Sunday, 8 January 2017

Daredevil: End of Days Review (Brian Michael Bendis, David Mack)

This is the last Daredevil story. Daredevil/Matt Murdock is beaten to death on the streets of Hell’s Kitchen by a crazed Bullseye. With his dying breath, Matt whispers a single word: Mapone. Daily Bugle veteran reporter Ben Urich sets out to uncover Daredevil’s desperate final days and reveal the mystery behind Mapone. Matt Murdock is dead. Long live… Daredevil?

I was not prepared for this. I see Brian Michael Bendis’ name on the cover and I expect mediocrity more often than not. I guess co-writing with David Mack really upped his game because End of Days is the best Daredevil book I’ve ever read! 

Is it a Daredevil comic though? He’s definitely not the protagonist and only appears sporadically throughout, as do his various rogues and acquaintances. It’s pretty fucking ballsy to market this as a Daredevil book and then kill him in the opening scene but that unexpected choice only makes the narrative more interesting and turns out to work perfectly. From there Bendis and Mack take you on a roller coaster ride – just when the story structure starts to feel repetitive with Ben Urich interviewing one person after another, The Punisher is introduced, and then… well, you’ll see. It’s unpredictable and thoroughly exciting storytelling. 

Ben is easily as compelling a lead character as Daredevil though, if not more so, because he’s an ordinary man going into this dangerous world of supervillains and his vulnerability makes the story more tense. Also, like a lot of writers, he has a rich inner life so his inner monologues are great to read. 

Bendis/Mack fully embrace DC’s 1980s spirit, channelling the doomed, unsettling tones of Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns into their story. That was an inspired decision because Daredevil is a Batman-esque figure with a haunted past and tragedy-plagued life so it fits. Klaus Janson’s murky, scratchy art style is especially suited for this kind of tale as he also worked on the art of The Dark Knight Returns. The art team on this book is insanely first class. Janson draws most of it with amazing inserts by David Mack, Alex Maleev and Bill Sienkiewicz, all of whom add to the noir/operatic flavour of this death-drenched story.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been this engrossed in a Marvel comic. I picked up End of Days expecting to read a chapter or two before doing other things but inhaled most of this book in one sitting and would’ve finished if real world obligations hadn’t gotten in the way - it’s that gripping! 

Plainly stated: Daredevil: End of Days is a masterpiece. The creative team were clearly totally in sync with each other and took a brilliant concept and crafted a truly remarkable story out of it. Just outstanding – I’d recommend this to any comics fans, whether or not you like superhero books, and for Marvel/Daredevil fans this is a must-read. This style gets overused a lot, particularly by DC, and I like that Marvel doesn’t take itself too seriously most of the time and wouldn’t want their line to reflect this approach, but if you want to see how good grim and gritty superhero stories can be when done well, check out Daredevil: End of Days.

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