Editor's Note: Dark Reign - The List: Daredevil #1 arrives in stores tomorrow, September 16.
When I first read the preview pages of this special Dark Reign one-shot in Daredevil #500, I wasn't particularly impressed with what I saw. In my view, Daredevil has always worked best when kept reasonably separate from the goings-on of the larger Marvel Universe, so the decision to throw him headfirst into conflict with Norman Osborn (via Osborn's affiliation with Bullseye, and an apparently contrived plot to frame DD as a murderer) seemed like a questionable one to me. In addition to this, I still wasn't sure how well the new status quo from the end of Ed Brubaker's run (which saw Matt Murdock agree to abandon his civilian life in order to lead ninja group the Hand) was going to function for the character.
Whilst this one-shot doesn't answer all of those questions, it at least manages to convince me that Andy Diggle has a solid take on Matt Murdock, that the subplot involving the framing of DD as a murderer isn't as straightforward as I expected, and that the writer is going to explore some interesting ideas in his forthcoming run on Daredevil.
To be honest, most of this issue plays out in a fairly predictable manner (especially given what we'd already seen in the preview). Bullseye--finally back in his old costume--is despatched to take out DD, who is undergoing trials as part of his initiation into the Hand. Daredevil and Bullseye clash violently but inconclusively, and no major changes to the status quo of the wider Marvel Universe occur.
As far as the art goes, Billy Tan and Matt Banning pull off the superhero action as competently as you'd expect from having seen their work on New Avengers, even if I'm not in love with their take on Matt Murdock himself. Like the majority of this issue's story, it's perfectly adequate, but not particularly remarkable.
However, the final act of the issue really did manage to grab my attention. The closing moments of Daredevil's clash with Bullseye see Andy Diggle push the story into unexpected territory, playing with a conceit that isn't explored enough in superhero comics: what happens when a supervillain attacks, innocent lives are hanging in the balance, and the hero makes the wrong choice? Without giving too much away, a surprisingly brutal and irreversible event occurs towards the end of this story, exposing one of Daredevil's weaknesses as a superhero, and forcing him to re-examine his methods in light of the current climate of the Marvel Universe.
Regular readers are used to seeing a brooding Matt Murdock dwell on his own personal losses, but we're not so used to seeing his superheroic worldview challenged in so comprehensive a manner. I look forward to seeing Diggle explore this idea in greater depth when he takes over the core Daredevil title with the next issue (of which we get an impressive preview in the closing pages of this book), and I also look forward to seeing how the reveal of the copycat-killer's identity plays into his plans for the title.
Regular Daredevil readers should be under no illusions: this is very much the first issue of Andy Diggle's first arc, despite being labelled as a separate one-shot. The ramifications of this issue are sure to inform his take on the character, so if you want to be on board his run from the ground floor, this is the place to start.
Conversely, more casual readers may feel a little cheated by a "stand-alone" issue that sets up many different plot points without resolving many of them. Then again, Daredevil has consistently been one of Marvel's strongest titles for many years now, so perhaps it wouldn't hurt to lure followers of "Dark Reign" into reading a superhero book that really isn't afraid to approach the genre in a truly mature, sophisticated--and, yes, "dark"--manner.
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