Hey all! Okay… Where to start? Hm, how about at the end? Karl Kesel’s look back at the Mike Murdock era, in a story called The Last Will And Testament of Mike Murdock, makes up the back end of this double-sized special anniversary issue. It is also, by far, my favorite among the three. (Spoilers warning for the other two stories discussed below.)
Karl Kesel (and his mysterious twin “Kurt”) are listed as both writer and penciller of this story – inked by Tom Palmer with colors by Grace Allison – which sees modern-day Matt finally have to deal with his fictional Silver Age twin. What this story does is what these kinds of specials seem perfectly made for: connecting loose ends and updating old stories to fit with modern sensibilities. Since I know that fans have been asking themselves for a long time what a modern-day extended conversation about Mike between Matt and Foggy would sound like, this story fills a gap, and does so perfectly.
The technique used to bring Mike into the modern day is through a video tape that Matt and Foggy watch together while Matt squirms. This technique allows “Mike” to narrate a story in a way that doesn’t seem forced (he’s recording it for posterity, after all), and any Daredevil fan will be reminded of the charm that has been so much a part of this character’s life, alongside the dark times and the heartache. It breathes optimism. The artwork complements the script perfectly and the “pop” of Kesel’s particular style is reigned in by Allison’s vivid but not-too-bright colors.
Finally, I’ll just end with a couple of quotes that made this story thoroughly enjoyable (the first by Matt, the second by “Mike”):
”It was a crazy time. I did crazy things. I tried to pass as Thor, for God’s sake…”
”If you can’t find a flagpole — don’t worry! The ground will catch you! Which is the sort of backup plan that keeps you alert and inventive!”
The middle story is a prose story by Brian Michael Bendis, illustrated with complementary background art by Alex Maleev, with colors by Matt Hollingsworth. In other words, the old gang is back together. The story is told from the perspective of Matt’s wife, a hitherto unknown woman by the name of Stana Morgan who tells the story of her meeting Matt, and their subsequent marriage, to their unborn child. Her story ends ominously with Maleev’s artwork showing us her coming face to face with Bullseye.
What I like about this story is how well it complements Kesel’s much brighter story, by showing us the grittier and darker side of the Daredevil “continuum.” Taken together, these two stories show the range of the Daredevil title. I also have to admit that I derived at least some satisfaction from the fact that it (somewhat) invalidates Daredevil: End of Days, a story which, aside from the artwork, had little redeeming value in my book.
On a more positive note, one thing I found interesting was how much this Stana Morgan’s first encounter with Daredevil mirrors that of Milla Donovan. As does the rest of the story. They were both rescued by Daredevil, who would later seek them out to check in (though in Milla’s case, she was the one to initiate the relationship), had a seemingly short engagement and were married in Matt’s office.
This is one of the more interesting things I’ve seen from Bendis in a long time. The script is admirably to the point, and reveals the perspective of the “common woman” in the Marvel Universe – something Bendis tends to excel at. I really enjoyed his run on Daredevil, minor qualms aside, and I’ve also liked some of his other earlier work (though I really should read his creator-owned stoff at some point): Lately though, I’ve been unimpressed with his work on the Avengers books and thought End of Days was a complete dud. This story is much more reminiscent of the kind of thing he would write during his run on the main Daredevil title, and I can see quite a few fans enjoying this story, as I did.
While this is essentially a prose story, many of the more important points are brought home by the artwork by Alex Maleev, and Matt Hollingsworth, and the look they create is perfect nostalgia for the many, many fans who came onboard during this creative team’s run.
Okay, time to tackle the very first story of the book by the regular Daredevil creative team. Well, the art isn’t by Chris Samnee, but regular colorist Javier Rodríguez has stepped in enough times to shoulder the pencilling duties that it’s starting to feel pretty regular to me. I expected some great artwork, and we certainly got that in spades. Rodríguez is proving himself to be particularly adept at drawing children, and his take on Matt’s son(!) Jack is pitch perfect.
As for the story itself, I have to admit that it’s a little hard to believe that the man behind one of the best issues of Daredevil I’ve read in a long time – last month’s Daredevil #1 – and responsible for some of the best Daredevil stories ever written is the same man who wrote this story. It doesn’t quite feel like a Mark Waid Daredevil comic at all, with the exception of how well this team handled the relationship between Matt and his son, which I found genuinely touching.
People who are fans of the TOMP Facebook page may already be aware of the major scare I had when the preview came online. What the *beep* was this deal with Matt’s radar sense “evolving” to detect colors? I was hoping that would be some kind of ruse. It wasn’t. While my initial reaction was one of despair, admittedly completely overblown (that’s a first world problem if there ever was one), it was nice to have a few days to digest it to the point where I realized this would be an incredibly silly reason to give up reading Daredevil. So, when I picked up today’s issue, I had already made my peace with it. It’s still something that may actually have to go in the Wacky powers section – and I would be pretty horrified to see this developed in the main series (not unthinkable considering the seeds sown during the Latveria arc) – but I was still going to enjoy this books on its other, undoubtable merits.
What I realized was that this wasn’t the only development that struck me as strange. It was a relief to see Foggy still alive, which I pretty much suspected, but odd to see him so completely transformed. The idea that Matt’s powers could be passed down to the next generation was another oddity, and the idea of a villain who blinds people felt remarkably… Silver Age? Although the modern twist on it was admittedly pretty interesting. The villain herself reminded me of some of the goofier ones to appear during the Kesel and Kelly runs of the 90s. And Matt becoming mayor just didn’t sit right with me.
What the story boiled down to were some really great moments starring father and son – and these were truly perfect – set against a backdrop that reminded me of the Bizarro Jerry episode of Seinfeld, where people none of the characters felt like their real selves. While the clues to what may be coming in the main title where easy to spot, the story as a whole felt more like a typical What If? story, in which some absurdity is part of the package.
Oh well, next week, it’s time for the next issue of Daredevil, long before any of this takes place. I will see you back then! Please comment, as I’m curious to see what all of you thought of these three very different stories!