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Picks of comic book week: East coast Daredevil meets the west coast Daredevil

Daredevil #1

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The weekly dose of the best comic books from March 19th, 2014!

Best comic books for 3/19/14-slide0
Midtown Comics
Surf's up!
Surf's up!Midtown Comics

Book of the week: Daredevil #1

It could be easy to make decisions regarding comic books when they're either selling extremely well or extremely poorly; one either gets out of its' way or cancels it, respectively. But what to do about a plucky "critical darling" which just won an Eisner award last year and consistently sells over 32,000 copies a month, but is still selling below where it began and where some expect it to? Is it best to leave it alone and hope that "diminishing returns" don't force the end of a critically acclaimed book which may sell far better for years in trade collections, or is it best to risk tampering with the fickle alchemy of retailers and regular comic book readers with a fresh debut issue which spikes sales for one or three months at most, as well as hikes the price?

It is from this vantage point that "Daredevil #1" debuts, as it is little different from last month's "Daredevil #36" aside for the cover price. It is still written by Mark Waid, who is having a career embellishing run on a franchise which has been left for dead at the alter of "grim and gritty" more than once. It is still expertly drawn by Chris Samnee, whose presence as a "co-storyteller" of this run alongside Waid cannot be underestimated. It is even still being colored by Javier Rodriguez, whose colors always pop. It also follows along with the same overall continuity that Waid had crafted within this series for three years, albeit with some recap pages to catch up the "new"readers. Fortunately, Waid and Samnee do their best to present this as a fresh beginning for their run, at the very least of this "season" of "Daredevil". The gist is after exposing the entrenched "Sons of the Serpent" society from their positions in law enforcement and the court system, Matt Murdock decided to leave New York City since in doing so he revealed his identity as Daredevil in open court for the entire media to see. Having been disbarred from practicing law, he's moving back to his old digs in San Francisco, where he last set up base in 1970's stories alongside Black Widow.

San Francisco is not the same as New York City, and Waid and Samnee are wise to embellish this. Not only is Daredevil out of his element with unfamiliar landmarks, but his treatment by local law enforcement is also much different. It is worth a mention that in Marvel Comics continuity where mutants were still being assassinated in broad daylight by giant robots to the collective cheers or silence of most civilians in NYC, a team of mutants called the "X-Statix" became Hollywood heroes on the west coast. Not only have the X-Men had ties to California for years, Magneto is still on their active roster. To this end it makes perfect sense that while Matt may not be practicing law, he's quickly been put to work as a "consultant" to the police force in the pursuit of a kidnapped child. Daredevil's quest to save the child brings him all around town and under strife from kidnappers he hardly expected.

As always, Waid and Samnee are in harmony in producing a Daredevil comic book. His senses are visualized in franchise changing ways and Waid as always nails the voice of the character. The angle of a superhero who is both blind yet possesses superhuman senses can be a difficult contradiction for some writers, but Waid continues to cater to both angles of Murdock in an almost effortless fashion. This issue quickly makes hay of its' new setting and cast, and plays things off as a police procedural which just happens to feature a superhero. To a degree this opening entry is a simple story which is heavy on action, but that may be the best way to welcome both old and new fans to this latest debut issue of Daredevil.

Marvel Comics has something special in their "Daredevil" run by Waid and Samnee. They've chosen to risk mucking with the ingredients of its' success in what could be seen as a short sighted attempt to wring more cash out of it before poor sales get it canceled anyway. But it is possible that this time the cynics will be wrong, and this time a book which rightly deserves to be a top ten seller can relaunch there and stay there strictly because quality is rewarded by fans and retailers alike. "Daredevil" has been one of Marvel Comics' best ongoing series for some time now, and it is past time it got the sales it deserved.

Honorable mentions:

Batman Beyond Universe #8: DC Comics' reprint of their excellent "Beyond" digital comics continues to offer costumed delights to fans who may not be fond of the "New 52" but still be thrilled with DC animation from the past fifteen years. As the cover reveals, the lead story is the "Justice League Unlimited" story by Christos Gage and Iban Coello, "System Override". Brainiac's latest attempt to take over the world of 2041 has been met with a response by the League across the globe, and it all culminates into an over-the-top battle on and around the deserted Paradise Island. All hope seems lost until the sudden reappearance of Wonder Woman helps turn the tide; unfortunately much like her "New 52" counterpart, this is a darker and more corrupt Diana than the one most fans are fond of. Kyle Higgins, meanwhile, pulls double writing duty with two "Batman Beyond" strips in this edition. The first wraps up the main "Bat-Men" arc alongside artist Thony Silas that sees the end of the original Man-Bat and the possible introduction of his heirs. The second and more memorable strip is a simple story drawn by Eric Wright that sees Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon have a quiet diner meeting and hash out their past baggage. These stories play with the rich potential of the "Batman Beyond" concept in two different ways; action packed super-heroics and character development. The next month begins a "crossover" between the strips which will merely mean that the narrative of the next anthology will be more harmonious.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Utrom Empire #3: The final issue of this latest "side-series" to IDW's core "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" series. These sort of things are wisely kept brief and often are even wiser in embellishing the antagonists who have been discarded by the current arc. Writer Paul Allor, artist Andy Kuhn and colorist Bill Crabtree have told a tale centered around Krang's history but also about the pressure between Baxtor Stockman and Fugitoid. This series has been strongest in displaying that while General Krang may be a merciless warlord, he is in his own way attempting to save his own people from the reckless and inefficient galactic wars waged by his father. The drama of Fugitoid being trapped between Krang and the morally bankrupt Dr. Stockman is sound, although the end result leaves their situation exactly the same as before, despite three issues of cloak and dagger efforts against each other. Kuhn's artwork brings all of the diverse and bizarre characters to live and embellishes both the present island scenes and the past scenes in space. The finale embellishes the fact that "TMNT" seems set to have three opposing forces come into conflict very soon, with the potential for unlikely alliances being ripe for drama. Overall, a successful side series which helps set up what should be another great year of Ninja Turtle comics.

Iron Man #23: Longtime writer Kieron Gillen manages to recapture the magic which first brought notice to his Marvel efforts during his run on "Thor" some six years ago. This couldn't come at a more opportune time as his current run on "Iron Man" has often been fascinating but often wore out the welcome of some of its' loftier ideas. Things get a bit more grounded with this issue's introduction of a simple premise; Thor's old enemy Malekith the Accursed has decided to take on the fallen rings of the Mandarin for himself in order to bring about paradise for the dark elves of his race at the expense of everyone else. The concept of the rings "choosing" Malekith based solely on the fact that Iron Man is named about his physical weakness is a flimsy one, but the villain himself makes note of it and instead chooses to capitalize on his good fortune. Luke Ross is the series' new artist for the start of a tale which seeks to pit Iron Man up against a foe who is completely outside of his comfort zone, which means it will be ripe for drama and suspense. Much of this issue is merely set up for the rest of the arc, but based on that alone, this could be one of the best arcs the series' had.

Ms. Marvel #2: The origin of this new teenage "spin off" to Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel continues on as told by writer G. Willow Wilson, artist Adrian Alphona, and colorist Ian Herring. In essence, this sequence relies on the finale of "Infinity" for its' explanation. Young Muslim-American Kamala Khan is a "typical" inner city teenager torn between her devotion to her family's faith and her fascination with peers, social gatherings and superhero pop icons (Captain Marvel in particular). When the Terragin Mists released across the world by Black Bolt sweep over a party she was at, Khan discovers that she is apparently part Inhuman and gains shape-shifting powers. The story makes reference to these continuity trappings for the well informed, but also keeps it vague enough to not confuse new readers. Alphona gets a chance to take over the book in embellishing Kamala's attempts to get a grip on not only her powers, but her identity as a whole. Her first act of heroism may not be as flashy as some other heroes', but it is no less effective. Willow and Alphona are taking a slow burn approach, making sure readers get to fully meet Kamala and get to know her cast and situation before being thrown into the deep end of superhero action. This may be a wise move in the long term for the health of a bold new character such as this, but it may appear too slow for more adrenaline junkies. For everyone else, however, this is a quality comic which seeks to set trends in equality all while being wrapped in the traditions of mainstream superhero comics, and is worth everyone's time.

Superior Foes of Spider-Man #10: Double shipping this month for some odd reason, this entire issue is produced by "fill in" (or "guest") writer James Asmus, best known for "Gambit" and "Quantum & Woody" and drawn by a variety of artists. The premise is that it follows Overdrive, Beetle, and Speed-Demon's actions from when they parted company from Boomerang a few issues prior. They apparently sought to rob a bar and swap stories with each other, all of whom are more embarrassing than the next, before running afoul of one of Marvel's superheroes (in this case, Hercules). At least four different illustrative teams handle all of the segments, and while they play fast and loose with the continuity of these characters - Speed-Demon should have had more success than he lets on, for instance - it all works in the service of a laugh. The major curiosity is that Marvel chose to simply sell this as a regular issue of the main series, rather than an annual or a "point one" as they have come to do recently with filler stories. In fact, many annuals or one-shots or "point one" issues could have simply been extra issues of the main title, and usually would have sold better had they been. It was under that logic that Bill Jemas banned the publishing of annuals for roughly five years. There have been many annuals or "point one" issues which offered far more relevant stories to their core series which weren't sold as regular issues, even if they acted as such in terms of continuity and narrative. This, on the other hand, was sold as just another issue of "Superior Foes" despite all of Marvel editorial's previous practices. As an issue itself, it is fun for a lark even if it may not have much effect on the arc as a whole.

Superior Spider-Man Annual #2: Christos Gage writes his second and presumably last annual for the "superior" era of Spider-Man, which is essentially a packet of "bonus" stories to "Goblin War" from the main title offered for five dollars a pop. Two stories are offered here for such a price. The first features art by Javier Rodriguez with inks by Alvaro Lopez which covers reporter Ben Urich trying to come to grips with the fact that his nephew Phil has gone insane and become the newest Hobgoblin and is aiding in the current siege against New York City. The second story is drawn by Philipe Briones with colors by Veronica Gandini and follows the exploits of some of Peter Parker's supporting cast left behind in the corporate lab that Otto built in his body, but rarely runs. Wraith, Living Brain, and Sanjani are all fighting a battle against time to cure Carlie Cooper of the "goblin formula" that has transformed her into the bluntly named "Monster". The art for the first story is beautiful, even if it may not matter much to the core title; the second story looks more "typical" of a superhero comic but looks to "matter" more by sewing up some bits of continuity between issues.