Story: Mark Waid
Art: Chris Samnee
The hero fighting the hero in a misunderstanding is probably the oldest chestnut in the superhero writers toolkit. So when that story is done well, or done with a nice twist, it makes the story all the more interesting. This new issue of Daredevil features what seems a normal hero vs. hero brawl, in this case Daredevil and Spider-Man. Of course, if you've been reading Amazing or Superior Spider-Man, or been anywhere near the internet, you know that Spider-Man isn't exactly himself lately. This confrontation is my first real exposure to this new Spider-Man, and I like how Waid handles him, and how Daredevil recognizes something wrong with him. The hero battle is interrupted by the c-list villain, Stilt Man, who Waid has used before as a non-threat, and while Stilt Man has upgraded here, he's still not exactly a threat. his use of Doctor Octopus tech is mostly to draw the reaction of Spider-Man who is really *SPOILER IN CASE YOU'VE BEEN IN A CAVE* Dr. Octopus. Spider-Man's reaction to Daredevil making comments about Octopus is classic, and his arrogance coming off as Spider-Man's trademark humor is amusing. Framing the action are scenes of Matt Murdock living his life. I enjoy how Waid deals with Matt Murdock's blindness, addressing it in real world terms. And the ending, with a reconciliation between Matt and his best friend/partner Foggy Nelson, and the revelation of what is going on with Foggy, continues proving that for every good thing that happens to Matt, something has to go wrong in his world. It will be interesting to see how Matt is going to take this particular curveball.
Demon Knights #16
Story: Robert Venditti
Art: Bernard Chang
New writer Robert Venditti comes on board as the series jumps thirty years ahead of where the last issue ended. A new scourge is invading the lands, this one the scourge of vampirism. Cain, the first vampire and one of the main antagonists of I, Vampire is preparing an army of vampires, slaughtering his way across Europe. The Demon Knights, who have not worked together as a full group in all these years, are called together by al Jabr, former Knight and now ruler of Al-Wadi, a city of science, to help combat the coming onslaught. Al Jabr shares insight with the Knights he has been able to gather about the details of Cain's plan, and at the end of the issue we see exactly where a couple of the other Knights are, ones who will have to join the rest before this is done. Venditti has the voices of all these characters down pat, and their relationships perfectly as well. It's interesting to see how al Jabr, the only one of the Knights who ages normally, reacts to seeing his former comrades who have not aged a day in thirty years. The thirty year gap has left all sorts of questions about what happened, such as what caused the falling out between many of our Knights, and it will be a matter of time to see if they can put all this aside to stop another catastrophe from ripping apart the medieval world. Demon Knights has been a book that has balanced action, comedy, and character, and it seems Venditti has all the notes lined up.
Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #16
Story: Matt Kindt
Art: Alberto Ponticelli
The final issue of Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. is not part of a world shattering crossover, or a story that will change the DC Universe forever. It is, however, a great little story about Frankenstein and his Creature Commandos fighting a terrorist cell with a plague bomb that turns people into monsters. While the issue doesn't tie up all the threads from the series, it places the Creature Commandos in a place to appear around the DC Universe. The story gives readers an insight into Frankenstein, what he is and what he can do. The philosophy and quotes he spouts, and his willingness to sacrifice himself are on display. I enjoy a good one off story, and this is one of those; frankly, it would have made as good a first issue as it does a final one. It was an interesting choice to use this as the final issue, since the previous ones were part of the "Rotworld" crossover between Swamp Thing, Animal Man, and Frankenstein, but since the event isn't over, I understand that it would be impossible to address the ramifications of it here. Still, the series ends on a high note, and I hope to keep seeing Frankenstein in Justice League Dark, and I hope the rest of his team will join him there for a story or two.
Story: Brian K. Vaughan
Art: Fiona Staples
Brian K Vaughan has had to do a lot of world building in Saga. Building a whole sci-fi/fantasy world takes a lot of time, and doing it while having to make a well rounded cast isn't easy. It's a testament to his skill as a writer that it's all come off so well. This issue focuses on the freelance bounty hunter known as The Will. I really like The Will; he's the classic, "Bad guy with his own code of ethics," which is a favorite archetype of mine. Still depressed over the death of his fellow bounty hunter and lover, The Stalk, The Will is confronted by Gwendolyn, jilted fiancee of Marko, one of our protagonists, who The Will has been hired to capture. With Gwendolyn's help, The Will is able to save the young slave girl he encountered on the pleasure planet of Sextillion, and sets off again after Marko and Alana with the surprising aid of Slave Girl (they really need to find a name for her...). The issue is a good example of how to tell a story that does a lot to forward or introduce character. Gwendolyn was only a name before this issue, but I feel like Vaughan now has given us a good view into who she is, and has made the character of The Will even better defined. And while he can't really reference Earth culture, there's a line that is a clearly a sort of reference to one of the greatest hitman movies of all time, Leon the Professional. If you know the movie, you can see where the reference comes from, and if you haven't, well go watch the movie! Fiona Staples's art is some of the best in comics right now, and the thing I find fascinating is the way she can make monsters look either horrible or beautiful. The Stalk is a half-woman/half-spider, and should be repugnant, but Staples draws her in a way that makes her alluring. With the hunt for Marko, Alana, and baby Hazel now in full swing, I look forward to seeing what happens when all the parties inevitably come crashing together.
Story: Peter David
Art: Leonard Kirk
The Hell on Earth War has begun! A story that has been building in X-Factor for years now, and even with hints of events from his run on Incredible Hulk. This is not the first time Peter David has dealt with the age old quandary of, "If you could kill Hitler before he was HITLER, would you do it?" but the extra wrinkle of the child being the child of one of our protagonists, in this case Wolfsbane's son, Tier, adds emotional resonance. The opening sequence, of Jezebel the demoness sitting and asking God to intercede to stop what is about to happen, and getting no response, is also one of Peter David's recurring themes, especially in his work on Fallen Angel. The issue is fast paced, narrated by Tier who is being hunted by Darwin, his mother's former teammate, and does a good job of fleshing out Tier, a character who we haven't spent much time with since his birth. The high concepts of the issue lead to a good old fashioned superhero slugfest, which shows off one of Peter David's strengths: balancing talk with action. A great issue, which seems to be setting up a strong storytelling, I am left with one question: As the lords of the various Underworlds come together, I admit to not recognizing them all. I know Hela, Pluto, and Mephisto, but the others have me at something of a loss. Any help out there in Internet land?
BONUS NON-COMIC REVIEW!
Story: Neil Gaiman
Art: Adam Rex
Most people know Neil Gaiman for his work in comics on Sandman or his novels like American Gods and Stardust. A growing legion of kids and young adult readers know him for his work for that age group, including Coraline and the Newberry Medal-winning The Graveyard Book. But Gaiman also has written more than a few picture books for very young readers, often with his comic collaborators Dave McKean and Charles Vess. The Wolves in the Walls, one of these, was a favorite of mine to read to kids the few times I had to do storytime while working at Borders. His newest picture book, released at comic shops this past Wednesday, is Chu's Day, the story of a little panda named Chu with a powerful sneeze. The story is a simple one, simpler than Gaiman's earlier forays into this genre, but is no less endearing for its simplicity. The age group this seems to be targeted for is the crowd that still needs to be read to or those just starting to read. The art by Adam Rex is beautiful and highly detailed, with well presented anthropomorphic animals, with a favorite scene of mine being in the library; his work seems reminiscent of legendary children's author/artist Graham Base in the best possible ways. So, if you have a little one who likes stories of little pandas, or just a quick, amusing story, you should try out Chu's Day.