Daredevil: Lockdown (2021) Reprints Daredevil #31-36 Written by Chip Zdarsky Art by Mike Hawthorne, Marco Checchetto, Stefano Landini, Francesco Mobili, and Manuel Garcia
Devil’s Reign (2022) Reprints Devil’s Reign #1-6 & Devil’s Reign Omega Written by Chip Zdarsky Art by Marco Checchetto
Throughout Chip Zdarsky’s current run on Daredevil, he’s made it a point to show how it’s not just organized crime that creates problems in urban environments. The police & the city government will agitate the public to serve their own purposes, often to continue a flow of money & power from criminal enterprise. Lockdown finds Matt Murdock serving time in prison while being allowed to keep his identity secret due to a Supreme Court ruling within the Marvel Universe. Being spotlighted as Daredevil doesn’t afford him any benefits, though and he quickly becomes targeted by his fellow inmates but also a corrupt warden.
Daredevil: Truth/Dare (2021) Reprints Daredevil #21-25, Annual #1 Written by Chip Zdarsky Art by Marco Checchetto, Manuel Garcia, Francisco Mobili, Mike Hawthorne
Daredevil: Doing Time (2021) Reprints Daredevil #26-30 Written by Chip Zdarsky Art by Marco Checchetto and Mike Hawthorne
Chip Zdarsky has completely sold me on Daredevil, a character I previously was lukewarm towards. The Marvel street-level characters outside of Spider-Man never really caught my attention. For years, I’ve tried picking up a Daredevil issue here and there to see if a new creative team could garner my interest, but they’ve continuously sputtered out. Zdarsky’s take on Daredevil works so well for me because the title is basically a two-hander. The story being told is just as much about Matt Murdock as it is about Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin. Years prior, Fisk was elected mayor of NYC, a concept I don’t think any writer has done much interesting with until now. By spending so much time with Fisk, we have really understood and even empathized with the character. He’s undoubtedly a villain, but he’s also a person.
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Saturday Morning All-Star Hits (Netflix) Written by Kyle Mooney, Ben Jones, Dave McCary, and Scott Gairdner Directed by Ben Jones & Dave McCary
Nostalgia is one of the most dangerous sentiments people can have, made even worse when an entire society becomes regressively lost in it to avoid confronting present-day problems. Unfortunately, America is currently a society obsessed with nostalgia, with each generation suckling at memories from their childhood and yearning to return to that state of unknowing. “Make America Great Again” implies a better time, and even those who wear this proudly do so without acknowledging that it would not have been better for adults in their economic class. The pull of nostalgia is most potent during times of societal collapse and is one of the many tendrils of fascism that very slyly closes around the throat of the future. Kyle Mooney and co-creator Ben Jones have managed to create a streaming series that bathes in the aesthetics of nostalgia but doesn’t succumb to the lies that it was better “back then.”
Belfast (2021) Written & Directed by Kenneth Branagh
The Troubles. For the people of Northern Ireland, that phrase is a reminder of a brutal period of thirty years where communities were at war. While the factions were referenced in the media as Catholic and Protestant, there was much more complexity to what was happening. This irregular war came out of unionists & loyalists (Protestants) wanting to remain as part of the United Kingdom. The nationalists & republicans (Catholics) sought to reunite with Ireland to form a single nation. That’s the basic explanation, but I could write a whole book about the details and go deeper and how the entire thing goes back to the early 17th century. Many people have already written those books.
The Scary of Sixty-First (2021) Written by Dasha Nekrasova and Madeline Quinn Directed by Dasha Nekrasova
One of the pieces of cultural lore that has rippled through people’s minds has been the revelations surrounding Jeffrey Epstein. Epstein was a native Brooklynite whose first professional job was teaching at the Dalton School while lacking a college degree. Odd, right? Eventually, he was dismissed from the school and entered finance, working at Bear Stearns. As Epstein rose in wealth and prominence, he began cultivating some extremely prominent acquaintances. There are some unknowns about what he did with this wealth & power. However, there are also some things we know for sure. It is an absolute fact that he engaged in the human trafficking of women and children and that they were used for his and his friends’ sexual gratification. Epstein’s life ended when he allegedly “committed suicide” while in prison, a situation whose details are deeply incredulous.
The Souvenir Part II (2021) Written & Directed by Joanna Hogg
The Souvenir was not the sort of film we expect sequels for anymore. It’s an intimate, funny & poignant story about a young woman coming into her own and dealing with her first tragic love. The second film is about the ripples in that relationship and the death that ended up rippling through a young filmmaker’s life. It became a significant influence on her art. All of this is directly autobiographical, based on Hogg’s own experiences coming into her own as a filmmaker and the effects her ill-fated relationship had on that work.
Geiger Volume One (2021) Reprints Geiger #1-6 Written by Geoff Johns Art by Gary Frank and Brad Anderson
In the Marvel/DC-dominated superhero space, it can be a bit daunting for someone to do capes & tights seriously outside of that duopoly. Most of the time, these end up being more like Black Hammer, a critique or commentary on superhero comics seen through a contemporary lens. Geoff Johns is a comics creator who has undoubtedly seen better days. His peak was in the early to mid-2000s working for DC, where he managed to revitalize the Justice Society and did some absolutely legendary work on The Flash and Green Lantern. His role at DC grew, which led to a leadership role in their film & television development. Johns would help co-write the screenplays for Wonder Woman and Aquaman and serve as a producer on almost every single DC film.
Skulldigger and Skeleton Boy (2021) Written by Jeff Lemire Art by Tonci Zonjic
Colonel Weird: Cosmagog (2021) Written by Jeff Lemire Art by Tyler Crook
Barbalien: Red Planet (2021) Written by Jeff Lemire and Tate Bromal Art by Gabriel Hernandez Walta
Jeff Lemire has used his Black Hammer Universe to examine different aspects & tropes of superhero comics. I wouldn’t say it’s been as deep as Alan Moore or Grant Morrison’s work, but it is still very enjoyable. Skulldigger and Skeleton Boy is clearly a critique of the superhero/kid sidekick trope, emphasizing the trauma needed to drive someone into vigilantism and how that trauma harms the people in their radius. Gone is the deus ex machina that keeps Batman and Robin from actual harm. There is no promise that these characters will survive the story, and having the stakes that high makes it compelling.
Brand New Cherry Flavor (Netflix) Written by Lenore Zion & Nick Antosca, Mando Alvarado, Christina Ham, Alana B. Lytle & Haley Z. Boston, and Matt Fennell Directed by Arkasha Stevenson, Gandja Monteiro, Matt Sobel, Jake Schreier, and Nick Antosca
Serialized horror has become increasingly popular over the last decade thanks to shows like American Horror Story and others it inspired. However, AHS is a program I gave up on because I personally did enjoy its brand of campy horror-comedy (and the steep decline of its writing). Instead, I really came to love the tragically short-lived Channel Zero, the brainchild of writer Nick Antosca. Antosca took internet-published stories called “creepypasta” and adapted them into season-long stories. While Channel Zero was canceled after four seasons, it has remained a cult favorite, and Antosca has turned that into other film & television opportunities. One of these has been to adapt the obscure 1990s horror novel Brand New Cherry Flavor by Todd Grimson.