Company Name: Marvel Comics
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artists: Michael Lark, Stefano Gaudiano & Matt Hollingsworth
Has any creative team been better suited to the book they were assigned than Ed Brubaker, Michael Lark, Stefano Gaudiano and Matt Hollingsworth are to Daredevil? None that comes to mind as easily or as immediately.
I’ve written a lot of words praising Ed Brubaker’s writing skills in he past but nothing I can say is ever enough to do him justice. What he does in this issue – and has done in every issue of this Without Fear storyline – is expanded a character who was at best a joke and a worst a thin rip-off of another established character from the “Distinguished Competition” of Marvel and changed him into something unique and truly frightening. I refer to Larry Cranston a.k.a. Mister Fear and how this storyline has turned him from a poor man’s Jonathan Crane into a true menace and credible threat to Daredevil.
How? In much the same way that Frank Miller transformed Wilson Fisk (a.k.a The Kingpin) into a credible threat nearly thirty years ago – by sticking with the main idea behind the character that worked and developing that to its’ logical end. Fisk was stronger than a normal man and possessed a keen tactical mind. Just ditch the gimmick canes and the death-trap lairs and you have one heck of an serious enemy.
Brubaker has done the same with Mister Fear, allowing his power over fear to become more varied and more powerful. He keeps a trio of beautiful women waiting in his bedroom by exploiting their fears of abandonment. He keeps an entire hotel staff at his beck and call by exploiting their fear of disapproval. And he’s making Matt Murdock’s life a living hell having used his enhanced fear powers to trigger a homicidal rage in Matt’s wife Milla.
Brubaker manages a neat balancing act here, splitting his focus – and Matt’s – between a meeting with a judge to try and get his wife moved out of prison and into his care before her trial and a street brawl between the minions of Mister Fear and aspiring crime-lord The Hood. All of this is perfectly captured by the art team, who are as adept at showcasing superhero action as they are the quieter scenes of Matt’s day-job.
Consider the above scan, in which the grittiness of Hell’s Kitchen is perfectly captured and how Lark is able to easily move between the offices and courtrooms and their respectable officers of the law and the city streets with its’ colorfully costumed criminals with equal ease. Note the slightly washed-out colors used by Matt Hollingsworth that give everything a feeling of being faded and worn. Other heroes may live in a world of momentary brightness but Matt Murdock’s works is forever muted in shades of gray in contrast to the deep, defining shadows of Gaudiano’s inks.
Together, all of these artists and Brubaker have made Daredevil their baby. They have made this the most consistently enjoyable Marvel Comic of the past few years. Daredevil hasn’t been this good since the days of Miller and Janson and given another few years, I think Brubaker and Lark might just well surpass Frank and Klaus.
For the love of Pete, what more do I have to say to get you to read this book?