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Daredevil (TV show)

Daredevil (or Marvel’s Daredevil) is an original Netflix series about the Marvel Comics superhero. If you don’t know who Daredevil is, I’ll give you a brief little introduction. Daredevil is the alias of Matt Murdock, lawyer by day and vigilante at night. He’s also blind because every superhero needs a schtick. I know the concept of a blind guy fighting crime in a costume sounds stupid, but he’s one of the coolest Marvel characters when he’s done right. This Netflix show gets it right.

Daredevil was first created by Stan Lee, Bill Everett, and Jack Kirby in 1964, but it was really Frank Miller’s work on the series that changed the tone. It became darker and more complex. It was no longer aimed at kids. The stories were filled with violence, sex, drugs, and crime. This show takes inspiration from the Frank Miller era, and that was a good choice.

The first season introduces us to Daredevil (Charlie Cox): who he is, what he does, and why he does what he does. We meet Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson), his best friend/law partner. We meet Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll), a young lady with a thirst for justice who ends up working at the law firm. We also meet Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio), because no superhero is complete without a supervillain. Fisk is one of the better villains of the Marvel Universe. He’s a ruthless criminal mastermind who runs his empire like a business.

Solid writing and established characters are the foundation to any good show, but you can’t skimp out on the action and fight scenes if you’re doing a project about a superhero. This show has some of the best fight choreography I’ve ever seen. The fights are realistic. The punches have impact. The characters get hurt. They get tired. They get winded. They slow down. And you actually see what is going on. They frame everything correctly. There’s no shaky camera work or rapid cuts to distract you. Check out this fight scene and tell me you’re not exhausted after watching it.

Watch Daredevil. It’s worth it. And it’s the first of four intertwined Marvel shows on Netflix. Soon Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, and Luke Cage will have series of their own, culminating in a supershow based upon the Defenders which will unite all the characters. It’s like the Netflix version of The Avengers, only with TV shows instead of movies. You don’t want to be left behind. Get on it now if you haven’t already.

Critically Rated at 16/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Daredevil: Born Again (comic)

Daredevil is an implausible comic book character. It’s has a ludicrous premise: a blind lawyer who uses his heightened senses to fight crime. But when put in the hands of a creative genius like Frank Miller, Daredevil becomes an icon like Batman or Spider-man. Frank Miller’s writing and Dave Mazzucchelli’s artwork are the perfect combination to depict one of the darkest stories in Marvel’s history.

            Daredevil’s ex-girlfriend is a heroin addict and sells his secret identity for a fix. Ultimately the information ends up in the hands of Daredevil’s arch nemisis, the Kingpin. The Kingpin lays out a plan to break Daredevil by destroying Matt Murdock’s life. Matt loses his apartment, the IRS freezes his bank accounts, he gets framed for perjury, he loses his girlfriend to his best friend, and he loses his good name. His life is crumbling around him and he breaks down mentally and physically. Superheroes are supposed to be invincible, so it’s fascinating to see them struggle.

            Born Again is a great comic, and Daredevil is a great comic book character. He belongs on the page, not on the big screen. Forget about Ben Affleck and read some off Frank Miller’s Daredevil comics. You can’t recreate his inner turmoil on film. It doesn’t translate.

Critically Rated at 15/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Sin City (film)

There are quite a few movies based on comic books, but Sin City takes it to a new level. It is a comic, but they used actors and Hollywood effects instead of paper to tell the story. Robert Rodriquez and Frank Miller co-directed this film translation of Miller’s Sin City and convert the comic into a cinematic masterpiece. This movie has it all: violence, nudity, honest cops, corrupt cops, hitmen, hitwomen, prostitutes, criminals, clergymen, and pedophiles. You probably wouldn’t want to watch it with your mom.

The movie starts with a mysterious lady (Marley Shelton) on a balcony overlooking the city skyline. She’s approached by a smooth-talking guy (Josh Hartnett), and they have a casually nuanced conversation, which ends with the guy shooting her. It turns out that he was a hitman and it’s implied that she hired him to kill herself. It was an indirect suicide. Welcome to Sin City.

The next story is about a cop on the verge of retirement trying to solve one last case. Hartigan (Bruce Willis), is pushing sixty and has a bum ticker, but he’s not gonna let a little heart problem stop him from rescuing the kidnapped Nancy Callahan. Nick Stahl plays the pedophilic perpetrator. He is a member of the powerful Roark family, and his corrupt senator father keeps the cops off his back. That doesn’t stop Hartigan from going after him and shooting his dick off. Hartigan almost dies, but Nancy lives. He reasons that it’s a fair trade.

The film jumps over to tell Marv’s tale next. Marv (Mickey Rourke) is a brute, a beast, a gladiator, and ugly as hell. A beautiful and sexy whore named Blondie (Jaime King) is in trouble and sleeps with Marv for protection. He wakes up to find her dead, and he is framed for her murder. He has to find out who killed Goldie and why. He begins following the trail and finds out that Cardinal Roark is involved. The Roark family sure gets around. Suffice to say, Marv kills a lot of people and avenges Goldie’s death.

Marv Sin City

Clive Owen headlines the next segment. He plays Dwight, a do-gooder who gets himself involved in a war between the Old Town prostitutes and the mob. Jackie Boy (Benicio del Toro) hits Brittany Murphy and makes her cry. Dwight decides he doesn’t like that and he doesn’t like Jackie Boy. So he follows him to make sure that he doesn’t hit any more girls. Jackie Boy goes to Old Town where the prostitutes are and pulls out a gun when his charms don’t get a girl into his car. The prostitutes kill Jackie Boy and then they find out that he’s a cop. The prostitutes freak out because a dead cop means that the truce between the cops and whores would end and then the mob could wage war for Old Town. Dwight has to get rid of the body before that happens. And he does.

Next we return to check in on Hartigan. It’s about eight years later and Hartigan has been stuck in jail, framed for kidnapping and raping Nancy Callahan. He finally gets out and goes to make sure that Nancy is safe. Not only is she safe, she’s Jessica Alba now, and she’s a stripper, and she’s totally in love with him. The only downside is that Roark Junior is back, and so is his dick, and now he’s yellow and smells like shit. This time Hartigan might be too old to stop him. He’s not though, and he kills that yellow bastard and saves Nancy’s life again. Then he shoots himself in the head so no more Roarks will go after Nancy. He dies, but Nancy lives. He reasons that it’s a fair trade.

Hartigan and Nancy

The last part of the movie deals with Alexis Bledel’s character getting shot by Josh Hartnett’s hitman. The movie comes full circle and you are anxious for the sequel. It should come out in 2013. That’s been way too long.

The movie is in black and white except for what they choose to show in color. Everything that is depicted in color is shown in color for a reason. Sometimes it is a siren illuminating the character, sometimes their eye color is highlighted, and it always important. Everything that is in color is significant. You just have to figure out why.

Sin City is the ultimate comic book movie. It is one of the first films that depicts truly and tastefully what a comic book translation is capable of. This isn’t a movie, it is a comic come to life.

Critically Rated at 15/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Daredevil: The Man Without Fear (comic)

If your only experience of Daredevil was that terrible Ben Affleck flick, I feel sorry for you. That movie did no justice to one of the best superheroes in the Marvel Universe. Frank Miller didn’t invent Daredevil, but he reinvented him and made him a badass. This graphic novel collects issued #1-5 of Daredevil: The Man Without Fear. It is an origin story, and it’s a great way to introduce yourself to the sightless world of the Daredevil.

Matt Murdock is a blind lawyer by day and a vigilante known as Daredevil by night. The story starts with a young Matt Murdock growing up in Hell’s Kitchen in New York City. He lives alone with his dad, a washed up boxer Jack “The Devil” Murdock. Jack’s glory days are well behind him and he is forced to do enforcement work for a local gangster. Jack’s biggest fear is that Matt will grow up and become a lowlife like him. He pushes Matt to stay out of trouble, to obey the rules, and to be a success.

One day Matt pushes an old blind guy out of the way of a truck, some toxic sludge gets on his face, and Matt loses his sight. Although he loses his eyesight, his other senses grow and he can use his heightened senses to get a sense of the world around him. He can feel the air and echolocate, and he gets heightened physical abilities like a ninja gymnast. He meets a mysterious mentor named Stick who teaches him to harness his abilities.

Jack’s dad pisses off the wrong people and ends up dead. Matt seeks his father’s murderers and wipes them out one by one. Stick catches wind of this and decides that he can’t teach him anymore and stops their nighttime lessons.

Matt Murdock grows up and goes to law school, where he meets his best friend Foggy Nelson. Matt also meets Elektra, a wealthy girl who also likes to run around under the cover of darkness. She is wild, untamable, and he loves her instantly. They have a brief but passionate love affair, but she breaks it off and moves away.

Matt graduates and becomes a lawyer and finds himself back in Hell’s Kitchen as an adult. A new criminal named the Kingpin has risen to power and crime is on a meteoric increase. Matt meets a young girl named Mickey and she’s having a hard time and Matt takes her under his wing and starts training her. She gets kidnapped by some lowlifes with ties to the Kingpin and in the process of saving her, the Kingpin becomes aware of the new threat to his criminal empire and they become enemies.

Frank Miller takes a ridiculous concept like a blind superhero in New York and makes it genuine. Like Batman: Year One, Miller takes an already established character and goes back into his their history to find out who they are and how they came to be. Dressing up in a costume and risking your life to fight crime doesn’t happen overnight. It takes years and years and a lot of fucked up events to twist your psyche into that level of delusion, and that’s what this story is all about.

Don’t let a bad Ben Affleck movie keep you from exploring the source material. They made Daredevil into a movie for a reason. He is an interesting character with cooler powers than you might think. Check out The Man Without Fear for yourself and agree with me.

Critically Rated at 14/17

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Ronin (comic)

Frank Miller’s Ronin is one of his breakthrough comics. Ronin is the story of a disgraced samurai and his demon enemy who are reincarnated into a desolate, futuristic New York City. It’s heavily influenced by manga and Japanimation.

The story begins in old time Japan, where a young samurai loyally serves his master. His master gets assassinated by Agat, a powerful demon. A samurai without a master is a ronin, hence the title. The ronin and Agat do battle and somehow get transported to the future.

The world has gone to hell, and New York City is in shambles. There are gangs of freaks and mutants, lots of bums, lots of anarchy. The city is also home to the Aquarius Corporation, known for their pioneering work in biocircuitry, which they hope to weaponize.

Billy Challas, an armless, legless telekinetic lives in Aquarius and uses his telekinesis to control the biocircuitry. The Aquarius Corporation has an advanced A.I. system known as Virgo. Virgo acts like Billy’s friend and babysitter. Billy has strange dreams involving samurais. He eventually uses the biocircuitry to grow himself limbs, and starts transforming into the ronin. Good thing too, because Agat is back too.

There is a lot more to the story than what meets the eye. This is a story of past and future, east and west, man and machine, of honor and duty. Miller’s version of the future is dark and gritty, and his rough and aggressive artwork compliments it nicely. Miller does comics for men, not for kids.

It’s a cool comic. I realize my half-assed plot summary seems a little confusing, but the story isn’t that convoluted. There’s cool characters, a cool concept, and it’s hard to put down.

Critically Rated at 13/17

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All Star Batman & Robin the Boy Wonder

Frank Miller’s prequel to the Dark Knight Returns and the Dark Knight Strikes Again is a reimagining of how Batman and Robin teamed up. Miller’s story is a little more coherent than his DKSA travesty. Jim Lee’s art is amazingly stunning, especially compared to Miller’s gritty Dark Knight illustrations.

Frank Miller’s Batman is basically Dirty Harry. He ruthlessly beats criminals and enjoys doing so. He calls himself the “goddamn Batman”. A lot. It’s annoying to have a classic character changed so drastically. Batman is an asshole in this book. You don’t like his personality.

Dick Grayson is just your average twelve-year-old circus acrobat who is an expert at martial arts for some reason. His parents are shot and killed in front of him, and he is kidnapped by some corrupt Gotham cops. Batman rescues Dick from the dirty cops, and enlists him to fight in his war against crime. Batman doesn’t give Dick a choice; he just takes him back to the Batcave and starts training him to be a soldier. When Dick Grayson asks for food, Batman tells him to catch a rat. What an asshole. Robin doesn’t even get time to grieve. Batman damaged Dick Grayson beyond repair, making his reappearance in DKSA have more meaning. Batman ruined Dick Grayson’s life.

Jim Lee’s art makes Miller’s harsh story beautiful to look at. Vicki Vale, Wonder Woman, and the Black Canary are incredibly sexy looking. The female characters are definitely nice to look at. The highlight of the artwork is a huge multipage foldout depicting the enormity of the Batcave. It is huge, vast, and filled with tons of Bat-ccessories.

Batman is smart, knows it, and rubs it in your face. He handles the Green Lantern by controlling where and how they meet. He makes Robin paint the rendezvous spot all yellow so his power ring is useless. You gotta admit, that’s pretty clever.

This is a cool book. It has a more focused plot than the Dark Knight Strikes Again. The characters are more relatable. Even though the goddamn Batman is an asshole, at least he’s not a parody like he was in DKSA. Miller’s story is dark, but Lee’s artwork makes it appealing.

Critically Rated at 12/17

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Batman: The Dark Knight Strikes Again

Frank Miller’s sequel to his brilliant Dark Knight Returns takes everything he did in the first one and destroys it admirably. I can’t tell if Miller is parodying himself or if he just went crazy. It is an interesting read, even if it bastardizes the original. There’s something about train wreck sequels that is appealing.

DKR was set in the ‘80s. DKSA takes place just a few years later, but Gotham and the rest of America aren’t even recognizable. Lex Luthor and Brainiac have taken over the country and left in in a police state. The President of the United States is a computer program. A lot of heroes are forced into working for the government. It is not a good time to be a citizen in the DC universe.

Dark Knight Returns only had a few other heroes besides Superman and the Green Arrow. Dark Knight Strikes Again has a lot more. Wonder Woman, Lara (Superman and Wonder Woman’s love child), Captain Marvel, the Atom, the Flash, Plastic Man, Elongated Man, Green Lantern, the Martian Manhunter all make appearances… is this Batman or the Justice League? The Cold War setting in the first book made Gotham real and the story relatable. DKSA has the Cold War, but it is amped up to the max. It is extremely jarring and isolating. This world is not recognizable, it could never happen. It is too out there. You can tell Miller is trying to outdo himself, but he forgot what he was doing.

Carrie Kelly is a few years older, and is Batman’s Second-in-command. She no longer uses the Robin mantle; now she goes by Catgirl. Batman has a mini army of vigilantes. They all go on raids and try to overthrow Luthor’s dictatorship. The media is a big part of the story too.

The two main villains in the story are Lex Luthor and Brainiac… is this Batman or a Superman comic? Batman is the world’s greatest detective, so seeing him match wits with Luthor is pretty interesting. There is another villain as well, a crazy psycho who models himself after the Joker. It was a nice little twist to find out his real identity. It’s one of the few redeeming parts of the comic.

It is entertaining and worth reading, especially if you read and enjoyed the Dark Knight Returns. This is a shoddy sequel, but not the worst thing to happen to mankind. It is sad to see a genius like Miller losing his touch.

Critically Rated at 11/17

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Batman: the Dark Knight Returns

Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns is about an aging Batman who comes out of retirement to save Gotham once again. All superheroes have been retired, with the exception of Superman. Miller wrote and drew the comic, so the text and the artwork go hand in hand. The story is harsh, and the drawings are crude, creating a used, worn tone that perfectly suits a disgruntled Batman.

Batman has been retired for ten years, but Bruce Wayne still has some work to do. A few criminals from his past have been once again wreaking havoc on Gotham City. New criminals and new gangs like the Mutants have also started a reign of terror. It’s the height of the Cold War, and the Reaganesque President, the Government and Superman are also antagonists.

Batman is a little old and a little rusty. He has to find his place in a city that has forgotten how much they need him. Fighting crime isn’t as easy as it used to be. Batman recruits a new Robin, a spunky thirteen-year-old girl named Carrie Kelly. She doesn’t follow orders well, but she is a natural fighter and saves Batman a few times. There are a few returning Batman favorites like Alfred, Gordon, Selina Kyle, Two-Face and the Joker.

The media is an important character as well. Various anchormen, reporters, interviewed experts, and eyewitness reports all chime in on the Batman issue. The reader is constantly bombarded with new reports and interviews; it makes the stakes seem higher. You see how Gotham and the rest of America is going down a dangerous path. They need a hero, and Superman is not who they need.

Superman has been relegated to being the president’s puppet. The President orders Superman to go after Batman after a few plot developments. There ends up being an epic showdown between Batman’s wits and Superman’s abilities. The final fight between the two greatest DC heroes is one of the best moments in comic history. It is clever, smart, and seems underwhelming at first, but gradually you see how it was the best way to end the story.

Frank Miller did some amazing stories before he went batshit crazy and started parodying himself. This is one of his best comics, one of Batman’s best comics, and one of the industry’s best comics. It is essential reading for a Batman fan. It’s a good time, check it out.

Critically Rated at 14/17

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Batman: Year One (comic)

Frank Miller’s reimagining of Batman’s origin. Miller’s tale is dark, blunt, and introduces us to Bruce Wayne before he is Batman. David Mazzucchelli’s artwork is clean, sharp and distinct. Together the writing and art present a very interesting and dense story that crams in a lot of references to Batman and the DC universe.

            Miller’s Batman is a little more mellow, and more in line with earlier depictions of Batman as opposed to his Dark Knight Returns and Dark Knight Strikes Again character. He is more relatable. This was written after Dark Knight Returns, so hopefully Miller had a bigger picture in mind when he was writing this. It doesn’t feel like it is in the same timeline.

Bruce Wayne/Batman is the main character, but there is a lot of focus on James Gordon before he becomes Commissioner. Selina Kyle/Catwoman is also featured heavily, as well as a pre-Two-Face Harvey Dent and a cryptic reference to a villain known as the Joker.

This is a good book to start with if you want to see what Batman comics are all about. Frank Miller was amazing back in the day, and this is one of his best stories. It is smart, compelling and fun for newcomers and old fans of Batman. Batman stories are essentially of the detective/mystery genre, so even if you aren’t interested in superheroes it should still appeal to you.

Critically Rated at 14/17

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