Evil Geek Book Report – Daredevil By Ed Brubaker & Michael Lark Ultimate Collection Vol. 2
Daredevil, why can’t I quit you? It seems like I can never quite get my fill. This time however, we’re back for Ed Brubaker and Mike Lark’s middle chapter of their run. Their first portion detailed Murdock’s escape from jail and his subsequent adventure in Europe to clear his name and find out who set up Foggy. Now he’s back in Hell’s Kitchen and things have gone terrible there in his absence.
As things kick off our first issue included in the collection (#94 for those of you keeping track) is a recap of Milla’s life with Matt and Daredevil tracing their entire history together. It’s a good starting point for those who may not be familiar with her or their relationship. This also helps to set up one of the being themes of this storyline, now that Milla has Matt back in her life how can she keep him for herself and not have to contend with Daredevil? As an interesting aside it’s pretty cool to see Mike Lark interpret panels and scenes that Alex Maleev handled during Bendis’ run. This functions exclusively as a primer before the story picks up again.
Daredevil is readjusting to finally being back on his home turf and while Mr. Danny Rand did an admirable job moonlighting as The Man Without Fear, it ain’t an easy gig. Things have gotten remarkable bad while he was gone. Our story gets underway when Melvin Potter better known as the Gladiator is being charged with murder during his stint at Ryker’s Island. After having him transferred for mental evaluation to Belvue he blatantly murders a guard and inmate for harassing him. Murdock is convinced Melvin is being manipulated and accepts the legal case against his better judgment. Keeping tabs on him as he’s been transported back to Ryker’s, Daredevil watches as a group springs him loose and he goes absolutely ape shit beating everyone up including Daredevil.
Brubaker does this great thing that when you need to hear Daredevil’s thoughts on Melvin’s case it becomes his inner monologue while he’s patrolling the streets. You witness him bust up gangs and stop robberies but the text has nothing to do with what you’re seeing. It’s a neat way for him to advance the story and Murdock’s thoughts without him sitting alone in a dark room mulling it over but also proves that no matter what he’s doing Matt can’t truly ever “turn off” Daredevil.
Cue Lilly from Brubaker & Lark’s first collection returning to solicit Matt’s legal help, much to Milla’s chagrin. You see, she gives off pheromones that make men think of their favorite memory and then she can manipulate them (which I would imagine comes in pretty handy). He decides it would be best if she works with recently employed and long forgotten investigator Dakota North so she won’t be affected.
Meanwhile, Gladiator in full costume attacks Murdock and Milla while they are out at dinner. Matt sends Milla home before having the piss beat out of him. When he returns to consciousness he immediately rushes home to check on Milla only to find Gladiator tormenting and abusing her. This sends Murdock into a blind rage where he relentlessly pummels the Gladiator until he finally knocks him out.
The attack has understandably shaken Milla up as we see her slowly begin to crack. Daredevil is lured into the base of Larry Cranston aka Mr. Fear. As it turns out, the Gladiator was only a distraction so that drugs can be continually pushed and flooded into Hell’s Kitchen. Milla, freaked out that she can’t find Matt goes to their law offices only to freak out further when she stumbles up on Foggy and Lilly. They offer to take her home and while waiting for the subway Milla attempts to push Lilly into the path of the train but she bumps into some old man who falls to his death instead.
This is all rushing towards the 100th issue of Volume 2 which Mr. Fear uses his fear gas on Murdock and lets him loose on the streets of NYC. He hallucinates about the Hand, Kingpin, Bullseye etc. but more importantly his love life and how he can’t let anyone in. Being the 100th issue though they let a lot of famous Daredevil artists illustrate part of what made them famous on their run for the title. For instance John Romita Sr. does the Karen Page section, Gene Colan does Black Widow, Sienkiewicz-Elektra, Maleev-Milla etc. etc. This is another classic cover misdirect as the 100th issue shares the cover with the trade making you think there is the huge battle going down including every villain and hero important to Daredevil. In a way that’s true, but in another more accurate way, it isn’t…at all.
The next issue shifts the focus back to Milla who is committed at Bellvue. Daredevil begins to suspect that Mr. Fear drugged both her and Melvin and attempts to try and track him down again. We also find out that The Hood is searching for Mr. Fear and is using Daredevil as the pawn. (That’s all well and good, but I have no idea who the fuck The Hood is). Milla is released on house arrest with a live in nurse and is visited by Lilly in an attempt to make amends. When Lilly slaughters the nurse, Milla is blamed which lands her in assisted living. She really can’t catch a break, can she?
Daredevil locates Mr. Fear via one of his gang members and is able to find out that Lilly’s “perfume” was constructed by Mr. Fear from the beginning which is a nice twist. We watch Daredevil slowly come unhinged as he positively tortures the gang member to get a location on Mr. Fear. When he finally does confront him it’s brutal and Murdock throttles him relentlessly and eventually gets him jailed. Senor Fear confesses to everything, but let’s old Matty know that there’s no anecdote. This ultimately allows him to win by tapping into Murdock’s fear of never being able to be in a stable relationship and always putting that somebody in risk.
This is where we are left off with one Ultimate Collection trade left to go in the Brubaker/Lark run. While this was still enjoyable it wasn’t nearly as good as the previous volume or the Bendis stuff. Mainly because Brubaker resorts back to pushing Matt Murdock as far as he can go and piling on the physical and mental abuse. We’ve seen that already adnasuem during the Bendis run and Brubaker is certainly better than rehashing old tricks. He’s a very capable writer. Even worse, it seems like he wanted a way to write Milla out of the book as soon as possible. If anything, she has been his most interesting leading lady and developed nicely under Bendis’ pen, there’s no reason she couldn’t continue to flourish.
I do have to say that I’m pleased Brubaker used Mr. Fear. I have no allegiance to that character (hell I didn’t even know who he was before this arc) and despite looking incredibly similar to Dr. Doom I was just so happy to not see another Kingpin storyline or worse the Gladiator. When this started off with the Gladiator, I gritted my teeth. Daredevil isn’t known for having an expansive or interesting rogues gallery and Melvin Potter is one of the characters that’s more fleshed out than most so it’s natural that he will get used from time to time but my god enough is enough.
So what we have here is a bit of a let down compared to volume 1. Let’s hope the Brubs brings it strong to close out his final chapter on the man without fear and leaves his indelible stamp on the life of Matt Murdock.
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