Saturday, June 30, 2007

mean green machine

this summer's big top event, World War Hulk, comes to Westchester!

the Hulk wants an audience with Professior Xavier, who was interestingly absent, when they sent Hulk to outer space. as is with costumed super types, there has to be some fighting first.

after the New X-Men's asses get handed to them, the senior team comes to the rescue. we're tired of waiting for the resumption of the Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk series, that we're glad we are treated to this:

too bad, because that's as far as it goes, and Prof. X shows up for his appointment. if he arrived a few minutes earlier, there'd be less broken bones and hurt feelings.

now the big question is ...

remember when you used to slap your bald friend upside the head? who wants to put down bets on which state while Chuck end up? Florida? Louisiana? Illinois? Arkansas? Texas, do i hear Texas?

World War Hulk: X-Men #1
Christos N. Gage/Andrea DiVito

deal with the Devil

continuing with the DDv2 romp.

with a shake-up occurring at the highest levels of the NY mob, the Kingpin is taken out (almost), the perpetrators ditto (for real), and Matt is about to be blindsided when his secret ID falls into the hands of those competent protectors of our domestic freedoms, the Federal Bureau of Investigation ...

v2, #32-37
Brian Michael Bendis/Alex Maleev

picture an FBI interrogation room. picture yourself as a citizen being investigated by FBI agents. still being investigated, mind you; they don't have anything on you yet. would you feel confident at all if they were making fun of you, knowing that its your word against theirs, and they could label you a terrorist or make you disappear for life?

now, you'd better be really innocent, because it would be worse if you were really guilty. so, there's a neat moral lesson from Brian, kids: if you can't do the time, then don't do the crime. take it from Sammy Silke. (formerly of the Chicago Ripa family, whose other prominent members include this one and this one).

Sammy, from the events of the "Underboss" storyline, has barely managed to survive the vengeance of Vanessa Fisk, whose husband, Wilson (affectionately known around these parts as "WTF"), was just whacked by Sammy and his boys. with nowhere to turn, Sammy runs to the nearest FBI office like a girl and starts crying. but of course those very honorable and competent FBI agents don't believe him at first, until Sammy is forced to drop the DD bombshell.

"but i also killed JFK!"

just like "Underboss", Bendis takes different POVs to tell the story, and i don't mind that he lingers here and there. i find the whole FBI reaction to the investigation quite fascinating. you just hold your breath for what it all means for Matt.

"that narrows down our suspects to Paris, Britney, Lindsay or the Olsen twins."

wait ... "dead as pop music"? what was this guy listening to in 2002? oh yeah, he didn't know then that Steve Jobs was going to port the iPod for Windows as well. he probably still has a Sony Walkman cassette tape player.

this scene i find a bit amusing ... its like asking a 5-year old to identify an object.

"with the exception of the horns, they look quite the same, don't they?"

which compels his boss to doodle and do his best Alex Maleev impression. i could draw that same shit, if i exert myself. the agents' jaws drop in awe of their boss' artistic skillz.

wait ... isn't that the kid in Problem Child?

hold up ... here it is ... the shot of foreshadowing.

those words never work.

you know what happens next. FBI agent has supposedly domestic problems, wants to cash in on the info, and so sells it to the Daily Globe (which is more like the Daily News, so the Daily Bugle is the New York Post). by sunrise, the reporters are camped in front of Matt's doorstep.

dude, listen ... they know what brand of underwear you're wearing.

as much as we enjoy seeing (pun intended) Daredevil use his senses cleverly to beat up people, it is as much a treat seeing him being put in situations that he's not used to.

speaking of joy, the most entertaining sequence for me, is the 10-page Daily Bugle scene in issue #34. i can easily picture J.K. Simmons chewing the scenery, the curtains, the chairs, everything in sight. you can easily feel Ben Urich's urge to punch Jonah in the nose. even Peter Parker drops by to pour salt on the wound. hilarious.

Matt, ever the idealist, thinks the best way to deal with the situation is to go out and beat up some lowlife. Foggy thinks he's crazy and suggests maybe its a sign to stop putting on the tights. and maybe put in some Brokeback Mountain moves. ok, ok, just kidding!

"i wish I knew how to quit you! "

Matt, in fact, defies Foggy and common sense and goes out there, as if almost taunting the press. then he realizes how stupid he is and backtracks just in time. just in time to stop another robbery (and possible homicide) - really, do these things still happen in Hell's Kitchen? (the area, not the TV show) - and just in time for some joe wiseguy to pull this stunt:

i think that guy was Joe Quesada. really.

before the wiseguy is beaten to a pulp (i'm sure that's what Matt was thinking!), another distraction happens ... a huge 400 lb. distraction. and Bendis is unable to resist poking fun at the medium he's working in.

Mister Hyde, a popular DD ass-kickee, is knocking down Matt's apartment, after almost choking on his chili dog while reading the Daily Globe. his violent tendencies may have something to do with the fact that he was born in Trenton, NJ. anyway, Spiderman drops by to entertain Hyde, before DD arrives to deal some serious pimp-slapping.

is it World War Hulk yet?

during a lull in the action, we find out Daredevil's real secret identity ... its Matthew Manischevitz! that is some serious shit!!! call the Daily Bugle!!! call 911!!! call somebody!!!

there's a break here, where Bendis disassembles the Avengers, gets DD to help out during the Raft breakout, Bendis forms the New Avengers (actually Cap and Iron Man did, but heh), and generally making him unavailable for public viewing. when he comes back, he tells Ben Urich he can't be working with him anymore, because he's about to embark on a long-term solution to his current problem.

and the answer is ... (which Bendis made us wait another 30 days for) ...

that's it??

ok, he slams the Daily Globe (and along with its publisher Rosenthal) with a $400 million dollar lawsuit, and let the chips fall where they may. aside from that, he resists putting on the red suit for a while.

which does not sit well with certain ex-girlfriends, especially those who like living in the fast lane.

oh, so that's what they're calling a great ass nowadays? "tornado"?

here's one more reason why the costumed types still have a great life than you or me:

yep, they can easily get their hands on one of the rarest things in the world - a reservation at Nobu. damn, its hard out there to be a pimp.

Matt acquiesces to a dinner with Vanessa Fisk, who gives him valuable information, and tells him she has disbanded her husband's empire and is moving away for good.

the only problem with Maleev's art is sometimes i need a flashlight.

wait, here comes the token (?) Elektra appearance. Natasha, with her S.H.I.E.L.D. clout, finds the Greek assassin and hooks her up with Matt, in hopes that he can shake himself out of his guilt and take to the rooftops again.

it has quite an adverse effect, though, as Matt retrogresses to a teenager with a crush and a hard-on.

kinda reminds me of me.

after being arrogantly informed by Rosenthal's lawyer that they were willing to fight it out in court, Matt takes the affront personally and visits the FBI agent who didn't even have the sense to leave town. schmuck.

"ahhh ... you're not the tooth fairy, are you?"

as Matt expects, the Daily Globe now wants to settle out of court. i love watching tough negotiations - like a staring contest, where whoever blinks first, loses. luckily, Matt has the advantage of already having lost his sight.

they agree on $75M, with apology on lower right-hand corner. Matt presses on with his victory. Foggy is just amazed Rosenthal even caved in.

but wait ... (not so fast).

taking umbrage against Matt's smug and condescending attitude, Rosenthal takes the deal off the table and wants to continue the legal proceedings. he challenges Matt to deal with it, now that the knowledge, or perceived knowledge, of his identity, is out there in the worldwide web. the boards of directors for the National Endowment for the Blind and the Hell's Kitchen Restoration Society just threw themselves off a building.

well done, Matt. you call yourself a lawyer?! putz.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Mack daddy

since this blog has fewer readers than humans on Mars, i am quite honored that some superstars out there trawl the web for references to themselves (i can't fault them, i'd do it myself if i was even sixteenth-famous). well, at least those who care enough what the world is thinking about them. even when the world is thinking nasty thoughts. wait, did i write anything nasty? if so, David Mack (or his "handlers" *lol*) would not link my Daredevil posts to his site. so let's give it up for the Mackster!

i'll see you at the next NYC Comic Con, David (if you're gonna be there). but for now, let me check out the last two threads, starting with "Modestly Endowed Superheroines?" ...

run Devil run

so where were we? okay, Daredevil's career is on the upswing, Matt and Foggy are raking money and still keeping it clean, and the Kingpin's blind. Matt just needs a broad, and everything's peachy.

well, not so fast ...

v2, #26-31
Brian Michael Bendis/Alex Maleev

with that Leap-Frog thing still fresh on the readers' minds, they were unprepared for the sledgehammer blow that Bendis hit them with in the beginning of 2002. "Underboss", a six-part tornado that took Daredevil where it is today, at least in tone, with a huge nod to yesterday (hello, Frank Miller), heralded the arrival of Bendis to the mainstream (at least to casual fans). not to mention enabling him to win two Eisner writing awards (plus Continuing Series honors with Alex Maleev the next year.

did i mention the series opens with the Kingpin being stabbed by his underlings, a-la Julius Caesar on the steps of the forum (you mean he wasn't killed by Asterix?)? i actually have a better reference: the death of Admiral Bill Adama in American Me. well, if that doesn't grab your attention, you're either not a comic fan, or dead. i know, we've seen Wilson Fisk 'die' a million times, and what's another one? but it does merit an "oh, shit!", with the way Bendis does his pacing, interspersed with flashbacks. by the way, there is a secret revealed here ... i won't tell you where ... Fisk's middle name is Theodore. that's why out of earshot, his flunkies derisively refer to him as WTF.


before this happens, Matt is stunned (literally and figuratively) that his public persona has suddenly been targeted by his alter ego's rogues gallery - starting with Nitro, greeting him with a spectacular blast outside the NY courthouses. and it wasn't even a Monday.

Nitro: "today, New York; tomorrow ... Stamford, CN!"

despite his senses getting out of whack, he manages to capture Nitro (as to how he got free and was able to cause Civil War, ranks high among the failures of the justice system - Alberto Gonzales probably pardoned him!). aside from that, Bendis already sows the seeds of the 2006 crossover by showing the POV of two cops dispatched to the scene - particularly one who questions the authority and authenticity of any caped crusader. he may be stupid, but he does make a valid point, one that Tony Stark bases his argument later on.

wait, let me write a few words about the Bulgarian sensation, Alex Maleev. the guy's work epitomizes gritty, i almost thought i felt dirt and grime when i touched the screen (or the page, depending on which side of copyright issue are you on). almost gives me hope that even a scrub like me could be something if i turned in my non-existent portfolio and attended the Joe Kubert School. almost.

Bendis lets Maleev do the talking in issue #28, the infamous "Silent Issue". DD gets a warning from Elektra, gets ambushed by a couple more of his enemies (with full 'fight club' sequences), and barely misses Bullseye hanging around the crowd. all these without one word or thought balloon. take that, Kevin Smith and Chris Claremont.

these events were sent into motion by the arrival of one Sammy Silke, from the Chicago mob. the blinded Kingpin, still running affairs, tolerates his presence but balks when Sammy requests that the NY mob whack an annoying lawyer, one Matthew Murdock, who's been putting heat on some Chicago operations. Fisk, knowing full well DD's secret identity, flat out refuses.

Sammy doesn't get why, until he runs into Kingpin's disenfranchised son, Richard (who used to try to fill his Daddy's shoes but found out he looked ridiculously like a clown, aside from the fact he used to go by loser handles like The Rose and the Schemer). Richard reveals who Murdock really is, which obviously stuns Sammy, not only of the weight of such a revelation, but moreso because the Kingpin seemingly refuses to act on it. goaded by Richard (who's had parental issues obviously), Sammy thinks he can use this to catapult himself to power, Sammy defies Kingpin's order, organizes the made men, and puts out a $500K hit on Murdock (on "behalf of the Kingpin").

Matt wants to know why he is being targeted, so he goes out and breaks heads. one finally confesses, after more than half of the residents of Hell's Kitchen end up in the hospital.

context, Attorney ... context.

DD pays the Kingpin a visit (twice even), but the Kingpin denies any knowledge of the matter. two days later, Sammy makes his coup d'etat. his estranged wife, Vanessa, is informed and flies back to New York. inquiries and arrangements are made, and the barely-alive Kingpin is flown out of the country. but Vanessa stays. say what you want about Fisk's loony wife, she knows which side her toast is buttered on. did i just say that?

Sammy and Richard makes one big mistake - not making sure the Devil is dead, and not factoring in Vanessa. the latter picks up the trail, and even beats Daredevil to the middleman for the Murdock contract. even better, she personally kills her own son, Richard (tell me, doesn't he look like Fredo Corleone when he realizes he's gonna be whacked by his own mom?). Daredevil tracks her down through a combination of patchouli oil and mink (don't ask). scary bitch. i don't know whom i should be scared more of, her or her titanic husband.

the rest of the principals get their just desserts not unlike in the ending of The Godfather, when Michael Corleone brilliantly destroys all his enemies - that's what you call parallel processing, ladies and gentlemen! and what about Sammy? he barely survives the hit, is disavowed by his own Chicago peers, and has no choice but to run to the FBI. like the weasel that he is, to save his own skin, he easily gives up the one thing that started the whole mess:

hey, did anybody notice that Daredevil was slightly better than a spectator during the whole proceedings? when that happens and you never notice and you're still at the edge of your seat anyway, then hats off to Bendis. Brian Bendis It like Beckham. or something.


Thursday, June 28, 2007

wedding crashers

sufferin' succotash!

possible wrap-around cover to JLA #13, written by Dwayne McDuffie and drawn by Joe Benitez, after the departure of (sigh) Brad Meltzer.

so who's gonna be still up and about to fight this new 40-odd strong Injustice League, after all the festivities on the horizon?

yep, Dinah just bagged Ollie. how long that's gonna last, your bet is as good as mine.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

shout at the Devil

continuing my ruminations on the Daredevil v2.0 ...

"Wake Up"
v2, #16-19
Brian Michael Bendis, David Mack, Mark Morales, Pond Scum

this story arc marks the entry of critically-acclaimed and fan favorite writer Brian Michael Bendis into the DD mythos. nimble enough to offer varied fare like crime noir (Jinx/Goldfish) and its superhero equivalent (Powers), as well as straight-up capes (Ultimate Spider-Man), Bendis seemed a perfect fit for a title like DD, whose themes of justice and sanctity of the law coupled with superheroing was right up his alley.

for his debut, Bendis throws everyone for a loop when he makes intrepid Daily Bugle reporter Ben Urich (Joey Pants in the movie) the central character and shows events from his POV. in fact, DD barely even makes an appearance in the first 3 issues, except in one young boy's fantasies. the premise is that the boy, Timmy, has withdrawn into himself after witnessing a confrontation between Daredevil and Timmy's father, the low-rent lameass villain Leap-Frog. something happened there, and with an abusive mother, Timmy just doodles and draws and narrates the story in his mind over and over. his classmates think he has a cool comic collection but finds him weird (aren't they all).

Ben risks being yelled at by notorious blowhard Bugle chief J. Jonah Jameson, because he's supposed to be covering the Kingpin trial (a retroactive story, we see). see, wouldn't it be cool to have supporting characters refer to each other in the movie equivalents?

Jonah: "the X-Men? a menace! if they sue us, give that shyster Murdock a call!"
Robbie: "they already did. and Murdock just turned us down. something about a conflict of interest."
Jonah: "why, that myopic sonofa-!"

David Mack switches chairs and churns out the art this time. we're all familiar with his painted work, and it usually works more often than not. however, those who expected an action-packed storyline (but they shouldn't, if they see the name 'Mack' on the credits) would rather be disappointed. Bendis goes for a layered story, and Mack obliges with his patented painted broadstrokes. look, he even got Leonardo DiCaprio to model as Peter Parker (eat that, Tobey Maguire!).

but then of course, if you see pages like this, you'd really think, 'why would i be paying $2.99 for something my little brother could draw?'. but then you're missing the point.

anyway, it turns out that what really happened was ... Timmy was instrumental in winning the day. and that kind of experience was traumatic.

well, duh! we all could have saved $9 if Bendis just revealed this 3 issues ago! i think he dragged out the story to give his pal Mack a few more bucks (kidding!).

not a bad debut for Bendis, but not a "stop the press" one ... especially for spoiled fans. i personally like his work right after the next story arc.

"Playing to the Camera"
v2, #20-25
Bob Gale, Phil Winslade, James Hodgkins, David Ross, Mark Pennington

September 2001 found DD being written by screenwriter/producer Bob Gale (Back to the Future series, 1941), and despite the artwork being handled by Phil Winslade, people probably stayed away because the covers were still being done by David Mack (kidding!). it did have a great premise: what if the ordinary joe on the street sued a superhero? trouble is, its not just an ordinary guy bringing a lawsuit - its philantrophist Samuel Griggs. and he wants the Nelson/Murdock firm to take the case, by virtue of principles. which makes sense because property damage always occurs during a big superhero/villain brawl. however, i thought such damage had always been insured; maybe that was for public buildings, structures and the like, not private property. anyway, aside from the secret ID pickle he faces if he takes the case (attorney, sue thyself), he detects that Griggs is telling the truth, and he was nowhere near Griggs' estate when the alleged damage happened.

"... for swinging without a license."

the landmines continue: Griggs holds a presscon even before Foggy and Matt officially take the case, and when the question comes up on how to serve DD himself, their intrepid legal secretary Elaine Kendrick hires old enemy The Jester to draw DD out and thus get served. and not to mention all the talking heads on TV have their own opinion, equally dividing the populace. if this were really happening in New York, it would be ratings heaven. brilliant angle for Mr. Gale, choosing to frame a story from the less-obtrusive details of daily superhero life.

"uh ... nothing ... because you'd be taking this case for free
because i'm such a hunk. a
blind hunk, but still a hunk."

DD hires a lawyer, Kate Vinokur, to take his case (and pay in cash) and duke it out essentially against himself and Foggy. just when a settlement is about to be reached, Griggs rocks the boat against orders and pushes for a trial. his "DD impostor" theory falling apart, Matt catches a break when another witness corroborates the events in Griggs' estate that same night. it turns out this new witness, Paul Bradlee, and Griggs have the same shrink. Matt deduces the two must have been given post-hypnotic suggestions by this 'shrink' ... who turns out to be Miguel Eloganto, a.k.a. the Matador (DD's rogues gallery has more than a fair share of losers). however, bringing him face to face with Griggs, Eloganto reverses himself and disavows any knowledge of the whole thing; Griggs doesn't know him either. you can feel his frustration; i'd personally smash both their heads together, if i had a good lawyer.

so, jury selection commences then the trial begins. judge wants Kate's client to show up, but of course, Matt and Foggy have to be in the same courtroom as well. what to do, what to do? Daredevil does arrive, but Kate, having developed an attraction for the man in red, instantly realizes its not the same guy. she then tries to call DD's private cell just to find out what's going on, and thus we have a great scene for a great trial movie.

oh no ... Daredevil reveals his secret ID ... again.

only a shout-down by the judge about the use of cellphones in the courtroom prevents more drama. Kate is incensed about not being privy to DD's plan, but goes along with it anyway. and when DD finally gets called to the stand, he cleverly puts the ball back on the prosecution's court, challenging them to prove that it was really him marching into Griggs' office dragging the Matador. tensions rise further, when Matt and Elaine march in with a tape showing DD swinging by Times Square the exact same moment this other 'DD' was being cross-examined. you can imagine the chaos in the courtroom and the judge's skyrocketing blood pressure.

"i'm ... Ben Affleck!!!"

and the straw that breaks the camel's back crashes in thru a window: a third Daredevil! Terrence Hillman, announcing to everyone that he is Daredevil, hands Griggs a $50K check to cover the original damages, and says he's retiring, puts further doubt about the DD on the stand. Hillman says that's his replacement. now since the "wrong man" was put on trial, the judge declares a mistrial before expiring on the way to Beth Israel Medical Center. just kidding about the expiring part.

so what the hell is going on??

turns out everything was just a rat maze drawn up by the Ringmaster (another loser), to test his new false memory technology. everyone involved - Griggs, Bradlee and Eloganto had false memories implanted in them, and designed to trigger accordingly as the scenarios evolved. since there isn't any law against implanting false memories, DD allows Maynard Tiboldt to walk free.

uhhh ... could this be the ultimate final solution to Civil War? maybe we can get Steve Rogers back?? helloooooo????

anyway, the DD on stand was none other than Peter Parker, the Spectacular Emo Man. Hillman was just a wildcard (which the Ringmaster was impressed with), putting himself in debt to come up with $50,000 and really just wanting to impress a girl. like Dan Hill said, i know its crazy but its true.

hmm ... those words could be taken out of context ...

three nitpicky things:

i have quibbles with the art, mostly. Phil Winslade seems to be going for a 'throwback' feel, but some of it seems forced and body contortions are more painful than fluid. and i know Daredevil is referred to as 'Hornhead' but those things are reeeeeaaaaally huge. i'm surprised Peter or Kate didn't start calling him Horny (well, in Kate's case, that might be a tad unprofessional).

"and i resent you media types referring to me as the Horny Devil!"

there's also the 'case of the evolving hairstyle'. when Elaine Kendrick starts working for them, she had this neat schoolgirl 'do with a simple clip. she thinks she can score with Matt.

by the time the investigation goes underway, she's now seen with some kind of punk rock chick mullet.

and on the final day of the trial, she has this boy's bob thingie going on.

maybe Winslade was drawing his girl during the course of this story arc. but these issues came out twice a month (post 9/11), so could we blame pressure and deadlines here? but i would think you wont forget designs especially if you're constructing a story within a short time frame. its not like the next issue came out six months later. what's that, Winslade? you're claiming artistic license? o-kay. sounds like a good explanation as any. works for musicians who can't be beholden to proper grammar. (okay, i think the second was drawn by Dave Ross)

here's another example of the hair thing (and possibly even anatomical incorrectness). when we are introduced to Rene, Kate's assistant, she was this school-marmish redheaded mouse. much later, we see her again, with long, gorgeous hair, and sporting quite an elegant figure. i guess Dave Ross never read the previous issues. or women just start primping and getting makeovers when Daredevil is around. he's that hot.

speaking of relationships, what does this scene connote, if at all?

does it mean that Matt and Kate will be hooking up soon, and we are being teased as to what might eventually happen? two finely built human specimens, on the road to knocking boots? Mr. Gale really is a movie guy.

too bad, after all is said and done, Kate learns the hard way and saves herself some future grief.


the story ends with Matt and Foggy knocking back drinks in a bar, and Matt ruing the fact that Kate and him could never work out now. Foggy cracks that Kate would still be contacting him, since she still needs to bill him for services rendered. to this, Matt laughs heartily, almost sadistically even. would Kate be billing Daredevil, which means she either stays on rooftops at night to catch him, or hire the Jester again to serve the bill. or walk up to Matt himself and slap him with an invoice. either way, i hope Kate got paid.

mistrial. heh.