Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Daredevil, Volume 5: Out Review (Brian Michael Bendis, Alex Maleev)

Matt Murdock is outed as Daredevil – but will he admit to the world that he really is the Man Without Fear or fight it?

After being blown away recently by Daredevil: End of Days I wanted to read more of Brian Michael Bendis’ Daredevil run, hoping they’d be as good – and, going by this book, they certainly seem to be! Out is easily one of the best Daredevil books I’ve read.

I tend to be critical of Bendis’ characters’ chattiness in books like Avengers, X-Men (All-New and Uncanny) and Guardians of the Galaxy, mostly as little of substance gets discussed let alone pushes any semblance of a story forwards. Out is similar in that the story is relatively thin – in 9 issues Matt reacts to the news that suddenly everyone knows his secret identity and takes on the case of the wrongfully accused White Tiger – and there is a ton of talking; but it didn’t bother me this time. The dialogue is of such high quality, so damn sharp, so convincing and so lively, it doesn’t matter that the story is glacially paced.

Jonah’s outburst at The Daily Bugle being scooped by The Daily Globe on Matt’s reveal was brilliant but I was really impressed with how Bendis wrote Matt. He’s a writer who can out-dialogue just about anyone but his Matt Murdock is thoughtful, reserved and chooses his words carefully and, when he speaks, the words resonate on the page like Daredevil’s radar senses. I got a better understanding of his character here than in any other Daredevil book.

There are fun cameos from various Marvel characters like Black Widow, Luke Cage and Iron Fist (Matt’s dry back and forths with Luke were a highlight), and Spider-Man but the scene with Elektra was by far the best. She and Matt have a past and when he says to her, “I still wish we never left that room”, man, you feel his heartache so powerfully in that moment - there’s an emotional depth there you rarely see in superhero comics. Even the opening scene between some no-name federal agents was engrossing, that’s how on-point Bendis is with every character.

I’m not a huge fan of courtroom dramas but I really enjoyed the White Tiger’s trial, again because of the dialogue which sweeps you up effortlessly. Matt and the prosecutor go toe-to-toe, the beats are fast and thrilling, and the whole story is superbly paced with a very dramatic finale. The balance between Matt Murdock the lawyer and Matt Murdock the masked vigilante is perfect in this book with just enough space given over to both.

Out also has some of Alex Maleev’s best artwork. He brilliantly captures Bendis’ words with the characters’ expressions and the night-time scenes with Daredevil running across rooftops in the pouring rain were absolutely stunning.

Daredevil, Volume 5: Out is a remarkable and solid book with layers of complex characterisation and some of the best dialogue you’ll read anywhere. If the conversation wasn’t so first class I’d be annoyed with the slow-moving plot, but Bendis completely won me over and, honestly, I enjoyed this one too much to care. I can’t fault it even a bit - well done, sirs!

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