Saturday, September 17, 2016
DAREDEVIL - LOVE & WAR by Sienkiewicz/Miller
It's not terrible, but it's not terribly good either. There's a criticism that publishers jumped on the "graphic novel" bandwagon in the 1980s by pumping out souped up annuals and selling them for five times the price. This isn't exactly the best example of that (see DAZZLER: THE MOVIE or SUPER BOXERS for that) but it's on that spectrum. Bill Sienkiewicz was early in his transition from second rate Neal Adams clone to the guy who did STRAY TOASTERS and BIG NUMBERS (and from there to one of the most sought after inkers in the biz. Odd career trajectory...), and the format is vaguely justified by the fact that this art would not have been properly reproduced on the newsprint of the regular series at the time, though this price level was still high (this was published at $6.95 when a regular issue of DD was 75¢. With an issue of DD being $3.99 now, that means this would be $37 today). This is pretty much a triple-length issue of Miller's DD, but where in the regular run he had Klaus Janson or David Mazzucchelli to ground the visuals with a sense of reality and humanity when Miller's script lacked it, and the comics code to keep a leash on the tendency to extreme violence, here he has no restraints and a visual collaborator who's very much into pushing the boundary of reality and storytelling in his work. The whole thing reeks of excess, sometimes in a good way, but more often not.
The story is pretty basic. The Kingpin, whose wife Vanessa is still suffering from amnesia due to the events of Miller's first DD run (this appears to be set between the Miller/Janson run and the Miller/Mazzucchelli run, although it was published after the latter), has the blind wife of a world-renowned doctor kidnapped to force the doctor to find a cure for Vanessa. Daredevil must first rescue the wife from the psychotic that the Kingpin has inexplicably tasked with holding her, and then break into the Kingpin's highrise headquarters to rescue the doctor (most amusing, we're expected to believe that a villain who has spent years fighting Spider-Man and Daredevil has no cameras on one side of his building because there are no windows there). Even with this fairly simple plot and 63 pages to tell it, the ending winds up being rushed and perfunctory.
So for a DAREDEVIL annual, and if priced as such, it's decent enough, a little undisciplined, but that leads to some interesting bits. And it's a nice look at the state of Sienkiewicz's art just on the verge of breaking out, and for the first time really being given the print quality that would allow for his later work.