There are spoilers in this review! If you don't want to know any plot details, then don't read this review! You have been warned!
You have been warned!
Truthfully, I was hoping someone else would review this book.
Mainly because books like "Daredevil: End of Days" are the hardest kinds of books for me to read. I read this medium, engage in this hobby, because I honestly enjoy seeing the good guys win.
It really is that simple. When I see the word "super-villain," I smile, because I always want to believe that a superhero is coming to save the day. I want to see how they'll pull off a last-minute victory. I want to see how their bravery and training allows them to overcome the most dire of situations, the most horrible of odds. I want the villain to realize that crime doesn't pay.
I want the good guys to win.
I realize it doesn't always happen, but I like to believe that all wrongs will be righted in the course of a story. I'm a pretty simple person -- I just like it that way.
And I knew going into "End of Days" that simply might not happen, and even if it does, even if there is justice, it's going to be an ugly, brutal, and vicious road that will be taken to get there.
When it was first promoted years ago, Brian Michael Bendis said in interviews that, no kidding, this was it: Matt Murdock's going to die, and it isn't going to be pretty, and the series was built around Murdock's death.
Even more recently, Bendis said it wasn't even going to be a mystery who killed Murdock. The story would focus on one-time staunch supporting character Ben Urich examining Murdock's life as Daredevil and unraveling one last secret, a big secret, that Murdock's death made apparent that existed.
There was no misdirection there.
Matt Murdock was dead within the first five pages of an 8-issue miniseries. Bullseye killed him, beat him to the brink of death, then stabbed him through the brain with what appeared to be Murdock's own billy club.
It was as brutal as it sounds. It was as horrific as it sounds. Klaus Janson's two-page spread of Bullseye delivering the death blow was, to be honest, the most vicious thing I've ever seen in a comic book in 30-plus years.
I was sad when I read it.
Why? Because it revealed the fundamental truth of good guys vs. bad guys in a serial medium: It truly is fiction, on the order of ridiculous, that superheroes survive these kinds of encounters, over and over and over. By definition, there are so many villains, eventually, all heroes would suffer the kind of end that Matt Murdock did.
Spider-Man wouldn't survive a full-on assault by the Sinister Six. The Red Skull and Baron Zemo and Arnim Zola would kill Captain America, once and for all. Loki and Ulik and Surtur would kill Thor.
That's what would happen.
So what about the rest of this book, then?
It's "10 years later" in the Marvel Universe, when Murdock is killed. J. Jonah Jameson's an old man, and the Daily Bugle is going out of business. It's a darker world, where Urich's had enough and is ready to move on from writing about the exploits of superheroes in the city. He's covered it all, including something that will happen in his past, but our future, that he called "the Baxter Building murders."
Urich's tired. And Jameson doesn't care. He demands that Urich do what journalists do: Tell that story of Murdock's death, even if it's the last story Urich tells, if it's the last story the Daily Bugle tells.
Through that premise, Bendis, co-writer David Mack, and artists Klaus Janson and Bill Sienkiewicz tell a bit of history, of the final encounter between Daredevil and the Kingpin, and how Murdock disappeared from the New York City in the aftermath, not seen until his death.
There are seeds of the mystery planted, with Murdock saying one word, "Mapone" before his death...and no one knows what it means. Bendis and Mack frame the rest of the series, the questions Ben Urich will try to answer, in the final pages of the issue, as well: Where did Matt Murdock go? Why did he kill the Kingpin? How did Bullseye find him after all that time, when Murdock had been largely forgotten?
And, again: What does "Mapone" mean?
And just who in the hell is that figure watching Urich from the rooftops, dressed in some type of Daredevil costume?
This was a powerful issue. The art won't be for everyone -- it's Klaus Janson at his most gritty, most grainy. There's not a lot of tight lines in the art, and Bill Sienkiewicz's painted scenes are very much the same -- gritty. Grimy.
That's what this book is meant to be -- though again, I acknowledge the art isn't for everyone. But the book, the series, is as much an examination of New York City and a street reporter and the ambivalence of people as it is a story about heroes and villains.
I didn't like reading "Daredevil: End of Days" #1.
But that doesn't mean I didn't like the book. It is a very good start to what just might be a very, very dark and sad tale, where there might not be a happy ending.
It's not the kind of book I prefer. But it is the kind of story that needs to be told, every once in a while, to remind those who are like me, who like good guys winning, that that particular style of storytelling...well, I appreciate it even more after reading this issue.
Plot: 9 (I give credit for having Murdock die so quickly. That's a strong entry point.)
Writing: 9 (Bendis wasn't too wordy, but there were a few segments where he could've picked up the pace just a bit, even though I acknowledge he's got seven more issues to tell this story.)
Art: 8.5 (I had a bit of trouble with how dark in tone the issue was -- the colors were so dark, it was difficult at times to follow the sequencing and understand what was actually happening in the panels. I also know some people will not like the grainy style, but as someone who is familiar with Klaus Janson's work, I knew what to expect and I did like it.)
If you like Daredevil's darker themes from the last 30 years, from before what appears to be Mark Waid's usage of the character, then you need to be reading this. It's right along the lines of Frank Miller and Ed Brubaker and Bendis' take on the character, and while it's tough reading, it "plays fair." No tricks, just story.
It's just a little tougher to read, that's all...because the good guys aren't necessarily winning this one.
*Sniff, sniff* "Damn it, Diana...If I'd known they would trade us in for a JT Krul-written Captain Atom and "The Savage Hawkman," I'd have let Superboy-Prime destroy all reality.""Superman flies and is really strong...what the fuck else do you need to know?!"
-- Hitler, expressing his displeasure about DC rebooting and complaints about continuity