If You Don’t Read This, You Don’t Know Jack
TPB: Battlin' Jack Murdock
Writer: Zeb Wells
Artist: Carmine Di Giandomenico
Battlin’ Jack Murdock isn’t a book I would normally pick up. Books retelling a hero’s origin always seem to make one of two mistakes. The first is playing the origin too true to character and failing to make a compelling case for picking it up. The second is trying to rewrite an origin to make the story something new but then annoying the fans of the original origin who are the book’s target audience in the first place.
The reason I did pick up this trade in particular has to do with Zeb Wells writing it. He first came onto my radar with the amazing Carnage USA mini last year but he’s written a lot before that including various Spider-man titles, Anti-Venom and the amazing Necrosha event in X-force. Carmine Di Giandomenico is someone I hadn’t heard of before (I’m sure I’d remember stuttering through that name on the cast if I had) but he’s mostly worked for Marvel’s Italian publisher. Di Giandomenico also co-wrote the book with Wells.
In this four issue mini all narrated from Jack Murdock’s perspective, we see the boxer in the ring of the fight that he has been paid to throw. Since most people familiar with Daredevil know how that particular chapter ends, the bulk of the story is told in flashbacks. The trade details Jack’s alcohol fueled fall from grace as a boxer and his second career as an enforcer for a low-level mobster. Eventually, Jack’s pangs of conscience become too loud to ignore and he cleans up his act to re-enter the ring.
Zeb Wells again wowed me with this book. The story avoids both pitfalls I detailed earlier by sticking mostly to script but fleshing out Jack as a sympathetic but fallible human being in search of redemption. It avoids the temptation to feature Matt Murdock any more than it has to ground Jack’s experience to Matt’s major milestones. A final revelation that Jack has at the story’s close helps to add to the origin story without changing it considerably.
The art in the book is excellent and really shines during the boxing scenes where droplets and eventually steams of blood hang in the air with amazing realism. The lines on Jack’s face and graying temples are great little touches which convey the hard life that Jack has lived. The overall art seems close to cover quality and compares favorably to Clayton Crain’s work, that being just about the highest compliment I could give.
Final rating (out of 5):