By Mark Waid and Paolo Rivera
‘The Man Without Fear’ is more commonly known these days as the grim crime fighter with a string of bad decisions trailing behind him like ghostly apparitions reminding him of his failures. As Typhoid Mary called him, he is the ‘Merry Christian,’ in that he holds the weight of the world on his shoulders. However, that thread was stretched so far under the previous creative regime that old hornhead transformed into a legitimate demon, horns and all, and fought his dearest friends, leading an army of assassins.
Waid’s run has returned Daredevil to his pre-Frank Miller days and the character appears to be more fun-loving and care-free, but Waid has promised that there will be a price to pay in the end. As his best friend Foggy Nelson has observed, there is something forced and disturbing about Murdock’s change of attitude that hints to a deeper wound.
In any case, Daredevil has been more fun and interesting in the past nine months than ever before. His abilities and character have been utilized in new and extravagant ways that open up new vistas of potential in story telling. This is of course greatly bolstered by the superlative artwork by Paolo Rivera and Marcus Martin (though Marcus has since left) which have made DD the most visually compelling book on the racks today (challenged only by the title below).
The radar senses of Daredevil have been a major definition of the character’s persona that set him aside from the other heroes in as much as Wolverine’s claws and the Hulk’s purple pants make them mavericks. However, the radar ability has seldom been represented as a hindrance rather than a super power. Sure, DD can perceive surfaces and environments in ways that we can only dream of, granting him enhanced sensitivity in the sensory realm, but this can also be a downfall. In the latest story, DD has descended into the underworld through a system of tunnels that have allowed graves to be be stolen from a cemetery that just so happens to contain his father’s coffin.
The journey underground is a staggering one that hampers his sensitivity to the utmost as the echoes from the confined spaces and extremely rancid smells confound him in his search for the grave robbers. Rivera and Waid have provided a wondrous blend of comedy and nail-biting drama as DD narrowly avoids several obstacles that he simply cannot ‘see.’
As Waid puts it: “Man without fear,” they call me. Only because I’m blind. If I could see half the stuff I get myself into, I’d be scared brown.
Daredevil eventually finds himself against the Mole Man who has stolen the corpse of his greatest love. Mole Man would never have dared confess his feelings to her while alive, but gladly waltzes with her cadaver in the half-light of the subterranean world.
The conflict between DD and Mole Man is one of fisticuffs but also one of nerves as Mole Man pokes at a sore point for Murdock, indicating that if the Man Without Fear could not locate his father’s grave, how important could it be? It forces Murdock to accept that his father is gone forever, something that he has avoided admitting to himself.
I have said it once but I will say it again. Daredevil is a superb comic book that should be on your weekly pull list of you enjoy the sequential medium, are interested in Will Eisner or want to be in on the ‘next big thing.’ A collection is available and this week a ‘Point One’ issue is on the stands to welcome the uninitiated.
Daredevil, Vol. 1
Daredevil, Vol. 2
The Flash #7
By Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato
Across the street, the Flash is undergoing a Renaissance courtesy of Francis Manapul. The big pull of the book back in the day, in addition to the whacked out villains such as psychic apes, boomerang-wielding Aussies and wizards from the future was the art style.
Former art director of DC Comics, Carmine Infantino, created some of the most mind-boggling images on the page during his long tenure on the Flash monthly book (while simultaneously redefining Batman, I might add). Aided by Gardner Fox’s mad scripts about the slowest man alive and alternate dimensions, the series pushed all the right buttons for young readers.
When DC decided to become gritty and more appealing to Marvel Comics readers, they killed off the old Flash, Barry Allen, and drafted his protege Wally West into the scarlet running togs. In more recent years, retro has become more appealing and Barry Allen is back, along with the wild energy of the old Fox/Infantino age.
The new Flash is young bachelor Barry Allen, who works as a police scientist alongside his love interest Patty with whom he has an uneasy romance. Meanwhile his actions as the Flash have earned him more bad press than good as his super speed has led to a massive EMP explosion, knocking out the power grid in Central and Keystone City. The Flash has struggled to maintain law and order in the fallout, but the fact remains that he has caused this chaos.
the latest issue sees the Flash struggling to defeat an old enemy (with the re-booted post-52 DC Universe, I’m unclear HOW old) Captain Cold who is trying to draw him out for revenge. The reason? The EMP charge caused the life support system maintaining Cold’s sister to fail. With nothing else to live for, Cold is out for revenge using strangely enhanced powers.
Speaking of enhanced powers, the Flash is learning the impact that his super speed has on the fabric or reality, thanks to Dr Elias (no doubt named after the original Flash’s creator, Lee Elias). It seems that Flash’s speed is so great that if he reaches critical mass he can open a wormhole to another reality. Of course in the heat of battle, and while attempting to defeat Cold and save Patty, the Flash opens a wormhole that sucks up Iris West and presumably Barry Allen as well (the Flash claimed that Barry was safe in the other half of the shattered vessel just as it was consumed by the wormhole.
In the end, Barry vows to save Cold’s sister by producing energy via a massive treadmill and sending a generator to her hospital. He also opens a wormhole in hopes to find Iris and save the others that he condemned to a fate worse than death… only he finds a new nemesis waiting for him there.
As a kid, I remember being mesmerized by the weirdness of the Flash. If anything, the modern version pays homage to and further develops that other-worldiness in bizarre storylines and breathtaking page layout and line work. What I mist admire is that Manupal has maintained the innocence of the Flash that I so enjoyed as a kid. Easily the most beautiful book published by DC at this time, the Flash is worth a look. There are a couple of collections suggested below.
Flash Vol. 1: The Dastardly Death of the Rogues!
The Flash Vol. 1: Move Forward (pre-order)