Sunday, January 6, 2013

Best Comics of 2012, No. 9: Daredevil by Mark Waid

As much great work as they've produced over the decades, I've not been a huge Marvel fan for the last couple decades.
A couple recent titles have bought me around a bit on this.
The first of these is Mark Waid's current run on Daredevil.

Everybody knows Daredevil by now: blinded by a radioactive isotope while saving a blind man about to be hit by a truck, young Matt Murdock assumes the mantle of Derdevil to avenge the death of his boxer father at the hands of The Fixer.
Sort of Batman meets Kid Galahad with a dollop of Shakespearean tragedy,  later supplemented by Miller with noir and manga pastiches.
I've been a fan of Old Hornhead since the early issues. I recall reading the Wally Wood stories, and the Romita and Colan followups, when they first came out.
I stuck with the character. I was captivated by the Miller run and some of the followups, but lost interest.
I returned sporadically. The Marvel Knights runs by Joe Qeusada and David Mack were particularly successful, and the Bendis/Alex Maleev run was spellbinding, if derivative of Bendis' noir themed independent comics.
Heck, I even liked it when DD was interviewed for Rolling Stone in no. 100.
So I know my Daredevil.
But I've not read it for a few years.
I think creators got carried away with the maudlin/tragic aspects of the character. While these were always present, there was more of a soap opera aspect to them in the 60s and 70s. I blame and credit Frank Miller for bringing out Matt's Catholicism as a focus of the character.
At any rate, I'd walked away and didn't pay attention when Waid began writing Daredevil in July 2011.
More fool me. I should have known better.
I love Waid's Astro City, and his "Unthinkable" storyline in Fantastic Four is some of the best superhero stuff ever. I'd like to see him revitalize his Potter's Field, but I'm pretty sure he's done with it.
In the current Daredevil run, Waid and artists Chris Samnee and Marc Checetto successfully meld recent events in the Marvel Universe with the tone of the original stories, without being condescending or overly impressed by their own cleverness. There's no wry "this is a comic" wink to the reader here, only well-crafted adventure.
The stories incoproate contemporary versions of staple characters, including Dr. Doom, Spidey, the Punisher- heck, the whole crowd, pretty much. The central storyline involves a flash drive made of unstable molecules from a stolen shred of a Fantastic Four uniform. This drive contains information that could take down any or all of the most powerful criminal organizations in the world, collectively called Megacrime.
Daredevil has it and everyone wants it.
The art is highly reminiscent of the Wood/Layton run, from issues 5  to 11, still one of the highlights of the character's run, especially issue 7, the battle with Namor.
I see that quality in the current Daredevil run.
No Earth shattering, cataclysmic "the Marvel Universe will never be the same!" bombast here. Just a solid, intelligent adventure.
I read a review of Star Trek: Insurrection in Fantasy & Science Fiction magazine. It warmly talked of the film as a clever chance to spend a couple hours with old friends.
That's kind of the way I feel about the current Daredevil run. Since I'm reading it in trades, I'm a bit behind the floppies storyline. I've read through Book 3, which culminates with issue 15. The current issue is no. 22.
But I don't expect the issues I've yet to read will disappoint.
Tomorrow: No. 8 in the Best Comics of 2012, a book which will never leave its house.