Tuesday, June 30, 2015

X - Men Inferno - the devil made me do it

I know that it´s a common excuse but many readers have questioned my comic taste in regards of my love for such huge crossover events like SECRET WARS II or INFERNO and where the INFERNO CROSSOVERS omnibus is concerned Ann Nocenti´s DAREDEVIL was a deciding factor.

Coming on the heels of Frank Miller´s acclaimed run - by fans and critics alike - Ann Nocenti´s DAREDEVIL run is one of the most often overlooked and under appreciated runs. It´s also one of the best runs in my opinion.

Although to be specific Ann Nocenti didn´t immediately follow after Frank Miller. And with that I don´t mean issues 234 written by Mark Gruenwald and 235 written by Danny Fingeroth. Nowadays all issues Frank Miller did on DAREDEVIL are thrown into one pot under the label of FRANK MILLER`S DAREDEVIL and sometimes BORN AGAIN is also thrown into the mix. But what most people forget - or ignore depending on the comic knowledge - is that there is a huge gap between his first long stay on the book and the BORN AGAIN issues. Nor did he write all of the issues alone and I know that it may be blasphemous to even think about uttering such a thing but as great as it was even Frank Miller´s grandiose Daredevil opus was only following in the footsteps of what Roger MacKenzie had established.

DAREDEVIL 158 is always the first issue people go to when Frank Miller´s DAREDEVIL comes up but while it was the first issue where Frank Miller drew the title it was Roger MacKenzie who wrote it. Roger is one of the unsung heroes of the comic industry and it´s mainly because he had the bad luck of writing a title that became hugely popular after another writer had taken over for which he had laid the groundwork. The same happened to Martin Pasko on SWAMP THING where Alan Moore took what he had already laid down and ran with it. Wow, another sacred cow I´m defiling.

Back to Roger MacKenzie, he came on board with issue 152 and much of what we associate with Frank Miller´s DAREDEVIL was written by him.

The introduction of important supporting characters like crime boss Eric Slaughter and reporter Ben Urich, who eventually figured out that Matt Murdock was Daredevil, the psychotic version of Bullseye, Daredevil´s epic battle against the Hulk, all of this took place before DAREDEVIL 165 which is when Frank Miller started co - plotting until issue 168 when he became the sole writer with the classic story simply titled ELEKTRA.  

So Frank Miller started writing and drawing DAREDEVIL with issue 168 and his first stretch on the title lasted until issue 191 which is the famous issue where he plays russian roulette with an immobilized Bullseye.

Issue 192 is written by Alan Brennert and issue 193 by Larry Hama before Denny O´Neil takes over with issue 194 who will write the bulk of stories up to BORN AGAIN except issue 203 by Steven Grant, issue 208 and 209 by Harlan Ellsion ( speak about star writers !!! ) and Arthur Byron Cover, issue 219 by a returning Frank Miller and lastly issue 224 by Jim Owsley.

So these are 35 issues not written by Frank Miller which are ignored by people when talking about Daredevil. Which brings us to Ann Nocenti.

This is one of the few moments in my comic reading career where being constantly late to the party paid off. To be honest I don´t know how my reception of her issues would have been if I had read the issues by Frank Miller first. I can only thank whatever deities are responsible for that but when I started reading US comics Frank Miller´s stint on DAREDEVIL was well over and I only read some of his issues much later in the spanish versions or in the awful Condor Taschenbücher. The first issues of Ann Nocenti´s Daredevil I got a hold on were 241 and 245 ( with the Black Panther ) one of THE best done in one issues I read in my whole life ! 

The next issues I got were 248 and 249, a two part story by Rick Leonardi guest starring Wolverine but it wasn´t until issue 250 when John Romita Jr took over as regular penciler that I was sold hook, line and sinker on it.

While Ann Nocenti brought her own ideas about issues like nuclear arm races, pollution, society or intensive livestock farming into the stories making them more complex and engaging for the readers John Romita Jr went to new heights under the skilled inks of EC veteran Al Williamson.

I was already a big fan of John Romita Jr. from his runs on SPIDER - MAN and UNCANNY X - MEN and it fills me with a bit of pride that I was already seeing a definite artistic growth there when most of the people around me said " What art style ? " when I was raving about DAREDEVIL issues.

Like most of the titles at that time DAREDEVIL was plagued by a constant barrage of tie ins to the massive crossovers but Ann Nocenti always found a way to turn this around and use it as an opportunity to put the spotlight on Daredevila and the supporting characters. One of the best examples of this is issue 252, a double sized FALL OF THE MUTANTS tie in in which the residents of Hell´s Kitchen believe the atomic bomb has dropped and Ann Nocenti explores how easy the foundations of our society dissolve.

It´s a great analysis of humanity ( just one of the many during her run ) and the most apparent sign of what a great writer Ann Nocenti is comes in the from of Cain, a boy who is introduced in this story who worries that he misses the instinct to do good. We see him try to be good, following the example Daredevil or a group of Vietnam veterans who help Daredevil fight the villain Ammo who rallies the gangs. But under the impression that this really is the end of the world he makes a few bad decisions which ultimately lead to his demise. I don´t want to spoil too much of the issue because it is a great read but in the end Cain dies in Daredevil´s arms while he tells him not to tell Matt Murdock about his misconduct.

Daredevil then takes of his mask to tell Cain that he is Matt, that he knows he tried and everything will be all right but it´s already too late. 

Which brings us to the INFERNO tie in issues of DAREDEVIL by Ann Nocenti and John Romita Jr. and my initial statement of this post.

Not being one of the popular DAREDEVIL runs like the ones by Frank Miller or Brian Michael Bendis there are no special collections and especially no hardcovers dedicated to it. There are two trade paperbacks of which I got the first one is the german edition because it uses a heavier paper stock that helps the art. The line art is so thin in the american editions that not much survived on the glossy paper they were printed on. The original art was made for the cheap paper Marvel used at that time that just sucked up the ink so it really looks better in the original issues. Likewise there are no omnibus books of this and the only place where you can find some of the issues is in compilations like the X - MEN : INFERNO CROSSOVERS omnibus. Where the bigger format really helps the art to look better.

Now this may not be a big pull for some readers but together with two issues of EXCALIBUR by Chris Claremont and Alan Davis which you also won´t find in any hardcovers, three AVENGERS issues by John Buscema ( also not in hardcover yet ), a whole bunch of Spider - Man issues by the likes of Sal Buscema and Todd McFarlane it was good enough for me.

I have thought about getting an ACTS OF VENGEANCE omnibus but after learning that there are only two issues of Ann Nocenti´s DAREDEVIL in this and that they are not in the same book as the three AVENGERS WEST COAST issues by John Byrne that were part of this crossover the idea lost most of its appeal. I think the only way I would be interested in getting both omnibus books would be with a huge discount which is highly unlikely keeping in mind the astronomical prices they go for at amazon right now.

As for the INFERNO posts I might just skip the next AVENGERS issues after I already did a lengthy post on issue 300 and go straight to the DAREDEVIL issues. The only complaint I have is that issue 261 is not included, probably because it doesn´t have the crossover banner.

Truth be told it may have been cut from the omnibus because Daredevil doesn´t appear in the issue but it has Johnny Storm as a guest star and Ann Nocenti manages to pack more characterisation about the Human Torch into one page than other writers in entire FANTASTIC FOUR issues.

To set things up - for this and the INFERNO issues - Daredevil is missing and Johnny Storm tries to get some information but fails miserably at connecting with the criminal residents of Hell´s Kitchen. Daredevil in the meantime is dying after fighting a gauntlet against his enemies ( all from Ann Nocenti´s run ) orchestrated by Typhoid Mary with the only instruction being to " beat him within an inch of his life " so she can finish him off.

Which - of course - doesn´t work out exactly as planned since the other personality of Typhoid Mary interferes and Matt ends up in the hospital.

But that is where we will pick up with our next INFERNO post because this whole scene where Karen Page confronts Typhoid Mary in the hospital leads into a whole tangent with comics for girls because there is one page where the art reminded me of a comic my sister used to read and so on.

For Today I hope I have piqued your interest in the DAREDEVIL issues by Ann Nocenti and John Romita Jr a bit and they shouldn´t be hard to find as I have seen most of these issues in comics per kilo and dollar bins.

Today´s links start with feebadgers post Overlooked : Ann Nocenti´s Daredevil on COMIC VINE and Zedric Dimalanta´s Leaving Proof - On Ann Nocenti´s Daredevil post on THE GEEKSVERSE followed by Dante on DANTANIA who tells us about his first comic ever : Daredevil 261 .

For more on that issue the trusty guys at SUPER MEGA MONKEY`S MARVEL COMICS CHRONOLOGY have a post on Daredevil issues 260 and 261 as well as on the aforementioned FALL OF THE MUTANTS tie in issue 252

And speaking of Daredevil 252, I would be remiss if I didn´t mention the MAN WITHOUT FEAR database where I found the synopsis for the issue .

We continue with MARVEL COMICS OF THE 1980s who provided the splash page to Daredevil 255 , the original inked cover to Daredevil 260 as well as for Daredevil issue 263 which will come up in a future INFERNO post.

Last but not least is Loren Freid at DAREDEVIL RESOURCE who takes A closer look at Typhoid Mary . Thanks again to each and all and next up on the blog is going to be my celebrity birthday post for Lindsay Lohan which naturally will include some part about my Justice League of America cast. 

Today´s video section starts with Comic Misconceptions which poses the question if superheroes need secret identities as Daredevil´s identity has been kind of out there ever since Brian Michael Bendis´ DAREDEVIL run.

Next is a video I found via facebook where somebody shows IKEA prints to " art experts ". Pretty much confirms my impressions about the art scene.

I still have some Yaya Han videos bookmarked so here is another one with one of the costumes from my Top Ten list. I still haven´t given up on that.

We also continue our series of obscure comic documentaries this time it´s about the british cult comic 2000 AD in THE DAY COMICS GREW UP.

And I couldn´t end the post with another entry in the I CAN`T BELIEVE THEY MADE A CARTOON ABOUT THIS series with the first episode of Malibu´s ULTRAFORCE which main pull was the art by George Perez.

I got some of the first ULTRAFORCE issues in the spanish version as well as some trades of the Malibu superheroes that feature Marvel characters like Thor or the Black Knight and Sersi who went over to the Malibu universe after the events of THE GATHERERS storyline in AVENGERS.

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Philippe Cordier said...

Always looking for some John Romita jr art I found your post. Great stuff. There is a pic of a girl reading a Diary in bed. It does have a little John jr vibe but I don't think it's his art. Where did you get this? Thank you

SUBZERO said...

I have been meaning to do a post on that. The picture of the girl reading the diary is from EL MUNDO DE ESTHER a comic series my sister used to read in the 80s. It was drawn by the spanish artist Purita Campos and they have just recently published a new edition of her work. The comic has been translated to german and other languages but was originally produced for the british market as PATTY`S WORLD.


phil cordier said...

Thanks a lot
I asked John Jr and he did not remember drawing that panel. That explains a lot ;)