Daredevil has no shortage of classic arcs and creative teams, but the Man Without Fear is very much a fan-favourite character rather than the sort of iconic branding heavyweight that can generate sales to rival the critical acclaim.
Quietly, and with fanfare that will take years to grow before reaching the cacophony it absolutely deserves – the long-mooted and seemingly fated never to actually materialise Daredevil: End Of Days finally entered the world every bit the rival of end-times tales like The Dark Knight Returns, Marvels or Kingdom Come. These are rare epics that in telling the imagine future of a heavyweight character, cut more succinctly to that character’s heart than the decades of material that followed.
Written by Brian Michael Bendis (Ultimate Spider-Man), who with artist Alex Maleev (Spider-Woman, Moon Knight) defined the 21st Century Daredevil, and drawn by David W Mack (Kabuki, Daredevil), End Of Days is a mythology-heavy ground-up view of New York following the death of Daredevil, and the world that crashes down around him.
That Mack inked (as of #124) and increasingly detailed based on looser and looser pencils, Miller’s Daredevil run – as well as The Dark Knight Returns – lends Daredevil: End Of Days a more classical authority, rooted in the very birth of this sort of storytelling.
In a near future Marvel universe, aging reporter Ben Urich, estranged ally to Matt Murdoch, investigates the apparent death of Daredevil for the final edition of the failing Daily Bugle and the meaning of the vigilante’s enigmatic last words, ‘Mapone’.
This last case, one he becomes increasingly desperate to solve, brings him into contact with a fiercely unfuckwithable Elektra, a terrifying Frank Castle, a mysterious Hand ninja and assorted members of Daredevil’s rogues’ gallery in various states of retirement, from the Purple Man to the Owl. The Punisher continues to be at his absolute best when seen in Daredevil comics; fully Hannibal Lectered in a prison cell, he uses Urich’s visit as cover for an escape, beginning a clean up of Daredevil’s enemies that seems pre-planned. Meanwhile, a new Daredevil is looking out of the weatherbeaten journalist…
Bendis is a dab hand at street-level introspection, beat cops and hacks trading blows, and mob bosses indulging their accusers – tropes got down pat as far back as Powers, Jinx and Alias – but seeing Daredevil through this lens after spending so much time with his hopes and fears is effective. Since the superhero deconstruction went mainstream, the best comics have brought back that sense of mystery and wonder, and it plays perfectly into the slowburning whodunnit at the story’s heart – as much The Killing as it is Detective Comics.
With gorgeous covers of various extended characters at their deaths by the peerless Alex Maleev, and the classical, pump noir of Janson’s pencils setting the tone perfectly inside, Daredevil: End Of Days is a perfect package. It might take years – perhaps even a whole new Daredevil movie – but eventually the world will know that too.