“Golden Age: Part One”
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Alex Maleev, Dave Stewart (colours)
After what felt like a definite line drawn under Bendis and Maleev’s run on the title thus far with the anniversary issue #65, the team kicks off a new arc this month, focusing more on Daredevil’s historical place in the grand scheme of crime in Hell’s Kitchen than on his recent ‘out’-ing or his status as Kingpin of law and order. The first part of the Golden Age arc spends much of its time focusing on Alexander Bont, one-time crimelord and recently released convict (defended at trial by a certain Matthew Murdock, in circumstances as yet unknown). The story follows his release into an unfamiliar world, a confused has-been of a man cutting a lonesome figure as he tries to reconcile what he knows of the world of Hell’s Kitchen with the flashy modernisations which have come to pass during his absence. There’s some beautifully subtle character work, brought out more effectively not through dialogue or captioning but through the artwork, which allows us to look at three different periods of this man’s life in order to put his character together.
Regular artist Alex Maleev communicates the different time periods through changing visual styles, adopting a stark black-and-white approach for the ‘golden age’ 50s-style historical period in which Bont was “The kingpin before The Kingpin”, switching to a slightly more familiar yet still simple style for the vignette which features Daredevil in his early yellow costume (Dave Stewart’s benday-dot-infused colouring really working to make the sequence feel authentically a product of Marvel’s Silver Age), and retaining his gritty, dark and familiar style for the sequences set today. It’s a neat technique that is far more subtle than title cards and works in the creators’ favour when juggling such a temporally complex storyline. It’ll be interesting to see if these periods remain as separate as their storylines currently suggest, or if – as is likely - one starts to bleed into the other and the artwork somehow acknowledges this. It’s certainly refreshing to see the ever-reliable Alex Maleev pick up a pencil and try something new on the title, and pleasing to see it turn out as effectively as this.
Overall, this initial episode is more of a teaser to set up the adversary that Matt Murdock is sure to face in coming issues than it is about any real conflict. However, the cliffhanger certainly suggests a darker side to this old man, and challenges the sympathy that the audience may have built up over the preceding 21 pages. There are certainly shades of grey in this character, and it’s in working through these ideas that Bendis normally excels. It’s good to see the writer avoid the easy route of countless Kingpin storylines and work at introducing his own villains to Daredevil’s unimpressive rogue’s gallery – and even better to see a fairly original creation born who has the potential to challenge Matt on more levels than the majority of his costumed foes. After a few months of the title treading water (by its own admittedly high standards), Daredevil really looks to be going places again.
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