ďThe Murdock Papers Ė part fiveĒ
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Alex Maleev, Dave Stewart (colors)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Youíve really got to hand it to the Kingpin. Heís able to manipulate Daredevil, Elektra, Bullseye, Ben Urich, and the FBI with a single lie. All without leaving his cell. Genius.
Urich reluctantly reveals the location of the Night Nurse, a woman who helps superheroes heal. Elektra calls in her underlings in the Hand. Black Widow, Luke Cage and Iron Fist show up to help. And when the Feds arrive, itís a free-for-all. Matt Murdock ends up in the worst position of his life. Heís even worse of than he was in ďBorn Again.Ē
I got to hand it to Bendis for cramming this issue full of useful exposition. I didnít know Elektra was now running the Hand. That should have repercussions on the rest of the Marvel U. The dialogue feels very natural, considering who these characters are and the history they share. The story flows nicely. The dialogue usually has the added tension of someone coming after the heroes, so those scenes donít drag the story down. Alex Maleev continues to draw a perfectly gritty New York City with photorealistic people. Iíve notice more subtle facial changes here than previous issues. (Though I must point out blood disappears from the Night Nurseís dress between panels. Whereís my No-Prize?)
ďThe Murdock PapersĒ is shaping up to be a strong finish for Bendisí run on Daredevil. However the next issue ends, we are almost guaranteed nothing will ever be the same for the Man Without Fear.
And yeah, I want that quoted on the TPB.
Plot: An injured Daredevil needs a place to recuperate, but even the Night Nurse canít protect Matt Murdock from his critics.
Comments: Elektra delivers Matt to the super-hero hospital run by Night Nurse, but she canít protect him from the reporters on her trail, or from the Black Widow, who brings Milla to see her husband. There are ninjas. Thereís Luke Cage and Danny Rand. Itís all a big mess, but it mostly makes sense. If you buy Elektra still being alive, which I never have. If you donít pay attention to whatís going on in the Black Widow series, which I always do, favoring it over this one.
After lots of jockeying for position between all the players, Matt and Ben Urich end up arrested by the FBI (led by a stereotypically rabid agent), betrayed and manipulated by the Kingpin. Milla seems never to understand whatís going on, and is actually endangered by Natasha (and I suppose by Matt, too). ĎTasha gets off one good line ĖďSettle down, ninja skankĒówhich shows Bendis capturing her tone better than he did when he had her babbling in a thick Russian accent the last time she stopped by. The cover, however, with Natasha and Elektra posing like lesbian vixens, is ridiculous pandering.
Itís par for the course for a Daredevil story these days. Bleak, grim and generally unpleasant, enlivened slightly by the bristling between the female players (though even Night Nurse plays on a level where Milla canít compete and doesnít belong). Her blindness apparently renders her inarticulate and dependent. Iím counting the months until this title is freed up to go in a different direction after this creative team is gone.
Outed as Daredevil by the press, targeted by Wilson Fisk for revenge after usurping him as Kingpin, and gunned down in the street after a surprise attack by his arch-nemesis Bullseye, things are already looking bleak for Matt Murdock as this issue begins. What follows is a deftly-plotted and well-written sequence of events which sees Fisk expertly manipulating longtime Daredevil ally and Daily Bugle reporter Ben Urich into giving the F.B.I. a key piece of information which will enable them to finally get the drop on our hero. Urichís reaction to this crushing move is priceless, and an incredibly strong and revealing moment for a character who has long been my favourite member of Daredevilís supporting cast. Guest-appearances also abound from the Black Widow, Elektra, Luke Cage and Iron Fist Ė even Bendis stalwart Jessica Jones makes a cameo Ė and although their contribution to proceedings makes the story feel packed-to-the-gills and epic, theyíre really only window-dressing for the very simple tale that Bendis has been telling since the beginning. Here, we finally see the artifice of Mattís double-life come crashing down around him, and whilst itís a crushing blow for a character who is inarguably a hero to millions in the Marvel Universe, thereís also the sneaking feeling that he had it coming, and that months and months of lies are finally coming back to bite him on the proverbial ass. Itís these murky shades of morality which have been such a highlight of Bendisí work on the series, and Iíll be sad to see him leave the book as the writer responsible for such strong character work, which makes Daredevilís universe come to life in a way that I havenít seen in the run of any other creator to have worked on the character.
Equally sorely missed will be the artwork of Alex Maleev. His grittily realistic work has a lot to accomplish this issue, with moments of high drama balanced with hyperbolic superhero action as well as a lot of plot points which have to be conveyed purely visually. He rises to the challenge admirably, proving that his improvement over the course of his run on the book has given him the skills to match the crescendo of storytelling which is Bendisí grand finale. His action sequences are surprisingly smooth and clear, his facial expressions and body language very telling (I loved the moment between Urich and Kingpin as much for the art as for the writing Ė even if Fisk is turning into the likeness of writer Bendis before our very eyes) and the colours by Dave Stewart are effortlessly fitting and evocative of the mood that the story is trying to create. Stewart has recently proved that heís a match for the wonderful work of previous colourist Matt Hollingsworth, and in doing so has probably surprised many readers of Daredevil, myself included.
This is truly the beginning of the end for Brian Michael Bendisí Daredevil Ė both literally and figuratively - and whilst it might not be quite the best-written or most exciting issue of his run on the title, itís a strangely uncharacteristically solid tying-up of the major plot points which have dominated the book since his opening #26. Not quite everything is resolved here, and by the end of the issue, our protagonist is left in possibly the direst situation heís faced since the story of his out-ing in the press began, but all of this bodes well for the storyís grand finale next month. Iíd be surprised if Bendis tries to restore the seriesí status quo within the space of his one remaining issue, and itíll be interesting to see whether Ed Brubakerís forthcoming run on the book can truly take Bendisí ball and run with it, but from what Iíve heard the crossover between writers has been as smoothly constructed and cohesively planned as possible, and as such, Iíll still be satisfied if Bendis does leave a few elements open-ended to give Brubaker something of a rolling start on the title.
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