Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Alex Maleev, Dave Stewart (colours)
This issue marks a return to form for the series, ending an arc which - for me at least – has struggled to maintain the kind of tension or character intrigue that Bendis has so successfully brought to the title in the past. We see the creative team tie up the loose ends of this arc before returning to address some more longstanding story threads, and this only reinforces the wonderful ongoing long-term quality which Bendis’ over-arching approach to his entire Daredevil run has brought to the book. There’s a real sense of relevant continuity (and not in the whining fanboy sense) which ties together everything he’s done on the title so far, making each issue more of a pleasure for the fans who have followed him since the beginning, yet also accessible in its own right.
The Black Widow, when written well, is the perfect foil and accomplice for Daredevil and Bendis writes some excellent scenes for both characters into the issue. Natasha’s performance as “Babette” is a comic treat in place of an action scene which is logically omitted, and it’s a pleasure to read. It’s fun to see a dumb villain taken out in an interesting way, and good to see Matt using the law as a sword rather than a shield. Talking of S.H.I.E.L.D., it’s also a treat to see Nick Fury get to be the badass he should always be portrayed as in this issue. His intervention towards the issue’s end has more than a shade of Ultimate Nick Fury in it, and he’s all the better a character for being given an active role in proceedings rather than stuck in his helicarrier all the time. It’s very much an ensemble issue, bringing together a couple of villains in Jigsaw and Quinn as well as tying up everything in the “Black Widow” arc to boot. Bendis even finds time for yet another Avengers appearance (even if it is only a small one) and the eventual fate of Madame Hydra is presumably something he will develop in his tenure on that series.
Maleev’s art is as impressive as ever – I really can’t fault it and I can’t think of anyone who could replace him on the title. He seems happy combining the larger-than-life activities of S.H.I.E.L.D. with the more intimate atmospherics concerning character relationships, and still finds time to make the Black Widow look realistically sexy in a way you don’t see very often in comics. He even nails the action sequences this issue – an oft-quoted weakness – making it an all round beautiful book. New colourist Dave Stewart also makes his mark here, filling the shoes of the brilliant Matt Hollingsworth with apparent ease: From Matt’s smoky rooftop shenanigans to Natasha’s steamy bathroom antics to the bittersweet final scene, he shows just what kind of contribution a good colourist can make, emphasising Maleev’s visuals in a subtle yet effective way. Here’s hoping he sticks around.
There’s humour in this issue (Matt’s attempted 911 calls, “Howard” – you’ll know it when you read it – and Fury’s threat concerning J. Jonah Jameson are all great comic comic moments), there’s some exciting Hollywood action and great dialogue, and there’s also a real sense of maturity and heart on display – nowhere more clearly than the double-whammy of Natasha’s autumnal farewell and the cold, rainy encounter with Milla at the issue’s end. It’s ongoing story strands like this which have served Bendis so well, and it’s good to see him taking time to address them in a very realistic and logical way, being emotional without ever needing to resort to slushiness. All in all, it’s a better-than-expected end to an average arc. I’m looking forward to the “Golden Age” story which begins in issue #66, but before that we’ll be treated to an all-star artist single-issue-extravaganza which should be fun, hopefully giving the creative team a breather so they can make the next big arc something really special.
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