The best comics which shipped on February 20th, 2013!
Book of the Week: Daredevil #23
On a week with a high volume of quality comic book products out for readers, it is the seminal run on the "man without fear" by writer Mark Waid and current artist Chris Samnee which continues to impress the most. Solicited as a "jumping on point" merely because it is the beginning of the latest arc, this issue operates in much the same simple brilliance as previous issues usually do. It tells a complete story within twenty pages with terrific art and ripping dialogue, while it serves the interest of the long form serial by building upon previous stories while adding new developments. It is naturally the aim of most monthly comic books, but is a feat which is so rarely executed as flawlessly as Waid's "Daredevil" does, especially within a mainstream superhero comic.
After defeating Stilt-Man last month, the friendship between Matt "Daredevil" Murdock and Franklin "Foggy" Nelson had been repaired after severe strain. The newest wrinkle is that Foggy has been under a lot of stress not only due to being best friends with a bizarre and often unstable vigilante like Daredevil or running a legal practice - it is because he fears he has developed cancer. This issue begins with Matt and Foggy trying to kill time before some critical medical results are in by swinging around town on a billy-club line. As usual for Daredevil, things rarely go routinely and an assault by a new band of villains attracts his attention. As an added wrinkle, the villains this time aren't mobsters or terrorists or bizarre thieves; it is a cabal which seems to be trying to duplicate Matt Murdock's origin sequence to recreate Daredevil. The results have produced a monstrous result, and Daredevil is only scratching the surface of the mystery.
Samnee's artwork alongside colors by Javier Rodriguez continues to be exceptional. With the lone exception of Khoi Pham on a .1 issue, this run has seen some of the best artwork produced for a Marvel superhero series. Mixing and mingling comedic scenes with scenes of action or horror, or even sadness, Samnee continues on this volume's trend of Eisner worthy art which flows with and enhanced an already great script. The last two pages in particular seem to demonstrate this better than anything in a review can. As always, readers picking up issues of this run of "Daredevil" are always in store for a terrific read, month in and month out, issue by issue. One hopes Mark Waid's tenure on this title will be a long one.
Honorable Mentions: Covering three different publishes this time!
Saga #10: Creators Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples continue onward with the series which has easily become one of the biggest critical darlings within years. A merger of Shakespeare and space opera unlike anything yet seen in modern comics, this issue continues along the terrific path paved by previous issues. The cast, which seems to be slowly but steadily growing as the story becomes more complex, remain divided. Marko and his mother are on an apparently living planet trying to recover the former's ghostly babysitter Izabel, while Alana remains on their "rocket tree" with her father-in-law and daughter, Hazel. They are being chased and tracked through space by the mercenary "The Will" and Marko's ex, Gwendolyn - alongside a slave girl who seems to have plot convenient abilities. It appears obvious that the "saga" is being split between two warring families within the context of a cross-breed couple dividing two planets, yet the execution makes such obviousness irrelevant. The issue starts with a flashback towards Marko and Alana fleeing the prison camp where they fell in love and shows how the series can seamlessly shift time around for its narrative. One cast member seems to bite the dust, and there is a hint of the large scale things which some expect of sci-fi epics. At this point we are two issues away (most likely) from the next break and trade paperback, and this issue continues along this new series trend of making innovative excellence look easy.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #19: IDW has cleverly chosen to make up for its primary TMNT ongoing title skipping January by having two issues of it ship this month; in addition to a key mini series double shipping last month as well. This issue continues the exciting recreation of the franchise by Kevin Eastman and Tom Waltz with artwork by Ben Bates and Ronda Pattison. Merging lore from the 1987 cartoon with the original issues from 1984-1985, this issue mostly focuses on the Ninja Turtles' struggle on planet Neutrino to aid their new allies as well as survive the war waged by their enemy, General Krang of the Utroms. Having fallen in with the Neutrino resistance (as well as the princess of their royal family, who Mikey is smitten with), the Turtles and their allies engage in a desperate rescue attempt while Donatello and the Fugitoid pool brainpower to solve a larger problem. Said problem is Krang's interest in conquering the Earth as well, a struggle which sees their enemy Karai of the Foot Clan inadvertently aid them. The writers have a lot of characters to juggle this issue across several settings, and while there is a lot of exposition to get through, an effort to establish character voices is evident. Some of the Neutrino rebels are stock characters from central casting, but at least the princess is bold and sassy. The action begins towards the end of the issue and sets up a fair cliffhanger, and very quickly this series has dove deep into the science fiction lore which many fans of the franchise sometimes dismiss for urban ninja action. This remains a terrific reboot of the TMNT franchise in comic book form and regardless of whatever happens with new animation or film, fans new and old can embrace this comic for their shell-back fix.
Superior Spider-Man #4: Former "Amazing Spider-Man" solo writer Dan Slott continues along this new Spider-Man title, which essentially continues along the run he had been on for over two years, albeit with a fresh title, lower issue numbers and higher sales due to the gimmick. Dr. Octopus is still in possession of Spider-Man's body, while Peter Parker's "will" seems to exist alongside him as a ghostly figure, occasionally steering his actions or preventing something dastardly. As the cover shows, this issue marks the return of Massacre since "Amazing Spider-Man #656"; a newer creation of Slott's (and Marcos Martin), Massacre is a mass killer with no capacity for human life due to a brain injury. He has escaped Ravencroft Asylum and begun his usual one man crime spree, and this time he's facing a "superior" Spider-Man who is perfectly willing to entertain the thought of killing a villain. In the meanwhile, Ock is disgusted to find out that Peter Parker never became a doctor, so he's marched off to finish his thesis at ESU. On the positive you have solid dialogue ("Accessing memories!") and more cast members starting to sort out that something's changed about "Parker" as well as brilliant art by Giuseppe Camuncoli and Edgar Delgado, as well as a shocking last page cliffhanger featuring the long awaited return of Spider-Man's green themed arch nemesis. On the downside, this issue also has the utterly random and grisly murder of Dr. Ashley Kafka, a once prominent supporting cast member in the 90's of "Spectacular Spider-Man" who hasn't done much in years. While this is hardly the first of Spidey's supporting cast that Slott has killed off for the sake of a story, unlike Martha Jameson or Silver Sable, there was no development or sense of weight; instead it was akin to giving Slott's newer villain a named corpse to increase his notoriety. That blemish makes this one of the weaker issues of the new series' run so far, but by no means does that make it bad. This still is one of the most innovative and suspenseful "mind swap" stories in years for superhero comics, and it does at least interrupt Spider-Man's status quo for a while.
More Good Reads: Action Comics #17 & Batman Beyond Unlimited #13 (DC Comics); Dark Avengers #187, Indestructible Hulk #4 & Morbius the Living Vampire #2 (Marvel Comics)