Front street on Hell’s Kitchen

The superhero identity is a Pandora’s Box of secrecy. The hero’s inner circle are usually the ones who are in the know about the delicate balance of a dual life. Brian Michael Bendis & Alex Maleev busts this Pandora’s box wide open on his tenure on Daredevil.

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This four and a half year run, collected across three trade paperbacks, is tremendous. Bendis took the noir, street-level tone that Frank Miller brought to the book that made it a best-seller and gave a contemporary, sophisticated spin.

This story, spanning 55 issues, is The Godfather, part II meets The Wire written by Aaron Sorkin. Bendis plays a lot with the pacing in the first arc “Underboss” spanning a three month period features a coup against the Kingpin. The book used the superheroics sparingly. The narrative is in the vein of a serialized, episodic crime drama.

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Stop the presses!!

Celebrities these days are heavily monitored by social media, paparazzi and tabloids. Their private lives being put out for the whole world to see. Bendis decides to conduct this social experiment on Matt Murdock/Daredevil by putting his secret identity on front street. Bendis, more so than Miller, pushes Matt to his breaking point and beyond. Having your secret identity being put under the microscope is a different animal and it affects Matt, the people in his orbit and by extension, the Marvel universe. The decisions he makes throughout the story will have you guessing if he’s doing the right thing.

There are twists and turns aplenty and it’s got appearances from Spider-Man, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, Jessica Jones and the Black Widow, who has a four part story arc of her own.

Alex Maleev’s art is impeccable. It’s bitingly moody in it’s depiction of Hell’s Kitchen. Take the single panel above. It conveys a sense of realism without losing sight that it’s still a comic book. Seeing Maleev’s moody art with a photorealistic New York backdrop gives it a unique look and it coalesces beautifully with Bendis’ snappy writing. Maleev really shines on issue #28 where there’s not a single line of dialogue. He also makes some gorgeous double page spreads!

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Other artists fill in for, such as David Mack, Terry Dodson and Manuel Gutierrez in the first TPB. The “Wake Up” story arc is a trippy, watercolored fever dream. Mack’s artwork, at times, echoes the work of Bill Sienkiewicz.

I can’t say enough good things about this series of stories. Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev escaped from Miller’s shadow to deliver a masterclass of artwork and narrative. This is something you can hand to someone’s who’s into crime dramas and they’ll see the medium’s potential. It’s the best Daredevil run I’ve ever read.

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The devil’s work is never done.

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