Reading this first issue of the long-awaited End of Days has had me thinking about all kinds of concepts related to continuity and “alternate universes.” This is something I’d like to return to in the third installment of my TOMP podcast I’ve got planned for this weekend, since it technically falls outside the scope I had in mind for this particular review.
I will say this though: The fact that much of the basic plot was presumably laid down years ago is noticeable in that it feels like a story displaced in time, and not just because it’s set about ten years in the future (that was the number I saw in a recent interview with co-writers Brian Bendis and David Mack). Because, just as much as it’s a story from a possible future, it feels like a story that picks up right after Bendis left the book. This is evident not just in the expected thematic similarities, but also in the overt (and extensive) referencing of things which occurred during his time at the helm, as well as its failure to take into account such things as Matt murdering Bullseye during Andy Diggle’s run. Those of you who have read End of Days #1 will know which scene I’m referring to in pointing out this particular shortcoming.
However, having End of Days come across as poorly coordinated with the book’s main continuity is also a great benefit to people like myself: Daredevil fans who are deeply uncomfortable with the idea of Matt Murdock dying in the near future, while still a relatively young man. Thinking of End of Days as a “What if?” kind of story helps me enjoy it more than if I were committing myself to the idea that this is the definitive end for the Man Without Fear. The way the story reads to me allows me to shield myself from the violent – one might argue gratuitously violent – demise of my all-time favorite fictional character and enjoy End of Days as a character study rather than a (fictional) documentary.
Speaking of character studies, if this first issue is any indication, End of Days is as much a story about Ben Urich as it is about Matt Murdock. Given that Bendis has always done an excellent job of writing Urich, this bodes well for the next seven issues. Since so much if this issue revolves around Ben Urich, it’s also nice to see Bendis and Mack using an interesting technique to handle his internal dialogue. Or rather, his journalist self, manifesting its presence in the words typed as he tries to relate Matt’s story, conversing with his true inner voice. In writing Daredevil’s story, Ben Urich is forced to confront the loss of a close personal friend, and come to terms with their unique relationship. I expect some interesting insights into the minds and hearts of both Murdock and Urich to be the main rewards of this story
Most of the issue is illustrated by Daredevil veteran Klaus Janson, with a flashback scene provided by Bill Sienkiewicz (who also provides the inks for Janson’s pencils). The art is rough, and muddy. As such, it’s a perfect fit for a story which makes no attempt to gloss over the sharp edges. The two extended fight scenes feel both dynamic and brutal and Matt Hollingsworth’s colors help set the dystopian tone of the story. My one point of criticism is that the violence actually seems excessive, though this likely has more to do with the script and the writers’ ambition for this project than the artists’ handling of said script.
While Daredevil: End of Days #1 failed to blow me away, I do feel a greater confidence in this story now than I had expected going in. This promises to be a character study worth reading, while the circumstances of the story’s delayed publication helps me approach it from a more metaphorical than literal perspective. For some, this will undoubtedly be a weakness, but it makes the journey that much more enjoyable for me. Oh, and that cliffhanger is a real doozy, providing one of several hooks going forward.