Friday, August 16, 2013

Review # 31: "Daredevil by Bendis and Maleev Ultimate Collection Vol. 1"

It's somewhat mystifying to me that Daredevil isn't a bigger deal than he is in the mainstream eye. While what was perceived as a mediocre-to-bad film hurt his standing, Matt Murdock has had more than his fair share of incredible runs and benchmark stories. These days the mainstream media is all over Frank Miller for his work on Batman, 300, Sin City and Wolverine. But you could make an argument - hell, I'd make that argument - that his best writing came within the pages of Daredevil. Yet, it rarely gets mentioned by the press.

Now Daredevil is getting high acclaim based on the work of Mark Waid. Truth be told, though, he's coming up on more than ten straight YEARS of high critical acclaim from some truly talented writers and artists. Surely this has to translate to the big screen eventually, and with Marvel holding his rights again, a reboot and an appearance with the Avengers could finally give Matt Murdock what he deserves - a place alongside company icons like Spider-Man, Wolverine and - nowadays - Iron Man.

So let's go back to where Daredevil's recent run of high critical success began: with Brian Michael Bendis assuming writing duties. "Daredevil" was recently relaunched under the Marvel Knights banner by none other than Kevin Smith, then later with David Mack as writer. BMB gets his start penning a four-issue arc with gorgeous painted art by Mack as Daily Bugle reporter Ben Urich attempts to write an article about a child disturbed over an incident involving ol' hornhead. It opens with an outright parody of old comic writing style but takes a dark turn. I enjoyed this, but it's clear that Bendis was merely getting his feet wet.

BMB's run starts in earnest with a bang - or a stab, I should say - as Kingpin is Julius Caesared by his own lieutenants. Of course, he isn't quite dead but he might as well be as there's a new chief in town. We learn about the events that led up to the assassination attempt, and it's beaten home quite quickly that Matt has just lost a second love to Bullseye, this time Karen Page. That event happened before Bendis took over, but its importance still lingers. Eventually Kingpin's replacement is brought down, but he learns about Murdock's secret double-life. His spilling the beans to federal agents becomes the focal point of Bendis' entire run. Public suspicion that Murdock is Daredevil hangs over his head and changes how he and his legal partner Foggy Nelson are forced to operate. It also makes waves in the hero community as the likes of Luke Cage, Iron Fist and Spider-Man weigh in on Matt's options.

Ultimately, Murdock decides to sue the paper that outs him. But it doesn't end there. At the behest of Cage, he takes on the case of White Tiger who's been wrongfully accused of killing a police officer. You don't need to have watched "To Kill A Mockingbird" to conclude how this turns out. It's heartbreaking and a sign that there are no guarantees of a happy ending as shadows gather over Matt's life.

I think IGN put it best when they suggested that this run is what you would hand a fan of a TV show like "Breaking Bad" to give them an example of what comics are capable of as a medium. This is A-grade episodic work. Better than Peter David who I've been gushing over lately.

Backing all this up is incredible art by Alex Maleev, drawing in a perfect noir style. Above all else, I enjoy his choice of background colour using different tones from scene to scene. I'm also a fan of his version of a more-human Wilson Fisk which seems to be inspired by Telly "Kojak" Savalas. Who loves ya, baby?

I don't know, but I'm loving this comic.

Rating: 9.5/10

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