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Evil Geek Book Report – Daredevil by Ed Brubaker & Michael Lark Ultimate Collection Vol. 3

Matt Murdock is a terrible person and that is exactly what makes him so interesting. I’ve said it before but I actually find him way more compelling than his super hero counterpart. As the storyline started way back by Bendis draws close to the end, the line between Daredevil and Murdock begins to blur again even further.

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Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark begin the last act of their run together picking up where the previous installment ended. Milla is in the Insane Asylum thanks to Mr. Fear who Daredevil violently brought to justice. Yet, the crime has already been perpetrated and can’t be undone. Murdock seems to finally realize (and it’s about time) that anyone he loves ends up in harm’s way or worse dead.

The story picks up with Matt and Dakota visiting Milla in the Asylum to find out that the doctors aren’t allowing Matt to visit her anymore. This not surprisingly helps to further erode Matt’s declining mental state which he seems to be dealing with by masquerading as Daredevil and be able to lose himself in it. This however results in him beating the bloody hell out of criminals to take out his aggress violently. Luke Cage actually steps in to stop him from beating someone to death. Matt is so dismayed by this that he foolishly tries to punch Cage and winds up with a battered hand.

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Luke seeing that Matt is a lost cause at the moment decides to solicit Dakota North’s assistance to investigate a case where someone is going to death row and even though he has confessed to the killing of three children Luke is convinced he’s innocent. Dakota takes the case but things don’t go well for her after she interviews the inmate she is physically assaulted at a diner by a federal agent who urges her to drop the case. This temporarily makes Matt stop feeling sorry for himself and get involved in the case himself.

Quickly turning into a tight political thriller, Matt connects the dots that the father of the slain children (who conveniently disappeared after the murder) was working for a mobster named Slaughter who controls the docks. Dakota on a tip decides to get some information from the convict’s son only to be shot afterwards. Together they expose a ring that was actually being perpetrated with help from the U.S. Government who was allowing questionable shipments to come in and out of Slaughter’s area so that they could monitor other illegal things that are being sent from Madripoor and Latavia etc. As it turns out, the actual murderer was Floyd. Someone who worked as the right hand man for Slaughter. The father of the deceased worked for them on the docks, his children were killed by Floyd as way to threaten him. Then everyone basically panicked and tried covered it up by pinning it on an already convicted thug.

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This arc is way more interesting than how I meagerly described it here and was also co-written by Greg Rucka. It definitely gives the Daredevil title more of a Gotham Central feel and in my opinion is better off. It was one of the better storylines from this run and kind of helped Daredevil get back to its strengths and play up the American justice system while weaving an excellent mystery around it.

The next two arcs involve the introduction of Lady Bullseye. Now, when I first saw her on a cover a couple of years ago, I groaned. Female derivatives of male characters (and vice versa) always seemed kind of cheap to me. I knew Brubaker was better than that though, so I didn’t fret too much. They get right into her origin story and it’s actually pretty damn interesting. Lady Bullseye was a teenage sex slave held captive by the Yazuka who witnessed Bullseye’s wholesale slaughtering of the gang. It awoken something within her and changed her life. As soon as she got the opportunity she murdered her remaining captor. Her outfit is a tribute to him, but other than that’s where the similarities end really. She’s a Japanese martial artist who does mercenary work. She’s violent alright, but also possess a warrior’s code and isn’t gleefully unhinged like our friend Bullseye.

02One of the first things that kicks off this storyline involves Matt sleeping with Dakota. They’ve been slowly building to this for a while so that it actually feels pretty natural. You see after Danny Rand and Matt teach her how to do self-medicating Yoga after her gunshot wounds Dakota can’t help herself. Ok, that’s not entirely true…but mostly. It seems pretty obvious to me that Matt really uses sex as therapy from all the other fucked up shit going on his life. Bad news for the women though, because we know what usually happens to them. At least he had guilt about this one though…being married and all.

Matt’s life though isn’t much better because the cops pick him up after someone leaves a tip that Daredevil murdered someone. Dakota has to vouch for his whereabouts which legally confirms that Murdock is an adulterer. She argues that she never said it flat out, but as Matt (ever the lawyer) points out the implication is already there. As we know though with his history that things aren’t going to get much better for before they get worse.

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It seems that The Hand was split into different factions after their former leader Elektra was found out to a shape shifting skrull and Lady Bullseye has been hired to test out some possible leaders. She attacks Iron Fist and Black Tarantula and we find out she was behind the fake murder tip on Daredevil to deflect Matt for a little while. Iron Fist decides to have a summit to figure out what to do about the influx of the Hand with Matt, Black Tarantula and a strange old ninja master named Izo who seemingly just appears. Izo is a short drunken wise cracking old fool who immediately calls to mind Daredevil’s former mentor, Stick.

This all leads to an excellent confrontation with Daredevil and Lady Bullseye. Amazingly, she was introduced 3 whole issues earlier and they kept her from crossing paths with Daredevil. You almost forget that because she becomes such an important character in those issues but it succeeds in building up the tension.

daredevil-0154qi4Afterward, Matt finds out that Milla’s parents have removed her from the asylum without contacting him. He sets up a meeting with them and their lawyer and Foggy to discuss the issue, but  they want full custody of Milla and produce pictures of Matt and Dakota together. Matt ends up going berserk and Dakota quits because she can’t handle it anymore.

The Hand has been showing up all over NYC and with Matt indispose, Master Izo and Black Tarantula investigate only to find out that Lady Bullseye has attacked and taken possession of Daredevil associate The White Tiger and then eventually doing the same to Black Tarantula. They all confront Matt and ask him to join them as the leader of the Hand. They describe it to him as being able to “clear away his problems” he would ultimately be free of the tragedy and craziness of his life but he would also gain immense power. He refuses.

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The final arc opens up with #116, one of the best single Daredevil issues I’ve ever read. It’s gorgeously drawn by fill in artist David Aja and catches us up with what’s been happening with the Kingpin’s exile to Spain. Wilson Fisk is coming to grips with his murderous past and lost love by living a simple life. He finds a new love in the form of a woman named Marta and tries to settle down with her but he realizes he can never truly be happy, always wondering when the past will come back to haunt him. It finally does, in the form of Lady Bullseye who kills Marta and her kids, injures Fisk and blames it on Murdock all in a play to get him back to NYC.

It’s really a heartbreaking issue as you begin to sympathize with Kingpin probably more than I ever had in the past. It’s a short quasi self-contained issue with beautifully simple art.

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Upon Kingpin’s return to New York he immediately establishes his presence with the underground. He then makes a deal with Daredevil to work together to take down the Hand he also reveals that he doesn’t plan on living through it. He starts by springing The Owl from prison and has him hire the Hand to start killing of made men and Mafiosos throughout NYC. Dakota who had been independently tracking Fisk is intercepted by the Owl and is taken hostage for the Kingpin.

Matt meanwhile is deep in the thick of it and ends up blowing off work for a week and misses a settlement meeting between himself and Milla’s parents. Foggy ends up tweaking out and fires Matt. Which I think is more than fair for all the abuse he’s had to take over the years. It got me thinking though, has any heroes alter ego ever caused so much strife to their hero persona? It’s like Daredevil is taking over so much of Matt’s life.

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This all culminates in the final issue of this arc, #500 (typical Marvel renumbering bullshit where the previous issue was #119 of Volume 2 and they decided since they hit a landmark to fold it back into it’s original numbering sequence). We find out in a flashback that Master Izo actually trained Daredevil’s mentor Stick way back in the day and blinded himself after the Hand became corrupted “to see the world better” but is voted out of the Chaste (basically the good version of the Hand) because of his gambling and drinking.

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Our dear old friend Leeland Owsley aka the Owl seems to be having a blast torturing Dakota until Daredevil shows up. This is a bonus because you get to see Daredevil use a sword which doesn’t happen often and when it does it’s awesome and he cuts up the Owl oh so good. By the way Dakota really gets fucked up in these 3 arcs, she was better off fading into obscurity.

As things begin to heat up, Lady Bullseye brings Fisk into the Hand’s inner sanctum where he immediately kills the ninja who gave the order to murder his Spanish girlfriend and is then made an offer to become their leader. Daredevil and Master Izo crash the party beat some mother fuckers up and asks if the offer is still on the table. Our story concludes with Matt accepting their leadership under two conditions they never deal with Fisk again and they cast out Lady Bullseye. Matt will have to undergo secret rituals and will serve with White Tiger and Black Tarantula.

dd_500_0425u84This helps reinforce the idea that Matt can’t at least at this point try and live in a normal civilian life anymore. Anyone he has a relationship with becomes a target. I do think though that the seeds that were sewn for the final aspects of this story happened a little quickly but still it’s a very interesting status quo to leave things on. I’m still confused on why Brubaker decided to use Black Tarantula. He seemed cool, but we got to know nothing about him. He literally could have been anyone. Lady Bullseye however, comes off as a really interesting character that I hope we see more of and she really does have a fantastic looking costume, even if her name is pretty damn stupid.

Now that I’ve gone through Brubaker & Lark’s entire run I’d put it slightly below Bendis & Maleev’s overall. Bendis I thought was generally solid throughout; Brubaker had a strong start and finish but dipped a little bit in the middle. He did add some nice touches to the Daredevil mythos and universe. Lark’s art of course was pitch perfect for what the series called for and I maintain that he draws the best iteration of Kingpin.

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Speaking of Kingpin even though he is one of my all time favorite villains and easily the best Daredevil adversary I have to admit that it was refreshing that he was gone from the title for 23 issues (just about 2 years) and he was brought back in an interesting and logical way. He’s the perfect counterpoint for Daredevil since they are really two different sides of the same coin, but he can only be used so much.

This whole volume especially the last 2 out of the 3 arcs felt like I was reading classic Daredevil. It was full of familiar elements yet at the same time it felt new. I wish I hadn’t known the ending going into this because it’s quite a twist and I bet a lot of people didn’t see it coming. In Frank Miller’s classic run he did Noir with ninjas and kung fu but Brubaker does Kung Fu as Noir and it’s great. Bendis could have never pulled off ninjas (and wisely avoided it) Brubaker was fresh off Iron Fist and nails it.

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From what I heard and seen I think I’ll be skipping over Andy Diggle’s controversial run that proceeds Brubaker and culminates with the Shadowland crossover and move right onto Volume 3. I am looking forward to Mark Waid’s slightly sunnier take on Matt. Lord knows he’s been through enough darkness.

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About Biff Tannen

Film Noir, Pulp, Comic Books and Hitchcock.

Posted on June 11, 2014, in COMICS!, Evil Geek Book Report, Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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