If you had lost everything—your career, home, friends, and freedom; the simple ability to walk down the streets you’d known since childhood—what would you do if presented with the chance to get it all back? What would you do or, more to the point, what wouldn’t you do?
This is the essential question of The Devil, Inside and Out, a story that redefines Matt Murdock even as his life is sewn back together.
It’s been one hell of a ride for Murdock over the last few years. He watched Karen Page die at the hands of one of his most hated enemies, beat Wilson Fisk, Kingpin of Crime, to the ground, declared himself to be the new kingpin of Hell’s Kitchen, and stood revealed in the press as the vigilante Daredevil.
Brian Bendis and Alex Maleev had already torn most of Murdock’s life asunder before Ed Brubaker took over the writing reins. The transition in creative teams occurred at one of the most jarring moments in the history of the character, but the talent of the people involved made it seamless. Bendis and Maleev finished their run on the series with Murdock disbarred as an attorney and placed behind bars, pending trial, then Brubaker and Lark told the story of what happened next.
The Devil, Inside and Out, a twelve-issue story arc in the monthly series and a two volume set in trade paperback format, is divided in two acts. The Devil in Cell-Block D covers Murdock’s time behind bars on Ryker’s Island and The Devil Takes a Ride carries him overseas to find out who has destroyed his life and why.
Both parts of the story work as fantastic visual complements to one another, Lark’s art being some of the best in comics today. He captures not only the visual oomph of the streets of Portugal, France, and Switzerland as well as he had the closed-in walls of the prison but also manages to impart a sense of how Daredevil, moving through them with radar in lieu of eyesight, is experiencing them. As well, the halves of the story form a stunning examination of the character under extreme duress.
The ethical problems of his double life as attorney and vigilante have been there all along, of course, they simply were not subjected to such minute scrutiny until now. When Daredevil was first created by Stan Lee and Bill Everett way back in 1964, Murdock was simply accepted as one of the good guys. He put criminals behind bars by day as an attorney-at-law and helped corral them by night as a masked vigilante.
But when prisoners in vol. 1 of The Devil, Inside and Out discuss the possibility of verdicts delivered in Murdock’s cases being overturned if he is convicted of having been a masked vigilante at the time, it forces to light the fact that the double life Murdock has been leading is, professionally and legally, not simply some obscure gray area. It is, as an attorney like Murdock might say himself, actionable in a court of law.
And when he makes the choices and arrangements necessary to put his own house back in order in vol. 2, it forces readers to view him in a whole new light. This is a man making complex choices and compromises; no longer the devil-may-care swashbuckler with the simple liberty of always doing what’s right.
And, as Vanessa Fisk points out while revealing the orchestrations that have brought him to this point and that will continue to haunt and dig at him, his actions and choices are far more selfish than he allows himself to realize.