“The King Of Hell's Kitchen: Part 3”
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Alex Maleev
After last issue's battle with the Yakuza, Matt Murdock is missing. His girlfriend Milla, informing Ben Urich that she and Matt are married, prompts the reporter to go in search of the wounded hero. But in what state will Daredevil be when Ben finally catches up with him...?
"I swear to god, Ben... Ever since Karen page died. The whole thing, it's all gone to hell."
From the very first scene of Daredevil #58, the tone is set for a talk-heavy issue of noir-ish investigation which will do little to advance the overall plot, but instead focus on characters and motivation at the expense of more dynamic thrills. The opening scene in the diner sets up the mystery of Matt's disappearance after the Yakuza battle (and throws in red herrings a-plenty - Maleev seems to go to great lengths to show that Milla isn't wearing a wedding ring). A grisly flashback to Matt's discovery of his father's death - the depiction of which owes more than a little to the recent Daredevil movie - helps to connect the story somewhat to a tale of vigilante super-heroics, but this is really as commendably removed from standard four-colour fare as a mainstream Marvel book is going to get.
The following interrogation scene goes some way to wrap up the Yakuza subplot, and is as well-written as any of Bendis' trademark interrogation scenes have been. Even if the reader may find himself tiring from this writer’s repetitive tics, they can be excused by the consistent level of quality with which they are executed. This time, a cool battle of wits between agent Driver and the Yakuza is an entertaining sparring match which appears to end in stalemate. However, far from being an indulgent four-page aside, the sequence shows a subtle awareness of the dichotomy between someone who is constricted by the rules and someone who can take the law into his own hands - a subtext which critics who lament Bendis' abandonment of the lawyer/vigilante paradox, the core of Daredevil's character, would do well to examine.
Contrast is provided by a far more informal tete-a-tete between Ben Urich and Foggy Nelson, a nice character scene which again explores personalities at the expense of any notable plot advancement. Bendis shows off his eye for detail here, having obviously thought through the logical implications of being a man in Matt's situatinon: the enhanced security measures at Nelson & Murdock are a good example of this, as well as Foggy's book offer - a realistic detail which also serves to reinforce this character's sense of loyalty and help the reader to understand his frustration at being kept out of the loop.
Just as the plot finally gets moving, and Urich is getting near to pinning down his quarry, we are introduced to the night nurse - another example of Bendis' penchant for entwining the campier, more fanciful elements of the Marvel Universe with a mature, adult-oriented crime thriller. Mention must here go to Maleev's art, capturing well the beguiling, mysterious (and more than a little top-heavy) nature of the night nurse, ably assisted by Matt Hollingsworth's colours - the unsung hero of Daredevil ever since this creative team took over.
The low-key climax in which Ben confronts Matt in the night nurse's hospital provides an interesting cliffhanger, one which drips with raw emotion instead of soap-opera melodrama, thanks both to Bendis' understated writing and Maleev's subtle, emotive art. It will be interesting to see how the question posed at the end of this issue is resolved. It may give the creative team a chance to tie together much of what has come since the beginning of its run; on the other hand however, it could prove to be another deviation which frustrates rather than entertains. Intriguing, beautiful and sprawling as the story may be, one could be forgiven for feeling that it is failing to capitalise on the premise of Daredevil as the "King of Hell's Kitchen" and is leaving many of its more interesting elements suspended in favour of another examination of the main character's tortured psyche.
Another very wordy issue, and one that may prove a turn-off to many of the title's fans who long for the days when DD will get a slice of the action. One the other hand, for those who have been enjoying Bendis and Maleev's work thus far, it is more of the same quality writing and grainy, realistic art that we have come to know and love. However, criticism that the title is veering too far from it's key concept - that of Daredevil himself - in favour of Matt Murdock stories is proving valid, and there is a feeling that too many diversions may be steering this already 3-issue old story arc slightly off course.
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