Friday, February 17, 2006

The Longbox 2/22/06

Daredevil #81
writer: Brian Michael Bendis
artist: Alex Maleev
Marvel Entertainment, 3/06
** Note: Since DD #82 was released this week, I've written a spoiler-heavy review. Continue at your own risk. **
Foggy Nelson. The Black Widow. Bullseye. Elektra. The Kingpin. The Owl.
The majority of the important characters in the Daredevil canon make an appearance in this final issue of Bendis' fantastic run on the title. It's an issue that wraps up so many of the themes and arcs that were introduced, yet opens so many new possibilities for the future of Mathew Murdock, that I'm beyond satisfied after finishing it.
Matt's gone through a lot over the last few years -- had a few torrid romances fail miserably, almost died a few times, put the smack down on a bunch of baddies, and has had some ups and downs in the courtroom. All of this is repeating your standard, ho-hum Daredevil stories that have persisted since the days when Frank Miller began writing the character almost 25 years ago. But there was something more in a Bendis script that compelled me to continue reading on. The primary reason is he has an incredibly realistic stranglehold on the English language -- not the grammatically correct version of it, mind you, but the sensibilities that allow you to feel as though you are in the room with these characters. He mixes the beats of everyday conversation with fast-paced action that episodic storytelling requires. He does this better on no title than Daredevil.
Now I know that Bendis has been routinely criticized for not including enough action sequences during this run, but I wholeheartedly disagree. Those slower points in the story allowed for the revelations made over the course of his run to be that much more of a bombshell than they otherwise would have been. Could he have mixed in more action? Sure, but that's not how Bendis writes. We, as readers, are at the mercy of the talent, and as long as the goods are delivered, I see no reason to gripe about how slow a memorable story started out. The best of these delivered goods on this run which separates it from so many that have come before it is the identity of Daredevil being revealed as Matt Murdock. Plenty of you hate that this has happened. Frankly, I'm surprised no one had done the identity-of-the-hero-revealed-to-the-world story before in comics. It just seems so obvious. Take away the people who actually knew he was Murdock and you would have to find someone who had repeatedly seen DD enter and exit his brownstone or swinging around the offices of Nelson and Murdock in costume and put two and two together.
Anyway, in this issue, Matt finally has to answer whether or not he is guilty of the "crimes" attributed to Daredevil. After the beginning of his trial, Matt escapes from custody with the help of the Widow and lives overseas with new wife, Milla. Then, evoking his traumatic past, Milla is killed by Bullseye's ace of spades, and Matt snaps Bullseye's neck in the middle of the street. (If you're a DD fan and didn't immediately put down the book after reading that scene to pause in order to soak up the enormity of what had just happened, I seriously question your level of DD fandom.) Matt then goes into hiding with Elektra, ending up where most of us want him to but realize that settling down with Elektra completely defeats the purpose of why he fell in love with her in the first place.
Alas, we then learn that this has all been occurring in his mind, and Matt is still debating whether he should plead guilty or not guilty to the charges. He chooses not guilty and goes to prison, now sharing a cell block with many of the psychopaths he helped to put in there, including the Kingpin and the Owl. The prior laziness of Matt Murdock with his secret identity has finally bit him in the ass. So many people in his life had known about his life as Daredevil -- numerous girlfriends, enemies, superhero colleagues -- that finally he has to pay for it.
And this is where my anticipation for issue #82 begins -- how is Matt going to co-exist on Ryker's Island with so many who will be out to get him? How long will he be locked up? What kind of people will he have to rely on inside in order to survive? Can Foggy find a precedent during the appeal so he can be released? Will he break out, disregarding the system of law that he believes in so dearly and yet openly defied in his red suit? Will some other Marvel hero attempt to break him out? Will he go with them if they do?
As you can see, I have way too much time on my hands to be able to think about what's to come next in the pages of Daredevil, but I do know they're being given over to the very capable hands of Ed Brubaker. If anyone can one-up Brian Michael Bendis, it's going to be him.
So long, Bendis. It was a great run.
10 out of 10

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