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Trouble with Comics

brianmichaelbendis:

Bill Sienkiewicz ~ “the Shadow Portfolio”, published by DC.

I don’t know who has the license now, but this series (including Kyle Baker’s work after Sienkiewicz left) should really be collected.

—Christopher Allen

(Source: ungoliantschilde)

Daredevil - End of Days #1 (of 8)

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis and David Mack

Pencils: Klaus Janson

Finished Art & Paintings: Bill Sienkiewicz

Marvel Comics

Brian Michael Bendis has taken his share of knocks as a writer over the years. Those distinctive stylistic tics that marked him as fresh over a decade ago have settled into formula, some might say self-parody, not unlike other distinctive writers like Chris Claremont or Frank Miller. I’ve taken my shots, too, and honestly am looking forward to his departure from the Avengers books. But I think his Daredevil run, while flawed, like anything, is still a pretty impressive accomplishment. And as with Claremont’s return to X-Men books or Miller going back to Batman, there is incredible risk in returning to past triumphs. Do you really have something left to say, or can’t you really go home again? 

I was really worried with the first few pages here, an ugly fight between Bullseye and Daredevil that results in D.D.’s death, captured on cameraphone. It’s meant to be brutal, sure, but the combination of Janson and Sienkiewicz is surprisingly off-putting. As great an inker as Janson is, he’s often a stiff penciler, and finds in Sienkiewicz a finisher so eager to add pizzazz to the page that he ends up cluttering it with too many blood spatters and tendons and wrinkles and speed lines that it’s a mess. Try as he might, the opening splash page just doesn’t actually convey the feeling of a punch being thrown, because no matter how much he slops on or whites out, the angle of the pose is just wrong. Janson defeated him before he started.

On page 3, it’s a different story, a well-composed Janson page undone by excessive detail and shading that makes Matt Murdock look like he’s in blackface, not just bleeding and bruised. It’s not all bad, but there are several pages of fights in this issue, and Janson is hit-or-miss in dynamic action, and so, something like the last battle with the Kingpin, which leaves him dead and Daredevil disgraced, is actually anticlimactic and draggy.

I’m not really for superheroes killing, except in extreme circumstances, but I would have to admit that the final Daredevil story is one of those circumstances. And yet, Bendis does really set himself up for disappointment here, challenging the reader to recall the old, pure-hearted, non-murderous Daredevil to make us accept this new one. There are no scenes of that old Daredevil in the book, which I think was a mistake. We need to be reminded of what Daredevil was, so we can accept and understand what he becomes. As it is, storming into a restaurant and ordering the Kingpin to leave town forever or he’ll kill him, is unacceptable. That the Kingpin chooses to fight instead of run doesn’t justify Daredevil beating him to death with his billy club, and Daredevil shouting to the horrified onlookers that he’d “tried everything else” just feels hollow. He came there and made a death threat that he knew he would likely carry out.

What Bendis and Mack get right is Ben Urich. Ben had been the custodian of Matt Murdock’s secret identity as Daredevil, knew him as well as any man, and so is the only one to tell of his final days. And of course, it’s the last thing he wants to do, because it makes him feel even worse and he doesn’t want to engage with it. But J. Jonah Jameson is not going to see the end of print media by putting out a half-assed paper, and so he’s damn well sure the right writer is on the story. This is all good stuff, and Bendis/Mack write Urich as well as anyone has. It reminds me of their first Daredevil collaboration a decade ago, in that that story also found Urich as the protagonist, an investigative reporter hunting down leads. It seems the video shows Murdock uttering a mysterious name before he dies, and it’s not Bullseye’s real name or anyone we’ve ever heard of before. So that’s what we’re in for, a murder mystery—or is it? There’s some suggestion that maybe Daredevil is still alive somehow. 

Later in the issue, Janson and Sienkiewicz seem to get a little more in sync, though it’s still uneven, with some pages looking much more like Sienkiewicz and others mostly Janson. Again, both terrific artists, but very different styles. 

So is it any good? It has some parts I liked, some I didn’t like at all, but I’m interested in seeing it develop. When you review first issues, it’s hard to walk that line between condemnation and faith. The fact is, Bendis is an old pro and is good enough at his craft that there should be enough going right in a first issue for it to basically work. At the same time, when was the last time he wrote a gritty mystery that was light on conversation and absolutely absent of humor? There might be some rust there; for me, it’s most apparent in the fight scenes, where it feels like his brain kind of shuts off. There’s nothing in those scenes that’s unusual or containing important information; you get the idea those script pages are very basic, allowing the artist to figure out the staging. It’s in the Urich stuff where he feels engaged, and so far it’s not bad.

—Christopher Allen

Bill Sienkiewicz Criterion Godzilla Controversy

Claiming it’s like “putting Daniel Craig on the cover of Dr. No,” Godzilla fans are none too pleased by the artist’s new Criterion Collection Godzilla packaging, with a monster that is arguably much more like, or exactly like, the 2002 design, rather than the 1954 original film on the disc. Facebook erupted with demands to “fix the error” or offer an apology, but Criterion stomped to the artist’s defense:

"Artist Bill Sienkiewicz used the original, ‘54 Godzilla as reference for his artwork, but all of the renderings are nevertheless, in the end, Bill’s personal vision of the creature, albeit one that is Toho approved. We can see why some viewers consider it to be more akin to the 2002 incarnation of Godzilla because the back plates seem more sharp-pointed and jagged than the curved tips of the ‘54 original, for example, or the tail tapers more to a point, but those plates don’t exactly mirror the ones from the 2002-3 monster either.

We pushed Bill to address Godzilla as a force of destruction, an elemental being, to step away from a rendering that would be purely literal and fetishistic in detail, and think he came up with a terrific interpretation. This is also why there is color in the packaging art. Although the movie is a beautifully-photographed B&W work, we kept leaning towards the elemental aspects of fire and water and wanted the color palette to evoke that.”

I think it’s more interesting that it doesn’t really look much like what comics fans expect of Sienkiewicz’ work, and that he was also hired to provide black-and-white illustrations in the BluRay booklet, which is also kind of an odd use of his talents.