“The King of Hell's Kitchen: Part 5”
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Alex Maleev
Matt's turns up at the Yakuza's place with Spider-Man, Power-Man and Iron Fist for a superhero smackdown which promises to take the "King of Hell's Kitchen" arc out with a bang. But how will Milla react to Matt's psychological breakdown?
"So what I am saying is... that whatever your plan was... However you thought tonight was going to end... I bet you didn't think it was going to end this badly."
There's an irony in the fact that Bendis' detractors have always bemoaned the lack of decent fight scenes in this series - but every time an action-packed issue comes, you find yourself wishing there was more talk. This is one of those issues, with Matt taking the fight to the Yakuza, partially to cement his status as defender of Hell's Kitchen, and partially to avenge the death of his ally, Agent Driver. Guest appearances from DD's mates give the reader a welcome change of scene and bring this title closer to a mainstream Marvel Universe book than it has been in a long time. But is that what its readers want?
Artwork in an action-based issue is key, and Alex Maleev shows again how he can work darkness to his advantage (when this run ends, DC must surely be looking to poach him for one of their Batbooks as he'd be a perfect fit for the noir-ish streets of Gotham). He portrays New York's underbelly in suitably seedy fashion, giving us a neat build-up to the inevitable showdown with a grand superhero splashpage, albeit one which is restrained by his realistically posed style. This downside to the artist's gritty approach becomes more apparent throughout the fight, with some panels lacking the requisite motion to have any real impact. Bendis has written in some cool moments which do come across (Luke Cage having bullets bounced off him, or beating up enemies with just a look), but nothing physical seems to really connect. The second stage of the fight, however, lends itself far more to the visual strengths of the creative team: a tense waiting game in which the actors hide in the shadows is an excellent fit for Maleev, who imbues DD with a sinister sense of menace that the character had never seemed capable of before he took over art chores on the title. Credit must also go to whoever places the word balloons on the page, as their detachment conveys an element of the unknown that would not be adequately conveyed through writing or art.
All in all, the issue wraps up the arc well and sets the Yakuza up as strong additions to Daredevil's rogues gallery - even if it does serve to undo some of Bendis' more interesting changes to the title. Nevertheless, a superhero without a costume wouldn't be saleable in today's marketplace and certainly wouldn't be as visually fun. It remains to be seen where the title will choose to go from here: lets hope it doesn't slip back into more standard superhero fare: Bendis and Maleev have built up something quite special on their run, but as this issue proves, the journey that this book takes you on often proves to be more fun that arriving at its destination.
Bendis flips on the action switch to provide a refreshingly dynamic issue which returns the series to something approaching a status quo. However, as with many of the team's action issues thus far, there seems to be something missing: whether it's Bendis' more constrained dialogue or Maleev's renderings (which are improving notably, but still lack the requisite fluidity to convey any real urgency or dynamism in a fight scene), this issue doesn't stand up to some of the best of the team's run. It's a good comic and a fun read - it's Bendis and Maleev's Daredevil, after all - but something pulls it down just short of greatness.
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