Charles Soule and Ron Garney’s Daredevil has achieved a milestone 600th issue and you better believe we have something to say about it in this week’s Marvel Rundown! Plus, we check in on a new Ghost Rider series catching up with Johnny Blaze and involving some of the elements from the ongoing Doctor Strange event. Plus, this week also packs the end of Jessica Jones’ ongoing series!
Written by Charles Soule and Christos Cage
Illustrated by Ron Garney and Mike Perkins
Colored by Matt Milla and Andy Troy
Lettered by VC’s Clayton Cowles
Alexander Jones: AJ, the Marvel Universe is locked in a brawl with the mayor of New York City, Wilson Fisk! What did you think about Marvel’s newest milestone, Daredevil #600?
AJ Frost: Hey there Alex! Well, this one was a doozy, but I’m not sure I ever found myself invested in anything during the book. Honestly, even though this comic has been touted as a major benchmark for the Daredevil line, I found the whole enterprise a tad rote. The plot could have been any regular issue and nothing would have felt different. Did you get the same sense?
Jones: I am a ginormous fan of Charles Soule’s run on Daredevil overall and was fascinated with what the creator was going to do for the issue with artist Ron Garney, but I have a sneaking suspicion I know exactly what happened here. Because of the pacing and the surprise of the Mayor Fisk arc on the title, I can’t help but perceive the anniversary was sprung on the creative team here who did their best to build to an anniversary worthy of a milestone such as this. With the heights the comic nailed with the beloved ‘Supreme’ and ‘Purple’ arcs, I will keep reading and certainly don’t think this is a poorly written or drawn story–I just have high expectations for the ongoing.
Frost: That’s a fair point. But reading this from a more casual perspective, I’m still unsure of what should get me hyped up as a reader. All the elements are there: Marvel legends, new heroes, vile villains, but the recipe never coalesces into something memorable. Some of the plotting does seem to strain credulity (as much as it can in a cape comic).
Jones: Soule definitely stumbles to try and make sense of why all these heroes are there in the first place. If he got rid of some of those elements and told a more stripped back story, the paranoia of Daredevil being alone in the stakeout scene could have potentially been the one aspect of the script making the story fall into place. The conflict between Daredevil and Wilson Fisk was nicely executed, as well as the final cliffhanger and the scenes with Blindspot, but those moments weren’t the core crux of the narrative. This was a more intimate story written as though it was a huge, weighty climax to something. Unlike lots of other storylines in the title, this is a chapter which was not organically built up to and shoe-horned in a couple issues ago. I feel even though you are jumping in now, you can kind of smell a slight sense of silliness considering how arcs like the aforementioned ‘Supreme’ spent lots of time putting Matt Murdock into the right place. All of the above still being said, I love everything Ron Garney has been creating since his Daredevil debut. He seems to be taking a definitive influence from Frank Miller while modernizing and delivering his own spin on the formula.
Frost: Where Garney shines more is in the page composition. There’s more interesting spreads and mixing and matching of panel types over the course of the issue than in typical Marvel book. Of course, Frank Miller is the gold standard, and Garney does approach the classic take while making the character his own. Not to sound too down, but overall it didn’t pull me in. Matt Milla’s coloring work throughout the story was really solid though. But the modern Daredevil aesthetic of dark maroon on black can strain the eyes a bit, ya know? I felt most drawn in when there was a break from the darkness, especially with the panels from Matt’s POV, which are in these nice neon green and purples for contrast which was a nice touch. But, again, overall, wasn’t really jibing with the whole thing.
Jones: I could see why maybe you wouldn’t enjoy the art at some points but I was still impressed with the shadowy costumes and beautiful lack of detail in some moments. The radar sense panels are drawn with a couple visual tricks and there are lots of tiny embellishments that stick with me even after closing the page–I can still picture Garney’s drawing of Daredevil. I especially enjoyed the brutal manner in which the short fight scene played out between Fisk and Murdock. The Blindspot battle was also really fantastically drawn as well, I believe Garney has a strong eye for those huge action sequences. Without going into spoilers, what did you think about the big cliffhanger?
Frost: Yeah, the “Fiskfight” (ha ha, get it) was one of the highlights of the plot, but (and please don’t rag on me too hard), it really felt like just another scene from the Netflix show. I really just had Vincent D’Onofrio’s voice in my head going “I’M GOING TO KILL YOU.” Ok… got that outta the way. As for the cliffhanger, it did leave me intrigued about the sticky situation that DD faces in the next issue.
Jones: I don’t want you to get the wrong impression and think this is my favorite comic book ever, but there is enough right with the chapter for me to at least it recommends it to those already following the run and anyone who is still interested in Ron Garney’s artwork. I would give it a BROWSE for anyone just stopping in and say keep reading to those who have been here since Soule and Garney’s debut.
Frost: I’m also a BROWSE from the opposite direction. Look, this isn’t my cuppa tea, but there’s still enough content here for readers who enjoy this stuff. There’s some good art and some nice running dialogue, even though the story as a whole didn’t coalesce. Plus, it’s a big milestone issue, so that should put it over the line to at least give it a quick peek.
Final Verdict: AJ and Alexander both say BROWSE!
Damnation: Johnny Blaze – Ghost Rider #1
Written by Christopher Sabela
Illustrated by Phil Noto
Lettered by VC’s Travis Lanham
Reviewed by AJ Frost
“Dark, profound it was, and cloudy, so that though I fixed my sight on the bottom I did not discern anything there.” Canto IV: First Circle, Inferno – Dante
Following the build-up, we finally have the continuation of what really happened to Johnny Blaze aka Ghost Rider after his Las Vegas plunge to his doom courtesy of Mephisto. Enter Damnation: Johnny Blaze – Ghost Rider #1, which reveals the fate of our favorite stuntman cum collector of evil souls rising up in pits of Dante’s nightmares. The results are darkly metaphysical and existential, as the creative team of Christopher Sebela and Phil Noto explore the rapport between Johnny and his dark spiritual self-travel as they travel through the seven levels of hell in order to exact revenge the dark souls who inhabit the underworld. Even though there’s a whiff of a bad buddy comedy movie implanted in the DNA of this story, the end result is an enjoyably cool ride through the eternal fires of Hell itself.
Forgive the pun, there is definitely a lot of riding on this issue. As readers have come to see the realignment of the magical part of the Marvel Universe and the re-establishment of Dr. Strange as Sorcerer Supreme, there’s a lot that could have gone wrong here. Or, at the least, something that didn’t feel right. But Sebela crafts a story here that hits the right beats sings in the right key, and it just feels correct. This is the Ghost Rider we know and love, even when he’s operating as two separate entities because his sense of purpose is there. You know something is going right in these titles when the plot doesn’t complicate itself. All there is here is the mission to exact some vengeance and, in the case of this issue, to get to the center of Hell. Sebala does an admirable job here balancing some big showpieces with more introspective scenes (as introspective as a dude with a skull cocooned in hellfire can be, I suppose) that develop the character in interesting ways. And, as a nice cherry on top of a cake of tormented screams, Sebala finishes the issue with a doozy of a twist. I shall say no more here.
As always, Noto’s artwork stuns. His depictions of the depredations of Hell are so beautifully rendered that it should make one pause before they even think about sinning again! Every demon’s personality shines through, every lick of flame looks like it’s jumping off the page, and each creature is more horrifying than the last; it’s glorious.
So, overall, how is the issue? This one is a real winner. For me, it really had everything going for it: a pretty captivating story, superb artwork, and enough philosophical explorations to keep my mind engaged as I watched a half-elephant, half-man destroy a Mad-Maxish ghoul train with teeth. It’s truly a sight to behold.
Final Verdict: This is a BUY. Damnation: Johnny Blaze – Ghost Rider #1 is a tie-in that works in the all the best ways.
Jessica Jones #18
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Illustrated by Michael Gaydos
Colored by Matt Hollingsworth
Lettered by VC’s Cory Petit
Reviewed by Joe Grunenwald
Brian Michael Bendis’s Marvel farewell tour hits its second leg with this week’s Jessica Jones #18. After last month’s conclusion to the “Return of The Purple Man” story, the final issue of Bendis and artist Michael Gaydos’s run on the series is a standalone story that serves as both the final statement on the character and as a victory lap around the Marvel Universe.
From the character’s first appearance in the Marvel MAX series Alias to The Pulse and her appearances in his various Avengers titles, Bendis has used Jessica Jones and her role as a private investigator and former superhero as a gateway into the larger Marvel Universe, grounding and occasionally having a little fun at the expense of the fantastical aspects of the world. This issue puts that on full display as Jessica works a case involving a lesser-known villain called The Armadillo. Bendis is economical about setting up the details of the case before getting into the investigation, which features a sort of ‘greatest hits’ line-up from Bendis’ various Marvel work over the last nearly two decades. If you were worried that you weren’t going to get to see him write The Owl again before he leaves, you won’t be disappointed by this issue. The resolution of the case is somewhat rushed at the end, but it’s easy to see how it got there given how previous scenes play out, and it’s generally pretty satisfying.
As hard as it is to see Bendis leave Jessica Jones behind, it’s even more difficult to imagine a solo title for the character with art by anyone other than Michael Gaydos. From the initial 28-issue Alias run to now, Gaydos has been the signature artist for the character. His style is non-traditional for a superhero comic, but a perfect fit for Jessica and her world, where everything looks rumpled and lived-in. Combined with Matt Hollingsworth’s largely muted colors even on usually bright superhero costumes, the book feels, unlike any other Marvel title.
Jessica Jones occupies a special corner of the Marvel Universe, and in particular in this reviewer’s heart – when it was announced that Bendis was going to DC, my first question was ‘What’s going to happen to Jessica’ – and thankfully it does not appear that she’s going anywhere (Not that there was ever really any doubt, what with a hit Netflix series to her name). The issue ends with a promise that the series will return later in 2018, and while no information has yet been revealed about who will be picking up the reins, there’s no question that the issue that precedes said promise is a solid reminder that whoever it is has big shoes to fill.
Final Verdict: Buy. Bendis and Gaydos go out on top with a final story that showcases everything great about Jessica Jones.
Next week we’re making a fateful return to Marvel Two-in-One!