You get the conclusion to the Ed Brubaker / Michael Lark run on Daredevil. You get a preview of Daredevil under the guidance of Andy Diggle and Billy Tan. You get a bonus story (‘3 Jacks’) from Ann Nocenti and David Aja which is quite wonderful, and would easily stand in its own right as an issue of Daredevil. You get a Daredevil 500 issue cover retrospective. You get a gallery of Daredevils from various artists. This is one hell of a way to celebrate the end of the Brubkaer run and Daredevils longevity.
I am quite happy to admit that this is one of the best comic books i have ever read – everything that this creative team have been doing over the last few months comes to together in a near perfect resolution. They manage to finish up all the plot strands but open up a whole new story for Matt Murdoch for Diggle and Tan to work with. The story and art flow in a beautiful way, effortlessly going back many hundreds of years to Japan, and then go back and forth in more recent time, and there is never any jarring in those jumps. The final panel of the main story is dramatic, visually arresting, a closure and a new beginning.
To give away any of the plot would be churlish. It is just superb, and is a testament to the writing of Ed Brubaker (as if he needs references….) and the moody styling of Lark & co. They will be missed on this title, but have given Diggle more than enough to work with. Comic of the year? To be honest, it depends on what The Walking Dead come up with before the end of the year, but this will be very hard to beat…
It is in the little details – the chalk line around the removed corpse, along side the comment that the head was found some way from the body. Then you look again at the chalk mark that was made around the murder victim and then it registers that this was a decapitation. The comment that The Hands foot soldiers turn to ash when they are killed. Like I said – Little things, those tiny details that keep this title a rich and endlessly interesting one. It mixes the ‘normal’ life of Matt Murdock (which has completely crumbled into chaos) and the extraordinary life of Daredevil adeptly. You cannot see the join, there is no jarring of styles. The whole title is swathed in dim light, a grainy haze where the good get ‘got’ with depressing regularity, and the bad survive and thrive. Against this, Daredevil (and in the periphery, the likes of Frank Castle (aka Punisher)) pursue their agendas, vendettas and/or fight for right.
In this issue, as we near the end of the ‘Return of the King arc, new alliances are forged while others crumble away, and it is this latter development that poses a threat, unknown to those who believe to be working with others for a greater good. What I am trying to say is that Daredevil adopted a high risk strategy in deciding to ally himself with his greatest enemy. On top of that, all whom he loves are in very real danger. So its high tension time, each scenario right on the edge of blowing up. Then the issue ends, with the promise of issue 500. If I had to review this issue purely on its own merits, I would say that the come-on (in this case, the cover depicting a Lady Bullseye / Kingpin face-off) was a lot more exciting than the actual experience, but the quality of the title is so strong that you are completely immersed anyway.
As you probably know, issue 500 marks the end of the Brubaker / Lark involvement in the title, which is a real shame as he has made Daredevil vital and I know that there are comparisons with the Miller era, but they are valid. They have been on the title for over 3 years and will be missed, though I am sure Andy Diggle is going to surprise a lot of people and carry on with the high quality we have come to expect.
Anyway, while we are on the subject, check out the amazing cover for #500 (Daredevil is returning to its original issue numbering from now on…);
Pacts forged, alliances broken, deals done, danger ahead
Warning – Spoilers!
This issue zips along with several story lines weaving in and out through the twenty or so pages. Foggy and Matt Murdock clash, with Foggy finally losing patience with the complexities of Murdock / Daredevil. The Owl, sprung from a prison transportation truck, makes deals that aim to get him back to the top of the pile in ‘his’ city. His final meeting is a stunning set piece, with a neat twist at the end of the issue. Kingpin, meanwhile, is struggling with his mental health, plagued by voices of his dead wife, Vanessa. Murdock is haunted by the loss of Dakota.
Daredevil is accepting of the deal he has made with his nemesis (i.e. the Kingpin), knowing that it could prove fatal for him. His desire to take down Lady Bullseye and The Hand is all encompassing. He is truly ‘blinded’ by his desire to destroy them. This can only end badly, there is a real inevitability about it, with new alliances being forged that are set against the Daredevil / Kingpin team up.
There is even room for a little humour – a great line delivered by Master Izo after a brief meeting with Daredevil. I will not spoil it – it is worth savouring when you get to it.
The ‘Return of the King’ arc has not run out of steam by a long way, and although the confrontation between Daredevil and Kingpin, The Hand and Lady Bullseye is still at least an issue away, #118 is effective because it puts all the players of this drama into position, ready for the denouement. By introducing The Owl, an appearance from Lady Bullseye and The Hand, and that killer line from Master Izo, the Daredevil creative team of Brubaker, Lark, Lucas and Gaudiano have produced another absorbing and exciting installment. With Andy Diggle taking over the writing duties from Brubaker soon, ‘Return of the King’ is a fine way for this great writer to depart a title he has truly put his mark on. With 2 more installments to go, ‘Return of the King’ will not disappoint.
Here is the cover for Daredevil #119;
A slow burner of an issue, but the return of the Kingpin to New York, in an underground bar called Josie’s, was priceless. You could have heard a pin drop in there. The art was amazing (as usual), whether it was portraying tension in a dimly lit bar or the confusion and stealth of an attack of The Hand ninjas in the half light with snow swirling around them, Lark and Gaudiano nailed it. There was plenty of focus on Matt Murdock and his travails, not least over the custody of his child and his relationship with Dakota, which slowed the pace down a little in the middle of the book. However, the real meat of the issue was near the end – it was a generally well paced issue, leading up to this climatic moment – when Daredevil and Kingpin call a truce, and more than that, forge an alliance.
Verdict – It took a while to get there, but this was a dark and moody as Daredevil gets. The possibilities of a Kingpin and Daredevil team-up in Hells Kitchen are tantalising. Ed Brubaker will deliver, and that is something to really anticipate. ‘Return of the King’ promises to be special, and this issue was really all about setting the scene, putting the pieces in place. A storm is brewing……
Dardevil ~117 is out now, published by Marvel.