A Cursed Waste

Jeff Parker and Kev Walker's Thunderbolts has been pretty damn good since they took over the book a couple of months ago. Walker's art, which I've never seen any of elsewhere, is killer- it's got this sort of cartoon-y energy that I really enjoy and that lends itself well to dynamic storytelling. His slight redesigns of the characters are pretty cool too: it hits a perfect sort of stylized realism that, combined with the rest of the aesthetic, reminds me of the Dodsons in concept, if not entirely in style.

Parker's dialogue and plotting, usually fantastic, is particularly so here. He nails an interesting Luke Cage, and his Thunderbolts (in particular Crossbones and Juggernaut) are much, much more dynamic and nuanced than they are usually portrayed. This is a fascinating team, and the scribe takes full advantage of what makes them so curious- a few of them appear to be actually trying to do good, actually trying to redeem themselves in one way or another. The others are just violent lunatics, but still pretty interesting ones.

And then there's Man Thing.

Clearly, Parker's having some fun here, and it comes through: this is a pretty entertaining comic book. Beyond that, though, it's also a pretty good comic book, and that comes into focus pretty clearly in #147. The exceedingly silly Avengers Academy tie-in is unnecessary and is the one down note of an otherwise excellent comic (and an incredibly uninteresting one at that- I bought the first of the AA issues associated with this ish of Thunderbolts and I have no idea how anyone finds those characters intriguing). Beyond that, though, there are some great character moments here, and some even better fight scenes- this is the first time we get a real clear idea of where exactly each of the players stand and what exactly they're after. Warden Walker (formerly US Agent) wants respect, as do Cage and Songbird, but the Warden has to work a little harder from down in his wheelchair to get it- but get it he does. Juggernaut, too, gets a fascinating little arc, and whether he's playing at something or if he's actually seeking a little bit of grace will be something to watch from Parker's Thunderbolts next.

Mysterious Dark Tonalities

"Second Sight" in "Daredevil: Black & White" #1 from Marvel Comics

It's been said that Daredevil is among the most interesting of superheroes because as opposed to something extra he can do, he is defined by the thing he can't do: See.

Matt Murdock may be able to do things no normal human can, but he has those abilities ostensibly because of his blindness. Therefore the first story in this mini-anthology of Daredevil stories, one in which Matt is presented with the choice of undergoing surgery to restore his vision becomes a sort of a reverse 'contact with kryptonite' story. The piece is written by Peter Milligan and drawn (and toned) by someone I've never heard of: Jason Latour (@jasonlatour).

After the initial establishment of the premise of the story; i.e. what will Matt Murdock do when confronted with the choice between regaining his sight and continuing his war against crime as Daredevil?, we get a fascinating story for several pages: The story of a man who suddenly regains his sight after being blind since childhood. The first few pages of the story involve no superheroics of any kind, and could just be a beautiful short piece about appreciating the world all around us.

Suddenly, the crime element introduced by the supervillain Bullseye pulls Matt (and us) out of this serenity and into the muck of the complicated people living their lives in that same world all around us. Unfortunately, and ironically, this second half of the story didn't ring as true for me as the first half. Worst of all, there is a huge ambiguity about the status of Matt's vision for this half of the story: what's happening to it and when? Damned if I could tell you.

The pleasant surprise is that unknown Jason Latour's art doesn't disappoint on any level! Each page is gorgeous and better visual representations of a superhero's double (inner-)life, I have never seen anywhere.

Milligan's story is wonderful for several pages and then stays strong on character but becomes... confusing on plot for the remaining ones. The art everywhere is great.

Jason Latour is a new talent to watch on my radar! Check out his blog right here on Blogger! Quite honestly, if the whole story had sucked I think I still would have enjoyed it because of Latour's artistic choices.

The prose piece in the back written by Ann Nocenti is sad like crazy. And how about that gorgeously designed cover [below] by David Aja (@davaja), right Josh?

~ @JonGorga

Yea, Jon, that David Aja cover is killer- as are his illustrations for the Ann Nocenti prose story at the back. A consideration of that and whether or not prose stories belong at the back of comics (they don't) is for another day. We're here to talk about "Secrets and Lies", the second of the two comics stories in the anthology.

For the record, I love these black and white Marvel anthologies- they let us see an example of the form that we rarely get to see anymore, particularly with high profile characters. They let the pencilers and inkers stretch muscles they wouldn't get to use otherwise- and it generally makes for a pretty satisfying experience.

The quality of "Secrets and Lies" is a direct reflection of the fact that these anthologies are an artist's playground: Mick Bertilorenzi's fantastic art can't salvage a subpar story that manages to be both unclear and predictable, but it is in and of itself a joy. Unlike Jason Latour's work in the previous story, this art is untoned, all in black and white. The drawing is loose and stylized, and in particular it makes a great use of shadow, something that is often poorly rendered when there's color involved. I suspect this kind of drawing is much harder- there's no colorist to cover up mistakes, to add texture. This one's all on Bertilorenzi- and he nails it.


UPDATE (9/1/2o1o): On a THIRD reading of the first story I saw inklings that the entire middle part of the story is the dream Murdock has and mentions only once on the second to last page. This makes the story flow better BUT the markers of the beginning and ending of the dream are far from clear. Possibly, this is a result of miscommunication between writer and artist. (@JonGorga)