Thursday, 27 May 2010

Comics: Daredevil: The Man Without Fear - and the cat burglar with her eyes on the prize

Today I want to mention some great graphic novels I’ve read, such as the first massive Daredevil Omnibus by Alex Maleev and Brian Michael Bendis. (If I know you and you want to borrow this, just ask - you won’t be disappointed.)

The first story in the volume, Wake Up, has to have some of the best, most emotional and expressionist comic art I have ever seen, and is very well suited to this interesting mystery about just what a child has witnessed Daredevil doing. It shows up the moral grey areas in Daredevil’s violent war on crime. As for the rest: Bendis takes the well-known rivalry between our vigilante hero and Kingpin to an interesting place, when an ambitious young gangster starts on the scene and orders a hit on both of them, in a classic moment of betrayal. Watching Kingpin being cut down in such an underhanded way is like the people turning on their “Caesar” of crime. Where will it lead?

Daredevil lurches from one crisis to another and his reaction to his law partner Foggy when things start to throw their futures into uncertainty is very memorable. What an excellent piece of character-driven crime fiction this is! Towards the end, when Daredevil faces the new Yakuza, it seems to become more than a book should be, movie-like, yet different to a neatly-tied-up movie, perhaps like a carefully plotted TV series - always building on what has been set up and surprising you by revealing has been going on in the hero’s personal life. There is a further volume by this creative team, so I look forward to getting hold of that one in the future.

And now for something stylistically very different to the realism of Daredevil: Selina’s Big Score – This is a great heist story, following all the traditions of that genre, keeping us guessing about whether the criminals will make it out alive. The idea is for Selina Kyle (having a break from being famous burglar Catwoman) has to make some money quickly – and masterminds a plot to steal from Gotham’s gangsters from a train heading in from out of town. Darwyn Cooke, who worked on both the story and the art, shows he can use multiple character narratives well to grab our attention, to show the character’s conflicting desires, and to raise the stakes – they all need this job to come though – and the tension ratchets up towards the finale.

Cooke’s art is at his best here, infusing everything with his unique mood and style – I love it! The story is collected with some of his other comics work in a collection called Batman: Ego and Other Tails – but while Batman: Ego is a fairly interesting look at Bruce Wayne’s war on crime, Selina’s Big Score is better told and paced, and full of energy. So forget Ocean’s Eleven/Twelve/Thirteen and go for something a little more dangerous, but just as colourful and fun.

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