Comic Book Review – Captain America #4 (Marvel Comics)

Adam reads as many comics as he can afford. Then he reviews one every other week.

This week I’m reviewing Captain America #4 (or #708 with Legacy numbering), written by Ta-Nehisi Coates, with pencils by Leinil Francis Yu, inks by Gerry Alanguilan, colours by Sunny Cho and letters from VC’s Joe Caramagna, with cover art by Alex Ross.

Cover art by Alex Ross

Steve Rogers is still trying to make up for what was done in his name, and with his face, when Hydra took over the United States. He’s lost the trust of his government and the American people, and is now rushing to the aid of Sharon Carter, Agent 13, who has been working with the government and has been captured during her latest mission. Cap goes in alone, tearing his way through a base full of goons before coming up against an opponent who’s battle abilities rival his own. Meanwhile Sharon is questioned and tortured by members of the mysterious Power Elite, the next group who are looking to take over the US!

Coates’ run so far on Captain America has been thrilling, and in this issue he shows off a deep and clear understanding of the character, as Cap narrates over his fights. See Cap is an idealist, and truly believes in America and the ideals it should stand for. It’s why he is the Captain of it. But his issue increasingly lies with people who call themselves patriots but act like nothing but, people who “swear by the flag one day, and set it on fire the next”. Even without a familiarity with Coates’ non-fiction writings (with which you should get acquainted), it’s difficult not to see the commentary here on the current climate in the United States. The plot here is good, and it’s ties some of the best Cap stories in the past 20 years is a big plus, but it’s the characterisation of Steve Rogers this commentary that makes the book shine. More is being done and said with the aftermath of Secret Empire here and with a more deft hand than in the event itself.

Art by Yu, Alanguilan, Cho and Caramagna

Yu’s Cap is fierce with a real sense of power. For such an action-heavy issue, nothing drags and it feels kinetic and brutal. At the same time, the interrogation scenes with Sharon are dark and ominous, allowing the threat level in both scenes to come through very strongly. The colours are slightly washed out and dulled, which suits the tone and the base environs of the issue.

Coates and Yu’s Captain America is my favourite book on the stands right now, and goes to the top of my reading pile whenever it comes out. The art is strong and the plot and character musings are incredibly timely. Don’t sleep on this. Pick it up at your LCS, and the first 3 issues if you haven’t already read them!

Comic Book Review – The Punisher #1 (Marvel Comics)

Adam reads as many comics as he can afford. Then he reviews one every other week.

Marvel relaunched The Punisher with a new #1 this week with the ‘World War Frank’ arc, with previous series writer Matt Rosenberg continuing on writing duties, art from Szymon Kudranski, colours by Antonio Fabela and lettering from VC’s Cory Petit.

Cover by Greg Smallwood (Marvel Comics)

Shady dealings have been going on between Hydra and Roxxon, and their respective leaders Baron Zemo and Dario Agger. Partnering with The Mandarin, they have been convincing or strong-arming UN members to recognise Bagalia as a sovereign nation. Presumably as a cover for further shady dealings. But a wrench in their plans has turned up in the form of Frank Castle, AKA The Punisher. See Frank is after bigger game than his usual gangland targets on the streets of New York, and he is set to go to war with Hydra and a whole nation.

Here Castle is as driven as ever, choosing his words carefully and only ever as a terrifying bogeyman to create maximum intimidation for his targets. While he is going after people who usually go up against Captain America or the Avengers, it’s a nice change of pace for The Punisher, And it is good to see his tactics and planning come into play to deal with that scale. Something that really bothered me in Secret Empire was the characterisation of Castle, doing things and making decisions that seemed wildly out of character and fairly stupid, so this is a welcome return to form. While the set up page indicates that this series and Rosenberg’s work on the character before takes its motivation out of the ashes of that event, it seems that is all that it is. The story here seems to be grand in scope and very entertaining, with a strong cast that I’m looking forward to seeing in action.

Art by Kudranski, Fabela and Petit (Marvel Comics)

The art from Kudranski is kinetic and dark, evoking The Punisher MAX series. There are a few moments where faces are a little inconsistent., and there are some signs or text in the art that looks like they was added as an afterthought later. But largely the issue is strong, with the explosive action given vibrant life by the colours from Fabela. The highlight however has to be the multi panelled sequence outside the lift in the Roxxon base, which was superb.

The Punisher #1 is a good start to a story with a lot of potential for fun, huge explosive action. Check it out at your local comic book shop or digitally now!

Score: 7  out of 10

Comic Review – Secret Empire: Omega (Marvel Comics)

Our pal Kit reviews comics for us! This is one of those reviews.

Warning: minor spoilers.

“The war is over. All around me my country is regaining what it lost. Healing. Rebuilding. So why am I here?” Captain America

Well Secret Empire is finally complete. It’s been a series not without its controversies, from the backlash against Steve Rogers – a character created by Jewish comic book writers turning to the very far right  to issues around Magneto’s portrayal as a pro-Hydra villain on one of the comic book covers (he very much stays pro-mutant, anti-Hydra throughout) but for me I think there was very much value in the story it sought to tell, as can be seen in a previous article of mine – ‘Captain America and the Rise of Hydra’ (warning, contains political rambling!), found here.

I didn’t however, review issue 10 of Secret Empire. This was honestly because I found it a little disappointing. The series finale felt rushed with a ‘Cosmic Cube fixes the world’ ending and for me personally what I saw as the key idea the writer Nick Spencer was trying to get at wasn’t properly addressed, i.e. Captain America going Hydra being a metaphor for the rise of far right populism in America. That was until now. I picked up Secret Empire Omega a little tentatively, at a high price and off the back of an ending which didn’t quite hit the mark but as I’ll explain, for me Spencer added some of the ideological struggle to the epilogue of this story the ending was sorely missing.

This comic was bought to us by:

  • Writer – Nick Spencer
  • Artist – Andrea Sorrentino
  • Additional Art – Joe Bennett with Joe Pimentel
  • Letterer – VC’s Travis Lanham

The plot to Secret Empire Omega is necessarily simple. Now the fighting is over and the clean-up beginning Steve Rogers, both good (Captain America for reference) and bad (I’ll refer to as Captain Hydra for lack of a better term) clash again. This time in an ideological debate rather than hand to hand combat. There’s a line from Captain America that may communicate Spencer’s feeling on this that he himself may have wanted more time to dig into this during the main series – that when he saw his enemy there wasn’t time to talk, only fight and close the series out. Omega also touches on what the longer lasting impacts of Secret Empire will be – Captain America’s emotional scarring and loss of influence globally (think how America will be post-Trump), the death of a significant character and how other characters are coping now its over.

There is a key message in all this as well, if you read Captain Hydra as a metaphor for modern America – You allowed this to happen. Captain Hydra blame Steve Rogers, Carol Danvers, US politicians and pretty much everyone but himself for his rise to power. It’s possible to read this as a criticism of those with influence in the real world where Trump was elected, which was only possible because of the state of the US to begin with.

I was a little cheeky with this review and had a flick through one or two of the other early reviews before writing. There’s more I wanted to say than normal and it helped to see if I was missing any other major points. One of the reviews I read criticised the artwork, that Sorrentino’s portrayal of the two Cap’s out of costume not distinctive enough. I noticed this as well but actually liked that they were less distinctive. They look very similar and that’s the point. They’re the same or at least the same bar ideals and the point made earlier – that Captain Hydra could take the power he did because of the actions of Captain America amongst others means the line between them is currently a little blurred. There’s a sombre tone to the art in this issue, with a grey pallet used for Captain America and red for Captain Hydra. I feel the art was exactly how it should have been for this issue.

Final Verdict

I have complicated feelings towards Secret Empire as a series, but there was an intent with the story which Spencer sought to tell. If you’d asked me before reading this I would have said the point hadn’t been made properly, now it has. On balance, I would rate the series as a whole at 7.5 out of 10, starting close to 10 but moving down to maybe a 6.5. I would have liked to have seen a more optimistic note struck for the other characters than Cap with all this coming to an end as the series does have a fairly downer ending, that isn’t to say it’s bad though. This issue really helped make the ending much more satisfying for me.

Score: 8.25 Legacies out of 10

Comic Review – Secret Empire #0 (Marvel Comics)

Adam reads as many comics as he can afford. Then he reviews one every other week.

This week saw the start of Secret Empire, the latest event from Marvel comics that marks the culmination of over a year of build up in Captain America Steve Rogers. We’ve been assured that this will be the last major event from Marvel for 18 months after this 9 issue series (although I don’t know if this issue counts as 1 of 9, or 0 of 9…), which is definitely a good thing since everyone is feeling serious event fatigue. Not that every event has been bad (Secret Wars was great), but a break in the constant story interruptions, world resetting, series ending and new #1s is certainly welcome. Here is hoping that Secret Empire leads us into that break on a high. Secret Empire #0 was written by current Captain America (both Steve Rogers and Sam Wilson) writer Nick Spencer, with prologue art by Rod Reis, main story art by Daniel Acuña and letters by VC’s Travis Lanham. Cover art was provided by Mark Brooks.

Cover by Mark Brooks

Following on from the events started in Captain America Steve Rogers #1 in May 2016 and the Pleasant Hill event, Captain America has had his reality rewritten by the Red Skull and a sentient cosmic cube in the form of a little girl, known as Kobik. You may have heard about it when the internet melted down as a result. In the new reality, Steve Rogers was recruited by Hydra at a young age to be their spy, and so unbeknownst to all of his allies, Captain America has always been an agent of Hydra. Over the last year he has been maneuvering and scheming his ultimate plan to take over the world, now finally revealing himself and his allegiance to all who thought they knew and trusted him.

I won’t go much more into details of the plot, but Secret Empire #0  is action packed and a thrill to read. Spencer has weaved a layered and complex plot with the fall of the greatest Avenger and his betrayal, and the time he has spent with the character really pays off. The most puzzling aspect of this issue is therefore the question of why this is a #0 rather than the opening issue of the event itself? Zero issues typically set the table for the event, and recap the plot leading up to it for anyone that might not have been following. But Secret Empire #0 seems to be essential reading and an integral part of the story, and it would be confusing and a shame for readers to miss out due to that #0 rather than #1 on the cover. Also I don’t know why Tony Stark is back in the land of the living. I read Invincible Iron Man too and as far as I was aware the only Tony was RiRi Williams’s AI. Is this the AI? Because there was definitely a man inside that can at one point. Those quibbles aside, the storytelling in this issue was great.

Art by Daniel Acuña

As for the art, it is consistently strong throughout. The prologue from Rod Reis is a gorgeous and ethereal opener that displays the weight of the story to come. Acuña’s art throughout the main story is similarly incredible, jumping between some fantastic action that stretches from New York, to Earth’s orbit and the skies above Sokovia, and the dark, heavier moments that drive the plot and show the determination and grim resolve behind the master strategist with his efforts aimed at dominating the world rather than saving it. Acuña’s bold art makes these latter character moments really land, with the surprise these heroes are experiencing feeling really genuine.

Secret Empire is off to a good start, with strong art and a story that feels like a real payoff to a year of story. Issue #0 feels like essential reading for the plot, and even then it may be a little impenetrable to new readers. Even so, I definitely recommend Secret Empire #0,  which you can pick up at your local comic shop or digitally now!

Score: 8 Helicarriers out of 10

 

Pick up the first two volumes of Spencer’s Captain America Steve Rogers run here and here!

Captain America and the Rise of Hydra

Kit reviewed Captain America: Steve Rogers #7 this week (check his review here). He also had a few thoughts about how the story reflects the current political climate in the wake of this week’s election.

Spoilers for the current Captain America story are included

Captain America always has been and always will be a political story. From his original conception of pro-American propaganda during World War 2, to his stance on civil rights and personal freedoms during Civil War and the times he has given up the role of Captain America due to the state of American politics. In my view, this is still entirely the case. I would clarify though, that this is only my reading into and what I took from the comic (Captain America: Steve Rogers #7). It may well not be the original intention of writer Nick Spencer to include such a political message in this story, but if that is the case I would argue Barthes’ Death of the Author theory applies (the idea that whatever the reader reads into a story is valid, whatever the intentions of the author).

It is entirely my belief that Steve Rogers’ current conversion to Hydra is representative of the political climate in the US, UK and large parts of Europe. He is the embodiment of what America should be, and now ideologically he’s a fascist. The fact he’s still working with SHIELD and with the governments of the west against the more blatant fascism of the Red Skull really brings home the point that the current ideals of the west have lurched to the far-right. If he was standing by the Skull, laughing manically it would be a more traditional mind control story, but no, this is the story of western ideology being rewritten to support the political far right.

hydra

One of the things that cut a bit close to the bone was the Red Skull’s speech itself. It is not that far removed from what we hear some political leaders say these days. He simply takes it one step further, not just ‘blame the existing establishments for your suffering’ or ‘blame those who are different’ he’s simply added one or two more steps to reach the point of ‘we must tear them down’. This is why this story is important. It is reflecting the current political mood of populist and charismatic leaders acting as if they’re above the existing establishments and by extension the law, hijacking the narrative to say that it’s those who are different to use that are to blame for our misfortune, despite the fact they face the same struggles we do and while pointing to some parts of the establishment glossing over the fact that they themselves are embedded into other parts of it.

There is sometimes a strange idea that fiction and entertainment should remain politically neutral. That has never been the case. It exists to give us a medium to explore ideas and make sense of them. To show us what is happening and make us think about it.

The thing is, reading this story I have no doubt that soon enough his history will be corrected and Steve will be his good old liberally minded self again. And, if like me you think that way and you’ve been despairing at recent political events, it’s worth remembering that this is not the first, and will not be the last time that it will feel like the world is going to shit, that ignorance, prejudice, discrimination and every ugly aspect of society is on the rise. Every time that has happened though, the world has turned, not without pain, but equality, empathy, compassion and kindness haven’t gone away before and aren’t going to go away now, especially if we stand up for what we believe in and try to understand why someone who thinks otherwise does so.

This story will then be seen, if anyone ever looks back at it, as a reflection of what was happening during 2016, something comics can do so incredibly well. From Steve Rogers punching Hitler, to Iron Man fighting Communists and even Captain Planet telling kids to stay in school and pick up their litter. I consider this to be an ugly year, maybe next year and the year after will be too, but the only good thing about a bad year is that thanks to time being linear it ends. Then we’ll move on and away from it and look back at 2016 and simply wonder “what the fuck” or finally prove that up until then David Bowie was the one holding the fabric of reality together.

Kit

Comic Review – Captain America: Steve Rogers #7 (Marvel Comics)

Our pal Kit reviews comics for us! This is one of those reviews.

Warning: minor spoilers.

“I want to restore the glory of Hydra” Captain America

I’ve been meaning to pick up more Captain America comics. He’s one of my favourite Avengers, especially the way he’s portrayed in the MCU. These days things are not quite as rosy in the comics as they are on the big screen. To bring you up to speed with Issue #1 – 6 there is one big thing you need to know. (SPOILER!) The cosmic cube has been used to warp reality so Steve Rogers has always been a Hydra Agent. I’m sure some fans won’t be too keen on this (see what happened last time) but this is the world of comics. People die, reality gets rewritten, and as long as your name isn’t Uncle Ben one day you’ll be bought back to life/un-mind controlled or reality set back to normal if you’re from the main Marvel or DC universe. Issue #7 is picking up a new story arc, so it’s a good jumping on point. Anyway, this comic was bought to you by:

  • Writer – Nick Spencer
  • Artist – Jesús Saiz
  • Letterer – VC’s Joe Caramagna (when does this guy get time to rest? He seems to do every Marvel issue)
  • Cover – Stephanie Hans
cap-7

Cover by Stephanie Hans

The comic is set during two time periods. One, back when Steve Rogers was a young, proud, Hydra Youth back in 1935, and the other the present day. The flashbacks provide an on-going narrative to give the reader context as to why Cap is now the way he is and fills in a brand new, much darker past for our ‘hero’. Meanwhile the Red Skull is rallying the people of Sokovia while he gathers his plans to take on the world, march across Europe and do all of those classic Nazi things. Steve Rogers meanwhile is having none of that. Yes, he is a Hydra Agent, but he wants the Red Skull out of the picture so he can ‘restore the glory of Hydra’. The Red Skull of course has his own plans. He’s going to take on the world and has something up his sleeve to bring down the best of the best.

Although there’s some action in this comic it is absolutely not the focus. There’s plenty of text to read and story to get into. The stage is being set for the Skull’s, and Cap’s big plans and there is certainly the promise of battles to come. Every character has a very strong presence. I’ve read comics where you could switch the villain, give them the same text and get the same impact. Not this one though. The Skull, Cap, and supporting cast each fulfill their roles as only they can.

cap-interior

Art by Saiz

There are two predominant art styles throughout. The present day and the flashbacks. The present day art itself comes in two tones. When Cap is involved colours are brighter and more intense. When the focus is the Red Skull the pallet is muted and greater attention given to the detailed line work. During the flashbacks Saiz has opted for a more colourless, greyscale pallet, with the exception of school ties and badges. The school kids definitely have a Slytherin-ish feel about them, which fits the setting. They are Hydra, and even at a young age pretty evil afterall.

Saiz has taken on a hell of a lot, doing the entirety of the art for this issue. Are his hand drawing skills up to scratch? With the limited action in this comic the majority of the hand drawing is done to support conversations, communicating power through the Red Skull, nervousness through General Novty and defiance through Steve Rogers. I’d like to see what Saiz can do in a fight scene or two and look forward to the next issues to see. It’s a very solid effort this time around. 8/10 for hand drawing skills!

Final Verdict

One review for this comic dropped it a couple of points for the lack of action and how much text there was. Personally, for the first issue of a new arc I’m don’t think these take away from the issue at all. The characters are given a chance to develop and the stage is now set for what I hope will be a fantastic new arc in Captain America’s story.

Score: 8.5 Unsupervised Creative Expressions out of 10

 

Kit had a few extra thoughts on what the current arc of Captain America represents in the wake of this week’s US Election, the current global political climate and the role of art and fiction have when discussing politics. They are well worth checking out, which you can do right here!

 

Adam’s Top 5 TV Shows of 2015

Over the next couple of weeks we’re going to be sharing our top 5s of 2015, from everyone who writes here at The Lost Lighthouse. Adam will kick off with his favourite 5 TV shows of the year.

I’m taking a quick break from the depths of writing my PhD thesis to write about some of the things I actually cared about this year, starting with TV. Yes I still find time for TV. You’ll notice that not only are all five of my picks American shows, all but one of them are comic book based TV shows. Big whup, wanna fight about it?

5. True Detective – Season 2

True Detective s2

My number 5 is the only pick that isn’t a comic book TV show, and is also potentially the most controversial choice. If you believe everything you read on the internet, the torrent of articles online about what a failure True Detective Season 2 was is pretty damning. Yet everyone I actually spoke to in person enjoyed it, maybe not as much as the first season but enjoyed it nonetheless. It seems that Season Two’s main crime was not being Season One. Sure, it was convoluted and confusing, the dialogue was overwrought and the characters hugely broken and brooding… but as for the first point, having a TV show demand your full attention and you still might not get it on the first viewing isn’t the worst problem a series can have. In fact, it can be more rewarding. And if you say that Season One wasn’t confusing and convoluted you’re a liar.

As for the second issue, as I see it overwrought dialogue and larger than life brooding characters was exactly what the show was aiming for. The writing wasn’t bad. It was specific. True Detective Season Two starred a new cast of characters in an entirely separate story from the previous season, setting the format of the show as an anthology series with an internal ethos but not a set style. The style of the second season was a brooding LA noir, and the dialogue bled that style all over.

Season Two starred Colin Farrell, Rachel McAdams and Taylor Kitsch as Detectives Ray Velcoro, Ani Bezzerides and Officer Paul Woodrugh, brought in to investigate the murder of a man found with his eyes burned out and his body dumped out on a bench. Vince Vaughan played the man’s criminal partner Frank Semyon, now left in the lurch, and Kelly Reilly starred as his wife Jordan Semyon. As the plot developed, conspiracies reared their ugly heads, dirty cops were stabbed in the back by even dirtier cops, and criminals basically did what criminals tend to do. Also there was a guy in a raven mask.

As with the first season, the performances of the main players were really the strongest aspect of the show. I enjoyed Vince Vaughan (regardless of what everyone else seems to think, I thought he was decent) and Kitsch, but it was Farrell and McAdams as Velcoro and Bezzerides that really blew me away. While the latter generated a chaotic stress and snarkiness that constantly felt on the brink of breaking point, Velcoro was just a depressing mess of a man with a hair trigger. The tag line ‘We get the world we deserve’ drew me in, and the end of the first episode with the detectives surrounding the body, having all driven there independently drunk and blearily staring at each other for the first time, hooked me. Did I enjoy True Detective Season Two as much as the first season? Was it as good? Who gives a shit. It was it’s own beast and I enjoyed the hell out of it.

Favourite part – The ridiculous shoot out and carnage with everyone at the end of ‘Down Will Come’, the other ridiculous shoot out with Woodrugh at the end of ‘Black Maps and Motel Rooms’, and the slow motion glass smash from Frank in the same episode… but my actual favourite part of every episode was the haunting intro  ‘Nevermind’ by Leonard Cohen.

4. The Flash

The flash

The CW’s Arrow show may have started off shaky, but a few episodes in it found it’s feet after the main character became less of a murdering Batman-clone with a bow and arrow. Despite how well the first season ended, I don’t think anyone predicted how good the sophomore season would be. Good job it was too, because the success of Arrow (which I enjoy a great deal) is the only reason we have the unbridled superhero fun fare that is The Flash. Arrow may be dark and gritty like most of the DC live action output these days (but nowhere near as gritty as the cinematic universe, which is mind bogglingly not connected to the TV universe), but one thing it isn’t afraid to do is embrace the extended DC universe. The Flash takes this and multiplies it by time travel and multiverses.

Grant Gustin was introduced in Arrow as Barry Allen, and I think the original idea was to have an episode of that show be the backdoor pilot for The Flash. Instead, they decided to have the accident that imbued Barry with the speed force powers of The Flash occur at the end of his appearance on Arrow, then repeated the scene in The Flash pilot. Over the first season and the half of the second we have had so far, the glee with which the showrunners have included the wackiest elements of The Flash’s rogues gallery without hesitation has been just brilliant to watch, from Weather Wizard and Mark Hamill reprising his role as The Trickster, to god damn Gorilla Grodd and briefly King Shark. But the willingness to go for broke on some of the more out-there stuff, while the show still maintains it’s audience, really impresses me. The concept of time travel is introduced incredibly early on, until eventually Barry manages to achieve it himself, and in the second season we have Earth-2 and parallel versions of villains and other characters. It’s pretty insane, but it works.

Also the cross-overs with Arrow just make it seem like everyone is having a great time making these shows, which always comes across on screen and sells both Flash and Arrow that much better. This year we had Vandal Savage, Hawkgirl and Hawkman. So happy.

Favourite part: There is a lot to choose from, but I’d probably go with Episode 15 ‘Out of Time’, when after seeing an image of himself running beside him, Barry later accidentally travels back in time, giving him the chance at a do over when things didn’t turn out so well, risking paradoxes at the same time.

Minor complaint: A bit picky of me, but there is a moment in season one where a character mentions a singularity, and Danielle Panabaker’s character Caitin Snow, a scientist, says words to the effect of “A singularity, what’s that?”. Bullshit she doesn’t know. I get that you felt the need to have someone ask the question for the exposition, but there was a  journalist and a cop in the room at the same time. Either of them would have been fine.

3. Agents of SHIELD

AoS3

I’ve gone on about how much I like SHIELD on the podcast. Everyone gave it a harder time than it deserved when it started. At worst, it was average. Then it got good. Then Winter Soldier happened and it got great. For me, it’s stayed at that level since and of all the weekly shows I watch this is the one I look forward to the most.

Season two brought in the concept of Inhumans, powered individuals that Marvel are essentially trying to use to replace the mutants (at least on screen, possibly in the comics) due to not having the rights to those characters. While still trying to deal with Hydra, Coulson has to deal with rebuilding SHIELD and these new Inhumans, whether they are threats or potential allies. The season introduced some great new characters, in particular Adrianne Palicki as Mockingbird, but also brings some huge changes to the original cast too, some through emotional depth and some through physical change. The added growth in all the characters that started in the first season was really fleshed out in the second (and more so so far in the third), in particular for Skye, who Coulson spent a lot of the time telling everyone how special she was and important early on in season one, while the show only really started to show us why later. That has led to a really strong father-daughter relationship from Clark Gregg and Chloe Bennet that has been really enjoyable to watch.

Season three so far has brought in Inhumans into a Secret Warriors plotline, as well as other worlds and Powers Boothe. All great stuff.

Favourite part: This scene in Season 2 Episode 19 ‘The Dirty Half Dozen’ where Skye straight up John Wick’s a bunch of Hydra goons in a brilliant single take tracking shot.

 

2. Daredevil

Daredevil

Daredevil marked the first of the announced Marvel and Netflix collaboration shows – 13 episode series dropped onto the streaming service in one go ready to be binge-watched. Putting aside the issues that many have with this model, some of which I agree with (in the rush to avoid spoilers, burning through the series in days compresses the enjoyment), after a shall we say ‘poorly received’ movie, I think there was a certain level of apprehension with how Daredevil would turn out, and what that would mean for the series to come. We really shouldn’t have worried.

Daredevil drastically shifted tone from the rest of the MCU, taking it to a dark, brutal and bloody place that it hasn’t gone to yet and set the stage for what is to come with the rest of the Netflix shows. Charlie Cox played the Man Without Fear brilliantly, with Elden Henson and Deborah Ann Woll as his friends Foggy Nelson and Karen Page effectively playing his drinking buddies and grounding him when he became too dark and driven, Vondie Curtis-Hall as the driven journalist Ben Urich, and Rosario Dawson as Claire Temple, a nurse who fixes up Matt Murdock when he is cut up and beaten within an inch of his life. But as good as they all were, Vincent D’Onofrio really stole the show as Wilson ‘Kingpin’ Fisk, a tortured leviathan of a man who took the whole 13 episodes to realise that his methods for ‘saving’ Hell’s Kitchen actually made him a monster, all while providing a mirror for Cox’s Matt Murdock to ask if he was really any different.

The connecting threads between everything in the MCU are always icing on the cake, and its difficult to know whether it is better to go overt like the crossovers between movies, the show altering changes that SHIELD has in response to the films, or to take a more subtle approach. I think the Daredevil writers made the right call in keeping it subtle, instead using the ‘Battle of New York’ from the first Avengers film as a reason for a now affluent and gentrified Hell’s Kitchen being run down and struggling again, but not having any overt cameos or camera winks.

Due to the critical and fan response to Daredevil, a second season has already gone into production and we’ll be getting that in 2016 along with Luke Cage. This time they’re bringing in Élodie Yung as Electra and Jon Bernthal as The Punisher, one of my favourite Marvel characters. I really couldn’t be more excited about this.

Favourite part: Pretty much the same as everyone’s. Daredevil had some amazing action sequences, but I don’t think they ever topped the hallway fight at the end of episode 2 ‘Cut Man’. Brutal.

 

1. Jessica Jones

Jessica Jones

I’ll admit, Jessica Jones may only be number one because of how recently it came out, in that same whole-season-dump-at-once model as Daredevil, but I’m halfway through revisiting it already and think it is a superb piece of TV. After the first Marvel show from Netflix was such a success, I was very much looking forward to the next one. This second show just came out last month, proving that Daredevil wasn’t just a fluke and pushing the dark, more adult MCU even further than the violence and brutality of Daredevil. Instead of being a dark action show though, thematically and stylistically Jessica Jones is a brooding and intense noir, telling the tale of an alcoholic private investigator with super strength who, after an abortive attempt to become a superhero than ends very badly, is washed-up and struggling to make enough to pay for her cheap whiskey.

The show centers around Jessica, played by Krysten Ritter, clashing with the man who was responsible for her fall from grace. Kilgrave, played chillingly by David Tennant, has the ability to control anyone just by giving them a command. Anything from telling you to throw a drink in your own face to jumping off the top of a building, the victim is compelled to do whatever he says. This terrifying power provides the show with some incredibly dark and weighty subject matter, with consent and compulsion at the forefront. It’s all handled brilliantly, and Ritter and Tennant are just excellent to watch.

The supporting cast is largely great too (I found the upstairs neighbours a little dull), in particular Rachael Taylor as Trish Walker, Jessica’s best friend, Carrie-Ann Moss as Jeri Hogarth, a well respected lawyer who trades favours with Jessica, Eka Darville as Malcolm, the tragic junkie neighbour, and Mike Coulter as Luke Cage, a bartender who she’s been following for a case. Coulter is especially exciting, as Luke Cage is the star of the next Netflix series coming (after Daredevil Season 2) and I thought he was great here.

Favourite part: Jessica not giving a bag of dicks what her neighbour thinks. In fact basically all of Jessica’s dialogue.

What were your favourite TV shows of this year? Let us know!

Adam

Honourable mention goes to: Doctor Who, which I felt was a huge improvement over last year partially due to the inclusion of two parters that have been sorely missing over the last couple of series, but more to do with Peter Capaldi really settling in to the role and delivering some superb performances; Rick and Morty, a show I burned through in about 24 hours after being told about it. Incredibly funny, inventive and very, very bleak; Parks and Recreation, which I only started watching last year but has become one of my favourite shows, and its final season somehow delivered a satisfying ending for an entire cast of brilliant characters while maintaining the heart-warming and sincere yet funny edge the show always had without seeming cheesy or unearned; Archer, which continues to be hilarious even this far in, and I can’t wait for season 7 in the new year; and Agent Carter, which was basically a joy to watch, Hayley Atwell owned the screen (and I’m glad they keep bringing her in as Peggy at different ages in the MCU) in an excellent period piece where the world was even more embarrassingly unequal than it is now. Plus she beat the shit out of a lot of people. Bring on season 2.