Greg Hunter

Comic Review: Daredevil #500

In Comics on August 22, 2009 at 12:38 AM

DD

SPOILERS AHEAD

Throughout the “Return of the King” story arc, Daredevil, a.k.a Matt Murdock, has been fighting villainous ninja clan the Hand after rejecting their offer to become Hand leader. Once mobster Wilson Fisk attempts to assume leadership of the Hand himself, Daredevil reconsiders. Issue #500 ends as initiation rights commence, with Murdock intent on reforming the group of assassins from within.

In his final issue, writer Ed Brubaker depicts Murdock as psychologically complex and ultimately flawed, as he has throughout his run. (Not a new approach to superhero storytelling, sure, but it’s still rare to see it done so well.) Murdock’s decision is an admission that he can’t lead a conventional life, after repeatedly trying, failing, and endangering loved ones in the process.* And he’s not wrong–but Brubaker still suggests that this isn’t simply a moment of clarity. As Daredevil walks at the head of a mass of Hand warriors, he thinks to himself, “I have so much to answer for.” It’s another bout of guilt for Catholicism’s contribution to superheroism.

Brubaker’s cliffhanger fits wonderfully in the context of the Daredevil character, and leaves incoming writer Andy Diggle with numerous directions to turn. Even so, this twist in the series would seem more of an innovation if Brubaker’s predecessor Brian Michael Bendis hadn’t attempted something strikingly similar. Only a few years ago, Bendis’ run on the series saw Murdock declare himself the kingpin of New York crime in an attempt to subdue criminal activity. Daredevil-as-kingpin was explained away with the suggestion that Murdock had suffered a nervous breakdown, and ultimately it’s hard to expect this new status quo to last longer or end much differently. (Are there any readers who don’t expect Murdock to resume practicing law and fighting street crime as per usual?) This is, in a sense, a problem inherent to ongoing, serialized storytelling–Brubaker and Bendis can provide interpretations of the Daredevil character, but not finite endings to the Daredevil story. Still, it’s frustrating to feel so vividly like we’ve seen this all before.

Daredevil #500 epitomises work Brubaker has done over the last couple years with penciller Michael Lark–it’s derivative of other DD stories, but fun, tightly-plotted, and gorgeous looking. (And here begins the Oh yeah! There’s art, too… portion that will come standard with most Gutter comic reviews.) Colorist Matt Hollingsworth is, as with other issues of the Brubaker/Lark run, the unsung hero. Hollingsworth complements Lark’s layouts with muted grays and blues befitting the title’s urban grit. The Daredevil artistic team deserves high praise in general for making the title’s more fantastic elements–undead ninjas and ’60s holdover the Owl–cohere with aspects closer to street-level crime fiction. Some of the most talented artists ever to pencil superhero books have worked on Daredevil at various points–Frank Miller and David Mazzuccelli, to name a couple–and Lark and co. have balanced action and ambience with the best of them. As a new creative team takes over, here’s hoping this is something that DD readers will be exposed to again and again.

*One of the most consistently charming aspects of the Daredevil title since Bendis’ tenure is the notion that Murdock has done a terrible job of keeping his identity under wraps. Cops, thugs, reporters, and fellow heroes alike mostly take Daredevil/Murdock as a given, despite repeat denials from Murdock himself.

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  1. Greg, you should write a post about how those of us who do not have access to comic book stores can read these comics. Are there websites that allow you to legally or illegally download these files? Maybe Dan B. could help. I’d like to read this, but Shanghai doesn’t have too many English language bookstores.

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