As much as he’s fun to poke fun at for much of his work now, mostly involving giant events and splash pages, it’s hard to deny that when Brian Michael Bendis is on his work is fantastic. His Daredevil run is one of legend for very good reason, not only are his stories well constructed, they take the character to new places and question superheroes in intriguing ways by taking risks and seeing how it works. Much of Bendis’ run on Daredevil rides on this tactic, putting a what if scenario to work and seeing it play out. Now, as Bendis (and frequent collaborator and co-writer here David Mack) returns to the character to see his final moments, much of what made that run so brilliant, refreshing, and just plain good all comes rushing back. Be sure to read Troy-Jeffrey Allen's take here!
The ‘What If?’ Bendis works on here seems less “What if Bullseye killed Daredevil?” and more “What if Daredevil was killed publicly?” The latter lets Bendis do some back-patting; much of the issue is dedicated to reminding readers of his run, from Matt Murdoch’s ‘outing’ to his takeover as Kingpin of Hell’s Kitchen. More importantly, it brings reporter Ben Urich back to the forefront. Bendis always had an incredible voice and use for Urich, who often acted as the outside view on the Daredevil stories while remaining integral to their development (just read the “Wake Up” story to see Bendis and Ben Urich at their best. And David Mack, for that matter). But here at the beginning of the end, we have Urich to guide the reader, lamenting the loss of print media (just how many bought the digital copy of this comic, I wonder) and sounding very much like the Bendis of a decade ago. The whole issue is not only a wonderful reminder, but also a well constructed meditation on the relationship between the superhero and the public they protect. And while Urich and his writer is pretty hard on the public, Bendis complicates the seemingly simple relationship by Urich’s own continual internal editing. Yes, people seem to be either opportunistic or indifferent, but even the moral center of the issue, and much of Bendis’ original run, is having an impossible time mediating his own relationship, as a possible friend, as a member of the public, and as a journalist and critic. Overall, the issue sets up some wonderful groundwork for what is sure to be one of the most anticipated projects this year. It’s nice to have Bendis back on something much smaller, more intimate, and ultimately more impacting than whatever event is making me not want to read Marvel Comics.
Klaus Janson, probably more familiar to readers as an inker than penciller, has submitted some truly imaginative work with collaborators Bill Sienkiewicz and Matt Hollingworth. It’s often easier to view the entire art team through the penciller, but the issue screams attention at the amazing work everyone has done here. Surely Jansen’s claustrophobic artwork wouldn’t have worked unless he had brilliant finishing touches by the other two, who deftly make each panel (and there are a lot of panels!) important and integral. The book looks amazing, it’s the best way to put it, and the shifts in colouring, inking, and painting throughout seamlessly tell the story Bendis returns to finish. In a strange way, the book speaks to the Daredevil of days gone by, prior to his recent reboot, and locates him in the past as we look to the future. Things start and end at the beginning here, and the book fluidly references and calls back moments to remember without being nostalgic or hokey.
Grade: 10/10 The best single issue I’ve read all year. Everyone is at the top of their game.