DUELING REVIEW: Daredevil Annual #1

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Much time has been spent talking about Daredevil, and with the Daredevil Annual #1 now upon us, what better time to get your two favorite meatbags discussing the issue?

DAREDEVIL ANNUAL #1
Writer: Alan Davis
Penciler: Alan Davis
Inker: Mark Farmer
Colorist: Javier Rodriguez
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel
Cover Price: $4.99

Previously in Daredevil: While saving an old man from being run over by a truck, young Matt Murdock pushed him out of the way at the last minute, but while saving the man, the truck driver swerved, causing the toxic waste he was caring to spill all over the young boy. When he awoke in the hospital Matt discovered he was blind, but the chemical gave him enhanced senses and a sonar power to let him see. Matt would grow up and fight crime as both a lawyer and the costumed vigilante, Daredevil.

MATTHEW: The devil is truly in the details (stick around, I got a million of those) this issue as Matt Murdock manages to swing by a random crime scene just in time to witness a woman using psionic powers, seemingly to cover up a crime. Things get complicated, with the involvement of the mysterious Clan Destine (or at least a couple of their members), Doctor Strange and the possibility of a lost soul inhabiting a murder machine called a Plastoid.

STEPHEN: As stated in the issue, this isn’t the first time Daredevil has encountered a Plastoid. Fill me in – it sounds a lot like an Amazo.

MATTHEW: The Plastoid is the work of Samuel “Starr” Saxon, currently running around as The Machinesmith, first appearing as a Daredevil villain about 1969 or so. In his first appearance, Saxon sent the Plastoid to destroy Daredevil, blah blah blah fishcakes. To my knowledge, it hasn’t been seen since…

STEPHEN: That’s cool. While the robot isn’t the primary focus of the issue, the Clan Destine is, and they seem to be an interesting bunch along the same line as the Inhumans, but with magic instead.

MATTHEW: In a sense, yeah. Clan Destine is Alan Davis’ baby, a sprawling clan of superhumans, many of them thousands of years old, all descended from one Adam Destine. This issue features Cuckoo (who is, in essence, a psychic presence that steals bodies) and Dominics (Hex) is, as the issue states, a man with hyper-senses and combat skills.

STEPHEN: I like the flow of this annual, but the Clan Destine story really got lost on me. Alan Davis crafted some unique character interactions, but I was really thrown by what was going on with the overall story. Plus, there seemed to be indications that Doctor Strange was jumping from character annual to character annual as he deals with the Clan Destine. Is this something going on in other Marvel annuals?

MATTHEW: Yeeap. This story started in Fantastic Four Annual #33, and I believe it continues in the upcoming Wolverine Annual, a little Alan Davis trilogy.

STEPHEN: Ah… Well I guess if you are going to do an Annual event (heh… see what I did there) an overall story is the way to go. Companies have done this for years, some better than others. I wish I just knew this going into the story, because there’s nothing on the cover that indicated that there was something more out there.

I liked the action, and while I’m just starting to get into Stephen Strange’s adventures, I’m just not that interested in these people and their Nth World Problems.

MATTHEW: I’ll say this: Even knowing who Cuckoo and Dom are, Davis doesn’t do a new reader any favors or offer much in the way of context for the Destines and their stuff. I haven’t read the FF Annual yet (it’s on my to-do list) but either that story gives you the bedrock, or this book is aimed at existing ClanDestine fans.

STEPHEN: I really liked the art in this issue. I don’t know if it was because I was reading this annual on my iPad (I’ve got one of those), but the images looked sharper than I’ve seen before, and I liked all of Mr. Davis and inker Mark Farmer’s work. Perspectives were correct, body types didn’t look distorted, and anytime you can make the Strange mustache work like that, I’m in.

MATTHEW: Oh, yeah. Alan Davis is wicked-awesome, with the only artistic question becoming one of Stephen Strange’s cape, something that we haven’t seen since he lost the mantle of Sorcerer Surpreme a few years ago.

STEPHEN: The only thing I had a problem with was the way the art team depicted the Haitian man as he looked like a stereotype we might see in a Spirit or Tintin adventure from the 1940s, which is awkward. Or maybe I’m just seeing things…

MATTHEW: I don’t know if I’d go that far, as that character is one of the stock types that tends to appear in Alan Davis art, an elderly African-American facial type. Given the way he draws his faces, I can see what you’re saying, but I didn’t read it that way.

BOTTOM LINE

STEPHEN: The only Daredevil I have read with any regularity is the Frank Miller and Mark Waid runs, so I liked what Mr. Davis was doing with the story, it didn’t blow me away. There were some weird story plot hiccups that I didn’t care for, and the general lack of interest in Daredevil simply stumbling through the story put me off. I like the art overall, and the colors shine throughout the digital edition, but overall, this is a so-so issue for me. I’m going to give the issue 3 out of 5 Stars for the art more than anything.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

MATTHEW: Accessibility is a real issue here, as the story takes place “some time ago”, which makes one think it a flashback, but there’s no indication other than a quick editor’s note that it’s a continuation of the FF Annual. As lovely as the issue is, it’s the middle of a story, with Daredevil as a point-of-view framing device, and there’s not a lot of explanation on the Clan Destine, who are the clear stars of the issue. I’m a bit bothered by some Mary Sue aspects of Cuckoo and Hex in the story, and while I enjoyed seeing the classic DD and Doctor Strange in action, there’s just not enough focus or enough clarity to make the issue pop on more than the art side. Daredevil Annual #1 is lovely but vague, earning 2.5 out of 5 stars from me. But man, does it look awesome….

Rating: ★★½☆☆
Overall Rating: ★★½☆☆