“Golden Age – part three”
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Alex Maleev, Dave Stewart (colours)
Another issue of Bendis and Maleev’s magnificent superhero crime opus arrives, and it goes another step to ensuring that this run will be remembered among the best ever of the character’s history. There’s more cracking dialogue, some thrilling action, and more sterling character work: the discussion scene with Foggy is again a particular delight, and convinces me that Bendis must be working towards some sort of crescendo with the ever-stoic sidekick. To me, Foggy is just as heroic as Daredevil, just in a different way: he’s the one who has to put up with all the superhero crap, all Matt’s selfish decisions, and I’d be happy to see all that come to a head in future issues. Still, in the here-and-now, Bendis has a crack at writing a gruesome torture scene (with the emotional intensity compounded by Matt’s personal hand in the Gladiator’s redemption all those years ago), some great Silver Age dialogue (“I’m no lawyer, but this isn’t going to look good at your trial! Have fun in Jail, Bont!”) and following through with some cool 40s-style gangster work to underpin it all. One of the unsung stars of the comic also remains Dave Stewart’s colouring - perhaps more important here than ever – providing a lush, almost autumnal present-day atmosphere, an authentically primitive Silver Age, and a stark monochrome Golden Age.
However, if I had to pick a flaw with this issue, it’s that the juggling of the storylines gets in the way of the flow of things somewhat. It’s not that the timeline-splitting gets confusing or difficult to follow – Alex Maleev’s excellent linework and the vibrantly different colour schemes help out hugely there – it’s just that each scene feels a little too short, too bitty, and it’s a relief when we actually get something substantial in the shape of Matt’s spooky encounter with Agent Del Toro and his banter with Foggy, or the cool-as-ice Silver Age battle between DD and the Gladiator in the early days of Matt’s superhero career. Perhaps this is compounded by the only other thing that irked me about this issue (and a lot of Marvel’s recent output): the increasingly invasive presence of advertising. In the space of 13 pages this issue, I counted just 3 pages of story, and surely that’s got to be some kind of record. There are ways of placing advertising so that they don’t get in the way of the storytelling (surely someone must think about such things) but here, they really serve to break up the flow of the book even more. In an issue which is already fractured and structured in a complex way, jamming more and more computer game ads in there doesn’t help matters – and it hardly makes me look kindly on the products themselves.
Nevertheless, these are small blips in an otherwise consistently excellent book. I’m thrilled to see where this arc goes, tying together as it does the many elements of Matt’s life under Bendis’ pen – the “King of Hell’s Kitchen” status, the public “outing”, the White Tiger Affair – and looking to condense even further the real-world, gritty noir feeling that the creative team have brought to this title. I can’t wait for the next issue, and that’s got to be a firm recommendation.
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