Acclaimed writer Mark Waid’s long and winding “Horn Head” saga reaches its conclusion with this current installment. Featuring big speeches, intense action and some severe warm fuzzies, it’s twenty-one pages of dramatically bittersweet proceedings.
“A blind lawyer trained as a ninja who beats bad guys to a pulp” doesn’t exactly scream automatic “feelgood” sensation but you would be hard-pressed to find another book that emanates such outrightly positive yet rationally adult vibes. A deciding factor in all of this has to be the big-hearted nature of Franklin “Foggy” Nelson, human support pillar. Other Marvel books may boast similar “triumph of the human spirit/ power and responsibility” tropes but none of them can deliver like the eternally sage wingman. Not Flash Thompson in a Spider-Man story and certainly not Barney futzin’ Barton.
However, it’s not all cover-to-cover flawless execution as there are still a few moments worthy of pause. The first is the Kingpin’s apparent face-value acceptance that some johnny-come-lately mystery assassin actually succeeds in killing Daredevil (really?). A perpetual thorn in his side for years, it’s unlikely that Fisk wouldn’t want to be more “hands on” for Murdock’s come-uppance. But whatever, take the guy in the mask at his word. It’s not like a disguise couldn’t work two ways, y’know…
Another weird thing not explained anywhere within the current offering is how Leland Owsley became a human info-dump for all of the Kingpin’s dirty laundry or, for that matter, the “super” nature of the Shroud’s bio-interfaceable computer. To the extent the Owl’s ever displayed superhuman ability, it’s been more in keeping with his nocturnal bird of prey namesake. This plot device transforming Fisk’s oft-time crimelord rival (not confidante) into what’s essentially the Watcher’s unofficial third eye is a stretch. Granted, it’s also the means rather than the end for the character but again, he’s really only getting dragged out to create a sympathetic status quo for his anti-hero daughter. Cross-pollinating Owsley’s prominence in the Netflix live-action drama may or may not account as well…
Greasing the wheels of synergy in the best way possible is undoubtedly artist Chris Samnee. Waid’s co-pilot for the better part of this two-volume run, Samnee’s work on the title is a study in evolution. While his early pieces seem to springboard from a certain storybook and Sunday funnies unbridledness, the current pages are caringly molded with sleek sophistication and the warmth and breath of realism. Nowhere is this more evident than his depictions of Wilson Fisk. For the better part of the character’s existence, he’s conveyed as this cartoonishly domey man-mountain- until Vincent D’Onofrio’s portrayal in the aforementioned series. Samnee’s translation takes that in stride and presents something that hopefully others will pick up on going forward.
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Despite a few momentary bumps, Waid and Samnee’s finale sticks to landing. Pumping out close to sixty consistently well-met issues in just over four years is no mean feat and a track record anyone can feel proud of. This book certainly excels at lifting spirits. Having a hit show to fall back on for inspiration and brand solidarity certainly doesn’t hurt either. There’s perhaps a certain “going on after The Beatles” expectation in the air for the next creative team but, for now, the axiom reads as “The love you make is equal to the love you take”.
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