100 Days, 100 Comics #1: ‘Daredevil’ #500

Posted by – August 24, 2009

Daredevil #500Oddest blog confession that I never expected to make: This new series of posts was directly inspired by seeing Julie & Julia last night with my girlfriend. Looking at the scope of what the film’s title blogger achieved for herself through a year of foodie blogging, I got to thinking about what subject matter I’m regularly exposed to that would warrant an extended look. My goals are a bit different than hers. Chiefly, I’d just like to engage my regularly scheduled reading a bit more, and be able to take a step back at the end of it and gain some perspective on the comics medium, in addition to my own heretofore un-identified habits and preferences. Thusly, for the next 100 Mondays/Tuesdays/Wednesdays/Thursdays/Fridays, I’ll be blogging books from off my stack, on bookshelf, and out of the longbox.

There’s some real golden timing going on with my reading of this issue, having just watched Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds Saturday night and seen its 1978 namesake Inglorious Bastards on DVD last week. Meanwhile, Wu-Tang Clan’s Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) unintentionally made for the perfect background music to read this by. I mention all of these because Ed Brubaker’s storytelling does what Tarantino and Wu-Tang also do searingly well through understatement, which is taking overplayed genre elements like hokey costumes and cliché villains or plot-devices and re-imbibe them with a sense of weight. At least in Brubaker’s case here with Daredevil #500, this involves taking such backstabbing and ridiculousness and just writing good characters into a universe that is already built from such things that his readers are already inundated and familiar with for the most part.

That brings me to why the art at the hands of Michael Lark, Stefano Gaudiano, Klaus Janson, Chris Samnee, Paul Azaceta, Matt Hollingsworth, and anyone else in Marvel’s Hydra-sized art team who worked on this issue, work so blisteringly well. Photorealism has become this sacred cow to aspire to for action and noir comics, particularly do the success of books like Daredevil or Captain American, in recent years. Far too many publishers, editors, artists, and other folks making art direction decisions lose sight of good character design in the scheme of things and churn out some of the most unnecessarily boring pamphlet comics to ever grace my hands only to be quickly returned to their racks. I can’t stand stories as comics that don’t visually demand compelling artwork, yet get shoehorned into the comics format. Daredevil #500 is a shining example of the right way to balance pulpy-looking, colorful costumes with a darker sense of gravity that keeps suspense visually taut.

Furthermore, this variant cover I picked up had Geoff Darrow artwork, which David Paggi and Alejandro Arbona informed me of via Twitter last week. Being that I’m not a collector for collecting’s sake, I am typically 99.9% of the time immune to chase covers, but its salient calm combined with Darrow’s instantly recognizable craftsmanship and grit actually compelled me to ask the guy at Chicago Comics to dig one of his four copies out from behind the desk.

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