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Evil Geek Book Report – Daredevil By Brian Michael Bendis & Alex Maleev Ultimate Collection Vol. 3

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After wrapping up Volume 2 of Bendis Daredevil run, I pretty much immediately bought Volume 3 from Amazon. When it finally arrived, it took all my will power not to cancel all my plans for that week, call into work and jump right in. Sadly, I showed some restraint but when I did have a chance to crack it open I dove right in.

(Proceed with caution because after the jump we are officially in spoiler territory)

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The first arc, “Golden Age” (issues #66-70) for my money might be the best in this collection. It starts with Alexander Bont, the pre Wilson Fisk, Kingpin of Hell’s Kitchen. He’s being released from jail after an extremely long stay and as such New York City has changed drastically but he has his sights on the man who got him locked up, Daredevil.

The story crisscrosses through three different time periods. The first is Bont’s early days as a low rent gangster and his rise to power in the 1940’s. This is depicted here in all black and white. It’s a real treat to see Maleev’s pencil work in such a clean and unobtrusive way.

dd-66-10v2r5The second time period focuses on the early days of Daredevil’s career (1960’s publishing wise, but in the Marvel Universe who knows). He’s decked out in his original yellow and red suit and it’s retconned so that the Fixer (the gangster who ordered the hit on Matt Murdock’s father) was shown to report up to Bont. We get to see Daredevil take him out and put into jail. This period is represented via Maleev’s take on Silver Age art and damn is it glorious. The colors are bright and it’s penciled in that Andy Warhol style of pop art. This was such a treat and so fun to look at.

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Present day of course makes up the final time period of the arc. While Bont was in jail he had read the newspaper where they linked Daredevil and Murdock and it gave his revenge a face rather than a mask. He visited the reformed villain, The Gladiator who use to be in his employ and blackmails him. They capture Murdock and beat the absolute piss out of him. Afterward, they clean him up and drag him through the streets unmasked in his Daredevil costume. It’s fucking brutal. Only through perfect comic book timing via FBI agent Angela Del Toro (and current possessor of the White Tiger’s amulets) was this able to be stopped. She’s been assigned and obsessed with Murdock case, knowing that he defended her uncle, the original White Tiger, she had met with Murdock in private for guidance and to find out what it is that drives someone to be a costumed hero.

Issues #71-75 comprise the trade’s second arc, “Decalogue” which almost serves as an interlude between the first and third. It shows a church support group of how Daredevil has affected their lives, both positive and negative. It’s a pretty cool and unique approach that also interweaves through some of the other stories throughout Bendis’ run. The arc also serves as rumination on several of the Ten Commandments. It’s an interesting side plot and helps slow things down between the main story and no doubt gave Bendis a little time to breathe.

dd-71-02d3s6The closing arc of Bendis’s tenure on Daredevil consists of issues #76-81 known as “The Murdock Papers” It’s a fevered pitch to a great run as the walls start closing in on Matt Murdock.

The incarcerated Kingpin makes a deal with the FBI that in exchange for his freedom he will deliver them absolute proof that Murdock and Daredevil are one in the same. He has in his possession what he refers to as the “Murdock Papers”, basically documentation and records of every conversation between Mr. Fisk and Daredevil since the moment he found out they were one in the same, during the Born Again storyline.

dd-76-022ff4kThis of course is troubling news to Murdock but the way he finds out might be even worse. Milla, his former blind wife had decided to rekindle things and see if they could work it out. After sharing an evening together, they are visited by Elektra to warn Matt. It’s things like this that drove Milla away from Matt to begin with. This was also very unsettling to me since I hadn’t seen Elektra after her “Death” during Frank Miller’s run 20+ years prior. I knew she had been resurrected at some point and appeared elsewhere in the Marvel Universe, but I hadn’t experienced it and in my mind she was a corpse. So, all the scenes with her felt very weird and just didn’t seem right to see or read.

If that wasn’t bad enough, Black Widow shows up as well to give Matt a head’s up but to convince him that he needs to leave the country and if escorted by her there chances are better. Murdock hedges his bets by attempting to reach the file first. As it turns out, his old pal Bullseye seems to have had the same thought. What follows is an intense but somewhat rushed confrontation in the middle of the streets with Daredevil, Elektra and Bullseye. All the while the FBI is closing in on them.

daredevilv2079120oqwAs the story sprints to a close as an FBI sniper shoots Murdock through the shoulder, Kingpin reveals the Murdock Papers don’t actually exist, but the gun wound is enough to prove that Murdock and Daredevil are one in the same. In a somewhat shocking twist ending the FBI arrests both Murdock and Wilson Fisk. There’s a particularly touching moment during Matt’s trial where he dreams about running away. You see him and Milla living a simple quiet life in Paris, only to have that disrupted by Bullseye who tracked them down and kills Milla. I truly believe that Murdock thinks jail might be the safest place for him.

For what was a uniformly excellent and character redefining run, the ending felt a little rushed. It somehow didn’t carry the same emotional weight that other portions of Bendis’ lengthy tenure did. He did plot out the ending with Brubaker so that the transition would be a lot easier when he took over the book. In a way, it’s bitter sweet to know that this is the last Bendis volume that I’ll be reading, but it softens the blow that Brubaker is taking the reigns.

daredevilv208026eulg-1Bendis may not have completely redefined the character like Frank Miller did, but he picked up on threads that worked and was able to shape him in the modern incarnation that we know today. While, I was very pleased with all 3 volumes one thing in particular that I was sad that Bendis got away from was Murdock’s law career. It was virtually absent. That’s unfortunate because it’s a big part of what makes Matt Murdock tick. There’s a lot of darkness and brooding which mostly compliments the stories and there’s some humor too but this is a grim period in Murdock’s life. He’s been racing full fledged towards death so ending up in jail to break his fall truly might not be the worst thing.

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Then of course we have Mr. Alex Maleev. It was an absolute joy to watch him grow as an artist. In the first volume his art was a little too dark and ugly for my taste. Not ugly as in bad, ugly as in grotesque and unclean, almost violent. Each arc he grew more and more confident and his style began to gel. I truly believe “The Golden Age” in volume 3 is his crowning achievement for Daredevil. It’s gorgeous. There’s no doubt that he will be considered one of the definitive Daredevil artists for years to come. He made these comics a little less fantastical and a little more proto realistic which allows you to connect with characters even more.

Both Bendis and Maleev put their stamp on this character and is rightly considered a high water mark for this character. All 3 of these volumes were joy to read. But I love knowing this isn’t the end and there’s so much more yet to come…

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All images and characters depicted are copyright of their respective owners.

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About Biff Tannen

Film Noir, Pulp, Comic Books and Hitchcock.

Posted on July 3, 2013, in COMICS!, Evil Geek Book Report, Reviews and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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