Comic Review: Daredevil: Return of the King

Published: November 6th, 2014
Written by: Ed Brubaker
Art by: Michael Lark, David Aja, Marko Djurdevic (cover)

Marvel Comics, 142 Pages

Review:

Daredevil: Return of the King was a fitting end to the Ed Brubaker run on the series, as well as what was the Marvel Knights run, which saw the comics released under that banner come with more grit, more realism and more adult storylines and themes.

With this story arc, Daredevil returns to the classic “Legacy” numbering, as it ends at issue 500 and then another creative team takes the series over following that impressive milestone.

This kicks off by bringing The Kingpin back into the story. He’s been gone awhile but the way he’s brought back is fucking dark but really cool. This event also changes him and he decides to work with Daredevil in an effort to finally take down The Hand and a very deadly threat to them both: Lady Bullseye.

This also wraps up some of the core storylines that started during the Brian Michael Bendis era and then rolled over into Brubaker’s. By the end of this, the series sort of has a clean slate to go forward in a new way for the next creative team.

For those who read my earlier reviews in this series, you know that I initially liked Bendis’ run but then it felt aimless and sort of got annoying. Brubaker stepped in and really cleaned up Bendis’ mess in a way that worked and sort of reset the series.

This story arc is a culmination of everything that came before it and it’s also an all out war. Honestly, once you get to the end, it feels like you need to let out a very big breath because we’ve reached a definitive conclusion to over 100-plus issues of pretty intense events.

Frankly, this was a prefect ending to a hell of a run. Granted, Daredevil keeps moving forward beyond this but had the series ended, I would’ve been more than satisfied. What a great arc with real meaning and purpose.

Rating: 10/10

Comic Review: Daredevil: Lady Bullseye

Published: November 6th, 2014
Written by: Ed Brubaker
Art by: Michael Lark, Clay Mann, Marko Djurdjevic (cover)

Marvel Comics, 122 Pages

Review:

I remember when I first heard about the Lady Bullseye character, I thought, “Oh, yay… another gender swapped version of a beloved classic character.”

Having read this now, I’m happy to say that the character isn’t simply a gender swapped Bullseye but instead, a complex, well written character with a pretty interesting origin that shows how she was inspired by Bullseye and how that put her on a very different path in life.

I probably shouldn’t have doubted Ed Brubaker, though, as his writing is generally superb and there’s very little he’s done that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy.

So this story has a lot going on in it relating to Daredevil’s personal life, as well as this new villain really shaking things up and bringing The Hand back into the picture.

Daredevil’s personal life has been a clusterfuck of retardation ever since Brian Michael Bendis wrote the series. Ed Brubaker has tried to clean it up as carefully as possible, though. Here, it feels like he’s finally washed away all the bullshit with the blind wife and whether or not people know the character’s real identity. And frankly, as a long-time Daredevil reader, I couldn’t give a fuck about those storylines anymore.

The stakes in this story are really high and there are some pretty messed up things that happen and I don’t want to get too much into spoiler territory but the lives of some characters are forever altered.

Overall, this brings the same level of quality that the rest of Brubaker’s Daredevil run has given us, up to this point. I think this is the second-to-last chapter in Brubaker’s run and that leaves me pretty gleeful for the next volume.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Daredevil comics from his Marvel Knights run.

Comic Review: Daredevil: Cruel and Unusual

Published: October 30th, 2014
Written by: Ed Brubaker, Greg Rucka
Art by: Michael Lark, Mike Perkins, Marko Djurdjevic (cover)

Marvel Comics, 131 Pages

Review:

So far, this is my least favorite story arc that Ed Brubaker has written during his Daredevil run. It’s still a good story but it’s mostly about court drama and trying to uncover a mysterious plot that sees an innocent man, who is actually a real monster, confessing to murders he didn’t commit.

I think this is a good break from the intensity of the series since Brubaker started, which saw Daredevil in prison fighting for his life, his final show down with Kingpin’s wife and then the irreparable damage that Mr. Fear did to his personal life.

This is kind of slow but it’s still interesting and there are real stakes here, as Dakota North gets severely fucked up at the hands of those behind this mysterious ruse.

Also, the mystery itself was pretty unpredictable and interesting.

Still, this felt like a halftime break between the two halves of Brubaker’s run.

That being said, I really look forward to what he has left and how he ends his run.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Daredevil comics from his Marvel Knights run.

Comic Review: Daredevil: Hell to Pay, Vol. 1 & 2

Published: October 16th, 2014; October 23rd, 2014
Written by: Ed Brubaker, Andy Park
Art by: Michael Lark, Lee Weeks, Leandro Fernandez, Marko Djurdjevic (covers)

Marvel Comics, 307 Pages

Review:

This is the second big story arc in Ed Brubaker’s Daredevil run and I reviewed these two volumes together because I thought it’d be better to look at the whole arc than just two separate halves.

Man, I liked this a hell of a lot and Brubaker just hits the right notes after Brian Michael Bendis’ run left a fairly sour taste in my mouth.

This story also sees the reemergence of two old Daredevil villains that hadn’t been seen in awhile: Ox and Mr. Fear.

That being said, Ox is still as dumb as an ox but it’s cool seeing him return to be Mr. Fear’s muscle.

In regard to Mr. Fear, he’s never been better. The character had been dismissed by fans for years as Marvel’s cheap ripoff of DC Comics’ Scarecrow. However, he shines in this story and rises to become one of Daredevil’s most formidable, powerful and scariest foes.

In fact, the twist of Mr. Fear being the thing behind several characters’ odd, violent behavior was really well done. Although, I had read this arc years ago and knew it featured Mr. Fear, I still thought the big reveal was damn effective and Fear found a way to break Daredevil down in a way that no other villain has.

Hell to Pay is a great story. Brubaker’s narrative style mixed with Michael Lark’s art makes this, hands down, one of the greatest eras in the Daredevil comic series.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: the other Daredevil comics from his Marvel Knights run.

Comic Review: Daredevil by Ed Brubaker & Michael Lark – Ultimate Collection, Book 1

Published: June 4th, 2020
Written by: Ed Brubaker
Art by: David Aja, Michael Lark, Tommy Lee Edwards (cover)

Marvel Comics, 304 Pages

Review:

After Brian Michael Bendis’ run on Daredevil ended in a weird spot because the guy just doesn’t know how to finish, we were treated to Ed Brubaker’s solid stint on the title.

Brubaker had his work cut out for him, considering where the character of Daredevil was when this started and because Bendis literally spent about fifty issues going back and forth on whether or not the public knew Matt Murdock was Daredevil and still didn’t give that extremely drawn out, tiresome and annoying plot a definitive end.

So Brubaker still has that bullshit to try and resolve while also having to figure out what to do with the title character being locked up in prison. Oh, and there’s the whole thing about Daredevil’s flash in the pan ex-wife that Bendis had to clunkily wedge into the mythos with romantic cringe that made me question the writer’s manhood.

Anyway, Brubaker doesn’t waste any time trying to make magic out of Bendis’ J. J. Abrams style ending.

So we start with Murdock in jail and with that, we see him have to survive while being locked up with a lot of the criminals he put there, including The Kingpin, The Owl, Bullseye, Hammerhead, Gladiator and a slew of others. We also see The Punisher get himself arrested, so that he can also go to jail in an effort to help Murdock survive in there.

On the outside, we have someone else posing as Daredevil, while Foggy Nelson and Dakota North work to get Matt out of prison. Pretty early on in the story, Foggy is murdered while visiting Matt in jail. This sets Matt off on a revenge quest within the prison walls and with that, we get one of my all-time favorite Daredevil story arcs.

Following the prison story, we see Matt go to Europe, as there are more layers to the mystery surrounding Foggy’s death. This second half of the story is pretty fucking great too and the ending wasn’t anything I expected. It also satisfied, unlike the end of Bendis’ tenure on the book.

Beyond the story, the art in this is superb. Brubaker worked with Michael Lark, who is an artist that he actually works with fairly regularly. In this series, Lark really captured the already established tone and vibe of the Marvel Knights era of the Daredevil series. Lark was probably the perfect guy to pick up this ball and run with it, as he’s done a lot of the more gritty noir-esque comics that Brubaker has written over the years.

If you are a fan of Daredevil and haven’t read this story, you probably should. It’s one of my favorites of all-time and this Ultimate Collection joined both halves together in one volume. Although, you can also find the two stories as two separate trade paperbacks under the title The Devil, Inside and Out (Vol. 1 and 2).

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Daredevil comics from his Marvel Knights run.

Comic Review: Daredevil by Bendis and Maleev – Ultimate Collection, Book 3

Published: October 17th, 2013
Written by: Brian Michael Bendis
Art by: Alex Maleev

Marvel Comics, 450 Pages

Review:

This is the final installment of the Ultimate Collection releases of Brian Michael Bendis’ run on Daredevil. Each of these three beefy collections forms a pretty solid trilogy that actually exceeded my expectations and reminded me of how good Bendis was when he cared, which he hasn’t for a very long time.

This is my least favorite of the three volumes and that’s mainly because it felt like it lost some steam. And it didn’t give us any sort of closure to some of Bendis’ more batty experiments with the character.

The first half of this book is made up of two different stories that are self-contained and don’t really move forward the larger arc that Bendis had been working on for a few years by this point. The second half of this book then picks up those more important major plot threads but then doesn’t do much with them and leaves things even more unresolved by the end.

In fact, this has a time jump at the end that kind of just further fucked up Daredevil’s life and didn’t resolve anything that Bendis brought into the character’s story. It was some weak ass J. J. Abrams shit that tainted the entire run and not just this final book.

That’s not to say there wasn’t good stuff in this, there was. But had I been reading this run in real time, watching Daredevil struggle with the world possibly knowing his identity and seeing that dragged on for fucking years, I would’ve quit reading this.

That whole plot about people finding out Matt Murdock is Daredevil and then just seeing that life altering reveal kicked around like a goddamned hacky sack was enraging as hell. You, as the reader, were never sure what anyone actually thought about the reveal, as Bendis couldn’t commit to the story and deal with it in any sort of clear way. It was lazy and fucking dumb. It lacked finality, stakes and real consequences. Honestly, by the end, it didn’t really matter and the book was then handed off to another creative team to either resolve the issue or ignore it.

One thing that was noticeably better this time around was Alex Maleev’s art. Yes, I liked it previously but in my review of the last book in this series, I pointed out some of the issues I had with it. In this volume, those problems seemed to be fixed or a lot less apparent.

Overall, there’s a whole hell of a lot that I liked about Bendis’ Daredevil run but his finale left me annoyed and scratching my head like everything J. J. Abrams has ever started and not truly finished.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: the other Daredevil comics from his Marvel Knights run.

Comic Review: Daredevil by Bendis and Maleev – Ultimate Collection, Book 2

Published: September 15th, 2010
Written by: Brian Michael Bendis
Art by: Alex Maleev

Marvel Comics, 461 Pages

Review:

This long stretch of Daredevil issues should’ve actually been better than the ones in the first volume, as shit got real dark, things were more action packed and this went to places I didn’t expect.

The reason why I can’t rate it as high as the previous one is because of the awful romantic subplot that actually sees Daredevil get married for a short time.

I hated this plot, the new love interest and thought that it detracted from a much better story about the shifting power in the New York City criminal structure and Daredevil dealing with that while also trying to work around the public knowing his identity.

The romance plot was just too much added into an already very layered and rich story. Plus, that stuff was poorly written and I don’t want to be that guy but I don’t think that Brian Michael Bendis understands romantic interaction above a college aged level.

That being said, Bendis’ writing is great outside of the romantic shit.

Also, I love Alex Maleev’s style and tone in regards to Bendis’ story. They come together rather nicely, even if it appears as if Maleev is tracing some characters and doing digital tricks. This was originally made at the turn of the millennium and artists were experimenting with a lot of new technology at the time. Frankly, I know he used Photoshop filters because I recognize them. Still, the end result works and I’m just a traditionalist that likes things done the old school way. This is why I also don’t like Pixar movies or that style of animation.

Out of all the different story arcs collected here, I think I like the one that features The Owl the best. I liked seeing him truly unhinged and trying to wedge himself into The Kingpin’s spot as crime boss. After that, I really loved the section with Typhoid Mary, as she’s one of my favorite Daredevil villains and doesn’t get enough love, in my opinion. She also looked great in this run, even if I still prefer her original look, as drawn by John Romita Jr. back in the late ’80s.

I love the hell out of Bendis’ run on this series and it truly rivals the great runs by Frank Miller and Ann Nocenti, who still takes the cake for me.

Remove the romantic, juvenile love shit in this story and this would’ve been a perfect Daredevil collection.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: the other Daredevil comics from his Marvel Knights run.

Comic Review: Daredevil by Bendis and Maleev – Ultimate Collection, Book 1

Published: June 23rd, 2010
Written by: Brian Michael Bendis
Art by: Alex Maleev

Marvel Comics, 411 Pages

Review:

Following the Guardian Devil and Parts of a Hole storylines, Brian Michael Bendis began his Daredevil run. While I had read much of this twenty or so years ago, I had forgotten just how good it was and that Bendis was once an exceptional comic book writer when he still obviously had the passion burning inside of himself.

This big collection of multiple story arcs didn’t have any weak parts to it.

The first story dealt with a young kid going through some serious trauma after witnessing a fight between his father and Daredevil, which left his father dead. While Daredevil was a minor character in his own story, something I tend to hate, I excused it here, as the four issue arc was so solid and brought a lot of emotion into the series to kickoff Bendis’ run. Plus, it featured Ben Urich as the main character and I’ve always loved that guy.

Following that, we get a few arcs that are really connected as one larger narrative. We see the Kingpin get taken out by a new guy in his organization’s ranks. This new guy tries to take Kingpin’s spot but ultimately pays a price for it courtesy of Vanessa Fisk, Kingpin’s wife, who has been absent for years.

Additionally, this wannabe Kingpin discovers Daredevil’s identity and with that, the world soon finds out. Matt Murdock with several of his allies has to try and fix this problem, convincing the world, somehow, that Murdock is not the masked vigilante.

All in all, this beefy volume is packed full of absolute greatness. Add in Alex Maleev’s incredible art and you’ve got one of the best Daredevil collections ever printed: a near perfect masterpiece.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Daredevil comics from his Marvel Knights run.

Comic Review: Daredevil: Parts of a Hole

Published: June 25th, 2015
Written by: David Mack
Art by: Joe Quesada, David Mack (covers)

Marvel Comics, 161 Pages

Review:

This is the story that directly follows the Kevin Smith penned Guardian Devil arc. Even though I’m a massive Daredevil fan, I had never read this.

This also features the debut of Echo, who starts out as a villain hellbent on making Daredevil pay for the death of her father but ultimately learns that she has been duped by The Kingpin. All the while, her regular identity falls in love with Daredevil’s, creating romantic tension and an interesting dynamic between the characters.

However, Echo’s origin feels like it’s ripped from the origin of Typhoid Mary, a more interesting and better character that’s made a much larger impact to the overall Daredevil mythos.

Still, this was a pretty enjoyable story and Echo was original enough as a character to not feel like a complete rehash of Typhoid Mary.

I liked this better than Kevin Smith’s highly beloved Guardian Devil story. In fact, I find Smith’s story to be really overrated but I reviewed it already.

I mostly liked the art in this, which was primarily done by Joe Quesada. My only real complaint with it was the writing, as this comic story was wordy as fuck. There was just too much text and it took twice as long than normal to read this thing.

Still, it felt like it built off of Guardian Devil well, improved upon its foundation and helped drive Daredevil forward in its new and exciting Marvel Knights R-rated era.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: the Guardian Devil  storyline, as well as the Brian Michael Bendis run that follows.

Comic Review: Marvel Knights 20th

Published: November 7th, 2018 – January 30th, 2019
Written by: Donny Cates, Tini Howard, Vita Ayala, Matt Rosenberg
Art by: various

Marvel Comics, 161 Pages

Review:

When the Marvel Knights line of comics were going strong, I wasn’t paying much attention. I was aware of them but it was the late ’90s and I wasn’t reading comic books as regularly, as I was entering my twenties and didn’t do much other than party hard and sleep little.

I have since gone back and read some of the stories from that alternate Marvel universe and I’ve liked a lot of them. So when I saw that this was coming out to commemorate the 20th anniversary, I had to check it out. Plus, one of the writers is Donny Cates, whose recent work I’ve loved and it heavily features Daredevil.

The premise was kind of cool and I did enjoy this overall. Although, it was problematic in regards to its pacing. This is due to there being too many writers chiming in over the six issues. Cates looked to be credited as the top writer for each chapter but he had different collaborators with each new installment of this miniseries.

The narrative flow was a bit off, as it took too long to get the action going. Once we get to where this needed to wrap up, it felt rushed and the twist finale seemed strange, out of place and too convenient.

There’s a MacGuffin device and all they have to do in the end is hit a button and fix everything. I love Cates but that’s just lazy, outdated 1960s comic book writing. It’s like a random wizard showing up at the end and casting a “fix it” spell, making everything that happened pretty pointless.

I was still glad that I read through this miniseries, as it featured a lot of characters I love. I can’t call it underwhelming but I did have expectations that I don’t feel were met.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: old school Marvel Knights stuff and other recent works by Donny Cates.