Porcelain38 does two reviews for the price of one!
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Expectations are always hard to meet. This week saw the release of two highly anticipated first issues of what look to be very promising Marvel mini-series. Did they live up to expectations? We'll find out!
Writer: Andy Diggle
Pencils: Billy Tan
When Ed Brubaker left the monthly Daredevil book, he left Matt Murdock in a sticky situation. Murdock was put in charge of the Hand (a bad-ass ninja clan), and was exiled from his own personal life. Ever since the change, writer Andy Diggle has taken the character to a much darker place than normal. Daredevil has declared Hell's Kitchen his, and is using the Hand to protect it with absolutely zero tolerance on criminals. He has pushed DD into a corner, and now the Shadowland mini-series is him fighting back.
The opening pages of the issue address a major problem when tackling a story of this caliber with only street level heroes. The Avengers (Bucky-Cap, Thor, and Ironman) are letting DD's actions slide for the time being, understanding the need for him to plug up the power vacuum in NYC. However, they will step in when the time comes. That tiny little scene lets you understand that, for the most part, the big guns of the Marvel U won't be a problem in the free-for-all that's about to break loose.
This has to be one of the strongest first issues to a mini-series that I've ever come across. In the issue, we meet all of our key players and where they are currently at (Spiderman - Battery Park, Kingpin- Midtown, ext...). Diggle's strongest point was finally writing Bullseye (a character that has been missing in the monthly DD title since Bendis left), and it was a lot of fun to read the more Hannibal Lector version of Bullseye than the pretend to be hero Dark Reign version we've had for the past year. Daredevil's attitude does a complete 180 from what's normal expected, so it's a little off-putting to see him act in such a way, but that's kind of the point. This isn't just Daredevil. This is Matt Murdock, the man, finally snapping. Billy Tan's artwork is really strong on the book, seeing how it's mostly street level heroes and ninjas. The few pages that include the Avengers seem a little off but in retrospect that may be due to the remaining book being nothing but dark tones and shadows, and those pages being so bright and vibrant.
The main compliant I have is not exactly knowing when this story takes place. At the start of the issue we see Frank Castle in his normal form, and not as some grotesque monster. So obviously this is post Franken-Castle, but seeing how I'm one of only like eight people who are enjoying Franken-Castle, a majority of people can easily overlook this. Now I know a lot of people are going to be pissed once they reach the last page because of one of Marvel's promotional images for Shadowland ruins the end of the first issue. The emotional impact is still there, but it's still not the "OH ^#*&!!!!" moment it could've been if fans hadn't seen it before. Hopefully, Marvel won't ruin any future moments of the series with their teaser images.
If Diggle and Tan can reach the end of of this mini maintaining this high of quality issues, there is not a doubt in my mind that it may go down as one of, if not THE!, greatest Daredevil stories of all time. Yeah, that's a pretty bold statement, but this issue was just that damn good.
Avengers: The Children's Crusade
Writer: Allen Heingberg
Pencils: Jim Cheung
Inker: Mark Morales with Jim Cheung
In 2005, when Marvel announced that O.C. writer Allen Heinberg would be writing a book called Young Avengers, many fans rolled their eyes and wrote it off as cash-in on the Avengers: Dissembled crossover. However what fans got was 13 issues of top notch Avengers comics that were better than the entirety of New Avengers. Fans were introduced to some of the best new characters from the decade. Then, when Heingberg and Cheung left the title, Marvel planned on putting the characters on a shelf until they returned. However, to meet demand by the fans, Marvel published a few mini-series with other writers that were also good and sold fairly well. (This makes me wonder why Marvel didn't just go ahead and do an ongoing title instead of select mini-series, but oh well....). Now, five years later, Heinberg and Cheung return to the characters they created.
This issue caters to both people who have never read an issue of Young Avengers and the hardcore fans. You can pick up this issue, and, within the first three pages, understand who these characters are and what makes them so interesting. Now this is only the first issue of a nine part series, so there's a lot of set up and not a lot of action going on. Heingberg's past as a television writer is obvious due to the large amount of talking heads found within the issue and interesting dialogue between the teenage characters. The clear point of this mini-series is to find the Scarlet Witch, a character who has been missing since the House Of M debacle a couple of years ago. The issue ends with a special appearance from a classic Marvel character who will probably end up being the YA's mentor thoughout the series.
Heingberg and Cheung had no trouble picking up exactly where they left off four years ago. The dialogue is quick, snappy, and quirky, which makes you forget about the fact that almost nothing happens in this issue. Cheung's art is still sharp and detailed, and reminds you why he is one of Marvel's best artists. The idea of the YA trying to find the Scarlett Witch is an interesting concept and will take the characters deeper into the Avenger's mythos.
The major problem I have with it is the inconsistent timeline within this issue. This script could have easily been written and drawn five ago, and, with a few simple re-writes, been thrown out without a second thought. There is maybe like a paragraph describing the events between the first mini and this current one, and after that no one seems to mention them again. I mean you have Steve Rogers running around as Captain America and not "Captain Steve Rogers," as he likes to be called nowadays. It's just a little off-putting. As you're reading the issue, it's really well put together expect for the fact that afterwards, you look back and realize that very little has happened in those 22 pages. It just felt a little lackluster for a series that reunited the original creators of the Young Avengers.
Without a doubt, Heingberg and Cheung are a great creative team and seem to be taking their Young Avengers in a new direction. It's a book that both YA fans and the casual Marvel reader can both enjoy without trouble. While not much happens in the issue, it seems like, if you stick with this and get to the end of this nine issue series, the pay-off should be enjoyable.