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Daredevil #40

Posted: Tuesday, January 7, 2003
By: Jason Cornwell



Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Terry Dodson (p), Rachel Dodson (i)

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Plot:
The book opens with the closing arguments being made in White Tiger's murder trial, and while the prosecution plays up the idea that the White Tiger is a vigilante who turned to crime, Matt makes mention of the lack of evidence, and prosecution's inability to prove his client fired any weapon, let alone the murder weapon. However when the jury heads off to make their decision we join Matt on the roof, where we see he's using his powers to listen in on their deliberations. When he begins to notice that the case is turning against his client, and that the jury is viewing this case as a means of sending a message to the costumed vigilantes of their city, we see Matt has to concede that his recent outing as Daredevil has left its taint on this case. We then join Matt in the courtroom, where a guilty verdict is handed down, and when his client manages to get his hands on one of the guard's guns, the situation begins to spin completely out of control. However, Matt notices that there's a young man in the courtroom who looks to have a vested interest in the outcome, and while the White Tiger is killed during a showdown with the police, Daredevil is able to get this young man to confess to the murder that the White Tiger was charged with.

Comments:
My main problem with how everything played out is that Brian Michael Bendis went for the most dramatic finish possible, as instead of simply having White Tiger found guilty, he had the man gunned down by the police, so that even a reversal of this conviction won't repair the damage that had been done. Now there's inherently nothing wrong with a writer going for the ending that would pack the most punch, but the White Tiger's actions seem poorly motivated, as the only reason he would grab the gun and try to leave the courthouse using the front steps is so that his death would be captured in all it's glory by the gathered media circus. Now I realize that Brian Michael Bendis had established that when the White Tiger was upset he didn't think straight, but when events seem to be actively directed toward a specific ending I find myself a bit disappointed that the writer wasn't able to do a better job of explaining why this path was chosen beyond the obvious answer that it would provide the most powerful finish to their story. Then again I will admit the death of the White Tiger is sure to get fans talking about this latest arc.

On the other hand before its explosive ending this issue is an absolutely wonderful read, as Brian Michael Bendis delivers a great moment where we see Matt is using his abilities to listen in on the jury's deliberations, and when he starts offering up the general tone of what is being said, one can't help but be unsettled by how skillfully this case had been twisted by the prosecution, so that is was no longer a question of whether the White Tiger did it or not, but what message did they want to send to the costumed vigilantes of their fair city. The material also does some nice work detailing Matt's reaction to the idea that his presence on this case is what allowed the case to move down that path, and as such the fears he expressed before he took on the case have become a reality. There's also the idea that Matt's need to see justice done is a central part of the character, and as such having his mere presence being used to pervert the system is sure to be a devastating blow, and the fact that the White Tiger was killed as an indirect result of his failure is sure to affect the character. I rather hope there's some major follow-up to this story, as the impact of this story is too strong to simply move on to the next arc.

While Terry & Rachel Dodson are one of my favorite art teams, and their guest-appearance on this issue came as a welcome surprise, I do have to wonder how this arc is going to look when it's collected in trade-paperback. Now truth be told since I buy the monthly title my concern for other readers isn't all that strong, but it does seem odd that the editorial department couldn't line up an artist who was a closer fit with Manuel Gutierrez fairly realistic style. With that said, the art on this issue is very impressive, as while there's no female cast members on hand that would allow them to show off their talent for cheesecake art, their ability to detail the story in a clear, visually exciting manner is all too apparent. From the body language of both lawyers as they make their closing statements, to the look of stunned disbelief on the faces of the accused & the crowd when the verdict is read, the art is very effective. The sequence of events that lead to the White Tiger's death are also quite impressive, with the panel of his final fate being an unforgettable display of violence. The late night visit that Daredevil makes with the young punk is also brimming with tension, as there is a specter of injustice in the air that leaves one guessing what exactly Daredevil will do.

Final Word:
A pretty powerful finish to the White Tiger murder trial, as Brian Michael Bendis offers up an ending that is sure to make a lasting impact on Matt. I have to say that it's nice to see a issue centered around a trial that manages to stray from the typical "impassioned final speech sets the innocent man free" ending that normally acts as the big finish to stories like this. The way this case ends also adds even more uncertainty to Matt's own case, as it's clear J. Jonah Jameson isn't the only person in the Marvel Universe who bears a strong resentment when it comes to costumed vigilantes. Now I did have some problems with the behavior of the White Tiger in the final pages of this issue, as his actions seem to be entirely driven toward getting himself killed, but there's no denying that his death does give the issue a far greater impact. The follow-up to this story should also be interesting, as I can't see Matt walking away from this case without feeling like he failed to save this man's life.



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