#1 With A Bullet: Mark Waid’s Daredevil

daredevil cover

Writing a great first issue is hard.  With “#1 With A Bullet”, I wanted to examine some debut issues that worked – or didn’t – in an attempt to figure out just what makes a great first issue… and what common mistakes creators occasionally make.  Today, I look at Mark Waid’s fantastic Daredevil #1 and the art of revitalizing a character who has been stuck in something of a rut.   Continue reading

Retrospective: Teen Titans vol 3 (part 3)

I’m continuing my Retrospective for the Teen Titans with the Teens Titans/Legion of Superheroes crossover and issues 16-19 (collected in trade as The Future is Now).  Handling a lot with these issues, so I’ll try to keep it from being too long.  I do want to state though that these issues are some of my favorites of this Teen Titans group and Johns is joined by writer Mark Waid for the Legion cross over.

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Review: Daredevil #1

I think that what Bendis and Brubaker did with Daredevil was nothing short of brilliant.  Like Frank Miller once did, they revitalized and repopularized a character badly in need of both, making him relevant to a new era.  But the question remained: where do you go from there?  When he had lost so much, when he had lost everything that made him a hero… where does Matt Murdock go next?  How can you ever go darker?  Mark Waid and his sizable art team have an answer with Daredevil #1, and it’s a surprising – and extremely well-handled – one.

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Review: Ruse #4

When Marvel released Sigil a few months back, it came as something of a surprise to me.  I hadn’t been aware that Marvel would be doing anything with the CrossGen properties they’d inherited from Disney, but I was legitimately excited when I found out they were.  CrossGen may have been a bad company, but they put out a lot of very good books, particularly in genres traditionally underrepresented in comics.  One of the strongest examples of that was Ruse, a rock-solid example in Victorian-era detective fiction, Sherlock Holmes with a twist.  And while Sigil‘s opening issue underwhelmed me, Ruse reminded me why I missed CrossGen so much.

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Top 5 Best Comics of September 2010


I read 28 comics in September, and these were the best.

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One Shot 4: Fantastic Four #60

Twenty-two pages fills up fast.  There’s no denying that.  Action sequences often eat up huge chunks of a book, and you can only fit so much dialogue on the page before it becomes cluttered, not to mention how much of the probably excellent art you’ll be covering up by doing so.  So, understandably, most writers will have their stories run in arcs, often using well over 100 pages to let it unfold.  It’s not hard to see why, but the tendency to keep expanding the story is part of what makes it so rewarding when you come across a single issue that manages to not only exemplify what it is you so love about that particular book, or even comics in general, but that manages to do so with an impressive economy of storytelling.  One Shot is meant to take a close look at why those issues work as well as they do, the way they do.

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Top 5 Best Comics of January 2010

I read 17 comics in January, and these were the best.

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Review: Incorruptible #2

Incorruptible’s premise is best summed up by its main character, “World’s greatest superhero has gone berserk. He’ll destroy the world. Somebody needs to step up.” Max Damage, former feared supervillain, is trying to be that somebody. The world’s greatest superhero in question is the Plutonian, the main character of Irredeemable. Incorruptible is Irredeemable’s companion, and you really shouldn’t read it without reading Irredeemable first. That’s probably Incorruptible’s biggest flaw. However, as a companion, Incorruptible works quite well.

While Irredeemable deals with larger than life superheroics and messages about the abuses of power and Internet trolls, Incorruptible is a more intimate look at a turning point in a bad man’s life, as well as the consequences of the actions we see in Irredeemable. Not only do we see shots of mass devastation, we’re informed, “Church attendance is up six hundred percent. Suicides, sixteen hundred, and that’s nationwide.

Besides further establishing the book’s tone, Mark Waid familiarizes us with his characters, mostly the aforementioned Max Damage and the hilariously adorable Jailbait. There’s a terrific shaving scene where Jailbait attempts to seduce the newly reformed Max. Not only does this provide some humorous antics, it informs us that Max Damage’s power is near-robotic after he’s awake for an hour or so in the morning. Not only does Max become impervious to bullets, he can’t eat or shave either.

Jean Diaz draws the book, and you’re almost sure to like his work. He’s able to handle the quieter, comical scenes with Jailbait, as well as Max’s first outing as a superhero. Diaz’s style is like most popular realistic artists these days, like Ivan Reis, and his style fits the down to earth feel of the comic.

Mark Waid is producing some of the best work of his career at BOOM! Studios. If you can only read one Waid comic, make it Irredeemable. And, if you like that, give Incorruptible a try. It’s worth it.

Grade: B+

-Bruce Castle

Top 5 Best Comics of December 2009

I read 20 comics in December, and these were the best.

5. Hellboy: Bride of Hell

Another classic Hellboy one-shot. Richard Corben, showing the whippersnappers how terrible they are, produces wonderful work that surpasses his Eisner-winning accomplishment on Hellboy: The Crooked Man. That alone makes this comic special. But, Mignola’s there too, providing a riveting, tragic tale.

4. Captain America: Reborn #5

This might as well be the conclusion of Reborn. We all know how it’s going to end. Even before Marvel ruined it, we knew. I’d rather have it end here. Sharon Carter in the hands of Red Skull. Sin destroying Vision with an Arnim Zola contraption. Crossbones, and his army of robotic killing machines, shooting the heroes. Red Skull, in the body of Steve Rogers, battling Bucky on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, while the Red Skull duels Steve in his own brain. This, rendered by Bryan Hitch and written by Ed Brubaker, is good stuff.

3. Astonishing X-Men #33

Ellis & Jimenez make larger-than-life superheroics look easy, when few books actually do it well. Fraction may be writing a great, diplomatic Cyclops over in Uncanny X-Men, but Ellis’ Cyclops is a bitter, war-forged mutant with the power of a nuke in his eyeballs. He cuts through a Brood-fused Krakoa like butter. Ellis provides humor, entertainment, and enough X-history to make the fanboys squeal, and Jimenez makes it all look pretty.

2. Irredeemable #9

Nine issues in and Waid continues to keep things fresh. This is extremism at its finest. Demons crawling out of mouths, villains hiding in friends, and “upgrading” used for torture, are just a few of this issue’s memorable moments. If Waid’s not commenting on Internet trolls, he’s commenting on the corruption of power. But, have no fear, there’s plenty of entertainment to be found. The subtext is just the icing on the cake.

1. Detective Comics #860

The final part of Kate’s origin feels more than a little Year One-esque, and Williams continues to give his best rendition of Mazzucchelli. We see the natural progression of Kate’s vigilantism evolving into so much more. Kate and the Colonel bond over the experience, which makes the issue’s Shakespearean conclusion all the more painful. Of course, Williams and Stewart, the best art team around, are the stars of the show, but Rucka pulls his weight and then some. With Batwoman at the helm, Detective Comics is, once again, the best comic of the month.

-Bruce Castle

Review: Incorruptible #1

Incorruptible is the companion of Mark Waid’s other BOOM! ongoing, Irredeemable. In fact, they take place in the same world, and the Plutonian’s actions are felt even in this first issue. If the Plutonian sounds unfamiliar, stop reading, and go pick up the first Irredeemable trade. It’s only ten dollars, and it’s a fine comic. If you’re reading this review to find out if you should read Incorruptible in addition to Irredeemable, I’d say yes, based on this first issue.

Max Damage is one hell of a badass. As the opening rap sheet informs us, “Max Damage is the only super-being able to survive physical combat with the Plutonian.” Max Damage has gone missing, and his crew is running a job without him. He returns as a Max unfamiliar to them. It seems Max has had a change of heart. The “why” is answered in this very issue.

Jean Diaz provides the art. He wields a post-Bryan Hitch style that’s quite effective. In fact, it’s safe to say that Incorruptible is a prettier book than Irredeemable. However, Irredeemable shows worlds ending, skeleton people, and all sorts of imaginative brilliance. Incorruptible is, so far, a street-level comic. But, from what Diaz has produced so far, it’s impressive.

We know what the premise is, and it’s intriguing. We’ve met the key players, and they’re interesting, with humorous names like “Jailbait”. And, most importantly, we’ve been entertained. This is a good first issue.

Grade: B

-Bruce Castle

Review: Irredeemable #9

Irredeemable’s focus has shifted. The Plutonian isn’t the star anymore. In fact, he spends the bulk of this issue in the fetal position. I’m not even sure he’s a threat anymore. Try telling that to Charybdis or the military. They’re still taking things seriously, summoning all their power. Speaking of power, with Plutonian out of the spotlight, Waid’s not commenting on Internet trolls anymore. No, he’s more concerned with the corruption of power. One of this issue’s patented two cliffhangers shows just how bad power can be, even in the hands of the good guys.

But, forget about the subtext, and Waid still entertains you. He finds a comfortable blend of the thought-provoking and the fun. What can be more fun than villains making cosmic deals, the military using demons, and the heroes beginning to fight amongst themselves. Oh, and Waid still manages to feed us some more backstory on the Plutonian, and all of Paradigm.

Waid’s firing on all cylinders, and Krause is rendering his writer’s madness with ease. Irredeemable continues to be one of the best superhero comics around.

Grade: A-

-Bruce Castle

Review: Strange #1 (of 4)


A few years back, during House of M, I turned to one of my friends and said, “I think Strange’s time is up. They obviously have no idea how to write him or what to do with him, so I say strip him of the Sorcerer Supreme bit and set him up as Marvel’s answer to Constantine – a wizard who knows a lot but has limited powers and a whole lot of enemies.”  Well it seems Marvel has heard my wish, or at least a third of it, because Strange #1 deals with the infamous Dr. Strange, now largely powerless, facing off against a powerful foe.  The other two thirds – that it be a dark urban fantasy/horror combo and that I write it – are understandably ditched in favor of a surprisingly light-hearted adventure written by some guy named Mark Waid.

Emma Rios is a large part of the atmosphere, providing cartoonish illustrations that, combined with lively coloring by Christina Strain, keep the tone light and exaggerated.  It largely works, thanks to the fact that Waid goes out of his way to match their manic energy.  Some of the scenes on the field – did I mention it revolves around a demonic baseball game? – suffer from an excess of energy, hitting the point of near-incomprehension and sailing right on by, but for the most part, the team works well together.

The issue is not without flaws, but it successfully introduces the new way things will work for the good Doctor.  Though it does little to suggest that the book will be particularly memorable, it does promise a fun adventure that will finally, hopefully move Stephen Strange out of the dull limbo in which the character has been stuck these last couple years.

Grade: B

– Cal Cleary

Advanced Review: Irredeemable #7

Note: Irredeemable #7 will be in stores on October 7.

Writing: Mark Waid continues to produce some of his best work. I’m not sure what enlightening writer-pilgrimage he went on, but he’s returned in top-form. This issue, he resolves last issue’s two cliffhangers, which leads to another shocking dual-cliffhanger. Could this be the start of some startling trend?  Waid continues to terrorize and shock us, while throwing in a few hilarious one-liners that prove he’s a master of this spandex-clad medium. Earlier, I had trouble distinguishing the different members of Irredeemable’s superhero team, Paradigm, but this issue sees Volt and Charybdis, fully-developed and fully-badass.

Art: Apparently, a lot of readers have complained about Peter Krause’s art, even finding it repulsive. Yes, it lacks some of the picture-perfect quality of mainstream art, but Krause’s art isn’t about the grandstanding splash-page. His work is clear and detailed. Krause favors storytelling, and he captures Waid’s radical ideas better than most.

Final Word: Waid has total freedom here, but unlike many mainstream writers who venture into the Indie market (I’m looking at you, Millar), Waid manages to keep his ideas in check. This issue does juggle a lot: A confrontation between the Plutonian and Charybdis, the disturbing discoveries of the other Paradigm members, and a pretty lengthy flashback. Thankfully, Waid manages to execute these ideas fairly coherently. This series is a fantastic example of stellar superhero comics, filled with respect and love for the old, while adding and enriching the medium. This issue is no exception.

Grade: A-

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Advanced Review: Irredeemable #6

Note: Irredeemable #6 will be in stores on September 2.

Writing: Six issues in and Mark Waid is still full of ideas. He’s created an amalgam that blends Silver Age concepts with contemporary storytelling. It makes for a highly appealing product. I always enjoy comics with madly creative ideas that can’t easily be seen in film. Unfortunately, Waid spends a little too much time being clever, and the characters are thinner than I’d like. The only one that’s fully developed is the Plutonian. However, the flash more than makes up for the lack of substance.

Art: Peter Krause is right there with Waid, every inspired step of the way. Whether it’s vast, apocalyptic landscapes or horrifying, skeletal people, Krause renders everything Waid throws at him.

Final Word: Waid & Krause produce another thrilling issue. So thrilling, in fact, that it contains not one, but two cliffhangers. Now, I really want to know what happens next issue!

Grade: B+

Irredeemable #6 PREVIEW

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