“The Devil in Cell Block D, finale”
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artists: Michael Lark (p), Stefano Gaudiano (i)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Plot: Dakota North (great name) wonders what’s up with the fake Daredevil. The warden wonders what’s up with Matt and The Punisher. Matt wonders what’s up with the lawyer employing his double. And Ben Urich wonders how he keeps getting roped into all of this.
Comments: Brubaker and Lark have succeeded in their stated goals, and that is to live up to the legacy of Bendis and Maleev. In my eyes, they’ve surpassed it already. Brubaker is a much more consistent (if more conventional) crime writer, and I’ll take Lark’s sturdy urban realism over Maleev’s gothic inkblots any day.
This story presents a lot of action in a lot of small panels, but Lark keeps plot and character clear. His dark but not obscuring inks provide a really nice frame for all the tiny informative word balloons. Dakota saves herself from an attack by hoods, but when a watchful “Daredevil” steps in to apprehend them, he compromises himself in the process.
Because he’s really Danny Rand. And that’s just the first of the reveals to the fake outs instigated cleverly by Brubaker since taking over the title. His Danny is on the money: loyal to a fault, brave and competent, the poor kid is all hero but has just never been all that bright. He’s needed smarter allies like Misty Knight, Luke Cage, Colleen Wing and Matt to aim him like the deadly weapon he is. Brubaker knows all this instinctively.
There are a few gee-wow moments this issue, nicely stage-directed by Lark. When the two DDs meet, both thinking the other is an imposter but not knowing who, Brubaker stages what would have made the cover back in the seventies. Oh, yeah, it made the cover this time, too. But without this clever caption from the House of Ideas: “Daredevil meets Daredevil, in a battle to death! Which one will survive? Will the imposter be revealed at last?!”
But unlike the all-out brawl that would have been inside such an issue, before the heroes kissed and made up, Brubaker stages a smart silent battle between two super martial artists. Matt’s narration clues us in that he recognizes Danny’s skill, and that Danny is expertly faking Matt’s own moves. He’s putting it together as he fights, and when he sees Danny’s fist start to glow... Well, fight over. Danny gets back into his green and gold gear, and he and Matt clue in Dakota and Ben, too, on the trail of Foggy’s killers.
Everything leads to a totally right final reveal. Good news all around. Or at least it will be when Matt finds out. Brubaker explains it all in the letters page. And while he never had me fooled, he definitely does have me entertained. And I don’t even like this crime noir gritty stuff.
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