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Daredevil #48

Posted: Sunday, June 29, 2003
By: Jason Cornwell



Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Alex Maleev

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Plot:
The book opens with Matt Murdock on fire, as Typhoid Mary has used her pyrotechnic powers on him. While Matt struggles to put himself out, his bodyguard Jessica Jones works to keep Mary from finishing Matt off with her sword. While Jessica is able to keep Mary away, the crazed villain isn't exactly one to back down from a fight, and when Jessica is run down by a passing car, we see Matt may very well have to stop playing the role of a helpless blind lawyer, if he wants to stay alive. However, the arrival of Luke Cage keeps Mary occupied long enough for Jessica to get back in the fight, and the two take turns batting Mary back and forth, before allowing Matt to deliver the knockout punch. We then join Matt later that night, as we see him deep in meditation recovering from the superficial burns he took during the fight, but his efforts are interrupted by a visit from FBI Agent Driver, who has come to warn Matt that the Kingpin is back, and that the encounter with Typhoid Mary was his way of keeping Matt occupied while his solidified his position. As we leave Matt we see he is busy giving his new lady friend a warning that a relationship with him isn't conducive to a long & happy life, but Milla isn't quite ready to abandon ship. The issue then ends with a visit with the Kingpin, who is catching up with an old ally, and these two are busy making some ominous sounding plans.

Comments:
Typhoid Mary is a fairly interesting opponent when she's in a position of power, but there's something rather sad about the character when she finds herself being batted back and forth between Luke Cage & Jessica Jones, as I was reminded a bit of that mad dog in "To Kill a Mockingbird". I mean yes she's dangerous, and Brian Michael Bendis did a wonderful job of conveying her ability to hold her own in the previous issue, where he gave us an unforgettable example of how her madness is feed by her acts of violence. However, once Luke Cage makes his arrival, Mary shifts from dangerous to rather sad, and while one doesn't exactly pity the character, the material does a pretty solid job of establishing the idea that her madness is not an act that she puts on to scare her opponents. The book also does some nice work conveying the idea that both Luke & Jessica are uncomfortable dealing with Mary, and in spite of her being unable to do either of them any real harm, they seem recognize that she's simply an insane woman who has been riled up and sent after Matt. The fact that the Kingpin was using her merely as a distraction also nicely suggests his willingness to use people like puppets, as Mary had a pretty happy life going on before the Kingpin reentered it. By the end, Typhoid Mary is a rather tragic character, and I suspect this is exactly the mood that Brian Michael Bendis was looking to establish.

If there is one area of Brian Michael Bendis' work that I have to label as weaker than most writers it would have to be his battle scenes, and this book has managed to avoid this problem by introducing a plot device that actively discouraged Matt from becoming involved in pointless battles. Now I have to say I'm a bit surprised it took this long for a villain to make an attempt on Matt's life in a highly public setting. However, for the most part the action that occupies the opening nine pages of this issue holds up exceptionally well. In the early going Mary comes across as quite dangerous, and Jessica looks like she could be in for a rather serious fight, which is all I really ask a writer to deliver. The issue also does some strong work looking at the aftermath of this contest, as we learn yes the media did take notice of this rather public display, but to a certain extent Matt's poor showing during the fight does keep his secret under wraps, as nothing Matt did during the battle couldn't have been performed by a simple blind man. The visit from Agent Driver was interesting as well, as we see the agent seems to be fully convinced that Matt is Daredevil, and Matt doesn't exactly make much of an effort to tell this man he's wrong. In fact Matt's secret has become very much like the secret that everybody knows, but nobody wants to admit to knowing.

Alex Maleev's work isn't exactly geared toward delivering action that is visually engaging. However, he does a perfectly decent job of staging the battle is a clear, easy to follow format, as one action nicely leads into the next, and the basic ideas of the fight are well presented. The characters look frightened in the early part of the fight, and when Luke Cage arrives, than Mary's madness takes center stage, as one can't help but want to see this battle over with once it becomes clear that Mary is not going to stop until she's taken down. I also like the little details, like Jessica really unloading on Mary with her first punch, but when the villain is bounced back her way a second time we see her heart's no longer in it. The aftermath of the fight is also somewhat amusing, as Matt has an almost clownish appearance with his rosy cheeks & hair style that looks like he cut it himself with a pair of dull scissors. There's also a nice sense of calm conveyed on the one page shot of Matt in meditation, and the scene where Foggy makes his arrival in the doorway was a nice little scene as we can see how Agent Driver's demeanor becomes less confrontational when he takes notice of a witness. I also love the "I'm not sure I want to answer that question" expression that Foggy makes as he leaves Matt's apartment. The last page is also a wonderful closing visual.

Final Word:
The book opens with a pretty enjoyable tussle with Typhoid Mary in which the character's madness is on full display, and by the end the character does come across as a bit of a victim, instead of a ruthless killing machine. It's always nice when a writer seems to recognize that villains have to bring more to the table the simple mustache twirling villainy, and while she's still very dangerous, and it's probably for the best that she be locked away, the idea that she was living a perfectly happy life before the Kingpin paid her a visit does add a nice element of tragedy to the character. As for the rest of the book, I have to say the more I see of this Agent Driver the more I'm liking the character, as he's a refreshing change from the typical "by the book" agent we normally see. In fact one almost gets the sense that he not only knows how the game is played, but he's perfectly willing to venture outside the lines to get what he wants. We also get a nice "Lethal Weapon" homage in this issue as well as Matt shows off his various battle scars to a curious Milla.



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