Tag Archives: Frank Miller

Today’s Super Comics — Batman #404-408 (1987)

batman_404I’m a bit pressed for time, so forgive me for going with a super-obvious one today. But Batman: Year One deserves all its many accolades.

Originally presented in Batman #404-408, this is writer Frank Miller’s other great Batman story, focusing on his early days rather than later days. But while The Dark Knight Returns seems to be the consensus favorite, I’ve always preferred the more down-to-earth Year One (though DKR might very well appear here before my year of positive reviews is over).

In Year One, Batman himself is the weirdest thing about his world. This is before the Joker, Mr. Freeze, and other colorful scoundrels have descended on Gotham City. (We do get some morally ambiguous Catwoman action, though.) Then-Lieutenant Gordon is the co-lead, and it’s basically a story of two flawed but good men trying to help their crime-ridden city in two very different ways. But maybe they can find some common ground and forge a productive friendship?

Artist David Mazzuchelli draws in an appropriately gritty style that produces several memorable Bat-images, and Miller’s tight story is constantly moving forward and gaining momentum.

Too often, writers portray Batman as so competent that he’s borderline superhuman, and that can be fun, but here we see an inexperienced Batman making mistakes and learning the ropes. This Batman is skilled but undeniably human, and that suits the character well.

If you enjoyed Batman Begins, you’ll be doing yourself a favor by reading this.

Writer: Frank Miller

Artist: David Mazzucchelli

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; Batman: Year One (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 14 and up

Today’s Super Comics — Daredevil #183-184 (1982)

daredevil_vol_1_183I’ve never been a Punisher fan. He’s a killer, not a hero. Maybe I could get behind him if he was on a redemption arc, kind of like how Wolverine strives to tame his inner animal and be a better man. But no, the Punisher strikes me as simply an unhinged murderer who thinks he’s doing the right thing…which makes him a great antagonist for vigilantes who are actually heroic, such as Daredevil.

Daredevil and Punisher come into conflict in Daredevil #183 and 184, near the end of Frank Miller’s series-redefining run. Matt Murdock’s mature ethics are on full display as he defends a criminal in court because he believes the man to be innocent of the current charges. Meanwhile, Punisher just wants to shoot up all them bad guys. And Daredevil’s not having it.

The Daredevil/Punisher conflict was the strongest part of Daredevil season two on Netflix, and these comics give us a very early version of it. It’s more streamlined in comic book form, but still greatly compelling.

Though I continue to have zero interest in a solo Punisher series.

Writers: Frank Miller and Roger McKenzie

Artists: Frank Miller and Klaus Janson

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in Daredevil Visionaries: Frank Miller vol. 3 (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 12 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Daredevil #178 (1982)

daredevil_vol_1_178Later this week, Marvel’s presence on Netflix will grow with Luke Cage, and Iron Fist will follow sometime next year.

So let’s look back at that time Luke Cage and Iron Fist first met Marvel’s original Netflix vigilante—Daredevil—in Daredevil #178. (No Jessica Jones in the ‘80s, alas.)

This was right in the middle of Frank Miller’s character-redefining run on the title. Luke Cage and Iron Fist, then Heroes for Hire, guest-starred to provide some comic relief and facilitate secret-identity shenanigans. There’s no team-up in the usual sense, though the issue does—for a brief scene—uphold the merry Marvel tradition of having superheroes spar over a misunderstanding.

Daredevil is trying to protect a teenager who has evidence that can be used against the Kingpin. The Kingpin sends thugs after the kid—sends them right into the offices of Nelson & Murdock. Concerned for his blind partner’s safety, Foggy Nelson hires Cage and Iron Fist to bodyguard Matt, who still needs to protect the kid from further attempts…and, to do so, he must ditch his own protectors. It’s good farcical fun, and it fits seamlessly within the larger story arc.

While this issue isn’t one of the big standouts of the Miller era, it’s still a great entry in the run (though, honestly, I can’t think of a bad issue in the run). Miller juggles numerous moving parts and keeps the momentum strong throughout, ending on a cliffhanger that pulls you into the next issue.

So that’s how Daredevil met Luke Cage and Iron Fist. I suspect it will happen differently in the Defenders Netflix series. Just a hunch.

Writer/Penciler: Frank Miller

Inker: Klaus Janson

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in Daredevil Visionaries: Frank Miller vol. 2 (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 11 and up

Today’s Super Comics — Wolverine #1-4 (1982)

wolverine_vol_1_1Wolverine has starred in many, many solo stories over the years, but his first miniseries remains the best.

A good rule for a spin-off is to place one familiar character in an unfamiliar setting with unfamiliar characters. That’s basically what we get here (though Wolverine’s girlfriend, Mariko, was already introduced in Uncanny X-Men). The result is something that feels like a true Wolverine story, not an X-Men story starring only Wolverine.

Wolverine’s internal tension drives the story as much as external forces do, as his bestial impulses conflict with his desire become a man worthy of Mariko’s love. And actual character growth occurs—not something comics were known for at the time.

The miniseries features some of Chris Claremont’s strongest writing and some of Frank Miller’s strongest art. The two bring out the best in each other as they show Wolverine striving to be his best—and stumbling quite a bit along the way.

And only forward momentum carries the series—no convoluted backstory cluttering things up. You can enjoy this book without ever having touched an X-Men comic.

Writer: Chris Claremont

Artist: Frank Miller

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; Wolverine (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 14 and up

Today’s Super Comics — Daredevil: The Man Without Fear #1-5 (1993-94)

Daredevil_The_Man_Without_Fear_Vol_1_1Frank Miller redefined Daredevil over a decade earlier, and he returned for an encore with The Man Without Fear.

The miniseries retells and updates Daredevil’s origin and early days, working characters such as Elektra and the Kingpin into the narrative (they weren’t part of Daredevil’s world when Marvel introduced the character in the ‘60s—Miller created Elektra and drafted the Kingpin).

These five issues feel like a movie version of Daredevil, and the actual movie would’ve been far better off using these pages as its storyboard. (Thank goodness for Netflix. Fun fact: The black outfit Matt wore throughout the first season comes from this miniseries.)

Like any great action movie, these comics build and sustain incredible momentum throughout. It’s all very kinetic, both in terms of Miller’s writing and John Romita Jr.’s artwork. Their styles fit together perfectly. Romita in particular is in top form here, producing amazing images that pull you through the story while maintaining an appropriately dark, gritty atmosphere.

If you’ve never read a Daredevil comic, you have several options for a great place to start. This is one of them.

Writer: Frank Miller

Penciler: John Romita, Jr.

Inker: Al Williamson

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; Daredevil: The Man Without Fear (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 14 and up

Today’s Super Comics: Daredevil #227-233 (1986)

Daredevil_Vol_1_227Frank Miller has written some great comics over the years…and some that, well, simply aren’t eligible for this series of only positive comics reviews.

But when he’s on, he’s one of the best in the business. And this Daredevil storyline, Born Again, is Miller at his best, producing one of the greatest comic book storylines ever to grace the newsstands—especially with the excellent work of artist David Mazzuchelli that perfectly fits the gritty world of Hell’s Kitchen.

The idea is simple: Daredevil’s ex-girlfriend Karen Page sells his secret identity for drug money. This information finds its way to the Kingpin, who then uses it to ruin Matt Murdock’s life. And things had already been going rather lousy for Matt in the preceding issues.

Writers are generally supposed to make characters’ lives hell, and yeah, Miller seems to have received that memo. Daredevil gets broken down so he can build himself back up. Events strip him to his essence, allowing us to see what kind of man he truly is.

And DD isn’t the only one in crisis. Karen is on the run, and Daily Bugle journalist Ben Urich gets in over his head while trying to investigate the Kingpin. Seven issues of nonstop momentum—tense and gripping the whole way.

If you’ve enjoyed Daredevil’s Netflix series, you’ll definitely want to check these issues out.

Writer: Frank Miller

Artist: David Mazzuchelli

Publisher: Marvel

How to Read It: back issues, Marvel Unlimited, Daredevil: Born Again (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 15 and up