(w) Donny Cates (a) Travel Foreman
Twenty years ago, Marvel CCO Joe Quesada was “just” a high-profile creator granted an opportunity. With the faith of editorial behind him, Quesada assembled a team of creators to tackle the publisher’s underperforming and/or street-level characters through a mature readers filter. The result was the creation of the Marvel Knights imprint, which was a commercial and critical success. Now, the imprint is being resurrected under the guidance of rising star Donny Cates, who is joined by artist Travel Foreman for Marvel Knights 20th #1.
Opening in media res, the characters of the Marvel Universe have been blinded to the truth of the world. With this as the premise, it is fitting that Daredevil is the central character of this issue. The epitome of “street level” superheroes, Matt Murdock’s history is flush with the grim and gritty moments that the imprint demands. His blindness, both literally and figuratively, is relatable to the readers who are thrown into this story without any indication as to where it’s going.
The story itself features a notable lack of direction. While that would normally be a mark against the issue, its execution ultimately makes it an asset. There are so many different questions to be found that at least one is guaranteed to draw in readers – if not all of them. Unfortunately, all there appears to be are questions as the issue offers up plenty of those and little else. For a first issue, this works to get readers invested, but those looking for a complete story are out of luck.
On the plus side, the art by Travel Foreman provides a complete experience, from the detailed linework to the washed-out colors sprinkled with bright, vibrant hues. Foreman does a great job in selling each character’s emotions. Matt Murdock’s confusion, Frank Castle’s frustration, and Wilson Fisk’s fear are expertly conveyed in a manner that reads as authentic. When dealing with emotions these raw, there always comes the risk that an artist may indulge in hyper-expressiveness, which runs counterintuitive to the tone of a book like this. But Foreman strikes a balance that permeates throughout the issue.
Overall, Marvel Knights 20th #1 is a solid debut issue. Though it does not reach the highs of past books from the imprint, it has a strong hook and great artwork, which is likely enough to make readers want to pick up the second issue. However, the story needs to start providing answers soon lest it wants to end up like so many miniseries in recent years: forgotten.