Daredevil by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee (Marvel, 9780785154129, 9780785192282, 9780785198024)
Daredevil is my joint favourite comic book character (along with Spider-Man)! 2015 has been a great year to be a Daredevil fan to say the least. An outstanding TV series on Netflix and the continuing greatness of Mark Waid and Chris Samnee’s run has given me plenty to enjoy.
I am kind of cheating here as this entry technically covers three books. However, they all need to be included when discussing the final chapter in Mark Waid’s epic Daredevil run. It was depressing to learn that 2015 would be the last year of Waid’s run as his familiar yet fresh take on the character has been a great success. However, he still managed to jam-pack his last year’s worth of issues with plenty of exciting content including an Original Sin tie-in where Matt learns a secret about his parents he wished had remained hidden and a disturbing encounter with The Purple Man and his new offspring: The Purple Children.
Waid has excelled at being able to switch between the dark and serious Daredevil style that was made famous by Frank Miller to the more light-hearted Stan Lee style at the drop of a hat and in both cases being completely faithful to the way Daredevil has been portrayed in the past. This is especially effective in the volume four as Matt gets carried away with his new-found freedom (which includes adopting a very brash new costume and even agreeing to produce an autobiography) and is bought crashing back to earth when he faces dire consequences for going public with his identity and finds himself having to turn to one of his greatest enemies for help.
Waid has also been fortunate to work with some truly great artists on his run including Paolo Rivera, Marcos Martin and Javier Rodriguez. However, Chris Samnee truly made the book his own as he turned out some of the greatest work of his career on his three years on the title, being a perfect complement to the series alternating dark and light tone (going from a truly terrifying portrayal of the Purple Man to Daredevil’s encounter with the new Stunt-Man which sees the blind Daredevil having to ride a motorbike along the rails of the Golden Gate Bridge).
I can only hope that when Waid and Samnee reunite next year on Black Widow, it will be even greater than the work they have produced on Daredevil.
A Silent Voice by Yoshitoki Oima (Kodansha Comics)
Among several strong releases from Kodansha Comics this year, this one particularly stood out!
The first volume of A Silent Voice is a particularly harrowing read as bored thrill-seeking elementary school student Shoya Ishida leads a bullying campaign against deaf transfer student Shoko Nishimiya and subsequently finds himself ostracised by his classmates and friends/fellow bullies after Nishimiya leaves. What follows next are Ishida’s attempts years later to rise from the suicidal state he has fallen into and make amends with Nishimiya.
Bullying is never pleasant wherever it takes place! However, it is particularly brutal in Japanese schools. A Silent Voice makes no attempt to sugarcoat this issue and can be very hard to read at times whether you have ever been bullied or not (when you’re feeling sorry for someone who has spent the opening chapters bullying a deaf girl, you know this is some cruel stuff). But as unpleasant at it is, everyone’s perspective is presented so it is clear why Ishida has decided to bully Nishimiya and why his classmates scapegoat him as the sole perpetrator.
The later volumes however turn toward a tale of redemption as Ishida plans to find Nishimiya years later to try to make up for his past cruelty, going as far as learning sign language so he can communicate with her. But it’s not only Nishimiya he needs to win over as her younger sister and mother are both resentful about the bullying Nishimya went through. And whilst Ishida is finally starting to make new friends after years of being ostracised, some of his old classmates aren’t as willing to move on from the past.
Among the more fantastical series that have been released this year, A Silent Voice is a very grounded work showing a lot of care when looking into some very sensitive topics and it is clear Yoshitoki Oima did plenty of research when it comes to deafness in children. I should emphasise again that the first volume is a tough read but it makes the later volumes all the more touching as Ishida starts his road to redemption. Oima’s nuanced artwork is also outstanding at capturing subtle emotions, especially from a character like Nishimiya who doesn’t talk much. The remaining three volumes of the series are released in 2016 and I am very eager to see how it ends.
An anime film adaptation by famed studio Kyoto Animation is currently in production making this an ideal time to check this series out.
Art of Satoshi Kon (Dark Horse, 9781616557416)
2010 was a bit of a downer for most anime fans as one of the greatest anime directors of all time, Satoshi Kon, passed away at the far too young age of 46. His directorial debut Perfect Blue was a masterpiece of horror and suspense and he promptly produced hit after hit after hit. Tokyo Godfathers and the TV series Paranoia Agent are particularly important to me as some of the golden standards of what can be accomplished in storytelling and animation in the anime medium. His influence is very far reaching with filmmakers such as Darren Aronofsky and Christopher Nolan paying homage to his works. I can confidently say without Paprika, there would be no Inception.
The one silver lining is since his parting is that most of his early manga work before he became an anime tour de force has been released courtesy of Dark Horse and Vertical Inc. This year saw one of the best releases in the form of The Art of Satoshi Kon. For any fan of Kon’s work or a newcomer wishing to see a sample the man’s talent, this book is a must-read. The book includes Kon’s illustrations from all films Perfect Blue, Tokyo Godfathers, Millennium Actress, and Paprika, and his television series Paranoia Agent. Also included are his rare commercial art pieces, samples from his manga work and a tribute from Darren Aronofsky.
But the best part of the book (and also the saddest) is the artwork from his unfinished film The Dreaming Machine which Kon was working on before he died. The film is still in development with Kon’s colleagues at Madhouse Studio taking over production, but is a long way from being completed. For now, this is the closest you’ll get to seeing what Kon had in mind before his passing.
If you’re an anime fan and not familiar with Satoshi Kon’s work, I’d tell you to hurry up and watch all his films. But this book is a great place to start and a great overview of the talent of a visionary taken far too soon.