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Sunday, 26 September 2010

Daredevil/Echo: Parts of a Hole

Writer: David Mack, Joe Quesada, Jimmy Palmiotti
Pencils: Joe Quesada, David Ross, Rob Haynes
Inker: Jimmy Palmiotti and Mark Morales
Colours: Richard Isanove and David Self
Letters: Comicraft's Liz Agraphiotis, Troy Peteri and Oscar Goongora
Publisher: Marvel 

What's it about?
Meet the cast.
Daredevil, aka Matt Murdock

He's a lawyer by day and a vigilante by night.  As a small child he had an accident which left him blind, this same accident heightened his other senses, beyond that of regular humans.

Echo, aka Maya Lopez
A Native American woman who is Deaf.  She has the ability to accurately mimic any physical action she sees and as such is an accomplished performer.  Her (now deceased) father was called Crazy Horse, and he worked for...

The Kingpin of Crime, aka Wilson Fisk.

He has no powers but is the head of a criminal empire.  He's quite dangerous. (Image not taken from this comic)

Foggy Nelson

No alias, Nelson is a lawyer and business partner of Matt Murdock.

As for the story, it goes like this...
Foggy Nelson and Daredevil decide to prosecute the Kingpin, and set about securing evidence that will lead to his imprisonment.  Meanwhile Maya is trying to locate more information about her father's murder.  Maya knows the Kingpin as a benevelent family friend and upstanging member of the business community, she is unaware of his criminal dealings.  Upon prompting from the Kingpin, and under the impression she is doing Fisk a favour, she befriends Matt Murdock.

False trails of information mean these characters, in all their identities, collide.  Current events force them to reflect on their childhood and evaluate how they came to be the person they are today.

Part crime drama, part romance, part action and vengeance tale.  This book has a whole lot of promise and my gods, does it deliver.

What's good about it?
There's the obvious things that make a book good - solid pacing, a good cast, good dialogue, a keen sense of drama etc.  This book has those aspects, but it's also got a whole lot of other things specific to this particular story.

Take Maya.  She's Deaf, and this is an important part of her identity, but she is more than just her Deafness.  Unlike daredevil, her powers are not linked to or caused by her inability to hear.  Maya is shown to be clever, creative, determined, flirtatious, confident, friendly, warm and dedicated.  She is never a victim or a figure to pity, which makes her a unique addition to the (low) number of Deaf characters in literature.  Within the dialogue the book demonstrates a high level of Deaf awareness and often discusses the barriers faced by those who are Deaf or blind.  This commentary is blended into the plot in a natural manner, usually in terms of day to day events.  For example, Maya's need to have people face her so she can read their lips.  Maya's Deafhood makes her unique, but she is such a well fleshed out and compelling character she transcends stereotypes.

In addition to this it's quite simply a gripping story with a lot to say - you'll find no filler material here.  The flashbacks to childhood mean that we learn the character's histories and are provided with a good introduction to each one.  This book is a self contained arc collecting issue numbers 9 to 15 of the Daredevil series, but it doesn't require previous knowledge to understand or enjoy it.

What's bad about it?
In the section above I mentioned how the dialogue within this book shows a high level of Deaf awareness.  Well mostly that's true, (although the explanations for why she has perfect speech and how she learnt American Sign Language seem a bit hamfisted), unfortunately it seems that something was mis-communicated to the artist.  For example, there are a few scenes where Maya is lip reading people in the dark or with her eyes closed.  These moments are irksome.  They are not irksome enough to stop me reading or enjoying the book, but they do jump out as being ill thought through.  They may annoy you to a greater or lesser extent.

The other thing that may be troublesome to some readers, is Daredevil's skill set.  He is an advanced gymnast, has heightened senses and is such a good fighter it sometimes seems he is near invulnerable or superhuman.  This aspect of him may or may not capture your interest.

What's the art like?
Ignoring the impossibility of lip reading in the dark and focusing on the technical aspects, the art is bloody great.  It's quite varied and encompasses a whole range of emotions, moods, and relationships.
It's imaginative, sometimes surreal and has recurring themes, such as music, that play a large part in both Daredevil's and Echo's story.

There is a heady, overpowering feel to the art that has as much to do with the layout as the colours. During the more intense moments of the story the art becomes intoxicating and sweeps you off your feet.

Other information
Price: £18.99
ISBN: 0785142878

At the time of writing this book is only available in hardcover.  Should we hear about a paperback being released, this post will be updated with the relevant information.

This trade also includes a short standalone story at the back, which is primarily about the power of the human spirit.  It is framed around Daredevil and Echo but it's really about the ordinary folk of Hell's Kitchen, New York.  It's a nice little way to wrap up and a good bonus to the main story.

Further reading
Maya is the only Deaf superhero in Marvel or DC and pitifully few stories about her have been collected.  The Vision Quest story arc centres on Echo and can be found secondhand on Amazon here.  Maya later joined The Avengers and features in a number of their issues.  Details to be included in this post when found.

As for Daredevil, I recommend you try out Yellow, Redemption and Wake Up.

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