My first real love of emotional, introspective and dark graphic novels came from Brian Bendis and Alex Maleev on Daredevil. They ran for three years and I adored those books and could not wait to read the next ones. Bendis knows how to write personal tragedy and Maleev has the ability to emanate Matt’s emotions to the page around him. David Mack also wrote and pencilled a couple of arcs and really made it his own with his incredibly original artistic style. He truly produces paintings in his comics and the dialogue merges into the backgrounds. Daredevil was a tragic book for a long time with its depressing tones and self-reflection but this body of work reflects those themes at their best. This stand-alone series brings together Bendis and Mack as writers, Klaus Janson on pencils but also has contributions from Maleev and Hollingsworth, a set of heavyweights from Daredevil comic folklore. Most importantly the gloves are off and they have free reign to take this book where they like which is why this issue is so epic.
Matt Murdock dies. Page 4. I struggled to move to the next page as I was reeled in shock and sadness, knowing if I did, I would have to accept what I had just seen. The double page spread is truly incredible whilst being horrific, as Matt takes a bully club through his head at the hands of Bullseye. The crowd watches via their cameras and smartphones and do nothing to save the falling hero. This concept is rarely approached in regular continuity, as the main character rarely is allowed to die. The issue is narrated by Ben Ulrich who has been a reporter in Hell’s Kitchen for years and a once good friend to Matt Murdoch. He tells the tragedy of Murdoch’s death but also the apathy and selfishness of a society dominated by social media and reality television. Narrative comics are always word heavy and can be a difficult read but the art in this issue is so good that it can be forgiven. It is dark, heavy, violent and the panelling is adapted to show individual parts of action sequences as well as the reactions of Hell’s kitchen residents. Matt is bruised and battered and you can almost feel the individual blows he receives. There are also stunning paintings by Bill Sienkiewicz which act as background vignettes to the current story.
Whilst the main premise of the issue is described above there is an important event that leads to this event. Matt Murdoch confronts and kills Kingpin, breaking a cardinal law of heroism; thou shall not kill. Kingpin has always been apprehended by Daredevil but escaped incarceration, as he will always find a backdoor. Matt has reached the end of the road and crosses over the border. How far do you go again and again to ensure safety of those around you? Why has Batman never killed the Joker when he continues to escape and kill innocents? Can you proclaim a moral good with a morally wrong action? We know Daredevil falls to unseen depths with his violence and we know he pays the ultimate price for it with his murder. The comic shows you the consequences of Daredevils’s actions and answers these questions but the events leading up this need to be explored. There is a lot to take in with this book because many themes are presented, namely the death of a hero and a villain amongst a backdrop of an uncaring community. There is so much action for a single issue and like Matt in the story, the authors have taken this this book to new descents and it needs to written well as we are taken to the backstreets of the mainstream. The artwork can be assured but I hope the writing does not suffer the same fate as my beloved hero.
“I tried everything else” 9/10