Meet the new boss, same as the old boss

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Here’s the biggest problem I have with any series (DC, Marvel, Dark Horse, whoever) that attempts to retell an origin story set during a different time period; it’s the same origin story set during a different time period.  It doesn’t matter if it is Red Son, Gotham by Gaslight, or Daredevil Noir, they all follow the same plot points, but just adds that What If? twist to try and hook the reader.  Sometimes it works, other times it doesn’t.

daredevilnoir1cover.jpgIf retelling an origin story set during a different time is really what readers want, then Daredevil Noir satisfies on that level.  It does feature all the central characters fans have come to love in their Daredevil book.  And if readers want a noir story with all the troupes of a noir story, then this book attempts to satisfy on that level as well.

But that is where it falls apart.  Nearly every detective story done in the noir style features a femme fatale coming to a detective (in this case Foggy and Matt are both shamuses), spinning her story about how someone is putting her life in jeopardy, in hopes they’ll put the pressure on the big boss.  Eventually the ruse is found out and the a tragic ending results with the hero sulking off into the fog exclaiming something about the stuff dreams are made of, pain and disbelief, the start of a beautiful friendship, or Chinatown.  And that’s what this series feels like.  There’s really nothing new presented in this opening chapter noir story except for the fact the central character has powers brought on by a blow to the head.

The other thing that is somewhat missing from this issue is all the purple prose found in the pulp detective stories of the good old days that would place the reader firmly in the time period and mindset.  The issue does start off well, and it did bring back memories of Frank Miller’s noir superhero opus magnum, but after about two pages, the writing drifts back to modern storytelling.  I have nothing against Alexander Irvine for this, as the rest of the story does pace out quite well, it just doesn’t have the gritty, dirty feeling that I get from reading Mike Hammer, Sam Spade, or Philip Marlowe.

The purpose of extravagant writing is to bring images to the mind of the reader, and in a comic book, the art should take care of that, but I’m not impressed with the art style used here.  It’s like the artists took real photos, gave them a couple of quick treatments to make it look cartoony, and then added on lots of black ink and a halftone pattern.  I’ve seen this style before in other comics, and it’s just not a style this reviewer has a palate for.  It’s just muddy enough that there are moments where it can be difficult to distinguish between two similarly built characters.

Is there anything that I actually liked in the issue?  I really got a kick out of the Daredevil costume with the longer than usual horns, and the tank top shirt with gloves, as it actually looks like a costume that may have been made during that particular time period.  And don’t get me wrong, the story is an interesting one, and one that I’ll continue to read to see where it goes, but as a first issue, it didn’t hit me over the head like the heavy hand of the landlord the day after the rent was due.

So Daredevil Noir is a noir-ish tale; one that follows the troupes but doesn’t really add anything new to noir fiction or a Daredevil story.  The art is quite different than anything you’ll see in a traditional comic, which some might write off as experimental and edgy, and others will hate from the very beginning, but I’ll give credit to Marvel for taking a chance.  The story is told via flashback so readers already know where things are headed, and I’ll give this another couple of issues to see if things improve, but for now it only brings in 2.5 out of 5 Stars.  It’s not terrible, but it’s just not that great.

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The Author

Stephen Schleicher

Stephen Schleicher

Stephen Schleicher began his career writing for the Digital Media Online community of sites, including Digital Producer and Creative Mac covering all aspects of the digital content creation industry. He then moved on to consumer technology, and began the Coolness Roundup podcast. A writing fool, Stephen has freelanced for Sci-Fi Channel's Technology Blog, and Gizmodo. Still longing for the good ol' days, Stephen launched Major Spoilers in July 2006, because he is a glutton for punishment.

You can follow him on Twitter @MajorSpoilers and tell him your darkest secrets...

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1 Comment

  1. April 13, 2009 at 9:51 am — Reply

    I’m surprised you gave a negative review on Tom Coker’s work. Personally, I think his style is fantastic, and I’d love to see him do more in comics.

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