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Daredevil: Noir #4

Posted: Tuesday, June 30, 2009
By: David Wallace

Alexander Irvine
Tomm Coker (p & i), Daniel Freedman (colours)
Marvel Comics
Editor's Note: Daredevil: Noir #4 arrives in stores tomorrow, July 1.

"Liar's Poker: Part Four"

Daredevil: Noir #4 sees Alexander Irvine and Tomm Coker draw their highly enjoyable miniseries to a close, bringing us the long-awaited fight between Daredevil and the "Bulls-eye killer" before showing the hero's final confrontation with the Kingpin.

The fight between Daredevil and his newly-revealed enemy is an exciting way to kick off the issue. Whilst it's a viscerally exciting battle that sees our hero evade all manner of flying projectiles in an attempt to stay alive, it's also an intelligently-written one, as Matt stacks the odds in his favour by moving the fight to a territory that considerably reduces his opponent's capacity for destruction.

After wrapping up that loose end, the issue brings the story full circle by ending on Daredevil's confrontation with the Kingpin -- a scene that has formed the framing sequence for Irvine's entire story. It's in the second half of the issue that Irvine makes good on the build-up of his previous three chapters. The discussion with the Kingpin gets to the heart of Irvine's characterisation of Matt Murdock, and when the writer has Daredevil say to Foggy "I can't stand the shades of gray," it feels like a moment that's been earned by the story, rather than a hollow expression of self-pity.

In addition to the figurative darkness of Irvine's script, there's literal darkness in every panel of Tomm Coker's artwork. Whilst lesser artists might simply drench their pages in black ink, Coker's atmospheric use of darkness is more sophisticated, employing plenty of dark shades and textures but never letting his panels become murky or unclear. It's also significant that Coker never draws his hero in full light: every appearance of Daredevil is drenched in shadows, reinforcing the balance between light and dark in the difficult moral territory that he occupies.

There's also a sense that Coker's style has been influenced by many of the great Daredevil artists of the past. His artwork combines the light and shade of Frank Miller and the realistic anatomy and solid linework of David Mazzuchelli with the textures of Alex Maleev, filtered through the occasional looseness of Bill Sienkiewicz-esque expressionism. It's testament to the timelessness of Coker's style that the (literal) splash page that comes halfway through the issue -- showing Daredevil and Eliza emerging from the water -- could have come from any era of the book's publication.

Some people might be irritated that the final pages of this issue provide an ending to the story that isn't particularly conclusive. However, to complain about that would be to miss Irvine's point. The closing exchange between the Kingpin and Daredevil doesn't seek to wrap up their conflict neatly, instead functioning as a musing on the superhero/villain relationship, a commentary on the endless and circular nature of serial superhero storytelling, and a definitive statement on the Kingpin/Daredevil dynamic that explains why it remains so popular after all these years.

As with the rest of the series, it's only the surface details of this issue that tie the book to Marvel's "Noir" line. In most other respects, the central characters are very similar to their regular-Marvel Universe counterparts -- and this combination of a novel setting with a strong sense of faithfulness to the original characters makes this one of the most satisfying of the "Noir" books yet. Andy Diggle hasn't even taken over the core Daredevil title yet, but when the time comes to find his replacement, let's hope that the creative team of Irvine and Coker is still fresh in the minds of Marvel's editors. In the meantime, I'm going to pre-order the TPB of Daredevil: Noir, because I have a feeling that the book will read even better in a collected edition than in single instalments.







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