"Hardcore" (part 1 of 5)
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Alex Maleev
Publisher: Marvel Comics
The final remnants of the Kingpin's empire are gone, but recent Wilson Fisk sightings confirm that the Kingpin is back. Meanwhile, Matt Murdock tries to reconcile his relationship with new girlfriend Milla Donovan when he runs into an old adversary.
Meet the new Kingpin, just like the old Kingpin. Well, not entirely. Kingpin has been reduced to a one-man organization. His money is gone, his only son is dead and his wife has disappeared. Interestingly, we see Kingpin has regained his former strength and his sight has returned. What his impending plans and motivations might be is unclear, however. Is Kingpin seeking vengeance against Daredevil and those responsible for crumbling his regime? Kingpin apparently killed tabloid publisher Uri Rosenthal, who was suing Matt Murdock, which only confuses the point. I just hope is that writer Brian Bendis isn't rehashing the Kingpin-takes-down-Daredevil storyline for the umpteenth time.
Because I'm still working my way through the second volume of the Frank Miller Daredevil era I don't know squat about Typhoid Mary, the bad-girl reprised in this issue. Bendis' re-introduction is intriguing. Mary is currently making a living as an actress in a daytime soap opera. She's somehow suppressed the darker half of her personality. Wilson Fisk tracks Mary down and employs a bit of negative reinforcement to force her evil side back to dominance. What sets Kingpin apart from most contemporary villains is that he prefers subordinates and mercenaries to conduct his street-level operations; it appears Mary is capable of significant mayhem and is therefore a solid choice.
This month artist Alex Maleev plays to his strengths. This issue is driven by dialog between the principle characters: Matt/Foggy/Milla/Kingpin. Maleev is super-successful at this level of interaction. Almost all of the physical action and violence is kept off-camera, befitting the noir atmosphere. I've commented in past reviews that Maleev is a very good technical storyteller, here is a great example: Kingpin locates a former associate who had gone into hiding. All of the camera angles are presented from the opposite character's point-of-view. Kingpin is seen from below, which gives him a towering, ominous presence; as though the reader is seeing the Kingpin through the victim's eyes. Kingpin's former ally is seen from above, which makes him look small and vulnerable. The entire scene plays out very dramatically and expresses why Alex Maleev is such a great choice for the Daredevil comic.
While there remain a number of dangling plots from past storylines, this is still a great jumping-on point for new readers. Bendis does an effective job of re-establishing the malevolence of the Kingpin and his manipulative ways. There is some excellent character development in the Milla and Matt relationship; Bendis does a great job of addressing why anyone would want to date a costumed vigilante. Maleev's art is very, very strong this issue; each character is wonderfully articulated with clear, readable emotions. This is another great beginning to a Daredevil story arc.
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