear. Mack is the guy that did the opening art of Netflix's Jessica Jones, and to be honest, I wasn't wild about that. It didn't compare to the awesomeness that was the opening Netflix Daredevil art. But holy cow, can Mack paint a comic.

Mack teamed with Bendis for Davedevil: The Man Without Fear issues #16-19. It's a provacative, character driven story about a young boy who's withdrawn into himself after witnessing an altercation between his father and Daredevil. The boy is a comic book fan, but in his comic book-style ramblings, reporter Ben Urich suspects there are clues as to what happened that fateful night. It's heartbreaking and psychological, and there's no reason why this works as well as it does (there's little action for a superhero comic) except for Mack's gorgeous and emotionally wrought art. Heavy, splattered watercolours, collage elements here or there, see-sawing back and forth between highly realistic portraits to bare-minimum sketches, Mack fluidly goes with the mood of the story, capturing the pain and confusion ingeniously.

When Alex Maleev takes over for the next issues, it's almost a shame. His art is nothing to scoff at either. It's gritty and dark and very fitting of a Daredevil story. I just couldn't stop thinking of Mack's art. As for the final issues in the collection, #39-39 drawn by Maleev and Manuel Guitierrez, and #40 drawn by Maleev with Terry Dodson and Rachel Dodson, those, unfortunately slip right back into generic superhero art again.

The common thread between them all is Bendis's storytelling. If you were a fan of the Netflix series, you would undoubtedly enjoy this. It has the same brooding but well-intentioned Matt Murdock, struggling with morals and bigger picture ideals. Even the background characters have their own complex personas. There are no simple fixes and the resulting stories are often uncomfortable. That's not to say there's no fun at all, as a Marvel fan I was happy to see the Black Widow show up (I had no idea Daredevil and she had a history), as well as Elektra, the White Tiger, Luke Cage, Spider-Man, Iron Fist, Jessica Jones and Doctor Strange. Still, these are not children's comics. That's not to say it tries to be all edgy like Marvel's MAX line, but it's about thoughtful, mature storylines.

I am very quickly becoming a huge fan of the Hell's Kitchen corner of the Marvel Universe.

(This is my first book of the year for the 2016 Graphic Novels and Manga Challenge.)


Loni said...

This sounds fantastic. I am also becoming a fan of Hell's Kitchen stories.
I have mixed feelings about the Jessica Jones intro, but I agree that it's not as good as Daredevil.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

If the cover image you show is any indication of the art within the book, it's gorgeous!

John Mutford said...

Loni: I think the music is fitting-- sort of a noir feel. And the purples fit as well. But the red dripping over everything in Daredevil is way more mesmerizing.

Barbara: The cover is indicative of Alex Maleev's work in the book-- which as I said above, is great. But nothing like the spectacularity of Mack's work.

Loni said...

That's very true.

I'm so excited for the new Daredevil season too.