Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Alex Maleev, Dave Stewart (colours)
Brian Michael Bendis is consistently the best writer of monthly comics that I think I’ve ever read.
Maybe not a surprising opinion, and certainly not an original one, but this issue of Daredevil demonstrates the many and varied facets of his writing that make his comics such a success and give them such broad appeal, both to superhero fans and more ‘mature’ readers alike. We get an opening which provides the same kind of shock as most cliffhangers; an intense torture scene; a detailed look into the psyche of a realistic villain, and an exploration of this villain’s history with superheroes and villains in general (and Matt Murdock in particular); and a climax which relies more on logical character motivation and intrigue than any ‘big bang’ moment. What you’ll also get for your money is a complex juggling of structure and timeframe and a knack for dialogue which both out-Tarantino Tarantino, and some of the most interesting and intelligent treatment of superheroes this side of Ex Machina.
And whilst Bendis’ ears are glowing from the praise for the issue’s writing, let’s look at the other side of the coin: the superb visual flair of artist Alex Maleev. I get tired of Maleev so often being mentioned as secondary to Bendis on this title, because – whilst BMB has the more high-profile role of driving the title’s plot and character – Maleev’s work is easily deserving of equal praise, such is its impact on the book’s dark, tense mood and distinctive, grounded feel. Here, he continues the multi-style approach begun last issue, which helps to separate the three timelines that Bendis switches between. And whilst much has rightly been made of Dave Stewart’s extremely effective Benday-dot colouring, there are more subtle differences to be found in Maleev’s linework, which changes between various levels of sophistication, thickness and sparseness to deliver an authentic feel for each segment of the tale. His consistent faces and character work also help to bind the timelines together, delivering recognisable versions of key characters whether they hail from the 40s, 70s or today.
My only worry is that it giving the team a five-star review so early in the arc might leave me nowhere to go when they blow me away at the end of it. To say any more about this particular issue would be to spoil the surprises for the uninitiated, and I wouldn’t want to do that. If you haven’t read it already, grab a copy and start reading this title. Where’ve you been? This is a genre-defining run which is bound to be remembered in the same breath as other classics in the years to come. And – after a slight sag in the team’s run for a few issues – Bendis and Maleev have really hit their stride and again come up with career-best work.
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