Thursday, June 21, 2012

Daredevil #14

Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Chris Samnee
Company: Marvel Comics

A lot has said about Paolo Rivera bowing graciously out of being the lead artist on Daredevil. It's true, it sucks. Really sucks. The piece of information that seems to be overlooked however is that Chris Samnee, the artist tackling this issue, is taking over. This is a great thing. Samnee, who's been around for quite some time and proved his unbelievable skill on books like Thor: Mighty Avenger and Agents of Atlas, is a perfect fit for what Daredevil has become. Much has also been said, by me and the rest of the internet, as to the brilliance of this run. I feel like I've said it countless times, but Waid and Co. are like magicians and continue to come up with new ways of pushing the boundaries of the term: Brilliant Comic.

It's the details that go into this book that make each line of dialogue and panel of art sing. Yes, the stories are inherently appealing and aspire to be the swashbuckling adventures that have a pleasing and action-y sense to them, but the way that the medium of comics is used to tell them, that's what makes it grand. Confused, well, let's take a small thing like sound effects. We're used to seeing KAPOW! and ZAP!, things like that in grand lettering denoting some ray gun or monstrous punch thrown by our hero. That sort of thing is ingrained in comics. Here though, the story that's being told is simple, which as always is the best, and revolves around the notion that Daredevil has been transported to Latveria to pay for crimes committed against the State. The way that the sound effects are used, with different fonts and looks for different sounds, as Matt struggles to use his abilities to discern where he is and what's happening is a master stroke. Like I said, it's a small thing, but it pulls you into the story, makes it unique, and allows the imagination to hear the sounds itself right there along with our hero.

Pacing is also big in this issue. It's methodical. Waid takes the usual highs and lows that we expect and throws them out of the window to give us a story that keeps us just as much off balance and in the dark as it does our hero. That takes some doing, as the superhero formula is tried and true. There are so many great moments spread throughout the issue. One is the "villain" of the piece. I love that this guy is such a mustache twirling, maniacal man of action, even though he doesn't have a mustache. His dialogue is pitch perfect and the look that Samnee gives him only enhances that idea.. Also, without giving too much away, the situation that Daredevil finds himself in, with his world betraying him minute by minute as he seeks refuge is heartbreaking. I'm sure something like this has been done in the past, but the concept is so refreshing and captivating.

And then there is the art. Truthfully, there's so much about the art to like. Samnee, who's clearly inspired by Alex Toth, specializes in just about everything it seems. His anatomy is realistic but doesn't feel static on the page. The textures of clothing, the minute details of doors, and the musculature of a horse...He seems like a Jack of All Trades, as no hurdle is too hard for him to clear. I especially enjoy his panel layout and the thought that goes into the structure of each and every one of them. There's nothing that's wasted and I have a huge respect for artists who use negative space to their advantage. Now, while Samnee is definitely a force to be reckoned with, I would be remiss to mention the others who are involved in making this Daredevil book as good as it is. People like Javier Rodriguez's color art. The balance of such bright colors with the heavy shadows make everything sizzle on the page. There's also Joe Caramagna's letters. There are some books where the lettering, something that is so crucial, is off putting or hard to read. That is never an issue here. It's crisp and clean.

It's true that the praise for Daredevil is high. There's a reason for it. Time and time again, Waid and his troupe of artists dazzle us with craft and skill. Marvel is producing some great titles right now, but it's easy for me to say that among them all, Daredevil reigns supreme.

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