Reviews of trade paperbacks of comic books (mostly Marvel), along with a few other semi-relevant comments / reviews.

04 August 2009

Daredevil, v. 13: The Murdock Papers

Collects: Daredevil #76-81 (2005-6)

Released: March 2006 (Marvel)

Format: 152 pages / color / $14.99 / ISBN: 9780785118107

What is this?: Bendis and Maleev end their run on Daredevil as Matt tries to stay out of prison.

The culprits: Writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Alex Maleev

Writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Alex Maleev began their run on Daredevil with (v. 2) #26, and with a couple of exceptions (Bendis worked with fill-in artists on #38-40, and #50-4 was David Mack writing and drawing an Echo story), they continued on the title together until #81, more than four years together. It is a run of impressive length — if not always impressive quality — for a 21st-century comic from the Big Two.

Daredevil, v. 13: The Murdock Papers ends that run, an end that was too long in coming. But that isn’t The Murdock Paper’s fault.

Daredevil, v. 13: The Murdock Papers coverBendis finishes on a strong note. The story, in which the Kingpin tries to trade his freedom for evidence that will put Murdock in prison, allows Bendis to pull in the most important Daredevil supporting characters for his final ride. The Black Widow, Elektra, and the new White Tiger try to help Daredevil escape; Foggy foggies his way through the chaos; Phil Urich is the observer and reporter as always; and the Kingpin and Bullseye try to finish Daredevil off in their own ways. Matt’s estranged wife shows up to, uh, watch the chaos unfold. Bendis shows, if nothing else, he knows how to end the story he put into motion, and it ends the only way it could.

The fights are good, with plenty of violence and action. The characters, for the most part, get used well; Elektra’s return is a welcome sight, as is the Black Widow’s and Milla’s. I was glad Matt reconciled with his wife; leaving her as a loose end would have been an egregious error by Bendis. On the other hand, the verbal abuse hurled at Elektra is unwarranted, and the new White Tiger gets short shrift. The story has a growing sense of inevitability as it approaches the end, and a momentary dream sequence, as Matt ponders escaping the courthouse, is a nice surprise that underscores why the story can’t go that way.

The logical underpinnings of the story, though. … In The Murdock Papers, it is clearer than ever that Bendis is a writer, not a lawyer; if he played a lawyer on TV, I’d be tempted to ask for his disbarment. The Kingpin’s big plan is to prove Daredevil / Matt was near the site where the alleged evidence against Matt was stored, but that doesn’t prove obstruction of justice, as he and the Feds allege; any lawyer could argue coincidence or that Daredevil, as a hero, was there to preserve the evidence from the supervillains running around. The Feds giving the Kingpin immunity is stupid, and the legal loophole the Owl and the Feds use to circumvent that agreement is unconvincing. (Surely the Kingpin’s lawyers are better than that?) Singling out Daredevil for punishment is stupid, an obvious witch hunt that would prejudice the government’s case in court given the status of other vigilante superheroes. I’m relatively sure a federal agent can’t be fired as easily as Agent Del Toro was. Phil Urich’s refusal to protect his sources is asinine, to say the least; J. Jonah Jameson, frankly, should fire him for rolling over to the feds over the threat for being “lock[ed] … up for the whole day!!” (A whole day? Horrors!) If I thought Bendis’s Urich was the real Urich, I’d be upset that a good journalist was acting like a reporter for a high-school reporter. Probably a Skrull, though.

Maleev’s art isn’t quite up to his par. It’s still good on the aggregate, but Elektra seems to elude him; Maleev seems to have the idea that her face is a plastic mask, unmovable, and he can’t give her costume the reality that other artists have. (Admittedly, it is a unrealistic costume, but the other weird costumes look normal.) In fact, every time Elektra enters a fight, the action becomes stiff and posed. In the rest of the volume, though, Maleev’s work looks exactly like it always does: excellent.

This story should have been written three volumes earlier; Bendis said, in the afterword, that it ended the way it had to, but he didn’t want to saddle the next writer with a setup he didn’t want, and until he found a successor who wanted that ending, it was difficult for him to finish his Daredevil work. Still, it ends well. Despite its flaws, The Murdock Papers puts a nice capstone on one of the great Daredevil runs.

Rating: Marvel symbol Marvel symbol Marvel symbol (3 of 5)

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