Daredevil #500 - 'The Return Of The King: Conclusion' and '3 Jacks' - Brubaker, Lark, Gaudiano, Janson, Samnee, Azaceta, Nocenti, Aja and Hollingsworth
Story - Reviewing this book is different than what we normally do. Most of the time we are reviewing beginnings, new #1s, new creative teams, new story arcs. But this is an ending, the final issue of Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark's run on Daredevil, it's the culmination of 4 years of stories, but in many ways this is both an ending and a beginning. As is the nature of serialised superhero comics, nothing ever ends, and new writers will pick up where Brubaker leaves. This is an excellent comic not just because it is Brubaker finishing things off in grand style, but because of how he leaves it for Andy Diggle and the promise of the future. Much like how Brubaker himself picked up the baton in a tricky place after Brian Michael Bendis left Daredevil in prison, he does the same here, making Daredevil leader of the Hand, and challenging Diggle to run with it, it's a daring (heh) thing to do, and I like it.
Wait a minute, leader of The Hand? Those Ninja guys? They are villains! Why is he leading them? That makes no sense! Oh but it does. Brubaker has slowly built to this conclusion for the last 10 issues, and by the time Matt makes the shocking decision, it not only makes sense, but it is the only logical way to go. If you haven't been reading Bru's Daredevil, more fool you, but I'll quickly summarise, Daredevil, for the umpteenth time, has his back against the wall, his wife Milla is catatonic, he's in a battle with her parents for custody, he's been fired from Nelson and Murdock, the Kingpin, Lady Bullseye and the Hand are out to get him, all the while manipulating him, The Owl has kidnapped his lover Dakota North, and he's got a crazy old blind Ninja called Master Izo on his back, telling him what to do. He's in a bad way, and it's here we pick up in the final chapter. Matt has been taken by Izo to see Milla, and here we see Matt make an amazing moment of self-discovery. Daredevil has often been criticised as a character who fucks up all the women he loves, Elektra, Karen Page, Heather Glenn, and now Milla, all died (or close enough) because of him, and he never learns, but here, he finally learns. It's been a long time coming, but when he realises that he's a danger, and apologises for ever loving Milla, it's a sad, wonderful moment, and one where you know the Daredevil of old may be gone for good.
After this, things move at a stiff clip, Matt discovers what the Kingpin and Lady Bullseye are up to, thanks to that most hapless of Henchmen, Turk, who goes behind Fisk's back to warn DD. I've always loved the character of Turk, ever since Frank Miller's run, this normal guy, always stuck in the middle of forces bigger than him, just trying to earn a buck, and I love how Bru uses him here, not only is Matt changing, the whole of his world is. If you need any more evidence of the change going on here, just look at how Matt takes down The Owl (who for some reason has Wolverine claws, and along with his hair, it's a wonder he hasn't fought Logan yet), it's a lot more brutal than we are used to from the man without fear, it certainly shocked me, but it's perfectly fitting with what's going down. Matt may not kill him, but it's as good as. So The Owl is down, so far so good, but what's that? The Hand are about to kill Foggy! Brubaker started his run by making us think he killed Franklin Nelson, but there's no danger of that happening here, Master Izo has a man inside The Hand, the Black Tarantula, who saves Foggy's life. Bru has been using Black Tarantula throughout his run, and there have been hints that he's not really been Handified, and it's good to see his strong work with the character continue, he's a great addition to Hell's Kitchen. This also shows how much Master Izo has been manipulating events, throughout the issue we get flashbacks of his life, ranging from Hundreds of Years ago to half an hour ago, he was involved in the Hand from the very beginning, he left to form Stick, Daredevil's Mentor's ninja clan, he was there when Matt was blinded, he told Black Tarantula what to do, and at the end, when you see he was manipulating Lady Bullseye all the time too, you see what a complex character he is, is he a good guy? Is he a villain? It's ambiguous, and in Brubaker's noirish world, he fits in wonderfully.
After this, we're in what Black Tarantula calls 'The Belly Of The Beast', the Hand's lair, as Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin, Daredevil's greatest enemy, is being asked to join the Hand. Brubaker hasn't really used Kingpin that much in his run, but he's brought him back for this final arc, and used him very well. He himself has been attacked by The Hand, and wants revenge on them as much as Matt, and even for a time forged a partnership with Daredevil, but still, he is a master manipulator, and when he's offered the chance to command the Hand, he takes it. But not before one of my favourite scenes in the book, where he kills the Hand master who was responsible for the killing of his Girlfriend and her children. The Kingpin has always been a man with a twisted sense of honour, and this is a great moment for the character In this arc he has been haunted by guilt, much like Matt, the ghosts of their lost loves have been with them. The parallels are subtle, but apparent. No wonder they were working together, no wonder The Hand wanted both of them, no wonder they make such fantastic enemies.
The fight scene that follows when DD and Izo break in is great, Matt takes on Lady Bullseye, who pretty much kicked his ass last time, but he's learnt, he's changed, and this time, he beats her summarily. Lady Bullseye has been a surprisng character, when she was first teased, it sounded like the lamest thing ever, a female version of Bullseye, come on! Laaaame, but she has been very interesting, and I hope she continues to be a presence in the Daredevil book. Then, the final reckoning! Matt chooses to lead The Hand, he casts out Fisk and Lady Bullseye! He leaves behind his old life! So why does this seem like a triumph? Not a failure, not a compromise. It's hard to explain, but Matt's internal monologue over the final scenes hold some answers. He's spent his whole life trying to do one thing, and all he's done is cause more pain, and now he's reached an impasse, and it's time for something to change. That smile on the last page is both chilling and wonderful. I can't wait to see where this is going.
Brubaker has wrapped his run up brilliantly, he's taken Matt to some of the darkest places he's been to, and now he's left him in a truly new situation. This issue is everything you want from a Daredevil comic, Ninjas, tragic heroes, betrayals, noir. It's a fantastic ending, and I'm sad to see Brubaker leave, but it's also a new beginning.
As this is a 500th issue extravaganza, we get a bonus story from classic Daredevil writer Ann Nocenti and David Aja. I liked it, but moreso for the artwork, I felt like Nocenti was going for some kind of symbolic statement on the character, and it wasn't entirely successful, more confusing really, but the fight with Bullseye was great, almost silent.
Throw in a reprint of one of the greatest Daredevil stories ever ('Roulette', you know the one, Bullseye is paralyzed, DD has a gun, and there's that little kid who thinks he's Daredevil), some excellent pin-ups by top artists and a preview of Diggle's first issue, this is a great celebration of one of Marvel's greatest characters. If you haven't been following Brubaker's run you may be a bit lost, but still... I dare you.
Art - Michael Lark is one of my favourites, especially when he is working with Ed Brubaker. Whether it's their work together on Scene Of The Crime (very underrated, get the trade) or Gotham Central, his work just clicks with Bru's sensibilities, it's dark and scratchy, it's noirish and it's great. A lot of that is down to the finishes of Stefano Gaudiano, which add a rough edge. He's been an ever-present in this run, and I have no higher praise that it wouldn't have been the same without him. In this issue he is also assisted by great artists like Chris Samnee and Paul Azaceta, who have been involved in the run too, it's good to see them back. And of course Klaus Janson was part of the legendary Miller run, so it's only fitting he does something here.
David Aja's art on the back-up story is perfect too, he's been a favourite of mine since Iron Fist, and he always brings something special. Here, he's very much channeling David Mazzuchelli of Born Again fame, and it's beautiful, and even if I didn't like the story, it's awesome thanks to his art.
The pin-ups are by a who's who of great artists (and even writers, Bendis finally gets a chance to draw at Marvel, and it's not half-bad!) My personal favourites are John Romita and Rafael Grampa, but they are all great, a pleasure.
Best Line - 'I'm sorry I loved you... sorry you loved me'
Last edited by Punchy
on Sun Aug 23, 2009 10:18 am, edited 1 time in total.