Daredevil #56 Review

Reviewer: William Cooling
Story Title: The King’s of Hell Kitchen Pt.1

Written by: Brian Michael Bendis
Art by: Alex Maleev
Lettered by: Virtual Calligraphy’s Cory Petit
Editor: Joe Quesada
Publisher: Marvel Knights/Marvel

Last summer before we were all subjected to (sob) David Mack’s reused Art College application portfolio we saw Bendis and Maleev bring their first “run” to an end as the various crises inflicted on Murdock; the outing, the post-Kingpin chaos and his return eventually brought him to stop the ballet that is the confrontation between superheroes and villains and declare Hell’s Kitchen his. A year has now paced and Pax du Daredevil is causing alternate delight in the masses and concern in the Establishment with the growing storm retold to us (and an unidentified character) by Ben Ulrich.

To my knowledge the idea of a Batman style vigilante assuming control of his area by sheer brute force is unprecedented with the idea of Superohero-cracy always being dissected on a global/futuristic level. This produces a challenge to Bendis namely how does he properly reflect the effects that have resulted from Daredevil’s rule while maintaining a realistic bent, something he does in three ways. Firstly, by introducing the element of Murdock pouring money into Hell’s Kitchen he stops Daredevil’s clean up being the ultimate superhero-violent power fantasy. Instead there is a carrot-stick approach with hard and soft measures working together to make the city a better place. Secondly he emphasises how much the people of Hell’s Kitchen and beyond love him, a love that leads to an interesting offer. These two devices Bendis uses allows us to accept that Daredevil would be able to assume control and maintain it without becoming as unpopular as the Kingpin he disposed. These devices formed the first half of the story as Bendis explains what happened after the end of Issue 50.

The third device dominates the second half as Bendis shows Murdock’s rule to be precarious it is with the forces of the Establishment namely the police readying an assault on Murdock. However, despite some surveillance that is not the focus of this issue instead we see Peter Parker, Luke Cage, Doctor Strange and Richard Reed confront Murdock and tell him to stop, that he’s gone to far and the authorities are after him. This scene dominates the second half of the issue with Bendis’ characterisation and dialogue being spot (well d’uh) managing to make what is essentially five people talking a riveting read, primarily due to the way we see the friendships dissolve as the two sides pull further apart. In addition the idea of the four friends going to see him is an excellent, which I particularly enjoy due to its overtones of the party grandees going to tell whoever was Tory leader that its time to go. That little niche pleasure also leads me to not that the political content of these scenes is extremely good with Bendis managing to mix arguments about zero-tolerance policing with issues concerning friendship and loyalty all encased in almost Roman levels of intrigue.

Using these three devices Bendis is able to quickly show the rule of Daredevil to be believable while also adeptly shows the effect it has on the various characters and the city. Bendis is the master at characterisation and this is especially true here. He also however is very lucky with his artist and with Maleev he has again struck the jackpot. Maleev’s pencils have a rawness to them that is able to both depict the brutality and violence of Daredevil whilst also showing the hurt of Matt Murdock when “betrayed” by his friends and the love between him Milla and the awe between that Foggy has Matt and so on. What makes this versatility of emotions all the more amazing is that he achieves it using the same methods most notably an amazing ability to convey characterisation in his faces. Maleev doesn’t “do” action shots either not amazingly well or not at all (like this issue) but he is still able to convey violence and terror. He is also able to be both intimate and grandiose as shown by the shift from the confrontation between Matt and the grandees to the last four pages.

This is an excellent issue of what is a welcome return of one of the premier comic duos in the business today. Bendis is able to ruthlessly and quickly establish a new status quo and already get you caring as to the possibility of any threats to it while Maleev’s art is amazing as always. However, be warned this is a Bendis comic and there is no action whatsoever in this comic it is literally people talking and walking with all the violence happening off stage, so for the love of God don’t buy it if you a compressed, action comic zealot. However, if you’re sane then buy! Buy! Buy!