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posted January 29, 2009
Creators: Ed Brubaker, Michael Lark, Marko Djurdjevic, Stefano Gaudiano, Matt Hollingsworth, Chris Eliopoulos
Marvel, comic book, 32 pages, December 2008, $2.99
Ed Brubaker's run on what is probably Marvel's consistently best series since the 1970s may be most interesting as a study in expectations. The fundamentals of storytelling supplied by the writer and his creative partners on the title so far exceeeds what one thinks of when one envisions modern superhero serials that the craft achievements on typical display almost become background noise. This is one handsome comic book, with a satisfying churn of carefully selected character motivations and sturdy genre conventions at its story's heart. At the same time, the comic still
feels like it's shaking off the last bit of hangover from an equally interesting Brian Bendis run that finished years ago, directly preceded Brubaker's, and had the advantage of coming off of years of heavy-handed, almost miserable comics featuring the blind superhero. It feels like the same television show with a different executive producer, if that makes any sense. I hope that doesn't cost it readers, even though I've had people tell me straight up that it does.
Another way to look at the expectations game is that no matter how skilled Brubaker and Lark are in terms of executing their comics, they're working with a corporate superhero character that may be a mile wide in terms of its ability to conform to certain stories but remains only an inch deep when it comes to carrying the ideas behind them. Maybe four or five inches in this character's case. Recent stories seem to suggest theme work that probes at the limits of loyalty and responsibility -- how much one's choices in life can overwhelm core relationships and threaten fundamental values even when they're good choices, and how one can sometimes be shaken from making any choice at all if outside forces press on you in one form or another. (That would both extend and flip Bendis' exploration of the eventual cost of making bad choices.) This comes out in two ways in this issue: the apparent murder and magic ninja resurrection of two of Daredevil's superhero allies (one from Argentina and one with Puerto Rican roots, which I thought brave and interesting: that has to be like half of the company's characters with roots south of Florida) and the emotional toll inflicted on Matt Murdock's maybe-sorta new girlfriend Dakota North. That's some meaty stuff for an adventure comic, and worth getting into, but it's difficult when the ratcheting up of a superhero-in-danger plot progression by necessity dominates the foreground. Anyway, if I were a more devoted superhero comics reader, I would thank God in heaven for something brought to life with this kind of professional care and clarity, and even though I'm not that reader I do take a not-insignificant amount of pleasure from reading comics like this one whenever I get the chance.