Page Appreciation: David Aja and a Damn Amazing Piece of Storytelling from Daredevil #116

Posted by on Monday, March 9th, 2009 at 10:39:11 AM

Gonna go ahead and say it: David Aja is the best thing to happen to comic book art since J.H. Williams III.

His technical and formal inventiveness is off the goddamn charts, and recently my co-Savage-Critic-ite Tucker Stone brought up what was a really damn great piece of storytelling from last week, Ed Brubaker and David Aja’s Daredevil #116. He liked it a lot, but he omitted one portion, one page that blew the brain out of my head and really made me want to contribute to the panel/page dissection initiated by those geniuses over at Mindless Ones – this little masterpiece. I’ve cut out the narration for the purposes of both avoiding spoilers and focusing purely on the art.

Daredevil #116

So, here’s Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin. In one page.

He’s a dude with a lot of history. He was a Spider-Man villain – and that’s pretty evident by the basic structure of what lies within his profile silhouette. Spider-Man lies at the center of the webbing that, due to matching the color of the negative space outside the silhouette, overpowers the structure of this … let’s call it a mindscape. Spider-Man’s web is the origination of the demons Kingpin fights, at least beyond the usual gangster bullshit anybody of his stature has to deal with, and that’s why we’ve got that pistol and automatic rifle in the same color as the web. That’s the primary intrusion from the world outside the Kingpin to the world inside the Kingpin, the major threat to the balanced and stable yet morally repugnant life he’s built for himself, the Tony Soprano fantasy.

Then we’ve got Daredevil. He looms larger than Spider-Man, because he practically mugged him in the middle of some desperate alleyway and stole the Kingpin because Frank Miller felt like it, and it worked out pretty damn well for everybody. Kingpin’s been minted by Hollywood as a Daredevil villain; that’s as much of an official stamp as you can get, and that’s why Daredevil, and the radar effect that symbolizes his signature power-set, dominates the Kingpin’s illustrated mindscape, more than Spider-Man or the guns that symbolize a constant life of violence. Spider-Man was a nuisance that drew him into the powered world, but Daredevil was a nuanced, personal enmity.

And then, there’s Bullseye, the still-major avatar of human psychosis, hiding within Daredevil’s shadow, Fisk’s greatest mistake. While Daredevil’s radar and Spider-Man’s webbing dominate the proceedings, he’s just sort of a creepy spectre of death lurking within Daredevil. (I have no idea if this was intentional, but I *love* how Bullseye’s sai is where Daredevil’s dick would be, equating getting a good rodgering by Matt Murdock with getting a sai through your abdomen courtesy of Bullseye.)

And then, outside all of this is Wilson’s lady, his woman, Vanessa, the only halfway decent thing inside his life, the lonely artifact inhabiting the expansive, pathetic negative space that is Wilson Fisk’s life outside of being a reprehensible roly-poly ball of shit rolling downhill on every poor bastard in his way.

What’s awesome about this page is that there was originally text on this, but all of the meaning I just brought out was there before read a single damn word. I don’t know whether to credit Ed Brubaker or David Aja, but as an exercise in visual storytelling in modern superhero comics, this is pretty much untouchable.

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