And one for Kevin Smith, for that matter, whose first foray into the Marvel Universe was subsequently adapted onto a digital comic book. The Digital Comic Book series, on the other hand – well, at least they made it onto the dart board.
“Guardian Devil,” covering the first eight issues of Marvel’s numerical reboot of the “Daredevil” series, begins after long-time on-again-off-again girlfriend, Karen Page’s, departure for the west coast. Although Matt Murdock is justifiably miserable – enough to call up old flame, Black Widow, for carnal comfort, the subsequent series of circumstances make Page’s soul-searching departure woefully pale in comparison.
It begins when Murdock hears the twin beats of a young girl and infant trying to outrace a Lincoln hitting close to 90. Although he loses them initially, the 15-year-old single mother then seeks him out on her own, claiming immaculate conception. She had a dream in which an angel told her that the lawyer Matthew Murdock, the Daredevil, would keep her baby safe. After all, this child is the savior of mankind.
What’s a Catholic boy, on the verge of losing his faith, to do?
What follows is a series of moral, spiritual and emotional trials, as the next day, a man named Macabes seeks him out. Apparently, the child is not Christ-embodied, but rather his anti-thesis and as such will bring harm to any and all in close association with it.
And he seems to be right on the mark.
A dangerous game is played with the Devil, but who is pulling the strings?
Although the Smith’s story is a fantastic tale of suspense, its digital adaptation is hit-or-miss, the bulk of which can be blamed on poor voice acting.
Bearing the brunt of the blame are the two female leads – Natasha Romanoff and Page, with the voice actress of the latter often placing emphasis on the wrong words, creating a whiny, shrieking and often nonsensical mess. Then again, the unfortunate Page plays nothing more than the melodramatic plot device in this otherwise stellar epic.
Widow, on the other hand, is almost salvageable, primarily due to the excellent dialogue Smith provides. While Page’s stand-in voice may incite unintended humor, the femme fatale’s voice actress simply begs for an audio glitch – or at least makes one thankful for the “mute” button. With an accent that sounds more like a router bit than Russian (mechanical as it is), she – with an assassin’s efficiency – consistently mangles every scene in which she’s featured. In this case, Smith’s wit was unfortunately wasted on an inferior replicator of phonology.
Balancing the two, however, are pair of impeccable supporting characters. Sister Maggie is simply charming as Murdock’s mother – an angelically subdued, gentle woman with the weight of the world finally behind her.
A surprising beam of splendor comes in the form of the mysterious puppet-master, orchestrating the quiet demise of the Man without Fear. With a voice reflective of classical training, his inflections evoke the likes of Sir Alec Guinness and Ian McKellen – an absolute pleasure to hear, regardless of dialogue. This man could possibly even sell Karen’s lines.
Extras on the DVD package include character bios, with amusingly poor proof-reading, digital comic book trailers, art and cover galleries and commentary by Ben Affleck and Kevin Smith.
Even the extra features have stars, however and those consist in a documentary and a bonus comic.
Detailing the labors involved in releasing a monthly title, fans are shown the nitty-gritty of graphic literature production.
The true hidden gem, however, is the inclusion of the original “Daredevil” no. one from 1964, complete with campy music and campier voice acting. Page’s actress would have felt right at home.
Aside from quality of talent, the simple pleasure of listening to a beloved graphic tale incites a lazy, comfortable sort of euphoria. Digital Comic Books’ “Daredevil: Guardian Devil” will almost certainly not save your soul, but it will save you a few hours’ worth of boredom.
“Guardian Devil” is easily the best Daredevil run to date and that in itself is saying something. It’s easy to forget that greats like the Romita’s, Gene Conlan, Frank Miller, Brian-Michael Bendis and David Mack have all worked on the series over the years and have used it to springboard their careers. In the case of Kevin Smith, he was already renowned in Hollywood and used this run to prove he had the chops to be a comic book writer and under the direction of Joe Quesada, it’s a well-crafted classic that stands the test of time. The digital comic version is bit hokey pokey at times, but it doesn’t matter. Gilbert Gottfried could have done the voices for every single character and this DVD still would have been a success. Just getting this story out in another medium is a step in the right direction for the comic industry, as it allows non-comic readers to give it a shot. And they should.
-Patrick Hickey Jr.