Daredevil by Brian Michael Bendis

by Kalem Lalonde on April 06, 2015

Daredevil is a character that has always brought out the best in creators. He lends himself so well to the writing pen that bad Daredevil runs have been scarce in the last decade. And Brian Michael Bendis is a writer that is very hit-or-miss. This Daredevil effect, however brought out the best in Bendis as he delivered his masterpiece with this quintessential Daredevil run. Frank Miller redefined the character but Brian Michael Bendis perfected him. He brought him to a higher level of depth that made the character more believable as a human being than ever.

This series, above all is a crime drama. It’s about the rise and fall of crime lords as Daredevil keeps thwarting them and then takes over for them. And as all of this is going on, Daredevil’s secret identity is outed by the tabloids. The vigilante now must deal with crime lords of the city as he tries to repress crime once and for all while pushing the media back and fighting the claims that he is Matt Murdock. Bendis takes this character and applies Murphy’s Law, he might always come out on top but every time something terrible can happen, it does. Bendis creates an extremely complex life for Matt Murdock and this essence of this run is him dealing with it. The plot is fantastic as Bendis is at his best when he writes crime.  

He’s also at his best when he’s writing Matt Murdock. Matt is at his darkest when he’s written by Bendis. The run begins with a courtroom scene that ends with an attempt on Matt Murdock’s life. Matt instantly changes into his red suit and hunts the bomber down. He threatens to kill him right as he finds him and I was in instant awe. Bendis set the tone for this series right off the bat, showing just how violent and dark Matt can get.

One of the greatest strengths of this run is Bendis’ realistic and compelling portrayal of Matt Murdock and his status as a public figure. Bendis takes many moments to show us what the people of Hell’s Kitchen think of Matt Murdock. Some people think he is their hero and others believe him to be the criminal the media propagate him to be. This was an extremely effective method of making Matt an ambiguous figure. There are arguments on both sides.This run could strike many debates on whether Matt Murdock is a hero or not. On one end, the man just wants to help the city and does save a lot of people. But he’s also driven to doing whatever it takes to do so. 

In one of the best scenes of the entire run, Daredevil confronts the Kingpin for a final time. After having driven out two crime bosses following Fisk, the city has thrown yet another crime lord for Matt to fight and it’s come full circle with the Kingpin rising again. After everything he has done, Matt realizes that all of his efforts are futile. The city will not stop throwing obstacles at him because its criminal underworld needs a leader. Matt is completely furious. He forgets about his principles as a hero and lets his rage take over as he declares himself the Kingpin of Hell’s Kitchen. He takes over because if he doesn’t someone much worse will. 
This showed just how flawed Matt Murdock truly is as a character. He isn’t able to subdue his emotion and commit to heroic principles. He’s much too emotional and intense. He’s driven by his rage and on many occasions lets it take him over.

Following the death of Karen Page, Bendis had a golden opportunity for building upon the loathsome relationship between Bullseye and Daredevil. It takes a while for the confrontation to take place but once it does, Bendis wrote a flabbergasting issue that demonstrated just how much anger and hate is within Matt Murdock. He beats Bullseye to a pulp. Mentally and physically. He exposes his origins and laughs at them. He reveals to Lester that no one truly cares for him and he just begs for attention. He begs for Matt’s attention because he thinks that maybe Matt will take him out of his misery. But Matt doesn’t, not because he doesn’t want to, but just to spite his arch-nemesis. It’s one of the darkest and most horrifying confrontation I’ve ever read and added just another layer of depth to this phenomenal comic.

On the other side of exploring the aftermath of Karen Page’s demise, Bendis reveals that all of Matt’s grim decisions and fierce behaviour stem from a nervous breakdown. This small twist demonstrated just how vulnerable Matt is as a character. Not only is he fighting identity exposure, he’s also so overwhelmed by the melancholy of his life that his mental state is breaking down. The life of a human being is extremely complex and daunting to analyse but Bendis has created a comic book that opens the challenge. His protagonist is so real and drives his already fantastic books to even higher heights.

Even if the masterful character-work wouldn’t be present, this still would be an excellent read. Bendis is known for his signature banter and like every aspect of his writing, it’s at his best here. He writes many scenes of gangsters just talking to each other and he makes it fascinating. His knack for writing dialogue makes it feel like every single one of the characters written are real. Which is one of the main strengths of this book as well. Bendis is so strong at writing all these New-York based character that there are some issues where Daredevil doesn’t even appear. Yet, these issue completely hold up to all the other ones. At times, it feels like this is a story about Matt Murdock’s impact on the world around him rather than a story about Matt himself. He has a very difficult life and with this run, he begins to pull his city into the turmoil that is his life.

Alex Maleev draws the vast majority of this series and he does a phenomenal job. His pencils are extremely dark and gritty, evoking the masterful tone that Bendis creates with his writing. His use of shadows can makes some scene resemble the wonderful cinematography of the Godfather. Though, the best part of his art is his depiction of rage. Matt is a very angry person and the fierceness of his actions are portrayed expertly by Maleev’s facial expressions. This series held on its own as an amazing run with Bendis’ writing but Maleev bolstered the quality and brought this comic to being one of the best Superhero books of all time.

There is a lot to say about Bendis’ Daredevil because he accomplished an incredibly jam-packed story in this epic 50+-issue run. It’s a run that took one of the greatest Superhero’s and elaborated on his complex personality. It brought Matt Murdock’s character to new levels of depth and humanity. I realized in this run that Matt Murdock is one of the most tortured superheroes and he may even suffer from depression. That is infinitely compelling to me. Bendis me made love this character more than any other writer could and that alone would’ve made this run amazing. But Bendis’ signature dialogue, clever plotting and penchant for crime-stories all worked in brilliant unison to elevate this story to masterclass. It’s a superhero story for the ages and will go down as one of the best of all time.

Score: 10/10    



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