Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Alex Maleev, Matt Hollingsworth (colours)
Matt and the Black Widow team up for a few hi-jinks at the expense of Jigsaw. But what will the CIA do when they find the woman they’ve been hunting down in flagrante with Daredevil…? Not much, as it happens.
“If I thought there was a target on my head… I think Matt Murdock is the person I would stand next to, too.”
Hmmm. It’s difficult to write a review of something which you like, but can’t pick out why: It makes you re-examine whether I really like it in the first place. This month’s Daredevil has made me do just that, and whereas I can happily quote from past issues lines or whole sections that I really enjoyed, there’s nothing in the writing of this issue that quite does it for me. Sure, there’s a strong continuation of a lot of minor character threads that are sure to remain important (Matt’s marriage; Foggy’s increasing irritability; Matt’s status as Kingpin) as well as a follow-up on the main premise of this arc: that the Black Widow is a wanted woman, and she’s seeking refuge by “hiding in plain sight” with Matt. It’s also the second issue of an arc, which normally means that the basic premise is complete and there’s some tiring exposition and set-up to do. But this is Bendis and Maleev’s Daredevil, and there’s always something to enjoy… isn’t there?
The beginning and end of this issue provide a little welcome action, as we see Matt and Natasha take down Jigsaw at the docks. With a cool dialogue-free double-splash-page from Maleev, we see signs that Bendis is becoming more and more comfortable relying on the talents of his co-creator to convey his more dynamic ideas. Indeed, it’s his art that carries a lot of this issue, dripping – as ever – with atmosphere. Maleev turns what would otherwise be becoming a repetitive encounter between a villain and Matt in his civilian identity into a tense, meaningful scene; he renders Matt and Natasha’s soap-opera café conversation interesting, with a good use of body language and character framing; he convinces us of what a man thrown through an unbreakable glass window would look like; and, most frustratingly, he gives us a sense that something bigger is coming along next issue.
What most detracts from this issue is the feeling that we’re reading a bridging issue for the arc, full of important groundwork but low on entertainment. Sure, there are a couple of fun moments – Matt and Natasha’s buddy-pairing double-act at the docks, Jigsaw’s dumb attempts to check whether Matt’s really blind – but they don’t quite redeem an issue which is starting to make the conclusion of this four-issue arc look more appealing than the joy of the setup; and that’s very atypical of Brian Michael Bendis.
It might seem unfair to give a worthy enough issue a merely average score, but Daredevil is up against its own high standards here, and lately there’s been a feeling that this title is treading water. Whilst the writing is good, there’s not really a sense of anything significant happening this issue: and Bendis’ arc set-ups are normally as much something to write home about as their denouements. Definitely not the place to start reading, but a fair enough stop-gap until something bigger happens next issue.
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