Editor's Note: Daredevil #110 arrives in stores tomorrow, August 27.
"Cruel & Unusual: Conclusion"
Daredevil is the book that I constantly point to as an example of how superhero comics can be done well, mixing many of the standard conventions of the genre with complex plotting, satisfying action scenes, and a noir vibe that's not a million miles away from what Brubaker is doing in the pages of Criminal at the moment. Recent issues have seen Ed Brubaker joined by Greg Rucka, and whilst it's impossible to spot the point at which one writer's contribution ends and the other begins, the result has been one of the strongest story arcs for the book in some time. Considering Daredevil's pedigree over recent years, that's quite a compliment.
The "Cruel & Unusual" arc has weaved a compelling central mystery (Ben Donovan's confession to a grotesque crime that he didn't commit), to which a strong espionage-related subplot has been introduced (with the machinations of Dakota North's ex-CIA father playing a key role in this conclusion), with elements of police procedural drama and crime fiction deftly integrated (including a neat sequence this issue that makes inventive use of Matt's enhanced senses), and several characters united via the theme of redemption and second chances. In fact, it's this character development that has been the most satisfying element of the last few issues, with even the more minor characters such as Dakota North's father and Ben Donovan getting a chance to reveal added layers of depth under Brubaker and Rucka's direction. Daredevil's supporting cast has always been a very important an element of the book, and it's nice to see them given so much attention here.
This issue and this arc in general have also been particularly satisfying for the manner in which the writers have had other characters acknowledge Matt's self-centred, masochistic nature and encourage him to snap out of it - sometimes in no uncertain terms. Becky Blake and Dakota North have both drawn Matt's attention to the fact that his self-pitying, wallowing navel-gazing has become counter-productive, and it's rewarding to see him overcome this character trait with the minor triumph that we see at the end of this issue, restoring a sense of positivity to the book that has been occasionally lacking over the past few years. If co-writer Greg Rucka is the reason for this slight shift in tone, I'll be sorry to see him leave the book next issue.
Michael Lark and Stefano Gaudiano continue to provide visuals that fit the tone of the book perfectly, and rise to every challenge that their writers create for them. Whether called upon to provide gritty street-level fight sequences, big action moments, or a complex dual narrative such as the one that opens the issue (with the panels flitting between Dakota North's worsening injuries and Daredevil's fight with a group of heavily armed attackers), they accomplish each task admirably. The storytelling is crystal-clear, the visuals are varied enough that they remain interesting (with a mixture of close-ups, establishing shots and more unusual angles and perspectives), and the pages are paced perfectly on a panel-to-panel basis. Matt Hollingsworth's colours are the icing on the cake, utilising some slightly more vivid hues than usual, without ever sacrificing the realistic atmosphere of the world that the art team has created.
I don't review Daredevil as often as I used to, but I haven't missed an issue since I first started the book with Bendis' run many years ago, and I can't think of a book that has maintained such a consistently high quality of storytelling over such an extended period. This is the most mature, unpatronising superhero title that Marvel publishes, and with Gaudiano, Lark and Hollingsworth on art duties, it's one of the best-looking, too. Movie critics have recently lauded Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight for its adult approach to the genre, its realistic tone, its complex take on crime and how it affects society, and the difficult moral dilemmas that it addresses; someone should let them know that Bendis and Brubaker's Daredevil has been doing it for years.
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