Daredevil #23 – Arthur’s Pick of the Week

As mysterious forces concentrate on making Matt’s life miserable, Foggy awaits life-changing news…

Mark Waid’s Daredevil run has been fresh and exciting, a return to adventure and colourful super-heroics after the darkness of previous writers Brubaker and Bendis. As good as their work always was, there’s a lighter feeling to current issues of Daredevil, despite the serious nature of the story being told.

Having recently discovered Foggy’s cancer fears, Matt and his partner have reunited, their once damaged friendship rebuilt through mutual concern. A large part of this issue deals with the reassurance that Matt and Foggy are as solid as ever, as Daredevil provides Foggy the opportunity to experience the city from his perspective, allowing his friend to “spit in fear’s face” whilst awaiting potentially devastating medical results. They’re touching and well-written scenes, and there’s no doubt that Waid understands the two men and their lifelong partnership.

Meanwhile, the unknown figure (or figures) behind Daredevil’s recent troubles have managed to exactly replicate the accident that created Matt’s “radar senses,” giving a group of convicts the same powers as Daredevil. It’s an intriguing concept, and the newly hyper-sensitive villains cause plenty of chaos before being dispatched by Matt in ingenious and individual ways, exploiting the weaknesses that also come with his particular skill-set.

Waid pulls a couple of neat tricks at the end of the issue – we the readers expect Matt to let Foggy down, and it’s a pleasant surprise to see his timely appearance to support his best friend. It’s made clear that his priorities have been appropriately adjusted. Light-hearted banter between the two wrong-foots us again, as the doctor approaches to deliver the results. Daredevil’s abilities tell us everything we need to know as he reads a panicked heartbeat in the room and realises… “it’s not Foggy’s.”

A quiet and personal story told brilliantly in the middle of a much larger unfolding mystery, this issue hits multiple emotional levels. Daredevil is going from strength to strength, and is highly recommended.

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Batman #17 – Arthur’s Pick of the Week

We all thought Alfred was under those dishes, right…? SPOILERS AHEAD…

Considering a large percentage of the Bat-Family titles ended last month with the Joker presenting each lead character with a serving platter, the tension was ramped up for this issue’s concluding chapter of “Death of the Family.” Having kidnapped Alfred a few issues previously the natural assumption was that poor old Pennyworth wasn’t long for this world, and that at least part of him was about to be served up for dinner…

The horror is amplified in the first few pages when the Joker continues to lead us towards that conclusion, only to pull the carpet out from underneath with the appearance of Batman’s butler, alive if not well. The question then remains – what is under the platters? The actual reveal is initially pretty shocking, and for a few pages at least it feels like a huge, bold move; mirroring his own twisted surgery, the faces (and masks) of Batman’s extended family are apparently sliced off, presented to each of them as they look on behind bloody bandages.

The main disappointment is the failure to follow through on that reveal. The whole scenario turns out to be just another sick game, misdirection designed to wrong-foot Batman and the reader alike. Joker’s posturing pretense about knowing their identities is also a lie, and all the Joker really wants is to prove that Batman needs him more than his friends and family. Had their faces genuinely been removed, the Joker’s actions would have left some pretty serious scars (both physical and psychological) that might not ever have properly healed, perhaps leading to a genuine end to the “family.”

A final showdown is handled well though, dialogue driven and intense. Batman manages to wipe the smile off the reattached face by taunting the Joker that he knows his true identity. It’s too much for the Joker who doesn’t want to hear it, doesn’t want to ruin the game they play, plummeting to what obviously cannot be his death. The Joker’s intention to drive the Bat-family apart hasn’t really succeeded, despite the emphatic lack of reunion at the end of the issue.

For me this storyline peaked with the incredible Batman #15, but overall “Death of the Family” has been a worthy crossover, weaving every Bat-book in pretty seamlessly and effectively (Gail Simone’s Batgirl was especially well handled). Scott Snyder has been consistently producing great stories, and Greg Capullo draws probably the most terrifying and compelling Joker ever presented in a mainstream Batman comic.

Superior Spider-Man #3 – Arthur’s Pick of the Week

The still controversial Superior Spider-Man continues to impress as the new Spidey comes face to face with an old ally from a new perspective…

First things first, this review will assume you’re already familiar with the events of Amazing Spider-Man #700, so if you’re not and you plan on catching up without spoilers I’d stop reading now. If you’ve managed to avoid spoilers so far you probably don’t have access to the internet anyway, so reading this would be an impossibility.

Watching Doc Ock viewing his old way of life through new eyes (and new lenses) is fascinating, and a run-in with the Vulture has a profound effect. We’re learning more about the increasingly three-dimensional Otto as he also learns more about himself, first trying to reason with the Vulture as an old (but unrecognised) friend, then being disgusted with Toomes’ current methods. The more brutal course of action taken by Otto further raises an eyebrow with Carlie Cooper, whose investigation is also a massive point of interest, having been confronted by the “real” Peter Parker before he died. It’s a shame that no-one else in the supporting cast has any major concerns about Peter’s sudden change of attitude (and completely different speech pattern), and that’s the one real negative point worth raising.

Peter’s back-seat presence in Otto’s mind is intriguing and provides some humour, especially when the new Spider-Man deals with J Jonah Jameson more effectively than the old Spider-Man ever could (whilst having a sly sideways dig at Batman’s methods at the same time).

Overall, the Superior Spider-Man remains solidly entertaining, and I hope the fans who angrily dismissed the book after Peter’s “death” will end up giving it a try. As a tale of redemption there’s a lot of potential here, and I for one have faith that writer Dan Slott is going to continue to deliver.

Invincible 100 – Arthur’s Pick of the Week

As this is the first review to appear on A Comic Bomb, I wanted to start with something really special. The hundreth issue of Invincible certainly doesn’t disappoint…

This issue is the concluding third chapter of “The Death Of Everyone” storyline, so if you’re not reading Invincible yet I’d also advise you to look for issues 98 and 99. Actually, if you’re a fan of superhero comics and you’re not reading Invincible, do yourself a favour and pick up the trades. Robert Kirkman has created a whole universe of characters who adhere to, subvert and lovingly pastiche every superhero trope there is. The tagline “the best superhero comic book in the universe” isn’t merely hyperbole.

Issue 100 opens with a devastating image certain to have made any fan of the series recoil in horror – the term “splash page” is apt in more ways than one. Nothing is ever what it seems in this book, and this storyline as a whole has provided a reflective study of what Mark Grayson has let himself become through his stubborn insistence that he is right and trying to do what he thinks is best. The result of his actions will haunt everyone for a long time. The fallout won’t simply be swept under the carpet, there’s no magic reset button – everything won’t simply be okay. As readers we’ve seen his attitude shift many times throughout the run, and Mark is constantly evolving, learning from his mistakes and growing as a person. Plot is driven by character and decisions feel realistic. It’s refreshing to see villains being beaten through calm reasoned conversation as often as they are with violence, and that’s part of what makes Invincible so unique.

What Kirkman has achieved with this issue is a perfect parody of the comic book “event.” Teasing for months about characters’ potential mortality, but also delivering on the promise with a huge emotional punch whilst providing a satisfying resolution which doesn’t feel cheap or rushed. There have been many big “events” in recent years from Marvel and DC which have lasted months and months, dragged out and spread into multiple titles, ultimately serving only to move on to the next event without resolving anything. In the last 3 issues of Invincible we’ve been shown how it should be done. By the end of #100 we’re left with a new status quo, a shock reveal, and enough ongoing story elements to drive the series to #200…

This is one of the most fun, unpredictable and entertaining comics available today. There are eight different covers in total to choose from – my personal favourites are the wraparound cover by regular artist Ryan Ottley (a beautiful homage to the Walking Dead’s hundredth issue wraparound) and the variant by original Invincible artist Corey Walker – and if you can’t get them all, make sure you get at least one…