Saturday, September 21, 2013

Review # 49: "Daredevil by Brubaker and Lark Ultimate Collection Vol. 1"

Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark had the unenviable task of directly following Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev on "Daredevil." While Lark's artwork isn't quite as eye-catching as Maleev's, it's still excellent. Brubaker, meanwhile, takes over writing the life of "The Man Without Fear" without missing a step.

First issues on "Daredevil" have always been important. The debut installments for both Frank Miller and BMB were stellar and Brubaker is definitely up to snuff. Matt Murdock is in a jail cell, helpless as he can only listen - and not intervene - while his partner and best friend Foggy Nelson is led into a death trap. With a single snicker from Kingpin a few doors down, s*** is about to get real.

Thus begins the six-issue saga of Daredevil's time in jail, as he kicks the hell out of half of general population. Something I love about this arc is how Brubaker manages to incorporate so much of the familiar within those walls. Kingpin is there, Bullseye is there, Owl is there, Turk is there... even The Punisher joins the fun. As Matt tries to uncover who put a hit on Foggy, a second Daredevil is patrolling the streets of Hell's Kitchen. A plan is hatched to get Matt out, and his confrontation with the second Daredevil - including the reveal of who it is - is glorious.

Matt's search quickly takes him overseas where he meets Lily Lucca for the first time. For reasons that aren't initially explained, Daredevil finds that her smell reminds him of Karen Page. There a lot of twists and turns regarding Lily's motivations, eventually leading to Matt tracking down who he was looking for. It's there where Brubaker - after 11 issues - finally does what happens so many times when a new author takes over a series: hits his reset button. Murdock is free again, but there are heavy ramifications and the seeds have been sown for everything to come crumbling down once more.

I'm pleased to say there is no dip in quality whatsoever from the end of Bendis' run into the beginning Brubaker's. The only difference I can think of is a slight shift of vibe when it comes to characters. Brubaker is very skilled at fleshing out those who surround his protagonist. Wheelchair-bound law firm partner Becky Blake has more to do and - more importantly - model-turned-private investigator Dakota North enters the mix. Her role would increase later, along with that of Daredevil's wife Milla.

That makes four excellent "Daredevil" Ultimate Collections in a row now. There are more coming.

Rating: 9/10

Up next: Things get worse for Murdock.

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