For anyone who abandoned Daredevil after Brubaker stopped his phenomenal run, you have been missing out on some strong storytelling by Andy Diggle. Ever since Matt Murdock has taken over the leadership of the Hand, there has been a nice razors-edge of tension between Murdock’s plotting to turn the Hand into a force for justice and the historical predisposition of a murderous ninja cult to inflict swift death.
Gives a new meaning to Basho!
In this issue, Daredevil has traveled to Japan to meet with the heads of the overseas branches of the Hand. There is Bakuto, who openly rebels against Murdock’s leadership and an inner circle conspiracy to use Murdock for an unknown purpose. Diggle splits the writing duties with Antony Johnston here (author of many horror works and the only non-Rucka writer of Queen and Country) but the results are less than the sum of their parts. The series is nicely plotted, generally, but there is a throwaway scene at the onset where a poisoned Bakuto sees Daredevil as a demon. It serves no real purpose and is quickly abandoned. Later, there is literally a “it was all just a dream…or was it?” moment that was so cliché as to take the reader out of the scene completely. Likewise, some ham-handed telegraphing of the big reveal at the end of the issue deflated a lot of the potential surprise. There is also a problem as the character in question has never been clearly defined in this run of Daredevil, but outside reading is required to get the reader to care.
Marco Checchetto and Matt Hollingsworth do a decent job approximating the art from previous runs (the heavy shadows and sketchy figure work). Their work in the opening fight scene, in particular, is quite well done as they juggle a protagonist with the same color outfit as his attackers fighting in tight, claustrophobic panels while moving into and out of Bakuto’s hallucinatory POV. All of the action is quite clear and easy to follow.
Unfortunately, the scripting is not handled quite so well. This issue is a rare stumble in an otherwise highly enjoyable run. If this is the first issue you pick up of Daredevil, try not to judge the whole series by it.