Comic Review: Daredevil: Return of the King

Published: November 6th, 2014
Written by: Ed Brubaker
Art by: Michael Lark, David Aja, Marko Djurdevic (cover)

Marvel Comics, 142 Pages

Review:

Daredevil: Return of the King was a fitting end to the Ed Brubaker run on the series, as well as what was the Marvel Knights run, which saw the comics released under that banner come with more grit, more realism and more adult storylines and themes.

With this story arc, Daredevil returns to the classic “Legacy” numbering, as it ends at issue 500 and then another creative team takes the series over following that impressive milestone.

This kicks off by bringing The Kingpin back into the story. He’s been gone awhile but the way he’s brought back is fucking dark but really cool. This event also changes him and he decides to work with Daredevil in an effort to finally take down The Hand and a very deadly threat to them both: Lady Bullseye.

This also wraps up some of the core storylines that started during the Brian Michael Bendis era and then rolled over into Brubaker’s. By the end of this, the series sort of has a clean slate to go forward in a new way for the next creative team.

For those who read my earlier reviews in this series, you know that I initially liked Bendis’ run but then it felt aimless and sort of got annoying. Brubaker stepped in and really cleaned up Bendis’ mess in a way that worked and sort of reset the series.

This story arc is a culmination of everything that came before it and it’s also an all out war. Honestly, once you get to the end, it feels like you need to let out a very big breath because we’ve reached a definitive conclusion to over 100-plus issues of pretty intense events.

Frankly, this was a prefect ending to a hell of a run. Granted, Daredevil keeps moving forward beyond this but had the series ended, I would’ve been more than satisfied. What a great arc with real meaning and purpose.

Rating: 10/10

Comic Review: Daredevil: Lady Bullseye

Published: November 6th, 2014
Written by: Ed Brubaker
Art by: Michael Lark, Clay Mann, Marko Djurdjevic (cover)

Marvel Comics, 122 Pages

Review:

I remember when I first heard about the Lady Bullseye character, I thought, “Oh, yay… another gender swapped version of a beloved classic character.”

Having read this now, I’m happy to say that the character isn’t simply a gender swapped Bullseye but instead, a complex, well written character with a pretty interesting origin that shows how she was inspired by Bullseye and how that put her on a very different path in life.

I probably shouldn’t have doubted Ed Brubaker, though, as his writing is generally superb and there’s very little he’s done that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy.

So this story has a lot going on in it relating to Daredevil’s personal life, as well as this new villain really shaking things up and bringing The Hand back into the picture.

Daredevil’s personal life has been a clusterfuck of retardation ever since Brian Michael Bendis wrote the series. Ed Brubaker has tried to clean it up as carefully as possible, though. Here, it feels like he’s finally washed away all the bullshit with the blind wife and whether or not people know the character’s real identity. And frankly, as a long-time Daredevil reader, I couldn’t give a fuck about those storylines anymore.

The stakes in this story are really high and there are some pretty messed up things that happen and I don’t want to get too much into spoiler territory but the lives of some characters are forever altered.

Overall, this brings the same level of quality that the rest of Brubaker’s Daredevil run has given us, up to this point. I think this is the second-to-last chapter in Brubaker’s run and that leaves me pretty gleeful for the next volume.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Daredevil comics from his Marvel Knights run.

Comic Review: Daredevil: Cruel and Unusual

Published: October 30th, 2014
Written by: Ed Brubaker, Greg Rucka
Art by: Michael Lark, Mike Perkins, Marko Djurdjevic (cover)

Marvel Comics, 131 Pages

Review:

So far, this is my least favorite story arc that Ed Brubaker has written during his Daredevil run. It’s still a good story but it’s mostly about court drama and trying to uncover a mysterious plot that sees an innocent man, who is actually a real monster, confessing to murders he didn’t commit.

I think this is a good break from the intensity of the series since Brubaker started, which saw Daredevil in prison fighting for his life, his final show down with Kingpin’s wife and then the irreparable damage that Mr. Fear did to his personal life.

This is kind of slow but it’s still interesting and there are real stakes here, as Dakota North gets severely fucked up at the hands of those behind this mysterious ruse.

Also, the mystery itself was pretty unpredictable and interesting.

Still, this felt like a halftime break between the two halves of Brubaker’s run.

That being said, I really look forward to what he has left and how he ends his run.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Daredevil comics from his Marvel Knights run.

Comic Review: Daredevil: Hell to Pay, Vol. 1 & 2

Published: October 16th, 2014; October 23rd, 2014
Written by: Ed Brubaker, Andy Park
Art by: Michael Lark, Lee Weeks, Leandro Fernandez, Marko Djurdjevic (covers)

Marvel Comics, 307 Pages

Review:

This is the second big story arc in Ed Brubaker’s Daredevil run and I reviewed these two volumes together because I thought it’d be better to look at the whole arc than just two separate halves.

Man, I liked this a hell of a lot and Brubaker just hits the right notes after Brian Michael Bendis’ run left a fairly sour taste in my mouth.

This story also sees the reemergence of two old Daredevil villains that hadn’t been seen in awhile: Ox and Mr. Fear.

That being said, Ox is still as dumb as an ox but it’s cool seeing him return to be Mr. Fear’s muscle.

In regard to Mr. Fear, he’s never been better. The character had been dismissed by fans for years as Marvel’s cheap ripoff of DC Comics’ Scarecrow. However, he shines in this story and rises to become one of Daredevil’s most formidable, powerful and scariest foes.

In fact, the twist of Mr. Fear being the thing behind several characters’ odd, violent behavior was really well done. Although, I had read this arc years ago and knew it featured Mr. Fear, I still thought the big reveal was damn effective and Fear found a way to break Daredevil down in a way that no other villain has.

Hell to Pay is a great story. Brubaker’s narrative style mixed with Michael Lark’s art makes this, hands down, one of the greatest eras in the Daredevil comic series.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: the other Daredevil comics from his Marvel Knights run.

Comic Review: Daredevil by Ed Brubaker & Michael Lark – Ultimate Collection, Book 1

Published: June 4th, 2020
Written by: Ed Brubaker
Art by: David Aja, Michael Lark, Tommy Lee Edwards (cover)

Marvel Comics, 304 Pages

Review:

After Brian Michael Bendis’ run on Daredevil ended in a weird spot because the guy just doesn’t know how to finish, we were treated to Ed Brubaker’s solid stint on the title.

Brubaker had his work cut out for him, considering where the character of Daredevil was when this started and because Bendis literally spent about fifty issues going back and forth on whether or not the public knew Matt Murdock was Daredevil and still didn’t give that extremely drawn out, tiresome and annoying plot a definitive end.

So Brubaker still has that bullshit to try and resolve while also having to figure out what to do with the title character being locked up in prison. Oh, and there’s the whole thing about Daredevil’s flash in the pan ex-wife that Bendis had to clunkily wedge into the mythos with romantic cringe that made me question the writer’s manhood.

Anyway, Brubaker doesn’t waste any time trying to make magic out of Bendis’ J. J. Abrams style ending.

So we start with Murdock in jail and with that, we see him have to survive while being locked up with a lot of the criminals he put there, including The Kingpin, The Owl, Bullseye, Hammerhead, Gladiator and a slew of others. We also see The Punisher get himself arrested, so that he can also go to jail in an effort to help Murdock survive in there.

On the outside, we have someone else posing as Daredevil, while Foggy Nelson and Dakota North work to get Matt out of prison. Pretty early on in the story, Foggy is murdered while visiting Matt in jail. This sets Matt off on a revenge quest within the prison walls and with that, we get one of my all-time favorite Daredevil story arcs.

Following the prison story, we see Matt go to Europe, as there are more layers to the mystery surrounding Foggy’s death. This second half of the story is pretty fucking great too and the ending wasn’t anything I expected. It also satisfied, unlike the end of Bendis’ tenure on the book.

Beyond the story, the art in this is superb. Brubaker worked with Michael Lark, who is an artist that he actually works with fairly regularly. In this series, Lark really captured the already established tone and vibe of the Marvel Knights era of the Daredevil series. Lark was probably the perfect guy to pick up this ball and run with it, as he’s done a lot of the more gritty noir-esque comics that Brubaker has written over the years.

If you are a fan of Daredevil and haven’t read this story, you probably should. It’s one of my favorites of all-time and this Ultimate Collection joined both halves together in one volume. Although, you can also find the two stories as two separate trade paperbacks under the title The Devil, Inside and Out (Vol. 1 and 2).

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Daredevil comics from his Marvel Knights run.

Comic Review: Batman: War Games: Book Two

Published: 2004-2005
Written by: various
Art by: various

DC Comics, 628 Pages

Review:

While this does read better than the first volume in this two part epic series, it is still kind of a mess in that it jumps all over the place and doesn’t seem to follow any sort of logical narrative path. In short, it’s hard to follow and it’s not all that exciting to begin with.

I’m not sure why some people have made a big deal about the War Games epic. Sure, most of the art is solid and I mostly like the parts written by Ed Brubaker but this is such a mixed bag as a total package that the low points and drastically different art styles just pull you right out of the story.

This is overloaded with characters, which typically isn’t a bad thing for a large Batman story. However, this reads more like a massive DC mega event in that it’s so overloaded that there isn’t anything that one can fully connect to. Even if you’re interested in a certain plot thread, sometimes you get distracted for a really long period of time before coming back to it.

This was pretty poorly organized and executed.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other Batman stories of the late ’90s and early ’00s.

Comic Review: The Death of Captain America, Vol. 1: The Death of the Dream

Published: June 11th, 2008
Written by: Ed Brubaker
Art by: Steve Epting, Mike Perkins

Marvel Comics, 161 Pages

Review:

I was excited to read this after having recently read Ed Brubaker’s first three volumes in his Captain America run, as well as revisiting the Civil War event.

This story takes place immediately after Civil War and in the first issue of this collection, we see Cap arrive at the courthouse to stand trial only for him to be assassinated on the steps before entering.

What follows is a political thriller with a lot of twists, turns and curveballs. This story is also used to setup Bucky Barnes a.k.a. Winter Solider as the new gun-toting Captain America. While he doesn’t become the new Cap yet, this is the start of that interesting journey and intriguing era for the character.

The death of Cap happens so quick and once you get past that, this deals with the fallout from it and how it effects certain characters while also slowly revealing that something is very complicated with one of them. I don’t want to say too much for risk of spoiling a major plot twist.

I thought that this was pretty good but it doesn’t have a definitive ending. It’s left open ended, as this is the first of several parts collecting the larger saga around Cap’s death and Bucky’s evolution into the role of Cap’s replacement.

Brubaker once again wrote a compelling and interesting story with superb art by Steve Epting and Mike Perkins.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: the rest of Ed Brubaker’s Captain America run.

Comic Review: Captain America: Red Menace

Published: June 15th, 2011
Written by: Ed Brubaker
Art by: Steve Epting, Marcos Martin, Mike Perkins, Javier Pulido

Marvel Comics, 211 Pages

Review:

Ed Brubaker’s Winter Soldier story was damn solid. This immediate followup to it was even better. But sadly, this is all leading to the following story, the famous and divisive Death of Captain America.

In recent years, I’ve really liked the character of Sin, who is Red Skull’s daughter. This serves as her origin story and shows how her father viewed her, treated her and eventually, how Crossbones came along and broke her, bringing her closer to her destiny as Red Skull’s heir.

This also builds off of the Winter Soldier story, as we see Captain America still trying to reach out to his best friend and bring him back over to the light, fully.

Additionally, we get to see a strange version of Red Skull, who is emerging in a fairly intriguing way, setting up future stories.

This also teams Cap up with Union Jack and Spitfire, calling back to the Invaders, Cap’s team from World War II.

Overall, this is a great comic that is more political thriller than what superhero comics tend to be. It actually reminds me a lot of the tone of the Captain America: Winter Soldier film from 2014.

Ed Brubaker is a fantastic writer, as can be seen from my reviews of a lot of his work. He was stupendous in his handling of the Captain America title and this collection is no different. In fact, I consider it a high point and I look forward to continuing on beyond this, as I remember liking the series even after Cap died.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: the rest of Ed Brubaker’s Captain America run.

Vids I Dig 190: Comic Tropes: ‘Criminal’: How Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips Tackle Noir

From Comic Tropes’ YouTube description: Writer Ed Brubaker and artist Sean Phillips formed one of my personal favorite creative teams in comics. Since 2006, they’ve been releasing crime stories in their series Criminal. This video looks at their partnership and the noir tropes they utilize to make their comics.

Comic Review: Gotham Central – Book One: In the Line of Duty

Published: March 15th, 2011
Written by: Ed Brubaker, Greg Rucka
Art by: Michael Lark

DC Comics, 241 Pages

Review:

Gotham Central is a comic book series that I have heard nothing but praise for since it started back in 2002. I never read it but I have now read a lot of Ed Brubaker’s crime comics, as well as Greg Rucka’s Stumptown, which has a similar tone and style.

Since I am a fan of both writers’ crime stuff, as well as a Batman fan, I figured that giving this a read was long overdue.

What’s cool about Gotham Central is that it primarily focuses on the police officers on the Gotham City Police Department with very little involvement from Batman. Hell, this first collection doesn’t even feature Commissioner Gordon. I’m not sure if he comes back to the fold by the end of this series but so far, no Gordon in the GCPD.

While Brubaker and Rucka get this series started with a bang, Brubaker stepped away after the first arc, giving Rucka control of the series’ narrative.

There are two big tales in this. The first being about the GCPD trying to take down Mr. Freeze without the aid of Batman, the second being about Renee Montoya’s being forced out of the closet and into a murder frame up plot by Two-Face.

I actually didn’t realize that this was the series where Montoya was first depicted as a lesbian. I actually thought it was before this but having never read that story, it was handled pretty well and I liked the way it played out, why she was outed to her colleagues and family and then how it all came to a head in a surprising and twisted way.

This was pretty good top to bottom. I don’t know if I’m as enthused about it as many others were but I at least want to read the second volume to see how this series plays out over a larger sample size.

While it deals with some heavy shit for a standard DC comic book, I wouldn’t say that it gets as dark and messed up as Brubaker’s other crime stories. I’d say this is actually closer in tone to Rucka’s Stumptown series.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: the other three books in the Gotham Central series, as well as Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka’s own crime comics.