Current Reviews


Daredevil #50

Posted: Friday, August 29, 2003
By: Jason Cornwell

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Alex Maleev, Gene Colan and Dave Gutierrez, Lee Weeks and Tom Palmer, Klaus Janson, John Romita Sr and Al Milgrom, Joe Quesada and Danny Miki, Mike Avon Oeming, and David Mack

Publisher: Marvel Comics

The book opens with a rather grisly tour of America, where we see the Kingpin has been busy sending a message that he's back in the saddle with a series of murders. However, when we join the Kingpin during a meeting with the surviving gang leaders, we see that in spite of his my way or the under the highway approach, there's at least one crime lord who isn't exactly eager to have things go back the way they were before, and he gives the Kingpin until Sunday to clear out of town before they send an assassin his way. After the Kingpin orders the rape & murder of the wife of the crime boss who dared to challenge him, we see the meeting is brought to an abrupt halt when Daredevil crashes the party. Somewhat surprised to see his longtime adversary is still active after he sent both Typhoid Mary & Bullseye to keep him occupied, the Kingpin is nevertheless prepared the throw it down with the Man Without Fear. However, unlike their previous encounters in which Matt was simply looking the bring the Kingpin to justice, this time out he's fighting mad, and it would appear that his raw anger is enough to give him a decided edge over the Kingpin, as the fight is a rather one-sided affair. We then see Daredevil takes the battered body of the Kingpin to a local bar where the criminals congregate, where he basically let's it be known there's a new sheriff in town.

Brian Michael Bendis has never been overly impressive when it comes to his action sequences as he does seem to prefer the most simple method of delivering a conflict, and the internal dialogue that he gives Daredevil during the fight doesn't really convey the intensity of the conflict. I mean the Kingpin is supposed to be an unstoppable force and the speed of his attacks has even surprised Spider-Man, a character who makes dodging bullets look easy. However the thoughts running through Daredevil's head during the fight are not how difficult this fight is, or how dangerous it is, but rather they convey almost an annoyance at having to fight this fight again, and reminding the readers that he's fought the Kingpin numerous times before and won time & time again is not the best way to build a sense of excitement during the current exchange. It also doesn't help that the battle has most of the Kingpin's attacks missing by a considerable margin, while every one of Daredevil's attacks look to stagger the Kingpin. Now there's are a couple moment during the battle where the Kingpin is allowed to look physically imposing, with his choke-hold being the highlight of the battle, but even this scene ends with a rather odd moment where we see Daredevil is able to break this crushing grip by using his legs to kick off of the Kingpin's chest.

The book does start off quite promising though as we see the Kingpin is busy cementing his position in the criminal community before his fight with Daredevil, and Brian Michael Bendis does a very impressive job of selling the utter ruthlessness that the Kingpin is willing to employ. I also enjoyed the idea that the other crime bosses aren't exactly a bunch of simpering fools who are willing to simply give up without at least one of them stepping forward to take issue with the Kingpin, and his demands for respect. There's also a nice, if somewhat after the fact acknowledgement that the selling of a drug that grants it's users temporary superpowers is not exactly a profitable cash cow, especially when a large segment of it's users are killed off during their first use of the drug. The early stages of the fight are also quite promising, as first it's nice to see that the Kingpin's considerable wealth was able to give him back his sight, as frankly I found the character's blindness was a bit much when it came to linking the Kingpin with Daredevil. Second I like the almost cocky attitude that the Kingpin takes when he freely accepts the credit for having sent Typhoid Mary & Bullseye after him, and his steadfast belief that these two fights are sure to have his hated rival running near empty. His little bit about his reaction to Matt's secret being exposed was also a nicely drawn out moment.

The art on this issue is a fun experiment, in which seven different creative teams that had worked on Daredevil in the past make a return to each deliver half-a-page panel of art during the big battle between the Kingpin & Daredevil. Now the varied styles on display make for a somewhat disjointed reading experience, but frankly is great to see Gene Colan & John Romita Sr. back working on the character even if it was only for a single image. However, most of the artists were given such similar image to convey that their combined efforts resulted in a rather flat battle. Now there's a nice sense of continuity between these panels as the background environment remain consistent, as do the outfits of the two combatants, but I do have to ask why no one told them that Alex Maleev had the Kingpin running around in a black shirt, and not his standard gray business suit. Now perhaps the battles delivered by the other artists are suppose to reflect previous battles, but the choke hold that the Kingpin has in the final panel carries over into Alex Maleev's work so the idea of this simply being a slide show of previous battles they've shared seems a bit much, especially since all these battles are set within the same crumbling warehouse. Still, if one is willing to look past this somewhat odd little detail, it's a fun trip down memory lane, and the parade of previous artists is something I'd like to see again on other titles.

Final Word:
The Kingpin is one of the more physically imposing villains in the Marvel Universe, which is actually quite a feat considering he possesses no superpowers. However, after opening with a very solid display of how utterly ruthless the Kingpin can be, the issue proceeds to offer up a battle between Daredevil & the Kingpin in which Daredevil's raw anger & frustration essentially renders the Kingpin an ineffective opponent. Now I realize that the point of this battle was to act as big finish to a story that has been running through these pages for the better part of a year, and there is something to be said about seeing Daredevil in such a royally pissed off mood, with his final speech to the gathered criminals being a fairly intriguing status quo shift. However, I truly feel that the Kingpin was taken far too lightly in this issue, as the fight largely consists of Daredevil pounding away on the Kingpin. There's no real sense of danger established as the issue is too focused on selling us on Daredevil's anger.

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