Saturday, 25 June 2011

Mezolith Trailer

I reviewed Mezolith a while ago and found this trailer through a Twitter post earlier this week and it’s brilliant, it perfectly captures the look and feel of the book. If you haven’t checked out Mezolith yet I can heartily recommend it, here’s the trailer

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Review – Daredevil The Man Without Fear! The Devil Inside and Out Volume 1

Written by Ed Brubaker
Art by Michael Lark and Stefano Gaudiano
Colour by Frank D’Armata
Published by Marvel

For the past few years, Matt Murdock’s life has been teetering on the edge of destruction. Now, pushed beyond the limit, Matt finds himself behind the eight ball with no clear way out, the people he calls friends slowly deserting him, and Hell’s Kitchen gradually slipping out of control. The question is just how far will Daredevil go to get back what is his?

My Daredevil knowledge to date is limited and consists of the following
I have watched the movie (both the theatrical release and the Directors cut)
I have read Frank Miller’s The Man without Fear.
I own a copy of Daredevil #184 purely for the cover – it’s bloody awesome and is present here in all its gloriousness

And that’s it.
So I approached Brubaker and Lark’s The Devil Inside and Out with slight amount of trepidation, to be honest it’s been in my reading pile for a while, filed under ‘impenetrable’ But what a fool I’ve been, forget any of my worries about continuity or not being able to follow the story – it honesty doesn’t matter, when a comic is written and executed this well, it should be able to and it does, stand up on it’s own merits.
For me I think of Daredevil as one of Marvels prestige titles only entrusted to the best of the best and so in 2006 the writing baton was handed over  to a certain Mr Ed Brubaker, Bendis’s run had finished with Matt Murdock incarcerated on Ryker’s Island held on suspicion of being The Man Without Fear, Daredevil.
So how the hell do you get out of that?
Easy (says me), you craft a story that will push Matt Murdock to the very edge of his sanity, you lock him away in the same jail as his most hated enemies then kill the one person in his life who has stuck with him through thick and thin, and then finally when he can’t get any lower you make him evaluate and question his very existence as Daredevil.
So in other words you take him and kick him in the balls repeatedly till he begs for mercy and then you kick him some more just for the hell of it.
Brubaker writes like a man possessed and his story is a lesson on how to write about the brutality and the depravity of the human soul. You know the situation is bad when the Punisher gets involved to add a little sanity and level headedness to proceedings – yes things really do get that bad.
There are a few lines at the beginning that perfectly sum up the book and have stuck with me after I finished reading
‘They think they know who I am….
But they don’t.
Daredevil has always been me held in check.
They’ve never met the real Matt Murdock’
This all said whilst talking to his dead father and using his cell wall as punch bag – grim doesn’t even begin to cover it.
The artwork by Michael Lark is also pretty spectacular, at first I wasn’t really sure if I was going to like it or not. But as you progress further into the book the art dovetails with the writing perfectly and it captures the feel and claustrophobic ness of Ryker’s Island perfectly and all but drips off the page, stunning.
Also while I’m gushing I thought I’d mention Lark and D’Armata’s Hell’s Kitchen which they somehow manage to turn into a living and breathing character. There is a sequence of panels in the fist issue of the collection when Foggy is out looking for the fake Daredevil (nice reveal at the end of the book by the way). His search takes him to the roof tops of Hell’s Kitchen, it’s dark, it’s grimy, it’s raining and it’s absolutely beautiful to look at. Time and time again my eyes were drawn to backgrounds to the details of the buildings, architecture and the lighting. Who knew that a water tower could look so good! 
Final thoughts
So if you hadn’t guessed I loved this book all I want to do now is skip over to Amazon and order the rest of Brubaker’s run and devour it all and I’ve still not read any of the Bendis Daredevil run, oh life is good.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Review – Batman: Under the Hood Volumes 1 and 2

Written by Judd Winick
Pencilled by Doug Mahnke (Vol 1 & 2), Paul Lee (Vol 1), Shane Davies (Vol 2), Eric Battle (Vol 2)
Inked by Tom Nguyen (Vol 1 & 2), Cam Smith (Vol 1), Rodney Ramos (Vol 2), Wayne Faucher (Vol 2), Lary Stucker (Vol 2),  Marl Morales (Vol 2)
Coloured by Alex Sinclair
Published by Titan Books

Who is the Red Hood?
While battling new criminal chieftains raiding his city, Batman in confronted with a face from the past – or rather, a hidden face from the past. Welcome the return of the Red Hood!

The Black Mask is now in control of the Gotham City underworld. But as he tightens his grip on the city there is a new player in town, The Red Hood who systematically embarks on a tour on intervention and disruption much to the chargrin of the Black Mask.  Also thrown into the mix you get Gotham’s own Dark Knight Batman, an array of familiar old foes, a host of shocking revelations and finally the gut wrenching truth, the identity of Gotham’s newest vigilante.  
Ok so my catch up with Batman continuity (not in any order mind) continues and I’m onto  Under the Hood by Judd Winick and Tom Nguyen (as well as everybody else in the DC company going by the credits) the controversial story line published by DC in 2005. Of course being back on the Geek train meant that I all ready knew who was under the eponymous hood but I can honestly say that it didn’t diminish my enjoyment of these two volumes.
After reading bits on the internet it seems that the story garnered a fair bit of controversy when it was first published as it notably brought back to life a supporting character who had been killed off in 1988 and re-imagined him as the blood thirsty vigilante Red Hood, who was not afraid to cross the line and actually take out the criminals of Gotham City, making him the ying to Batman’s yang. Of course if you don’t know already SPOILERS the Red Hood is in fact the second Robin Jason Todd.
But how can that be? wasn’t Jason Todd was violently beaten to death with a crowbar by the Joker back in 1988’s A Death in the Family – I hear you cry. Well Winick takes the idea from Jeph Loeb’s Hush that Jason is fact alive and totally runs with the ball. Which, except for the actual explanation of his resurrection is no bad thing.
There a lot going on in this story and in some parts is extremely continuity heavy but with a little help from Wikipidea I was able to get by, however there are still some parts that are just beyond my understanding for example the whole Super Boy Prime thing just makes my head hurt.
On a side note perhaps this story is a good example of the problems with the big two’s years of continuity, yes there is a massive history with all of the DC and Marvel characters but with the current trend of slavish devotion to continuity, comics have become more than a little off putting to the ordinary Joe on the street. With a little research and determination you can do some research and get a fair handle on the history/story of these characters but are the comics companies expecting too much of non comic book fans? Which surely must be one of the reasons why the comics market is in it’s current state of decline. If only one of the companies would take the bold decision of rebooting all their current titles with new #1’s in the hope of reigniting interest in comics – oh hang on.
Any way back on topic, I really enjoyed these two volumes the final three way confrontation between Batman, Jason Todd and the Joker is a classic and is extremely powerful. In particular Jason Todd’s incomprehension that Batman has never avenged his death at the hands of the Joker is brilliantly written by Winick and Todd surprisingly becomes a sympathetic character as he becomes just another casualty of the eternal war between good and evil and the Batman and Joker, classy stuff.
The art work by Doug Mahnke and the rest of the DC gang is great through out and the colouring by Alex Sinclair is fantastic. Also included in these two collections are the covers, the first volume are all by Matt Wagner which have a very pulpy noir feel to them and then as a seemingly complete opposite to Wagner the covers in the second volume are by Jock which seem ultra modern in comparison. However the standout cover for me is the one from the second printing for the Batman Annual #25 by Shane Davis which is extraordinary.

Final thoughts
Despite the issues I had with the continuity this is a great Batman story and I suspect it must have been pretty special back in the day when the identity of the Red Hood was revealed. My only problem with these collections is the shoddy binding for volume two, the back is all warped and the spine hadn’t been glued properly resulting in all the pages falling out during it’s first read through – very annoying.