Daredevil: Back in Black Vols. 7 and 8

Daredevil: Back in Black Vol. 7 -- Mayor Murdock
by Charles Soule, Mike Henderson

Previously, Mayor Wilson Fisk was shot with a bunch of arrows, making Matt Murdock, the Deputy Mayor, the next in command. This is what happened next: Matt Murdock reverses a few of his predecessor's legislation, particularly the one criminalizing vigilante superheroism, and enlists the help of his fellow superheroes to defeat the Beast and his ninja army, the Hand. Aside from a little hokey twist from Matt's priest, it's a rote superhero story: bad guy takes over city. good guy meets bad guy. Good guy beats bad guy. Done.

Artist Mike Henderson gets a chance to shine in this trade-sized collection. He has a Rob Guillory-esque sense of cartooning that makes light of a lot of the drama happening around them. It isn't widely dissonant with the story but doesn't exactly do it any favors too. there's a great panel of Hammerhead that juxtaposes the absurdity of the situation, with the creepiness of enlisting a criminal.

It's an entertaining read, but the action and the plot just happens so broadly and quickly, that the lack of an emotional core amounts to a story that's little more than a boy playing with his action figures. Dramatic motions ensue, and then they're retracted a few pages later. Kind of like how a cliffhanger is immediately resolved on the first page of the next issue. The problem is that it lacks weight if this is all you're going to do.

The hook for the next story is this: the Kingpin recovers from his encounter with the Hand, and reassumes the Mayoral office, while accidentally slipping that the vote was indeed -gasp!- fixed. West Wing-style drama ensues in Hell's Kitchen.

Daredevil: Back in Black Vol. 8 - Death of Daredevil
by Charles Soule, Phil Noto

Two storyarcs wrap up this final collection of Charles Soule's run of Daredevil. Issues 606-608 comprise of the "return" of Matt Murdock's fake twin, Mike Murdock, and issues 609-612 are "The Death of Daredevil." They're both umbrella'd by Matt's efforts to uncover the truth about how the Kingpin rigged the election that put him in the Mayor's office. We get to meet Cypher, a mutant who can understand any language in the world, along with "Reader," a blind man who has the ability to turn the first three things he reads in a day, into reality...and his seeing-eye corgi!

It's a fun return to form for Daredevil that reminds us of the emotional core of the series. From his gathering of this motley crue of vigilantes, to a page of how in New York City, you get things done because you "know a guy," Matt Murdock is a man that never gives up for the love of his city. 

Phil Noto kills it on every page, using his photorealistic style to show off a double-page spread of the mundane with the fantastic: heroes gathering in a courtroom to testify against the Kingpin, along with dreamy intimate sequences of Matt hooking up with his former lover Elektra.

I won't spoil it for you, but the title already tells you everything: "The Death of Daredevil." Near the end, there's a brilliant use of the black page that conveys to you what's happening. For the entire collection, I was reading about Daredevil fighting an army of villains. He gets slashed, he gets shot, he gets beat up. He gets hit by a truck. But none of those compared to me just reading a page of black. For the first time in the trade, I felt fear. I was nearly so afraid that I couldn't even turn the page. But it's when you turn the page that Matt shows you what it's like to not be afraid. In Soule's words, it's the thesis statement for his run on Daredevil.

The whole thing kind of reads like a spy thriller. Matt is the narrator, but sometimes you're not sure you can trust the things that you're seeing or what he's saying. This makes sense considering Soule is a prose writer for this genre. For those of you that stuck with the title, here's your payoff. I won't spoil it here for you. Read it to believe it. 

Couple more highlights:

Beautiful scene of Mayor Fisk. So many shades of white.

We finished the Back in Black series! It only took...2 years!!

Daredevil: Back in Black Reading List

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Trinity Vol. 1: Better Together

Trinity Volume 1: Better Together
first 6 issues of the 2016 series
by Francis Manapul, Emanuela Lupacchino, Clay Mann

At some point in time, DC rebooted their whole universe. No, not that time. No, not that one either. That other time that was recent-ish. I'm talking about their 2016 reboot titled "Rebirth." That 80-page mammoth that supposedly kicked off the reconciliation of the post-New 52-niverse with the pre-New 52-niverse. 

In Rebirth, the Superman that we all knew died a hero's death (he did?), and Batman and Wonder Woman hardly know each other. In his wake, there's apparently a different Superman living the retired life with his wife Lois Lane (there is?)...and his son, Jonathan Kent!? So, the full premise of these six issues is that the "trinity" of DC's heroes are having dinner together, to get acquainted with themselves again, until they realize that something is lurking in Clark Kent's barnyard, which takes the 3 heroes hostage in a dreamstate...

Upfront, I only picked this book up because of Francis Manapul. That guy rocks the pencils and it's a visual treat to read his art. I love his debut work with Geoff Johns on the Flash and in New 52, and it seems that he's been "promoted" to writer as well, so the book is split up, somewhat by artists. When the 3 heroes are taken hostage by an unknown assailant, 3 different artists draw the 6 issues, each with their own styles which breaks up the story. Dark and moody colors accompany Clay Mann's pencils when we revisit Bruce Wayne's childhood, while dreamy, surreal watercolors accompany Francis Manapul's. It works, but it's just hard to read, knowing that it's only because Manapul couldn't foot the full 6 issues.

What gets me with this volume is that there's so much rehashing of these superheroes' origins, juxtaposed with this other stuff that I'm expected to know, but don't. Did I really need more exposition that explains how Wonder Woman came to be? There's just way too much internal monologuing in this story, told when I want to have it shown. Not only that, but eventually they explain the truth of the villains' attack, without much backstory. Spoilers: Am I supposed to know what a Black Mercy Plant is? Or The Green? I thought that was just the New 52 stuff? Poison Ivy is "mindwiped" to lose her connection with The Green, and her adoptive daughter...but does it really have any meaning if I didn't know what it was to begin with?

If you can get past the weird continuity stuff that they've either assumed you know and/or don't know, this is a solid presentation of DC's 3 intended premier superheroes. Kind of like Manapul's take on The Key's "Ambush Dream Sequence of Doom" story in JLA. As is, I came for the art. I stayed for the art. I don't think it really needed 6 issues to tell, but when you tell it with these artists, I'm OK with that.

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Moon Knight Vol. 3 and Daredevil: Back in Black Vol. 6

Daredevil: Back in Black Vol. 6 - Mayor Fisk
by Charles Soule, Stefano Landini, Ron Garney, Matt Milla

No build-up, no teasing. Just a couple panels of exposition, a mayoral inauguration and Kingpin of Crime Wilson Fisk is the mayor of New York City, "like a drive-by shooting." I've believed worse things in comics, so sure, I'll buy it.

In the next twist, the Mayor appoints as his deputy Mayor, who else, Matt Murdock. What follows is something like a cat-and-mouse legal drama, with Matt trying to thwart the Kingpin's moves and the Kingpin spinning whatever story he likes out of the last night's superhero plots. Add in a subplot of the murder artist Muse escaping jail to satirize the Mayor with giant public art, and that's mostly the story.

Ultimately, there's little meaning in whatever mayoral plot there is, because the final issue has The Hand straight up murdering Mayor Fisk with arrows. Or maybe he's not, they don't say, but either way, because of obscure NYC law, the Deputy Mayor succeeds the previous mayor. So just like that, no build-up, no teasing. Welcome Mayor Matt Murdock.

There's definitely a story here, but it's hard to give it weight if you're just going to ninja ex machina your key plotline. While it's entertaining to read, it doesn't amount to more than each issue distracting you with a shiny new whatever to obscure whatever flaws were in the previous issue. The key draw for the next volume is that Daredevil is in custody, while Matt has been appointed to Mayor. Of course I'm already this far...so I'll have volume 7 up whenever I finish it!

Moon Knight Vol. 3: In the Night
by Cullen Bunn, Ron Ackins and German Peralta

Volume 3 is the final collection of the 2014 series and collects issues 13-17. The scripts are great and really expand on the lore of Moon Knight as a priest of Khonshu, and the religion around Khonshu as a God of overnight travellers. 

The art, while a downgrade from previous collections, maintains the style and brevity of the prior artists thanks in large part to the moody colors of Dan Brown.

As for the content, there are some wonderfully unique stories in here. Moon Knight encounters: 1) a group of thieves that "capture" ghosts and sell them for whatever reason buyers buy them for...trophies, conversation pieces, etc 2) an evil dog trainer 3) the bogeyman 4) jetpack kidnapping cultists (what? huh? OK I'VE READ WORSE I GUESS) 5) murdering Khonshu worshippers that try to recruit Moon Knight. They're all separate and standalone but with the overarching theme of...what it means to wear the aspect of Khonshu. My favorite is the dogs one, because Khonshu has been asked by another God to help out with dogs that are being abused. As his agent, Moon Knight of course delivers on the favor and helps explain it to the detective:

Also doggies. Read about the previous two volumes, here:

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They Called Us Enemy

They Called Us Enemy 
by George Takei, Harmony Becker, Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott 
Years later, the trauma of those experiences continued to haunt me. Most Japanese Americans from my parents' generation didn't like to talk about the internment with their children.
As with many traumatic experiences, they were anguished by their memories and haunted by shame...for something that wasn't their fault.
Shame is a cruel thing. It should rest on the perpetrators...but they don't carry it the way the victims do.
One of my favorite lines from George Takei's story of his childhood, told with help from cowriters Eisinger and Scott, and artist Becker. He was 4 years old when the US entered World War II, so his childhood is intertwined with the slew of US legislation and the nationalistic racism that informed those bills. The biggest one of all, Executive Order 9066, was the one that rounded up people of Japanese descent living in America, displacing them from their homes and relocated them to various camps in the country. Part memoir, part history lesson.

Another example: after barring any Japanese from serving in the United States military, president Roosevelt introduced new legislation later in the war due to a need for soldiers. Instead of barring Japanese, they introduced a survey designed to interrogate the loyalties of the families interned in the United States, for the purposes of drafting the very people being interned:

I know, what a bummer. But what stood out to me was the optimism in the graphic novel. As a kid, George didn't know any better. He thought it was normal to be gathered into a train and transported with guards at the end of each car. When he asked his dad what was going on, his dad told him they were going on a vacation, and he believed him. He just thought that all children had to play within the confines of a barbed-wire fence.
It's this optimism, as naïve as it was, that informs his worldview on America. We get glimpses on how George grew up, from his anger as a teenager to learning ("re"-learning) what the camps were like. On how he started participating in civil protests and volunteering in political campaigns. How he first broke into the theatre, and then into TV, and then into the modern world of conventions and social media. He looks back at it as an opportunity for growth. As long as it took, the country that wronged him and his family did make reparations.

There's another scene, where George Takei is volunteering for the presidential campaign for Adlai Stevenson. At the campaign headquarters, former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt makes a visit with much pomp, and while George as an adult is absolutely ecstatic to meet this person, his dad feels sick and has to step away. It wasn't until later that George realized...his dad couldn't shake hands with the woman whose husband imprisoned his family. Contrast this to how George reflects on a different visit to the home of FDR:
It was a disastrous depression that Roosevelt pulled us out of.

It took that man, and his determination, and creative energy to establish all those programs, and lift the fortunes of our great country.

But as we were driving here today, I thought, 'I'm going to the home of the man who imprisoned me.'

And now I'm here in his home...only in America could that happen.
Both of their reactions are okay of course. They both lived through internment, but they lived through it differently, and he couldn't have had the experience that he had without his father. It was his father who protected his childhood innocence and naïve optimism in a time of great trauma and because of that, George is able to take that pain of internment and transform it into social change and hope. We could all use a little bit of that naïve optimism today.

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