Long Lived the King
I have always liked Daredevil but it was never a must-buy for me. The introduction of Kevin Smith (a filmmaker I’ve enjoyed since his first film Clerks) as writer for the revamped series made it one. Reading a few of the early Brian Michael Bendis issues, which followed Smith’s run, I wasn’t impressed. Not that I didn’t enjoy the story; I did when something actually occurred.
And that was the problem. It took too many issues (14 at $2.99 a pop) to get a complete story. Now, I very much enjoy Bendis’ work on Ultimate Spider-Man, but I wait until they are compiled in the great oversized hardcovers that Marvel puts out. I also enjoyed Bendis’ Alias series, and I picked up all the individual issues that were released. So why didn’t I enjoy the beginning of his Daredevil run?
The first story arc took way too long. You introduce a new bad-ass Mr. Silke, a cocky wannabe gangster who seems to have grown up watching Scarface, Godfather and Reservoir Dogs. Then you kill off the Kingpin, and the Owl takes his space. The main point of the story, to out Daredevil’s secret identity Matt Murdock, is a great idea. But when it all goes down, it doesn’t amount to anything. It goes on for 14 issues with Elektra and Bullseye making appearances, Matt and Foggy have discussions about the impact of having Matt being outed and it looks like there may be some interesting things developing, but nothing happens! It’s a well-told and interesting story, but like Foggy says “who doesn’t know that you are Daredevil?”
And I’m sorry, you stab Kingpin? It’s a great Shakespearen allusion, but if you want to be an up-and-comer in the Kingpin’s world, you shoot him in the head or take out his heart. The man has been the head of crime for a long, long time. You make damn sure that he’s dead and there’s no chance of him coming back.
This is not to put down the crackling dialogue by Bendis. He creates characters through dialogue and not action. But, it’s not Alias. I want action in Daredevil! The artwork by Alex Maleev is fitting for blurring the line between the world of truth and the world of secrets. Maleev’s artwork on later storylines shows the latent talent that at first glance seems derivative.
The next storyline “Lowlife” (Issues 40-45) introduces Milla, a blind woman set-up as the new love in Matt’s life. It’s not the first relationship problem in his life. She knows his real identity, knows that he is a superhero. But Matt must continue the lie to everyone else in the world. How is she to trust him when he is a lawyer that lies to the courts and everyone else every day?
“Hardcore” (Issues 46-50) re-introduces Typhoid Mary and features a “classic” fight scene drawn by a series of guest artists (Including Gene Colon, Lee Weeks, Klaus Janson, John Romita Sr., Al Milgrom, Joe Quesada and more). The underlying message of all the classic illustrations from years past is that “this is this the way it is and may always be…if you believe your heroes can’t kill”. Our comic heroes are supposed to be above criminals and not kill, but when the bad guys continue to rape, kill and maim, what other solution is there? Our real-life heroes, like police and the military, are praised for doing what they have to do, which many times means killing the enemy. It’s not the best solution all the time, but when you have someone who will not stop their inappropriate behavior, sometimes permanent methods need to be addressed, an issue which Bendis’ climactic battle between Daredevil and the Kingpin teases, with the potential that a big change in the status quo for one Marvel hero is in the works.