Doomsday Clock #7

Writer: Geoff Johns

Artist: Gary Frank (pencils/ inks), Brad Anderson (colours) Rob Leigh (Lettering)

Publisher: DC Comics (November 2018)

 

In no way is this issue of Doomsday Clock a jumping on point for the series. If you’ve just joined the action then all I can guarantee you are gorgeously rendered illustrations, sharp dialogue, and a lot of questions. That goes double for you if you have no idea of the source story this series builds on. Watchmen (the 1986 series that deconstructs super-hero storytelling) is such a watershed moment in comic book lore that it extends beyond the medium. Doomsday Clock is a series that integrates the characters of the Watchmen universe into the current world of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman. Delivering it to readers garbed in equal measures of mystery, noir, and realism.

The issue opens with a condensed history of the original Green Lantern, then expands out to unite all the key players introduced by the series thus far. Saturn Girl, Johnny Thunder, and Rorschach (all characters of questionable sanity) are met by Ozymandias (also someone whose sanity is unstable). These four then rescue Batman and The Comedian (who you could also say are both at least a little insane) from the torturous clutches of The Joker, The Mime, and the Marionette (so insane that I feel I owe the others an apology).  Dr. Manhattan disrupts the gathering and whisks some characters away. He reveals some shocking truths and leaves the arc of each character upside down and in disarray. What we get essentially, is a smart, inverting, and entangled display of Joseph Campbell’s refusal of the call.

I mentioned the gorgeously rendered illustrations and I emphatically stand by that. Gary Frank has been drawing comics since the early 90s. He has never fallen below excellent. His clean lines and comedic expressions eventually developed into a realistic style, instrumental in controlling storytelling pace. He conveys emotion with a sense of purity often overlooked in comics. You forgive the book its continued delays if the reason for them is so that Frank can tug on one more heartstring or make that last hair on the back of your neck stand to attention and salute.

Geoff Johns, honestly the torch bearer for DC superhero mythology, re-establishes that he is a brilliant writer. Layered, constantly innovative, and without limits. This isn’t just hyperbole or pandering to an industry heavyweight. Geoff Johns breathes love and veneration into every detail, every word, of these characters. He bows courteously to the original Watchmen series, treating it with the reverence of someone entrusted with minding a Faberge egg. But he also builds on its mythology, explores the psyche of today’s society, and works beautifully to exist both inside and outside of the comic book medium. The book feels like it comes from the same Reaganomics-driven-post-Nixon climate that Watchmen was born from, yet it also exists simultaneously in our world today.

Maybe I was wrong. Maybe you can jump on to Doomsday Clock with this issue and find yourself in the middle of something special. A legitimate event comic.

If you do, you’ll put it down. You’ll run to wherever you get your comic book fix from and pick up the previous issues of the series.

Hurry, before it’s too late.

Before the Doomsday Clock hits midnight.

 

Deadly Class #35


Writer: Rick Remender

Artist: Wes Craig (pencils / inks), Jordan Boyd (colours)

Publisher: Image Comics, Inc. (June 2018)

 

Do you cringe at the memory of the late 80s?

If you’re not a fan of that decade’s movie tropes; smash- mouth action, over-the-top violence, and deliciously bad stereotypes, then stay away.

If you read it despite my warning, then you’re about to be converted. Baptised in blood.

This is the conclusion to the four-part opera of violence that has been Love Like Blood.

The kids of Kings Dominion are on the run and fighting to stay alive.

What’s Kings Dominion?

It’s the Hogwarts for the criminal underworld that this series centers around. The handful of students it focuses on are the Breakfast Club with guns, knives and deep criminal tendencies.

The Love Like Blood storyline sees the cast cornered like rats in Mexico trapped in the crosshairs of a yakuza power struggle. The issue opens with a showdown between original cast members (and previously presumed dead) Marcus and Maria and main series villain Viktor (Ivan Drago’s steroids on steroids). Last issue’s bare-knuckled, broken-toothed, beat down has reached a climax with Marcus primed to shoot Viktor dead. But in a surprising turn of events he instead reasons with Viktor. A very raw conversation follows about duty and whose footsteps we choose to follow in as we build our own identities.

Following this, Marcus and Maria link up with the rest of the students in the nick of time, saving them from crazy hillbilly Brandy, only to again face imminent death at the hands of the yakuza. The outcome of the face-off sees life lost, trusts broken, fences mended, and the characters leave more scarred and broken than before. Does anybody walk away from this story unscathed?

This is a series where the stakes are always sky high and out of reach. While there’s not really been any significant lull in the two-plus years’ worth of issues, the conclusion of Love like Blood is another peak for the series.

The theme of forgiveness and the hints of redemption and sacrifice in this story don’t just play with our emotions. They sadistically torture them. The heart and earnestness in the writing, amidst the blood and betrayal, is a testament to how well-crafted the characters are and how much agency each is given to speak with.

The pitch of the action is at scarlet fever for the entire issue. It’s matched by a pace that is at cardiac event levels. It’s unbearable and at the same time impossible not to be utterly transfixed.

I cannot talk about Rick Remender’s writing and Wes Craig’s separately. They work in perfect synchronicity to elevate each other. The sheer trauma conveyed in the story is a product of this. Is it on the faces of each character? Or is it in their voices? It’s THAT hard to call.

Jordan Boyd’s colours, however, do deserve a spotlight. The colourist adds so much to the story with such a simple palette. It comes across as so virtual, so tangible and hard-hitting, that you’d swear your knuckles were just as bruised and battered as the characters by the end.

Bruised and battered. That’s exactly how this issue will leave you.

Bruised and battered and begging for more.


 

Daredevil Deadpool ’97 Annual

 


Writer: Joe Kelly

Artist: Bernard Chang (Pencils) Jon Holdredge (Inks)

Publisher:  Marvel Comics (September 1997)

 

Sometimes it doesn’t pay to dig up the past.

Sometimes you should just let a sleeping dog lie.

But because Daredevil season 3 is about to hit Netflix, because Typhoid Mary is enjoying her spotlight on Iron Fist’s second season, because there’s an inexplicably undying love for all things Deadpool: because of all these reasons I decided to dig up the past and wake up the sleeping dog that was this single issue.

The basic story has Deadpool develop twisted empathy for Typhoid Mary and track her to New York. She’s there to hunt Daredevil, the man she believes responsible for all her woes. Deadpool hopes to encounter Daredevil first so they can have the classic comic book team up and get Mary the help she needs. Daredevil is skeptical but sides with the less psychotic (no really) Deadpool. The conclusion sees all three use a battle (because this is still 90s comic book storytelling) to work through their issues and tie the story up in a neat little bow. It leaves nothing for the next writer to build upon and no reason for the reader to continue following these characters other than for completions sake (because, again, this is still 90s comic book storytelling).

I was into Kelly’s Deadpool at the time, I was a pre-teen smart ass that liked reading characters who were also smart asses. The art on the regular Deadpool book was cool and innovative for 1997, and the art here by Bernard Chang was clean, fluid, well-constructed and didn’t fall too deep into exaggerated physiques that were all the rage back then. His expression work was good too. But he seemed to favor Deadpool over Daredevil and the story suffers as a result.

Joe Kelly had worked on both eponymous characters. In the case of Deadpool, his work was what rescued the character from being a Spiderman-with-guns-clone from the with-guns-clone-factory that creator Rob Liefeld was operating with impunity.

Kelly’s writing, on reflection, wasn’t yet what it would become by the mid-2000’s. His strength was comedy and super-heroics, not so much theme and character. He wasn’t right for Daredevil. The characterization is way off. Daredevil feels like a bit player in a book whose title bears his name. He should be a cocktail of Atticus Finch, Rocky Marciano, and Robert Redford. Instead, he comes off here as a cardboard stand-in with no volume.

The psychological aspects of the story are left undeveloped. There are at least two characters with which to explore themes of mental illness, adolescent troubles, and identity construction. These are missed opportunities that would have given the story more depth and substance.

A shame, because Frank Miller’s Daredevil had balanced all of this with great action. Although expecting substance and depth from most titles was a big ask at the time, there were still creators who were pulling it off on elsewhere.

In the conclusion to the story, we’re led to believe that, for the characters, digging up the bones of the past can help mend things, bringing them some absolution.

If only that were the case with revisiting the issue itself.