Monday, September 7, 2015

Reviews of Comics from Wednesday 9/2

Beyond Belief #2
Story: Ben Acker & Ben Blacker
Art: Phil Hester, Eric Gapstur, & Mauricio Wallace

Now that the live stage show and podcast of The Thrilling Adventure Hour have ceased on a regular basis, it's great to have the comics return to help give me my fix of all my favorite characters. After helping their friend Donna get her house clear of ghosts, mediums Frank and Sadie Doyle head across the street to help a little girl named joy and her imaginary friend Mr. Fuzzypants deal with a monster problem of their own. The story is a perfect Beyond Belief, with clever plots and wheels within wheels storytelling; there are the imaginary friends of imaginary friends, monsters born of monster hunters. And the Doyles are as ever brave, not afraid of anything (the fact that they're gleefully drunk as ever doesn't hurt). AS with the other TAH comics, the story takes advantage of the visual medium in a way the podcast cannot, with Frank fighting creatures instead of simply talking them into defeat like the monster hunter he was before he met Sadie and settled down. Artist Phil Hester is one of comics best, an artist who brings his A game to anything he does, be it superheroes or monsters, but this issue he stretches his artistic legs. Some of the pages of the story are told by joy and Mr. Fuzzypants, and for that narrative, the backgrounds shift to a childlike crayon design, which gives it the perfect feeling of childlike imagination. While the Doyles are dealing with all this, we find out a little more about the neighborhood Donna has moved into, as we see a party going on down the block, attended by Joy's parents, among others, and well, I don't go to a lot of parties, but I didn't think human sacrifice was a part of most get togethers, and when things don't go as planned, well, let's just say it looks like the Doyles will be coming to the rescue again. As always, these horror tinged precedings are told with the usual TAH tongue planted firmly in cheek, balancing the scary with Doyles usual dry and urbane wit. I will happily read anything Thrilling Adventure related, and fortunately, Bne Acker and Ben Blacker continue to give their fans quality stories of walks in realms Beyond Belief.

Daredevil #18
Story: Mark Waid
Art: Chris Samnee & Matthew Wilson

All good things must come to an end, and so ends Mark Waid and Chris Samnee's impressive run on Daredevil. After over four years, Waid bows out this issue, having written two volumes of the series, of which Samnee drew the majority. Waid has done an impressive job of balancing the brooding with the funny, moving Daredevil away from the character that Frank Miller crafted, the tormented Catholic who loses everyone he loves, and into a character who looks on his life with a bit more of a smile. It's not to say that Daredevil's life is easy or the comic is a comedy. Going into this issue, Matt Murdock, Daredevil has rarely been in more dire straits: his whole life laid bare by the Shroud and the Owl, his reputation ruined, and the two people he loves most, his best friend Foggy Nelson and his girlfriend Kirsten McDuffie, in the hands of his archfoe, the Kingpin. The story spotlights everything about Daredevil that makes him a great character: he uses his mind to set up Kingpin's downfall, and then he uses his fists to aid in it. And Waid gives Matt a big win as well as the losses here, keeping the balance just right. A lot of this series has been about Matt discovering things about himself and dealing with all the issues that years of being beaten down by his enemies and fate have given him, and at the end, before he has to go out and talk to the reporters and explain exactly what happened to him during his time in San Francisco, he breaks down. Not nervous breakdown collapse breaks down, but talks to Foggy and Kirsten about what being a man without fear means, and it's not all for the good. But he perseveres and pushes through, We get to see Matt in his traditional costume again, and Chris Samnee gets to draw not just the impressive fight scenes that have been his trademark on Daredevil,  but also some of the personal, quieter scenes that show off a different set of skills, with strong acting from the faces and body language that flow in a different way than combat. Chris Samnee was an artist whose work I enjoyed before this run, but after it he's become an artist I will follow wherever he goes. I'm looking forward to seeing what Charles Soule and Ron Garney are going to be doing on their new run on Daredevil, but they have very big shoes to fill; this run is as definitive to Daredevil as Waid's run on Flash as to Wally West. It was a swashbuckling story of crime, the law, superheroics, and a man trying to make the world and his life better. If you never tried it, or are curious about Daredevil after you saw his Netflix TV series, it's really something worth checking out. It's not like any Daredevil of the twenty years before it, and I think it will be the standard the next twenty years are measured against.

And Dan Grote reviews this week's battle between two of our favorite characters...

Deadpool vs. Thanos #1
Story: Tim Seeley
Art: Elmo Bondoc & Ruth Redmond

A long time ago (2002) on a space throne far, far away, Thanos, the Mad Titan, killer of stuff, cursed Wade Wilson with immortality, on account of Wade was getting too cozy with Thanos’ main squeeze, the living embodiment of Death.

The splash page on which this happened was the final page of writer Frank Tieri’s run on Deadpool, which cleared the way for Gail Simone and Udon Studios to take over the character. Thirteen years later, that coda is being explored in greater detail in a four-issue miniseries by writer Tim Seeley (Grayson) and artist Elmo Bondoc (the Loki issue of Ms. Marvel).

In Deadpool vs. Thanos, Death has gone missing. Not just taken a holiday, but completely disappeared. As a result, not only can no one be killed, but the dead are coming back to life (Yeah, I know, more zombies; let’s not dwell on it). Which totally messes with Deadpool’s assassination of Dr. Doom, who attempts to return the favor. While Wade heals from the more successful attempts on his life, he visits a place between life and death where he gets, let’s say, conjugal visits with Mistress Death (and a sweet, outside-the-mask mustache). This time, though, Death is trapped behind a mirror and begging for Wade’s help.

When he comes to, Deadpool seeks the expertise of Black Talon, a voodoo practitioner and rooster-headdress aficionado, who turns DP on to the idea of tracking down Thanos. After a fun montage featuring the Avengers, Cable, a poop joke and a Muppets reference, Deadpool shows up at Thanos’ space-doorstep, and tall, purple and rock-chinned commences straight up mega-murdering our anti-hero, having rescinded his decade-old curse.

Except it doesn’t take. Whoever took Death out of the picture, it’s not Thanos. And so the two realize they must team up to set the balance of life and death aright. Hope you like zany antics on a cosmic scale, because they’re gonna ensue.

For continuity geeks, a recap page lets readers know this story takes place before Deadpool’s Marvel NOW! relaunch of just a couple years ago. So don’t look for talk of Battleworld, incursions, the ghost of Benjamin Franklin or SHIELD agents who look like Pete Hornberger from 30 Rock. But if you’re a fan of DP’s retconned misadventures, such as the just-ended Deadpool’s Secret Secret Wars, you’ll no doubt enjoy this, too.

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