Review: Hard Boiled by Frank Miller, Geof Darrow & Dave Stewart

Hardboiled.jpgThere’s a lot to love about Frank Miller and Geof Darrow’s Hard Boiled, newly republished in an oversized hardcover edition, and it’s all to do with the art.

Try and make sense of Miller’s plot. I dare you. Set in a bleak dystopian future — think Blade Runner, but even more depraved and perverted, and inhabited my ultra-violent robots — the world of Hard Boiled is comprised of A.I. units that look, think and act like normal humans, but are actually corporate assassins. Nixon, our protagonist — because you certainly couldn’t label him a hero — is one of these death machines, who finds himself mixed up in a potential robot revolution.

Of course, your take might vary. Much of Miller’s script is monosyllabic. When dialogue is present, it’s barely there. Hard Boiled is, consciously, a vehicle for Darrow’s intricate, bombastic artwork. His pages are the kind you’ll obsessive over, Where’s Wally-esque in their details. This is a guy who won’t just draw a brick wall; he’ll show all of its cracks. His crowd shots are littered with sub-stories, and he seems to love crafting this profane, horrible world. It’s dirty, it’s nasty, it’s heinous, and certainly not for kids — but it’s damn impressive.

A younger me would’ve loved poster-sized blowups of these pages for my bedroom walls. The almost-thirty me merely enjoyed spending an hour or so enjoying the minutiae of the illustrations. There’s just not enough here for me to wholeheartedly recommend. The plot is too basic, too undercooked, for me to recommend to a sci-fi buff, or a reader seeking a new take on dystopias. Lots to look at and enjoy, but it’s all too fleeting. One to borrow from the library, but unless you’re an art connoisseur, you won’t need more than an hour with this one.

ISBN: 9781506701073
Format: Hardback
Pages: 136
Imprint: Dark Horse Comics,U.S.
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics,U.S.
Publish Date: 26-Sep-2017
Country of Publication: United States

Review: Daredevil – The Man Without Fear by Frank Miller and John Romita Jr.

Man Without FeaIn my youth, Daredevil never ranked highly on my list of super-heroes. I started reading comics in the mid-nineties, and was only ever exposed to the character in team-ups with Spider-Man; and that was plenty. I didn’t seek out any more Daredevil stories, and for many years was contented with my decision. Besides, DC Comics was where my head was at; Superman, Batman and Green Lantern, rather than the Marvel universe.

But as years passed, I began to hear whispers about Frank Miller’s run on the series – a creator I knew exclusively through his seminal work on Batman. Even that wasn’t enough to sway me, though my interest was undeniably piqued. Then came Brian Michael Bendis’ take on the character, quickly followed by Ed Brubaker’s – two of my all-time favorite writers in comics – whose creative powers enticed me into the world of Matt Murdock; and from there, I delved backwards, powered through Miller’s Daredevil work.

I’ve been reading the character ever since.

Lately I’ve been reading several origin stories, purely by happenstance rather than design. THE MAN WITHOUT FEAR was originally a five issue limited series by Frank Miller and perhaps my favorite artist in the business, John Romita Jr, which detailed Daredevil’s origin. The best thing about it is that it’s purely character-focused; Murdock doesn’t appear in costume until the very end. This is the story of the man behind the mask, and the failures and successes that drove him to don the spandex.

Raised by a single father, an over-the-hill prize-fighter whose sole objective in life is to see his son live a better than life than he has, Murdock’s life is irrevocably changed when he’s blinded by radioactive materials while saving the life of an old man. This radioactive material enhances Murdock’s other senses, however – and with the aid of the enigmatic Stick, he learns to control and heighten these developed senses even further. Despite his lack of sight, Murdock is trained, and becomes, the ultimate warrior; but THE MAN WITHOUT FEAR exposes his lack of discipline when an innocent is killed through his actions, and the long path towards attaining it.

Miller utilizes a terse third person narrative in THE MAN WITHOUT FEAR; from the keyboard of a lesser writer, these captions might seem overbearing, but Miller is no rookie, and he encapsulates the perfect tone, hints of noir tinged with a super-hero flavour – a difficult balance. Coupled with Romita Jr’s artwork – which has never looked better – it’s stunning collection, which perhaps doesn’t quite hit the heights of Miller’s ground-breaking BORN AGAIN, but comes awfully close.