Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Chronic Review: Daredevil # 507!

Daredevil # 507
Marvel Comics

Script: Andy Diggle & Antony Johnston
Pencils: Marco Checchetto
22 pages for $2.99

The first comic I ever purchased was Uncanny X-Men # 163, but the first character I really fell for was Daredevil, beginning with issue # 198. What's funny is that I started with Denny O'Neill, not Frank Miller.

I had no clue that Frank existed until I hit Daredevil # 227, and that was like swallowing a Morpheus red pill. A whole new world. So then I backtracked and got hold of Miller's first run on Daredevil and the lights went on. "Ohhhhhh, so THIS is what I was sensing behind the page!"

Listen, Denny O'Neill has serious chops and his run has nothing to be ashamed of. But the juice was laid down by Frank Miller before he showed up. What I was enjoying at first was a good steward, and now here was the architect. But I digest.

I have always loved Daredevil, and I can't articulate rationally why that character is so special to me above all others. I always seem to find my way back "home" again. Hence Daredevil # 507.

What's extra weird is that for no reason I can discern, I've been interested in returning to the old D.G. Chichester run. You remember "Fall From Grace" with Scott McDaniel art, where he started wearing that armor? Diggle is returning to that piece of the canon, although I don't expect the suit to come back. It's just a weird piece of synchronicity that just as I randomly started considering Daredevil again, and randomly got interested in Fall From Grace, those things should dovetail.

So does it pay off? Well, it's hard to say. The difficulty for me is that I'm jumping aboard at the end of a very complex cycle, and that's just never a good idea. I've got the basic gist of what's going on. Matt Murdock is now the leader of The Hand, which he took over as a "devil you know" tactic to defend Hell's Kitchen from Norman Osborn.

He's in pretty tight with White Tiger, but she's a double agent. She doesn't appear to have any real animosity toward Matt, but she really doesn't seem to have his best interests at heart, either. While Matt is recognized as the boss to his face, it's pretty obvious that he's got major problems of a Machiavellian nature to contend with there.

As for the exact plot twists and ramifications of individual actions, I must admit that I am a bit lost. Again, jumping in at the end, this is more my fault than Andy Diggle's fault. While I was mainly pleased with the tone and direction of the writing, it is Marco Checchetto who really stole the show for me.

What's extra weird is that I got to that opening fight sequence and thought to myself; "WOW. Where have they been hiding this kid?" So the instant I finished the issue I went to research some of his previous work, and then remembered being wowed by his depiction of Invisible Woman in Spider-Man's "American Son" arc. I just have a really poor memory. I will remember Mr. Checchetto forever more, though, I can promise you that.

These pencils are gorgeous. The mood, the snow, the kinetic action, the choices he makes with perspective, it's all so....GORGEOUS. I have always turned my nose up at people who say things like "I don't care who's writing that book, as long as "X" is drawing that character, I'm on board!" I now understand that sentiment.

The good news is that Andy Diggle and Antony Johnston are doing solid work here, near as I can tell. The stakes are high, there is legitimate tension in the book. I found myself worrying about Matt getting in too deep, getting too confident in his position when there are so many snakes lying about. There was more ninja fighting in this issue than I'm ordinarily comfortable with, but again - the Checchetto factor made that most welcome.

Shadowland is a workable concept, it seems to be part of a master plan that Daredevil is being manipulated into, and the mystery is tantalizing enough to tempt me into the mini-series. I think that Diggle could make that pay off.

I'm a teeny bit concerned because the writing craft is not measuring up exactly. The concept is fine, and the execution is serviceable, but not....special. Let me give you an example of a little scene that just felt flat to me.

Daredevil stumbles upon a little cadre of dead ninjas that White Tiger dispatched to make it look like they all committed suicide. And he appears to buy it. The first thing I wondered is whether the dude that Bendis was writing in say..."Decalogue" could be duped by such a thing. But fine. The story sort of demands that he get led around right now, and maybe he's playing possum?

But it feels a little weak. And then he asks his highest underlings if they respect him, which seemed too blunt a question, but fine. And here are their responses:

Now, there's nothing wrong with any of that. But those replies are flat, derivative, kinda boring. There's nothing especially flavorful, cultural, fresh in there. You can bet your ass Gail Simone wouldn't have wasted that opportunity to throw in something unexpected, dripping with subtext, and probably cutting in its deference. That's just...flat.

So, to recap. Diggle and Johnston have a really nice setup. It's rich, complex, very workable. Marco Checchetto is displaying the full awesometude of his excellenticity. If Diggle can throw that kind of zest into characterization and dialogue, this might actually be worth the goddamned $3.99 I know they're going to charge for the Shadowland issues.

- Ryan


Irish Mike said...

I know you don't much care for JR JR (and over the past couple years, I tend to agree), but for my money, his run with Ann Nocenti on DD is AMAZING.

Chronic Insomnia said...

The more stylized and "chunky" JR JR gets, the less I like it. That's my own completely arbitrary prejudice, I'll admit to that.

Yeah, the old Typhoid Mary's not bad, but still not my cup of Twinning Irish Breakfast Tea. I'll take this Checchetto kid every time!