Friday, August 05, 2005

What does sunshine sound like?

Daredevil 51 - 55 ("Echo")

Until these issues came out, there had only ever been two official "Most beautiful comics in my collection". The first was "anything drawn by Neal Adams", which ruled the roost for a decade until I bought Bill Sienkiewicz's amazing "Elektra: Assassin". David Mack's "Echo" series seems to me to outstrip even that. I spent most of yesterday evening just flipping the pages back and forward. It is quite simply exquisite.

It's one of those things you see and can't quite bring yourself to believe that someone could have created it.

It's clear that David Mack has very little interest in Daredevil himself. Horns appears only twice, and those briefly. This issue is about Echo, Murdock's deaf ex-girlfriend, coming to terms with herself, bereavement, betrayal and the end of the affair. It's an essay in words and pictures.

If you're into plot-heavy action, don't buy this. Mack, on this showing, has little interest in action of any sort. He wants to dwell inside the head of his characters, or rather character, since Echo is overwhelmingly the subject of this story. Echo (or Maya), a native American, goes on a "vision quest", which involves sitting in the forest for several days till you start hallucinating. This being Marvel, there is a contractual obligation that any story set in a forest has to involve Wolverine, and sure enough, old Adamantium-brain turns up to have an entirely futile fight with Echo before they get down to the main business of this arc, which is talking about things.

In both form and plot, we can see this story is a direct descendant from Claremont and Sienkiewicz's New Mutants arc, Demon Bear, which used similar native American / surreal imaging to magical effect, though that was a much darker affair. Mack uses handwritten scribbles, sign-language cards, abrupt switches to comic book art and just about everything else he can think of to sustain the startling quality. It's like opening up a magazine and finding an art gallery inside.

Mack: it's possible he knows how to draw a bit

Now I felt like being hypercritical, I would say that Maya is indulging in a bit too much navel-gazing: that the psychobabble level is uncomfortably high. But for something created as lovingly as this, serious criticism is heresy.

(I would love to show some scans, by the way, but my scanner is currently only scanning in shades of pink, which I'm pretty sure might spoil the effect a little bit. -- LATEST UPDATE - pink scanning crisis now averted)

All the artwork is painted, which straight off tends to improve the look of a story dramatically. You almost feel at some points - like a Maya describing her travels is depicted with frame portraits of her face in the style of artists like Van Gogh and Picasso - that Mack is showing off. Surely not?

I have a feeling that I need to buy Mack's main work, Kabuki, as a matter of urgency.


Blogger Phillip said...

Sounds fantastic!! Make sure to scan in some pages when you get the thingy working again. (I was wondering where the covers had gone.) Hope it gets fixed soon, I love this blog!

12:46 pm  
Blogger Jim Roeg said...

Hey, D.C. Just had to chime in about "Echo." A friend introduced this to me recently and it blew me away too. "An essay in words and pictures" and "an art gallery" are very exact descriptions of what Mack gives us imo. The thing I really dug about the book was the way that even though it clearly isn't very interested in DD and Wolvie, it nonetheless attaches its "essay" to these mainstream figures and works out from there, saying something, perhaps, about the larger critical/philosophical possibilities that regular superheroes contain. Good catch about the Demon Bear story connection btw--I'd missed that. (To echo phillip, above, I love your blog too!)

4:15 pm  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

I thought that the first issue of Echo was fantastic.

Then I read the second issue, which basically just redid the first issue!!

I understand that it was an intentional thing for each issue to "Echo" each other...but damn, dude, what a stupid gimmick!!!!!!!!!!

However, that is the story side.

The art is amazing.

Mack is amazing, period.

7:53 am  
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