Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Daredevil: Love and War

By Frank Miller, Bill Sienkiewicz and Jim Novak
Published By Marvel Comics

Hoping to cure his wife’s mysterious illness, Kingpin forces a French doctor to care for her by hiring a deranged thug to kidnap the doctor’s beautiful wife. As is usually the case, Daredevil gets involved, and what results is a disturbing and disarmingly intimate tale of violence and the multi-layered relationships this particular conflict spawns.

I don’t know if it shows, but I’m usually quite timid when it comes to writing about art in my reviews. And yes, I know the weakness that represents considering the medium I’m covering. I know that, for the most part, the artwork is either helping or hurting my enjoyment of the story along with scripting, but since I can claim at least a little bit of talent at this writing thing whereas drawing so much as a straight line represents a challenge for me, I just tend to be a little more conscious of where the writer’s leading me and how h/she is doing it. Conversely, I can usually only spot the most blatant artistic techniques (I know, for example, that McFarlane’s renderings of Spawn are supposed to make me think he’s kick-ass, killer, wicked, da bomb, etc.).

To say anything about Daredevil: Love and War without mentioning Bill Sienkiewicz’s art would not only be criminal but; as much of a waste of time, energy, and bandwidth writing comic book reviews for free already is; to compound things by failing to mention perhaps the only artist capable of outshining Frank Miller’s scripting on one of Miller’s milestone characters would be such a tragic waste of writing, breathing, or talking; I might as well be accepting a fucking Oscar.

The irony for me is that when I was just a little Hulkling I avoided Sienkiewicz books like they were vegetables. I think the only Sienkiewicz book I ever bought as a child was an issue of New Mutants (and only because it was a part of the “Mutant Massacre” crossover). Other than that, I saw his work only in the pages of my brother’s comparatively meager collection. Those weird, extended, flat heads and the impossibly thin bodies of characters like Cannonball and Legion were just too disturbing for my young mind. Somehow, watching green people beat the shit out of each other didn’t bother me nearly as much as a Sienkewicz-rendered Sam Guthrie doing something as simple as slouching against a wall or talking to a friend.

And if there’s no other proof that comics ain’t just for kids, my growing appreciation for Sienkiewicz’s work should be enough for this or any other court. His renderings of Love and War’s characters show much more range than my childhood fears remember - lending beauty, menace, and heroism to his subjects.

The massive girth of the Kingpin and the flowery vests that mirror the wallpaper of his wife’s bedroom convey the oppression Vanessa desperately wants to escape. Victor, a throwaway thug in any other superhero story, becomes a feral and tragic madman under Sienkiewicz’s care. Contrasting sharply with the darker characters of the story, the heroism evoked in his drawings of Daredevil almost reach the point of parody in some cases, and ironically in others it makes him seem that much more menacing - particularly in a scene towards the end of the novel when Daredevil towers over the thug Turk, you’re reminded that the guy has horns on his head.

Daredevil: Love and War is certainly worth whatever trouble you might have finding it - certainly the best of the 1980's Marvel OGNs I’ve come across so far. If you can’t find the stand-alone graphic novel, unless I’m mistaken it was collected in Daredevil-Elektra: Love and War. Check it out.

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