Monday, August 6, 2007


Every week, Jon blows his rent money on comics. Here, he spills the beans on whether or not it was worth it. But to paraphrase LeVar Burton, don’t take his word for it—you should buy comics too. And then bag ‘em and board ‘em.


Mike Carey, writer
Jock, arist & cover
Clem Robins, letterer
Lee Loughride, colorist
Angela Rufino, asst. editor
Shelly Bond, editor

I’ll be honest for a change. After reading issue #1, I wasn’t terribly excited to keep going with this miniseries. In fact, I’d only picked up the first book because Jock’s work over in Green Arrow Year One is consistently (albeit after only two issues) sending me to fanboy heaven and because I like to think that, in the midst of all the cape-focused books I read, I manage to maintain some thread to the indieverse. (And yes, I do realize the issues inherent in what I just said, that one: my tie to indie comics apparently is Vertigo, and two: the very term ‘indieverse’ harkens to the notion of ‘universes’ presented by the Big Two publishers, with especial reference to DC’s now-it-exists, now-it-doesn’t multiverse. But I digress.)

Whether it was Jock’s fault or my own, I just couldn’t connect to the art in the first issue. Compared to Green Arrow, the lines felt rushed. Plus, Mike Carey gives Jock a lot more to put on a page than does Andy Diggle, and while I’m generally down for six or more panels per page, I feared that perhaps Jock was not quite so hip to draw squares.

All in all, by page 22 I felt I’d been presented with a lot of potential that was never really lived up to. Knowing, though, that not every book can get off to as raucous a start as Milligan and Allred’s revamp of X-Force back in the early aughts, I decided to give Carey and Jock the benefit of the doubt. And what do you know, I’m glad I did, ‘cause issue #2 hit me like straight gin on an empty stomach—it knocked me on my nethers and sent my head swimming, and best of all it’s got me thirsty for more.

Everything clicked in this issue, from Carey’s writing to Jock’s illustrations to Loughride’s colors. For serious, Loughride reminds me of a jungle-rules Dave Stewart; there’s a jaggedness to his work and an almost geometrical approach to separating colors that’s bold, energetic, and jibes well with the tone of the story and Jock’s lines especially.

And speaking of the story, this issue delivered in spades on the weirdness I was hoping for. It’s a slow build for the first 21 pages as Nick puts together that he’s essentially an amalgam of his closest friends, but on page 22 the flood gates open wide and the guy literally seems to melt (which, understandably, makes him slur his speech even worse than my buddy Mike when he starts hitting the sauce early on a Tuesday).

In the parlance of gym-class volleyball, if most books strive for a bump, set, spike delivery, I sense that Carey and Jock and are already in the midst of executing the feared—and more oft than not fabled—set, spike, kill maneuver. Here’s hoping, anyway.


Story by Carmine Di Giandomenico & Zeb Wells
Script by Zeb Wells
Art by Carmine Di Giandomenico
Letters by Artmonkeys’ Dave Lanphear
Cover by Carmine Di Giandomenico & Richard Isanove
Assistant Editor, Alejandro Arbona
Editor, Warren Simons
Editor in Chief, Joe Quesada
Publisher, Dan Buckley

So far as I know, I may be the only guy in the world reading this title. Seriously. I have heard not one word from anybody about Battlin’ Jack. But as soon as this book was announced, I was on board, and I can tell you exactly why. In the great tradition of Champion, The Harder They Fall, Rocky, and even that Three Stooges classic, Punch Drunks, Battlin’ Jack Murdock presents us with a human story set to the rhythm of jabs, uppercuts, ten-counts, and of course the judge’s bell. Yes indeed, I’ll say it proudly: If boxing’s your backdrop, gimme a ringside seat.

The creative talent behind this miniseries is also a nice draw for me. I’ve been a fan of Wells’s since he busted onto the scene a few years back with his one-two punch of back-to-back “Direct to Video” wins for Wizard magazine and then his K-O special of getting signed to Marvel. And while I was unfamiliar with Di Giandomenico’s art before this series, his illustrations of Jack Murdock’s final bout have a timeless quality that bleed with feeling; the art captures the story’s grit just as it also transcends it, and it’s in transcendence that all these boxing fables become so poignant (see again Punch Drunks).

Another perk to this story is the vaguely Catholic bent. Apparently, Daredevil’s mom left home to become a nun (who knew?), but this isn’t the part of the story I particularly care about. Having grown up in the Catholic Church, I always find it especially affecting when presented with a character estranged from the faith who maintains some abstract sense of the spiritual, and Jack Murdock could hardly be more textbook. Take, for example, this bit of narration:

“I ain’t so much as smelled a drink or thought about a fight while I wore her cross…

“…But that’s not to say it never came off.”

Along a similar line, there’s Josie the bartender, chagrined because all she wants is for Jack to like her, and he does so much so that he can’t bring himself to go up to her apartment. “I’m not a saint, Jack. I’m just another person,” she almost pleads. “No you’re not, Josie,” Jack responds. “Not to me.”

Lastly, if you’re still not convinced, this issue presents a pre-Daredevil Matt Murdock in mask, come to his own father’s rescue. Revisionist history? It’s all fiction anyway, but even if you are a stickler for continuity, Bendis is currently making his career rewriting what we’ve all believed is true in the Marvel U, so why not let Wells have his shot at the title?

This week’s other reads (presented in alphabetical order):

Knowing that the burden of guilt for the derailment of their first story arc lies on the shoulders of Adam Kubert, I’m jonesing to have Johns and Donner back on this book. These fill-ins are getting old, and seriously, Countdown comes out every week—does it really need to bogart other titles with tie-in issues?

While I still don’t have the impression that anyone not reading this is missing something earthshaking, it remains a solid comic book. And Green Arrow just frickin’ rules the school.

The story’s building momentum and I’m starting to honestly be interested, but the art still feels weak, week after week.

I die a little bit on the inside every time somebody fills in for Dini on this title. And Mandrake’s art just looks too much like 1993 for my tastes.

Either retconning the Marvel Universe is loads o’ fun, and that explains the freewheeling jump from the Illuminati talking about their respective special lady friends to Namor kicking Marvel Boy’s ass, or else Bendis is really getting bored with it all. Either way, the king of Atlantis kept me entertained through both extremes.

For reasons incomprehensible even to me, I really dig the god of thunder kickin’ it in Oklahoma.

God only knows what the point of Endangered Species is, but fortunately it doesn’t affect the quality of the story Brubaker’s laying out.

JRJ draws a wicked Doctor Strange, and while this was the first issue in this story I’ve enjoyed, it still feels like there are no consequences—Thunderbolt Ross really should’ve bit the big one when the Hulk pulled him outta that chopper.

All images copyright their respective publishers. Text copyright Jon D. Witmer/The Danger Digest.

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