Sunday, October 4, 2009

Cover Review: Daredevil #36

I'm a huge fan of the Daredevil character. No secret there. The above issue is #36 in his original Marvel series. As you can see, twelve cents was it all it took for about twenty minutes of entertainment. My how times have changed.

This is a mediocre Daredevil cover, and this series had plenty of those. Gene Colan, an artist I've never really liked because he makes everyone look a little deformed, did the pencils and Paul Reinman went crazy on the inks. The result is a cover that could've been really good, but instead looks unkempt.

The use of the single light to spotlight the unconscious Daredevil is a great touch. Looking at the man's face who is holding him, however, gives the reader the sense this guy just came across our hero. He doesn't look like the type who could take down the Man Without Fear. In fact, he looks a little mentally disabled. If that was supposed to give readers a sense of danger, it didn't work. If it was to get us to question what was going on -- mission accomplished.

"The name of the game is ... MAYHEM!" reads the cover blurb. Is mayhem what is going on, or is it the name of the man who is holding Daredevil's limp body? Good questions again, and one can only hope the former is true because this guy looks to be light years away from Mayhem. Maybe it's that goofy outfit which makes him look like he should be a figure on a futuristic playing card from Bicycle. ("I got the Joker, and he's wild!") It leads to questions, and since I think Daredevil readers tend to demand a little more from their comic book stories, this is a good thing.

With all respect to Colan, too, this is one of his more reserved works. Nobody's collar is flying out of control, no coats are whipping around, lips aren't distorted, no hair is askew. Daredevil's limp, outstretched hand seems to be pleading for our help, too, which is a great ploy on Colan's behalf. It gives the reader a stake in the outcome of the tale. Regular readers can't help put to pick it up. First time readers may just be curious enough to see what is going on. It will not, however, attract a reader who has never had a desire to read the title before.

This isn't the worst Daredevil cover ever done. Nor is it the best. It kind of matches what often happens with this title. When it's good, it's really good. Otherwise, it just tends to sit there until a capable writer (like Frank Miller, Brian Michael Bendis or Ed Brubaker) comes along.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Woe is Me

I recently finished Essential Silver Surfer Vol. 1, which a co-worker gave me, and I can't say I'm impressed. First some thoughts on the Essentials line.

The idea behind the Essentials books is a good one. They are the size of phone books and reprint a whole lot of issues (which would usually cost a small fortune to get individually) for around $16.99. A great price for that big of a book. The only problem is that they are in black and white. I have no problem with black and white comics, but I do have a problem with reprinting comics in black and white that were originally meant to be in color. It loses something. It's like making a color movie black and white or even colorizing a black and white film.

That rant is over.

The Silver Surfer is not a character I ever really cared about. He was fine guest-starring in stories, and that '90s Ron Lim series wasn't too terrible, but overall he's always been a whiner. Shedding a tear (literally) over his lost love and the cruelty of humanity. I always looked at him as what Marvel considered to be its Jesus figure (when in reality that is my favorite hero, Daredevil). The Surfer was a mass of twisted, poorly handled contradictions (he won't steal from Reed Richards, but has no problem stealing from a bank in the same issue) when his first solo series first started, and to solidify that Jesus angle, a recurring villain was none other than Mephisto.

I've kind of like Mephisto in the Marvel Universe. Face it, he just looks cool. And his mission when it comes to Surfer is to get him to give up his soul. Pretty straightforward. Could make for engaging reading with another hero and a better writer's hands. (Oddly enough, later in the Surfer series they both end up donning the same disguise to blend in with humans: trench coat and hat.) In these first 18 issues (and on Fantastic Four annual) the red one (though you wouldn't be able to discern that from the Essentials book) makes several appearances, none of which are truly memorable (though him getting Surfer to attack SHIELD was pretty cool).

Surfer is such a whiner, however, that I kept wishing every villain he went up against, whether it be Yetis or the U.S. Army, would tear him in half. His constant sorrow is not only depressing, but it actually serves as a reminder that while pathos can work well for some, on Surfer it is about as appealing as it was with Kurt Cobain. One just wishes Surfer would have checked out the same way.

In these first 18 issues, humanity is shown as the beast it is. I agree with Stan Lee's depiction. What I don't agree with is how humans treat Surfer, and how Surfer reacts to that. Humanity wouldn't hate Surfer because he was different or misunderstood. It would hate him because here he is, essentially a god, and all he can do is lament. He has the Cosmic Power, which enables him to heal the sick and wounded (except when it really counts), and all he can do is think about how he wishes humans would understand him. I get the fact that he is trapped far away from the woman he loves, but he seems incapable of moving beyond that. Why even venture to Earth then? Especially after the first time humans attack him? Why not just stay in space? I know it's because the writers need to write stories, but it makes the Surfer come across as a pathetic idiot who doesn't learn from his mistakes. I would attack him, too, especially when he refused to reduce the attackers to steaming puddles of bubbling flesh.

Before reading these stories I didn't understand the Surfer's appeal. After reading them, however, I think I got it. Surfer appeals to armchair intellectuals who thought they were deep in the 1960s because they smoked pot, read some philosophy and still were into pop culture enough to read highbrow comics like Silver Surfer. They thought they were special because they could somehow misinterpret the Kronstadt rebellion and find imaginary parallels to the Surfer's plight on planet Earth. They'd drop acid and then proclaim that real revolutionaries read of the Surfer's exploits and "the Man" and his apologists stuck to capitalist drivel like Detective Comics. Every adult over 40 I've ever met who likes the Surfer has kind of fallen into that category, and they haven't changed. "Surfer is deep, man. He, like, points out all our problems and shows us what is wrong with the world ... and he surfs ... the sky!"

Silver Surfer is a baby with a bazooka. He knows not what he can do. Thank God I was only given the first volume.