And that my friends, is how you end a run. This might be one of the strongest endings to a run on a major character since Stan Lee and Steve Ditko's "If This Be My Destiny", Alan Moore's book end to his Swamp Thing run, or Ed Brubaker's eternally underrated ending arc on Daredevil "Return of The King." Bendis and Maleev seemed to be waiting for the right moment to pull out their grand conclusion, and by God, was it a conclusion that's worth waiting for.
I was starting to fear that Bendis's writing was starting to stalemate as I went along in this arc. Not that the stories before the end were bad, but felt like some side stories that Bendis felt like telling because he didn't know where to take the run next after the events of the excellent arc "Hardcase". Much like Moore's Swamp Thing, I was starting to think that this run was going to peter out before its finish, but also like with Moore's Swamp Thing, Bendis and Maleev save the best for last with "The Murdock Papers".
"The Murdock Papers" feels like a natural successor to the just as excellent arc "Out" from the first Daredevil Ultimate Collection book. Matthew Murdock has been exposed as Daredevil, and he's been slowly and painfully dealing with the consequences with his identity being outed to the world. But "The Murdock Papers" goes even further in showing Matt being completely broken down. It's the apotheosis of everything that's happened to Matt and the supporting cast in this run as of this point. Bendis once more takes the idea of Frank Miller's "Born Again" arc, and takes it to the only logical conclusion that could happen in a case like this. It's an ending that I'll dare not spoil.
Another core strength of the third book is the continuing excellent characterization of The Kingpin. While he's not as pissed off and as hungry as he was in the previous arcs, he once again showcases why he's such a dangerous villain in the Marvel universe, and none have showcased his talent for manipulation more than this book has. Yeah, I don't know why he looks like a more buff version of Bendis, but he still steals the show in this arc. This arc also illustrates one of Matt's big weaknesses: his constant underestimation of how far The Kingpin's going to go in order to destroy him. It also brings the theme of Matt being his own worst enemy back around for a stunning conclusion to this great series.
Even with the large shadow of "The Murdock Papers" looming over this book, the arcs that came before it are good, despite their problems. Bendis stumbles here and there, but consistently manages to keep the reader invested in what's going to happen next, such as one arc where a horror element is revealed. Also the stories after "The Murdock Papers" lack the same punch that the former arc does, though Bendis's "What If" on Karen Page was fascinating, a nice blend of metafiction and tragedy that continues to befall Matt Murdock. It even felt like a Brubaker and Phillips collaboration with how melancholic it got at points, particularly with the end.
Maleev's art still kills it in this volume, but I might even dare to say that it's even better than it's been in the last few books. This is most likely due to the assistance of Dave Stewart, who I hold to be one of the best colorists in comics. He helps Maleev take his gritty, hard edged style and make it even better than it's been. His lines are sharper, his colors are cleaner, and the artwork looks more polished, while retaining that gritty feel. There are some moments where I felt the art cribbed from Jock, but it didn't have his odd anatomy. Michael Lark's art is also quite good, which feels like a nice set up for his future run with Ed Brubaker that's underrated as fuck and follows right after this one. Bill Sienkiewicz's art is another beast entirely, his style is like Dave McKean's, where I'm unsure if I love it or absolutely despise it. It's unique...and that's all I'll say about his art style.
So not only have Bendis and Maleev made one of the best Daredevil stories ever put to print, but the crazy bastards did it again and now have two of the greatest Daredevil stories ever put to print. It's a rare run that's consistently exceptional, well written and drawn, with enough verve and fun to keep people invested. It's simply one of the best superhero stories that I've read.
Britton Summers spent much of his childhood collecting action figures and toys, and through that hobby discovered a love for comic books that's continued to this day. His love of storytelling led him to want to become a writer, so he is currently in college pursuing a degree in Journalism and Broadcasting. Britton lives in Oklahoma with his parents, dog Alexis, and cat Jerry.