COMICS RETROSPECTIVE: Bendis's Daredevil Ultimate Collection Vol 2: The Implosion of Matt Murdock.



I find that when I read a Brian Michael Bendis comic (at least, his early work, that is), I'm getting a full crash course in comic book storytelling. While he does have flaws, which have become more apparent as he's aged, I find that his Daredevil run shows what he can do when he's at the top of his creative powers.


While these arcs weren't quite as excellent as "Out" from the previous volume, Bendis continues his stride in this run as he continues to turn Matt Murdock's life on its ear. He and Maleev explore every potential consequence that's pushed in Matt's way, as his life gets upended with the revelation of his secret identity being outed to the public (pardon the pun), rather it be Yakuza thugs gang-rushing him while he's walking home, cops refusing to help him when he's in danger, and so on. The amount of detail that Bendis goes into while destroying Matt's personal life showcases his strengths as a storyteller and how far he can take it when he's writing about the downfall of The Man Without Fear.

Art by Alex Maleev

Art by Chris Bachalo

Bendis's writing continues to be consistently strong throughout this run. While he sometimes is too wordy to a fault, he more than makes up for it with his patient, calculated storytelling that keeps the readers invested effortlessly. Bendis has consistently shown that his strengths as a writer lie with the more grounded heroes of Marvel, as well as with the pulp noir genre that Frank Miller helped to establish for Daredevil in the late '70s and early '80s. His acumen with the genre shows itself to be on point with this run, with hard-boiled, cynical inner monologues, doomed, self-destructive protagonists, and unwitting people who get caught in the vortex of crime. Except in this book, we see superheroics alongside the relatively grounded tone of this series. What is also relieving is that Bendis maintains a sense of humor throughout this run as well, though without losing the tone of the series that he's writing...unlike another run on Daredevil I could mention.


We also get to see one of my favorite comic book villains in The Kingpin come back in style and show everyone why he is one of the biggest, baddest villains that Marvel has to offer. The characterization of the Kingpin in this volume proves to be one of the strongest elements of this part of the run, as he isn't the calm, calculating mastermind that we're accustomed to. Instead, he is a hungry, thoroughly pissed off monster who wants vengeance and he'll do anything, no matter how foul, in order to get it. It's literally Shakespearean at times, as you almost root for him to win while also being terrified by his actions. It's a perfect statement as to why The Kingpin is one of Marvel's most dangerous villains. Because he's not just a big guy who can smash you with his fists, but a calculating mastermind who will destroy you completely if you dare to anger him or inconvenience him.

Art by Alex Maleev

Maleev's art continues to excel in this run. His gritty, scratchy art style proves to be the perfect companion to Bendis's hard-boiled narrative. I could complain about the scratchiness of the coloring from Matt Hollingsworth, but it manages to be fitting to the world of Daredevil. His world tends to be gritty and intense, and Maleev's artwork alongside Hollingworth's colors makes the world of The Man Without Fear come alive and be fully realized. We also get other artistic contributions from figures like Frank Quitely, Chris Bachalo, Greg Land, and P. Craig Russell that range from pretty good to 'wow, that looks obviously traced from a photograph.' I'll leave it up to the audience to decide who drew which.


The core strength of this Daredevil run so far is that Bendis keeps escalating the tension of Matt's life becoming unraveled after the events of "Out." There's nowhere for Matt to run, and he has to come to terms with the consequences of his actions. He can deny all he wants about not being Daredevil, but Bendis rather brilliantly shows how that target will be on your back always and that when you've made your bed, you're eventually going to have to lie in it. It is this lesson that Matt learns the hard way time and time again as this volume continues to roll along, and I can't wait to see where it goes next.

Art by Alex Maleev


Art by P. Craig Russell

Favorite moments of this volume include the Kingpin's return as mentioned before; we get to see the manipulative, utterly pissed off version of him. He's almost like a demon, haunting the people who wronged him and taking vengeance upon them; Daredevil completely demolishing Bullseye and carving his head with his bullseye sign on his head with a rock; Daredevil declaring himself the new Kingpin of Hell's Kitchen; Black Widow's arc, as well as her relationship with Daredevil; I love how she's this feisty, sensual woman who brings out Matt's wild side and shamelessly teases him (especially at the end there, oof); Matt's fight with the Yakuza guys; and the part where Matt visits Dr. Strange to see if there's a way to reverse his situation, only to find that he's going to have to live with the consequences of his actions.


Bendis's Daredevil run shows me how fantastic he can be when he's put his mind to making a compelling narrative. Many people often complain about how superhero stories are just soap operas with punching people, and while that might be true, one can't deny that this run is high quality level superhero storytelling from two creators at the top of their game.


You can find Daredevil Ultimate Collection 2 (collecting Daredevil (1998) #41-50, 56-65) by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev on Amazon, Comixology, or your Local Comic Book shop.


 

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.

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