Matt Hollingsworth

The Punisher #2

The Punisher 2

The Punisher #2 (2011)

  The new Punisher series that started in late 2011 is something that I have been picking up from the shelves. I have read the first two issues, so far, and am really impressed.  The biggest reason for my love of these issues has been the art – both the cover art and the interior art. I gave the first issue a “cover of the month” award already, but issue two has many of the elements that made me love the first issue’s cover.   Both are very bold, very colorful, and full of action.  I really love the art on the covers done by Bryan Hitch, Paul Neary, and Paul Mounts.

The interior art is also excellent – it’s been done by Marco Checchetto and Matt Hollingsworth.  I think I really like the work that these two artists create because I recognized their work immediately.  I had seen it before and loved it; they did some of the Daredevil/Shadowland stuff that I really enjoyed.  Some of the reasons I enjoyed that work is present in this Punisher series.  I love the art because its full of action – from a variety of angles that are not confusing or cramped – and the coloring and inking is phenomenal.  It’s really bold and colorful art, that cannot be emphasized enough.

The reason I am dwelling so much on the artwork is because I think most artists draw Punisher in a very dark and noir sort of way – or, at least, as they interpret dark and “noir.”  I can understand that and most of the time that is a successful method.  However, this colorful Punisher is awesome. Another difference is that Castle seems to be young-looking in this series. I like that because all of the other interpretations of Castle seem to make him edgy and grizzled. It’s a welcome difference to the character that I am appreciating.

In issue two, there are two pages in particular that I want to mention as being really good.  They are in the South Bronx at a criminal hang out and the Punisher is making an entrance. The color scheme is blacks and reds/pinks. This is quite fitting because it’s nighttime and it gives that bloody, seedy sense to all of the frames. There is a frame on the lower left page that shows Castle firing his sidearm and the fiery blast from the shot is excellent – I feel like I am right there in the scene.

The issues are being written by Greg Rucka, and while he is a famous writer, I really do not have much to say about him in general, besides name recognition.  So far in the Punisher series, I am liking the storyline.  I was slightly confused about the names of the people in the first issue, but now I am on board.  The second issue was well-written. I like how the Frank Castle is not speaking much and is just doing – and, of course, we know what he does.

The last page is a two-page spread of the Vulture surprising Castle. Again, the artwork has lots of movement and definitely makes the reader want to find out what happens next. Vulture looks scary in this shot, not goofy or silly. So, I do want to read the next issue.

4 stars

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Daredevil and Shadowland #1

I have never been a huge Daredevil fan. There are two reasons for this:  1.  (at the risk of seeming absurd) Daredevil seemed impossible to believe. Yes, I am aware that all kinds of things go on in comics that are impossible, bizarre, and unreal. However, I think somehow my willing suspension of disbelief stops at a guy who is a mix of Batman and Spider-Man and is blind. I just cannot make that leap.  2.  Daredevil always seemed like a “nice” guy.  I mean, he seemed obnoxiously goody-two-shoes.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating villainy, but something about Matt Murdock’s morality irritates me.  Nevertheless, I was vaguely interested in the renumbering of the Daredevil series at issue #500 and I was actually excited for writer Andy Diggle to take over the title. Unfortunately, I was never able to get my hands on (and maybe because it was never top priority) issues #500 – #504.   I probably should attempt to scoop them up.

Last night and today I’ve begun reading these Daredevil issues. Obviously, much of this is the lead up to the Marvel “mini-event” Shadowland.

Shadowland card

Shadowland teaser card

I didn’t really know what Shadowland was going to be about. However the art was definitely awesome looking. And it was called “Shadowland.”  If that’s not an interesting title, I dunno what is. So what if it focused on Daredevil? This had to be something worth reading.

So, I made the effort to get some of the Shadowland issues and some of the issues of Daredevil prior to Shadowland. I managed to get issues #505 onward, but I didn’t begin reading them. As is usually the case, I was unsure of the reading order for the event anyway, because like all events, Shadowland seemed to run through a core miniseries, Daredevil, and a couple of one-shots and miniseries. As I collected the issues, I had to continually admit that the covers were really awesome. In particular, Daredevil #505 and #506 were really great. Eventually I went and looked at the variant and second printing of some of these issues and I was even further impressed. (#501, #508, #510 second printing covers are even better than the first printings!)

I read issues #505 – #508 and Shadowland #1.   I am thoroughly impressed and I love what I have read of this arc, so far. I mean it. Its great. By far, this is some of the best artwork interior-wise that I’ve seen in a long while. I do not mean that there are just a few good frames. I mean that there are whole issues where the art melds perfectly with the story and is beautiful, intense, and colorful. (Here’s me, putting this stuff in the Louvre and The Met….)

As I mentioned, I jumped in to these issues at #505. What’s going on? I don’t really know. Matt Murdock and White Tiger are flying to Japan to meet with Daimyo and The Hand.  What/Who is The Hand?  Well, if you read any Marvel Comics, you know The Hand is an organization of ninja. So, of course, I’m sold. Ninja.  There isn’t a whole lot in the world that’s better than ninja. Its like even the worst story can be okay if it includes ninja.  Daredevil has become leader of The Hand. He’s going to meet with the daimyo to attempt to unify them in order to turn The Hand from a criminal organization into one of protection and justice.

While in Japan, there is intrigue among the daimyo which results in ninjas fighting. I’ll say it again: ninjas fighting. And the artwork is tremendous. Seriously. I would make posters out of all of these frames. Marco Checcetto and Matt Hollingsworth were the pencilers and colorists, respectively, for these issues. They did a ridiculously good job. Ninjas fighting – great artwork – awesomeness!

After I finished issues #505 – #507, I read Shadowland #1, which starts the event. Andy Diggle is writing the event and Billy Tan is the main artist. This is new territory for me, because although I’ve heard about these guys, I had never read any of their work. I approached the first issue expecting it to be a sort of “build up” issue in which not much happens and we are supposed to learn backstory.  Instead, Shadowland #1 continues straight where Daredevil #507 left off.

Shadowland #1

Shadowland #1 cover

Matt Murdock has returned to NYC.  Bullseye is being transported on a prison transport ship (amusingly with the call sign whiskey tango foxtroti.e. WTF) – and he escapes. We learn that Daredevil, who has copped a very cold, dark attitude, has fought with Bullseye previously – wherein Bullseye leveled a city block and killed over 100 people in doing so. On this city block, Daredevil has built “Shadowland.”  Its a Japanese-style building serving as headquarters for The Hand under Daredevil’s control. The purpose is to protect and defend Hell’s Kitchen from criminals.  The Avengers (i.e. Thor, Iron Man, Iron Fist, Captain America, Luke Cage) are discussing these new changes. Luke Cage is very vocal about disliking Matt setting himself as judge, jury, and executioner of NYC.  Iron Man and Captain America understand the need for Shadowland, but insist that it must be a temporary situation.  They encourage Iron Fist and Luke Cage to chat with Matt to find out Matt’s intentions and to discuss his recent attitude changes.

Bullseye confronts Daredevil on the rooftops of Hell’s Kitchen. He fights off a pack of Hand ninjas. (Read: cool ninjas fighting) Finally, Daredevil steps in and mercilessly beats the crap out of Bullseye (breaks and dislocates his shoulders and arms) – ending the fight with stabbing Bullseye through the torso.  Luke Cage and Iron Fist, who were on their way to see Matt, witness this and are shocked.

What’s great about this issue? Everything. Daredevil’s black costume is very, very cool. Luke Cage and Iron Fist as minor characters are interesting and well played. Bullseye getting killed? Also surprising in the first issue of this event. The artwork is tremendous and I have to say that I am hooked.

I can easily give all of these issues (Daredevil #505 – #508 and Shadowland #1) 5 stars.  The writing is just to my tastes and the artwork is perfect. Again, let me reiterate: NINJAS.

5 stars