Rude Chapbooks 07.25.11 | Welcome Back, DD!

Daredevil #1? Bloody wonderful! Panel by panel, page by page, perhaps the year’s sweetest superheroic romp—a fitting tribute to longtime DD artist Gene Colan, who died as it was going to press. Recommended without reservation from among the week’s five focal floppies.

Despite laudable work on Marvel’s Man Without Fear by Ed Brubaker and others during the past decade, that work, to an extent, has misrepresented the character by so accentuating the devilish. Comes now Daredevil #1, with scripts by Mark Waid and visuals by penciller Paolo Rivera and inker Joe Rivera and by artist Marcos Martin, and though its embrace of derring-do might strike some as atavistic, the relaunch feels like the proverbial breath of fresh air in a mainstream lately smogged by “grim and gritty.” Indeed, this debut arguably numbers among Waid’s finest work, ever. A salvo of quasi–Silver Age greatness, its tandem tales return Matt Murdock to the law firm of Nelson & Murdock and to a uniform as scarlet as the heart of a dancing bonfire—with reservations that will obviously have ramifications. The Riveras and Martin, for their part, visualize everything with éclat worthy of a faux Daily Bugle credit from the opener: “Photo by Gene Everett Wood.” In short, Daredevil #1 from Waid & Co. epitomizes superheroic cool in 2011.
By accident, fans of bona fide science fiction comics, at present, are suffering a glum period. Echo wrapped early last month, and RASL will do likewise in just four issues. Moreover, with DMZ #67, writer Brian Wood and artist Riccardo Burchielli’s near-future dystopia from Vertigo this week opens its quinary closing arc, “The Five Nations of New York” (although the series reportedly extends two issues beyond that arc). Like Wood’s Northlanders, it numbers among the mainstream’s finest titles, and with this latest issue, DMZ begins to chronicle the reversion to simply Manhattan of the macabrely misnamed eponymous demilitarized zone and the salvation of the dystopia’s protagonist, chum–in–the–shark-tank journo Matty Roth. Maybe. In its way, in the past year or so especially, the series has felt so eerily prescient—transpose a chord or two, fanboy, and start warbling “Arab Spring”—that the U.S. Department of State should frisk Wood for a functional crystal ball. In that respect, only an idiot would second-guess this comics prodigy—and only an abject idiot would ignore DMZ.
Generation Hope #9—yeeeees, right. A recent issue of Uncanny X-Men clarified why this Marvel title, since its inception, has felt unutterably bogus: it exists wholly in contravention of itself. That is, despite five decades’ experience with Magneto, the X-Men have ceded creepily messianic authority to Hope Summers while suspecting she may constitute a Phoenix-level threat. Um, duh? Despite the talents of writer Kieron Gillen, co-creator of the much-lamented Phonogram, reading this series thus feels like watching Siamese twins try to K.O. each other. Ironically, subbing for regular artist Salva Espin on this most recent issue is Jamie McKelvie, Gillen’s Phonogram partner, yet in this melodrama of mutation, a game of collegiate “truth or dare,” and social media, the sheer artificiality of the whole affair still booms like a cannonade and, even by X standards, prompts indifference of the profoundest sort, unlightened even by young Ms. Summers’ appropriation for use as a cape Linus Van Pelt’s security blanket. A narrative straw man from start to finish, Generation Hope makes one pray for a handy match.
Sergio Aragonés Funnies #1—the new Bongo Entertainment all-ages monthly that showcases the work of the longtime MADman and premier Groopie—should spark glee in all true devotees of the medium. An unapologetically comic comic book, it likewise provides a welcome alternative to the spandex sewage forever threatening to swamp the industry, presented with Aragonés’ perpetual joie de vivre. Included, almost necessarily, is an octet of the pantomime one-pagers for which he’s earned acclaim and fame almost since taking Greyhound from Mexico City to Greenwich Village in 1962. (A man, a maid, a cactus—simply sublime!) Among other delights, this debut also features “The Trojan Horse: A True Account,” an eight-pager dishing the skinny on one of Homer’s best-known Iliad narratives, and a wry seven-pager relating how our manic mustachioed muchacho, as an architectural student in ’56, became a B.M.O.C. because of a cinematic misadventure. After almost half a century of tickling our collective funny bone, truly, he ranks as a national (nay, international) treasure—and Sergio Aragonés Funnies, in that regard, constitutes a must-read.
Almost necessarily, its unalloyed goofiness directs toward Zeke Deadwood: Hammer in My Hand a measure of goodwill. To be sure, its predecessor two years ago indicated the SLG Publishing quasi-series might begin and end in shtick: bestride an undead steed, its protagonist, a typically taciturn seven-years-dead zombie lawman, stinks and feels none of the hot lead aimed his way by adversaries in the Wild West. Since 2009, happily, creator/artist T.A. Boatwright and writer Ryan C. Rubio have developed noticeably. In this black-and-white offering, they relate the woeful tale of Judiciary Gulch, all of whose citizens the lunatic Judge Roy Fiend has ordered to be hanged, with assistance from a steampunk sheriff. (Early in the issue, by the way, talking buzzards named Willie and Waylon nearly steal the show, especially when the latter dons an abandoned ten-gallon hat and mentions two avian pards named John and Kris.) Although the tale’s melancholy denouement suggests that Deadwood’s adventures may conclude here and although that would scarcely constitute a tragedy, future efforts from Boatwright and Rubio should merit attention. | Bryan A. Hollerbach

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