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: Gotham Central – Book One: In the Line of Duty

Published: March 15th, 2011
Written by: Ed Brubaker, Greg Rucka
Art by: Michael Lark

DC Comics, 241 Pages

Review:

Gotham Central is a comic book series that I have heard nothing but praise for since it started back in 2002. I never read it but I have now read a lot of Ed Brubaker’s crime comics, as well as Greg Rucka’s Stumptown, which has a similar tone and style.

Since I am a fan of both writers’ crime stuff, as well as a Batman fan, I figured that giving this a read was long overdue.

What’s cool about Gotham Central is that it primarily focuses on the police officers on the Gotham City Police Department with very little involvement from Batman. Hell, this first collection doesn’t even feature Commissioner Gordon. I’m not sure if he comes back to the fold by the end of this series but so far, no Gordon in the GCPD.

While Brubaker and Rucka get this series started with a bang, Brubaker stepped away after the first arc, giving Rucka control of the series’ narrative.

There are two big tales in this. The first being about the GCPD trying to take down Mr. Freeze without the aid of Batman, the second being about Renee Montoya’s being forced out of the closet and into a murder frame up plot by Two-Face.

I actually didn’t realize that this was the series where Montoya was first depicted as a lesbian. I actually thought it was before this but having never read that story, it was handled pretty well and I liked the way it played out, why she was outed to her colleagues and family and then how it all came to a head in a surprising and twisted way.

This was pretty good top to bottom. I don’t know if I’m as enthused about it as many others were but I at least want to read the second volume to see how this series plays out over a larger sample size.

While it deals with some heavy shit for a standard DC comic book, I wouldn’t say that it gets as dark and messed up as Brubaker’s other crime stories. I’d say this is actually closer in tone to Rucka’s Stumptown series.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: the other three books in the Gotham Central series, as well as Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka’s own crime comics.

Comic Review: Scene of the Crime

Published: 1999
Written by: Ed Brubaker
Art by: Michael Lark, Sean Phillips

Vertigo Comics, Image Comics (reprint), 132 Pages

Review:

I’ve been catching up on a lot of Ed Burbaker’s crime comics because I missed a lot of the old ones and because it is the month of Noirvember.

Scene of the Crime was the comic that put him on the map. It led to him working on Gotham Central and also paved the way for his future crime comics like Criminal, Kill Or Be Killed, The Fade Out and Fatale, just to name a few.

This one was highly regarded at the time that it came out and while it is pretty good, it isn’t my favorite of the Brubaker lot.

I can see how he developed his style here and it is a good, solid and competent story but it didn’t capture my attention like The Fade Out or Kill Or Be Killed did.

At its core, this is a noir tale set in contemporary times that sees a young private detective try to locate a girl that’s gone missing. However, he finds her fairly quickly, she’s then killed and we’re then treated to a pretty grandiose mystery story with lots of layers and twists.

This is a really dark tale but fans of Brubaker’s crime work shouldn’t expect anything different. I can’t go into more detail without feeling like I’d spoil too much but this is a pretty decent read with solid art by Brubaker’s top collaborators Michael Lark and Sean Phillips.

Despite this not being my favorite, it is still a good comic miniseries and a solid tale in the crime and noir genres.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: Ed Brubaker’s other crime comics.

Comic Review: Captain America: Winter Soldier, Vol. 2

Published: October 11th, 2006
Written by: Ed Brubaker
Art by: Steve Epting, Michael Lark, Mike Perkins

Marvel Comics, 136 Pages

Review:

This was a pretty good second half to the original Winter Soldier story. I liked the first half a bit more though. But I think that’s because reading this lacked tension, as I knew that Winter Soldier was actually Bucky and that he’d come around and start to see the light.

That lack of tension is my fault for taking so long to read this story. It’s certainly not Brubaker’s fault and I’m sure this was tense as hell for those that read it for the first time in 2006 without any knowledge of the Winter Soldier character.

I like that Brubaker does spend a good amount of time flashbacking to World War II and the Invaders era. The context was nice and the parallels between Cap and Bucky’s lives then and now was well done.

This story also adds in Falcon and Iron Man, which obviously influenced the MCU films that saw these two characters chime in on Cap’s relationship with Winter Soldier.

Like the previous volume, the art was really good and Brubaker truly benefits from having solid artists on his Captain America books, as they definitely enhance the atmosphere and tone of the plot in the right way.

For Cap fans who haven’t read the Brubaker run, you’re doing yourselves a disservice. Hell, for fans of just the movies, this is definitely worth checking out just to understand the depth of these characters’ bond.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: the rest of Ed Brubaker’s Captain America run.

Comic Review: Captain America: Winter Soldier, Vol. 1

Published: March 1st, 2006
Written by: Ed Brubaker
Art by: Steve Epting, Michael Lark, J.P. Leon

Marvel Comics, 167 Pages

Review:

At the start of Ed Brubaker’s historic Captain America run, I wasn’t paying attention to comics. I found my way back to them around the time that Cap died, a few years into Brubaker’s tenure. So I never got to read the original Winter Soldier story.

I’ve got to say, this pretty much lives up to the hype. However, I’m only speaking as someone that’s read the first part, as the story covers two volumes.

So I don’t know how this will conclude or where it will go in the immediate future but this was a damn fine setup.

This may be the best and the most human Steve Rogers has ever been written. This explores the layers to his character and it does a fantastic job of giving the reader the right context without just relying on them to know Cap’s backstory. Additionally, it also doesn’t just dwell on the past and act as a lengthy modernized recap of those events.

I also love the art. And honestly, it’s the evolution of comic book art that really brought me back to the medium. And one of the books that lured me in was Captain America.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: the rest of Ed Brubaker’s Captain America run.