Brian Michael Bendis is the man responsible for turning me into a snotty nosed, accept-nothing-less-than-perfect Daredevil reader. His run is one of the pinnacles of the comic book medium for me and with that said, it obviously puts a lot of pressure on Mr. Brubaker and company. I felt like Ed Brubaker took an amazing setup left by Bendis’ straggling plot threads and ran with it like a bat out of Hell with his initial arc, “Devil in Cell Block D” but has since fallen into a rhythm of telling “by the books” superhero stories in the pages of Daredevil, making me lose considerable interest when the wallet became strapped. However, with his long time writing buddy, Greg Rucka, coming aboard for an arc, I decided to give ol’ horn head another go around.
Part two of “Cruel & Unusual” picks up directly where part one left us; Matt Murdock demanding that he represent Big Ben Donovan to prove his innocent for the murder of three children. Matt can sense the innocence all over Donovan, thus concluding he is taking the fall for someone worse. But why would a recently convert to Islam cover for someone as bad as a child killer, even if he was once a renowned villain himself? These are the big questions that fuel the mystery Brubaker and Rucka have created. The structure of setting up this mysterious, all powerful villain reminds me of the Mr. Fear arc that just recently wrapped a few months ago. However, where that story targeted Matt personally, forcing him to resort to a lot of investigating as Daredevil, “Cruel & Unusual” has Murdock taking a break from constant personal attacks, instead fighting to save other’s lives in the courtroom. I think it was a good choice, and having these two stories next to each other show how dynamic a character such as Daredevil is. He fights the powers that be with both his brains and brawn.
This story also gives Dakota North a reason to kick ass and take names which is awesome. With her reintroduction at the beginning of Brubaker’s run, I have been waiting for her to get into the thick of the action instead of just feeding Murdock intel from time to time. Well here in part two, I finally get exactly what I was looking for. She shows how tough she is and it’s extremely satisfying as a reader. I can only hope this is the start of a regular thing for the character; to really get her hands dirty.
I don’t feel the need to spend a lot of time on the art of this issue as Michael Lark continues his stellar work on the series. He has been extremely consistent since beginning on Daredevil, with issue #108 just another example of genius work to add to his already bustling portfolio. The only gripe I do have is Lark’s camera placement for one panel during the Murdock / Donovan exchange in prison. Lark completely breaks the 180 degree rule of film editing, and as the rule proves, it’s quite jarring. The rule states that depending on the initial framing of a shot the camera is not to move more than 180 degrees on either side as to keep the same left/right relationship with all characters in the shot. Of course, I only bring this up because I’m a film major graduate. Without trying to sound pretentious or place myself above others simply because I can sit in a chair, eat cheetos, and watch a movie, it still irks me when I see it because I’m aware of the rule. It’s disappointing because Michael Lark has proven himself a master of panel transitions throughout his run and to see this slight screw-up is a shame, but oh well.
Don’t let me babbling on about one broken film rule turn you off from this book. If you have been following Brubaker’s tenure on Daredevil you will find much to like here. For new readers jumping into the series because the old Gotham Central band has reformed, you should find enough enjoyment from this story to keep you around far after Rucka’s name is off the credit list.
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