Monday, November 17, 2014

Review # 155: "Daredevil by Frank Miller and Klaus Janson Vol. 2"

The second part of Frank Miller and Klaus Janson's epic "Daredevil" run is without a doubt its zenith. It is within these pages that the two really start to push the envelope artistically, relying a lot more on the images to tell a story. For a company that spent decades using words to over-describe its own action, it's a marvel - pun intended - that this art team was able to break that mold.

There's a notable change to point out as well that is lost on many. It is around this time that Klaus Janson took over most of the drawing for this book, a duty for which he has never been given enough credit. His drawing of Elektra is arguably better than Miller ever was. That isn't to say that Miller is not offering his own major contribution: the layouts. Miller breaks down the action, Janson finishes it. So while it's nice to look at the pretty Janson pencils of - say - a page spread of Elektra in a yoga pose, it was still Miller who outlined it.

In my review for volume one, I mentioned the issue where Elektra debuted was one of the greatest I've ever read. Let it be noted, then, that issues 179 and 181 completely blow it out of the water. They both have to be considered among the Top 10 single issues Marvel has ever produced. The writing, told from the perspectives of reporter Ben Urich and the psychotic Bullseye respectively, lends a fresh new perspective to the two principal characters. And that perspective is violent, with two incredible fight scenes.

The first - witnessed by Urich - has Daredevil go toe-to-toe with Elektra. The sequence as Elektra kicks Matt through an apartment window, sending them to the ground where they duke it out is awe-inspiring. The end of the fight is equally brilliant, as is the comic's closing scene. The final line is poignant.

The fight in 181, though, is even more famous. Bullseye breaks out of custody and - as a measure of revenge against Daredevil - decides to target Elektra. The two fight to the death, a battle that ends conclusively with one of the most iconic panels in the history of the medium. Amazingly, it's not the conclusion of the issue as Bullseye comes extremely close to figuring out Daredevil's identity.

The noir style established during these issues would follow Miller's work for decades. The self-damning narration with a focus on vices would pop up again in more famous pieces like "The Dark Knight Returns" and "Sin City." Like the latter, this period of "Daredevil" carries a lightning-like pace, especially for the still-descriptive early 80's. I'm able to rip through some of these issues - deeply taking in some of the action sequences - in about 10 minutes. That's about two thirds the time it takes me to read, well - anything else from this time period.

When you factor in the pace, the innovation, the story.... it's hard to call this anything but Miller's best work. If it isn't, then hot damn is it close.

Rating: 10/10

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