Current Reviews


Daredevil #86

Posted: Friday, July 21, 2006
By: Dave Wallace

“The Devil in Cell-Block D: Part Five”

Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artists: Michael Lark & Stefano Gaudiano, Frank D’Armata (colours)

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Ed Brubaker has been building towards an explosive conclusion to his first arc on Daredevil for some issues now, and this month’s instalment finally starts to topple his dominoes, as the simmering tension of Matt Murdock’s prison environment reaches a head. Brubaker keeps things tight with a panel-heavy first few pages, which reinforce the claustrophobic and restrictive mood of Ryker’s and give the story a brisk urgency as it leads up to the inevitable outbreak of rioting. It’s at this stage in the story that we can look back and see just how expertly Brubaker has structured the first few issues of his story, introducing various elements along the way which all get their moment here: the incarceration of Bullseye and the Punisher, the manipulation of the prison’s chief warden, the appearances of Turk and the ever-complex relationship with the Kingpin all come into play with this issue, and it makes for a satisfying payoff. Brubaker even finds time to address the dangling loose ends of Bendis’s previous run on the book, with appearances from Milla as well as a cameo from Melvin Potter, last seen in the “Golden Age” arc some months ago.

Ed Brubaker also makes good on Frank Miller’s famous mission statement to make Daredevil as much of a hero when out of costume as he is when he’s wearing the tights. A lot of this is down to the superior artwork of Michael Lark, who keeps things consistent and realistic enough that the prison setting doesn’t lose its gritty edge, but introduces more overt superhero conventions into his artwork here too. Matt’s plain-clothes rescue of the prison governor is a great sequence that is such a classic Daredevil moment – the throwing of the guard’s baton and all – that it’s difficult not to visualise the Daredevil costume laid over Matt’s prison duds. When Bullesye and the Kingpin enter the fray, things get even more crazy, and a classic against-the-odds battle for both Fisk and Matt follows a tour de force appearance from everybody’s favourite deranged assassin.

But just as things threaten to get really out-of-hand, Brubaker pulls things back from the edge, reasserting just what it means for Matt to be a hero. It’s an in-character and logical step for a character who has seemed to be bordering on a breakdown for some issues now, and if the manner in which Murdock neutralises the two villains doesn’t make you want to cheer, then you’re clearly reading the wrong book. I can’t wait to see how Brubaker writes his way out of the dire situation that Matt is left in for the final part of this arc, as – some minor quibbles aside (some slightly questionable actions taken by supporting characters and an underdeveloped thread about the “second” Daredevil) – this arc has all the makings of an instant classic.

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