Pipeline: Why "Mark Waid's 'Daredevil'"?

Tue, June 19th, 2012 at 2:58pm PDT

Comic Books
Augie De Blieck Jr., Columnist

WHY "MARK WAID'S DAREDEVIL"?

One of the criticisms of comic reviewers I see the most is that they're too story-oriented. Too many comic reviews talk only about the writing and then pay lip service to the art. The colorist and letterer are ignored. Judgments are then drawn about the reviewers, usually to the effect that they have no artistic vocabulary, that they're blind, that they're wannabe comic book writers, or that they're so blinded by writing as writers, themselves, that they don't see the forest for the trees.

When I started writing my review of "Mark Waid's 'Daredevil' run" this week, I thought of those criticisms. Was I just as guilty of it because I'm referring to the book as being the writer's? Was I ignoring what Paolo Rivera and Marcos Martin were contributing to the book because I'm blinded?

No, not at all. The big problem here is that the art team rotates so often and that the series has so many volumes and so many memorable runs on it already, that the only way to uniquely refer to this series is by the one core creator on it. Mark Waid is writing all the issues. Rivera, Martin, Chris Samnee, Mike Allred, Kano, Khoi Pham, and Marco Checchetto are all the artists contributing to the first 13 issues. Would you want to read a review of "The Waid/Rivera/Martin/Samnee/Allred/Pham/Checchetto 'Daredevil' Run"? I'd have to create a keyboard shortcut to spit that out every time I wanted to type it.

I've only read the first hardcover collection, so it's just the "Waid/Rivera/Martin 'Daredevil' run" to me right now. Maybe that's more digestible, but it still gets unwieldy.

What I'm getting at here is that sometimes the reason a reviewer might seem to ignore the art on a larger run of comics in these modern times is because artists rotate on books faster than the tub on a front-loading washer. Pity.

Putting aside the meta part of the discussion, I loved the hardcover collection of the first six issues. I also just noticed the official title is "Daredevil by Mark Waid" and I laughed out loud. OK, so we can really blame Marvel now...

The odd thing that impressed me most about the book was the font selection on the dustjacket. It's not the usual Marvel typeface choice. It's a thin san serif font. I believe it's Century Gothic, judging by the distinct question mark glyph. If that's the case, let's all start the rumor that Ike Perlmutter demanded the font's usage because it uses up to 30% less ink!

In any case, I like the open feel to the block of text on the back cover from that selection, though for some reason it bothers me a bit on the inside flaps. It looks too large there, I think, and a little tattered with the italicized titles strewn throughout.

As to the content of the book: Everyone who's praised this title before me is right. It lives up to the expectations set by popular and critical acclaim. Waid does what he has to do to transition the series back from the grim and gritty towards a slightly lighter character piece that plays well in the Marvel Universe. He brings a touch of Silver Age to a very modern book, emphasizing Daredevil's two strongest characteristics along the way: Matt Murdock's blindness and law degree. Focusing on those two facets leads to some interesting and dramatic stories without needing to drag Murdock down into hell. Waid puts Murdock/Daredevil back into some interesting corners and always finds a clever way out. Yes, there is plenty of fighting, but it's all done in service to a larger idea. It's brilliant, classical superhero storytelling.

The art reflects that shift, too. It's nice to see pages full of color instead of black ink now.

Rivera and Martin's work blends seamlessly together. Their takes on visualizing Daredevil's superpowers work very nicely, from the inverted lines to the squared off items whose smells or sounds tickle his senses. Both artists have the ability to take a commonplace scene and transform it into something unique to the world of comics with their page layouts. Rivera led the way with a walk into the subway or across a busy city street, but Martin kept up the pace with closeup panels that create a staccato rhythm to an otherwise simple scene.

Joe Caramagna's lettering shines in the book, too, with some wide open sound effects that help to sell the senses that Daredevil is feeling at any time.

The colors from Javier Rodriguez and Muntsa Vicente complement the art. They don't fight for attention. They let the open linework shine, using minimal special effects and good solid color theory to keep the pages inviting to the eye without being boring. There's no need to "sculpt" this kind of art, and they both know it.

This is a series that isn't trying to look like a movie. It's trying to look like a very strong comic book, and that works. The coloring is a large part of that story.

So, yes, "Daredevil By Mark Waid" Volume 1 is highly recommended from me, too. The hardcover carries a price tag of $19.99, which is on the low end of Marvel's spectrum these days. Given Marvel's publishing patterns lately, you can choose to go with these slim hardcovers or wait a couple of years for an Omnibus edition. I choose not to wait. This stuff is too good.

PLANETOIDS #1

"Planetoids" #1 (Image Comics) by Ken Garing is a science fiction comic about a lone guy whose spaceship crashes into a planet made of mechanical parts. The fun of this issue is in exploring the new world and discovering new things. Garing's artwork is suitably dark and grungy, detailed and mechanical. He draws large vistas as well as tight close-ups of mechanical muck beings. It's the kind of comic that draws you into its world. It's something I've been wanting to see more of in comics. While I'd prefer a flat out space opera type comic with battling spaceships (there's a little of that here, too), this comes fairly close. It has the cool factor as well as the absorbing art factor.

The only blemish on the visuals in this book is that the lettering looks a couple of sizes too big, which is further magnified by word balloons that leave too much white space between the words and the balloon outlines. That's a side effect of the book's digital origins. This was originally a digital comic over at Graphic.ly. Digital comics use larger fonts to be more easily read on most computer screens these days. I wonder how much that will change in a couple of years when higher resolution screens (read: Retina Displays) are more common.

The story is thrown at you in the final half dozen pages, once the lead character meets a local and the exposition begins in earnest. It's not exactly subtle storytelling or completely original or well-paced, but if it exists to give us a new excuse for another 25-30 pages of cool Man Versus Planet storytelling, then I'm all for it.

These 32 pages of story are available today for $2.99 at your local comic shop, published by the fine folks at Image.

ALL THE LINKS THAT ARE FIT TO DIGITALLY PRINT

  • Cameras, Comics, and a Monkey Man: Ken Knudsten, world famous for "My Monkey's Name is Jennifer," recently posted some storyboards he did for Nikon to help explain their DSLRs. Even as a Canon guy, myself, I liked looking at these.

  • Movies and the Comics that License Out to Them: Nat Gertler worked up the list of comic book-based movies, and who the properties' owners are. You'll notice a big divide around 1982 in the list. Fascinating. There's a ton of nit-picking in the comments -- some of which is valid -- but for an overall look at such things, Gertler's list is worthy of conversation.

  • Obligatory Lettering Mention: I'm a lettering geek, so I have to link to this video of a recent lettering portfolio. Pablo Delkan is not a comic book letterer, but his work is inspiring. It's a one minute video, with Delkan drawing his samples on a chalkboard. It's amazing to watch him work.

  • Dear Public Relations People: If your licensed book includes Spider-Man's name in the title, please include the hyphen. It looks very bad for you and your client when you can't spell the book's title right with an error straight out of Comic Book 101. I'll save them the embarrassment of the link here.

  • The Original Art Find of the Week: Check out this page from "Amazing Spider-Man" #325. It's a classic McFarlane Spider-Man page, but the most interesting thing about it is how it clears up an awkward piece of art that's always stuck out in my mind. Check out Spider-Man's hand in the final panel, and then compare it to the final image in the printed comic. It's been changed for publication. That hand, as seen in the comic, never looked right to me. It's horrible. Is that supposed to be a forearm above the hand that's jutting out? The hand has none of McFarlane's inking characteristics. No doubt it was redrawn by someone in the bullpen, probably one of Romita's Raiders.

    Why make the change? I'm guessing it's the way the action moves from right to left and the Spider Sensor crosses back across the gutter between panels. It's counter-intuitive and disruptive. I don't mind it so much and have seen much worse examples of right-to-left storytelling making it to print, but I'd understand if that was the reason for the change.

  • Original Art Find of the Week Part 2: Sean Kleefeld recently picked up on some drawing tips by looking at a high-res scan of Todd McFarlane's "Spider-Man" #1 cover. I had never seen an artist use this trick to draw Spider-Man's webbing before, either. Good catch, Sean!

  • Slightly Off-Topic, But I'll Bring It Back: Movie posters have shifted blue. (They've also shifted to Trajan Pro, but that's a tougher infographic to chart.) It would be interesting to see if comic book covers have undergone a similar trend, too.
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TAGS:  pipeline, marvel comics, mark waid, daredevil, image comics, planetoid, todd mcfarlane, spider-man

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