Friday, July 4, 2014

Review # 118: "Daredevil - End of Days"

An unfortunate truth about superheroes is that their stories never end. They can't even die. With every passing comes the anticipation of resurrection. As long as popular heroes continue to sell, their return is necessary.

However, there have been a few instances where writers have been able to get around this. The most famous example is Frank Miller's "That Dark Knight Returns." While it takes place during a set time and plays loose with continuity, it's generally canonized as the "last Batman story."* Since superheroes don't age, setting them in a so-called "future time" and wrapping up their narrative is an acceptable practice.

Now this isn't something that Marvel has really done before, so it's almost appropriate that they give it a shot with the character Miller himself made important: Daredevil. While Frank's pen isn't involved in "End of Days," (and given his recent track record with heroes, that isn't a bad thing,) the consensus pick for the best writer since his time - Brian Michael Bendis - is along with the man who brought BMB in, David Mack. With pencils by Miller partner Klaus Janson, finished art by "Elektra: Assassin" painter Bill Sienkiewicz and additional work from Bendis partner Alex Maleev, what Marvel has is a dream team to tackle this job.

The end for Matt Murdock comes very quickly as his death at the hands of Bullseye is depicted in the first few pages. But he utters a single word to his mortal enemy that drives the psycho assassin mad. From here, Daily Bugle reporter and classic "Daredevil" character Ben Urich enters the picture and tries to solve the mysteries surrounding his friend's passing. Murdock, you see, hadn't been spotted in Hell's Kitchen in years. Urich's mission is to find out why he reappeared, and what he's been up to. Complicating the situation: another Daredevil appears almost immediately.

Urich goes from place-to-place, visiting pivotal figures in Daredevil's history from allies like Nick Fury to enemies like the Owl to pseudo-enemies like Punisher and Turk to the women in Matt's life. As Urich visits with Matt's ex-wife Milla (out of the institution and with the ability to see now, it seems), Typhoid Mary and Elektra (who has become the world's deadliest soccer mom,) he finds a lot of red-headed children. It seems like Daredevil has been spending his time off impregnating women. Hell, the man deserves a break.

On the way, Urich ends up being pursued by The Hand and the new Daredevil attempts a rescue. The identity of the new Daredevil is... a bit obvious and it compromises the reveal. Still, it's not enough to hurt what is an intriguing mystery with a lot of twists and turns along the way. The new Daredevil's identity has nothing to do the real mystery of what Matt Murdock said to Bullseye and the answer is a revelation that makes you smile.

"End of Days" goes down as an excellent celebration of the character. I continue to be amazed at how Bendis - an already talented writer - manages again to blow his other work out of the water. Due credit to Mack as well, of course. The combination of Janson and Sienkiewicz is jaw-dropping. While both of their styles are somewhat dated, their work in tandem creates a timeless feel that encompasses all popular eras of the title. If you've read Daredevil's defining runs pre-Mark Waid - Miller, Bendis, Brubaker and their artists - you will love this. Otherwise, I suggest you begin with those first or a lot will seem foreign here.

Rating: 9/10

*Let's just pretend that "The Dark Knight Strikes Again" never happened.

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