Advance Review: DAREDEVIL: END OF DAYS #1 (Spoiler Free)

Cover by Alex Maleev

Daredevil: End of Days #1

Written by Brian Michael Bendis & David Mack
Pencils by Klaus Janson
Finished Art & Paintings by Bill Sienkiewicz
Color Art by Matt Hollingsworth
Letters by VC’s Joe Caramagna

40 Pages/Color/$3.99

Published by Marvel Comics

The second greatest trick Matt Murdock ever played was convincing himself his pain did not exist. The greatest, of course, was convincing the rest of us.

We as readers are complicit in that long con, as current Daredevil series writer Mark Waid has been forthright since the very beginning of his run; Matt’s footloose and fancy-free facade is just that, a deception. Finger in the dike might stem the trickle, but in the end it’s more agitation than remedy. We’ve already seen the cracks multiply in recent months as tensions mount between Matt and Foggy. The Man Without Fear is living up to his name in the self-destruction department, meaning Bendis and Mack’s “End of Days” mini feels more portentous than it might had it been released a year ago.

If you’ve yearned for a return to the grim darkness of Bendis’ celebrated run on the main title, this is that cozy gargoyle. Alternatively, if you’d dismissed this long-delayed project as an artifact of a bygone era, a tonal anachronism, you might be surprised at just how fitting a companion to the charming and vibrant ongoing “End of Days” truly is. Consider it a bleak but wholly believable tiding from the Ghost of Clinton Yet to Come, one possible future for a man and a fan base reveling in the crumbling present.

Chronicling it all is Murdock’s own Clarence Odbody–or better yet, the John the Baptist crying out in his urban wilderness–journalist Ben Urich. In truth, Urich has filled every Apostolic role in the story of the Daredevil, from evangelist to doubter. It makes sense that he be here in the end. He’s not just Matt’s Jim Gordon and Lois Lane. He’s his Ben Urich.

Some time between now and the day the sun flickers out for good, Urich is tasked with writing a final portrait of Murdock and the Daredevil, a story he’s reticent to tell until J. Jonah Jameson lobbies for it in their hauntingly lonely newsroom. As much as this tale concerns the legacy of a tragic hero, it’s also about locating the pulse of genuine journalism and hoping to god you’re not just mistaking it for the blood coursing through your own thumb. In one of Bendis’ now signature montage sequences, Urich hits the pavement for some man-on-the-street interviews. No one wants to get involved in this story, just as our dead-tired reporter suspected. Until the last one, who has a lot to say about Daredevil and the state of modern media. It’s all blue collar succinct though, frank and simple words about where we are and how we tell it. Here, Urich encounters amateur footage of Dardevil’s last known appearance, and a cryptic parting word. It’s a mystery the reporter himself likens to Citizen Kane‘s. With that, we’re off. Urich is no longer tasked with a tribute or summation. This is a live case, if a little cold. Urich’s found the pulse. It’s in his own thumb. It’s in his neck. And no mistake, it’s racing.

Without giving too much away, “End of Days” is a requiem in many senses of the word. Context and passing remarks tell us that the Heroic Age is long ended. The number of good guys has lessened for varying reasons. Matt Murdock has crossed the line too many times, and even his masked comrades, those who knew the man, have joined in the chorus against him. Or have at least stopped trying to sway the world in his favor. It’s a far-flung departure from Matt’s current position in the ongoing, but in no way an unlikely trajectory. It feels like the fate he’ll always be struggling to avoid. Is it his definitive¬†Dark Knight Returns moment, the stick at the end of the carrot? If it falls short of the landmark status, it could well reach that spiritual touchstone amongst the character’s dedicated fans.

David Mack variant cover

And since it’s unlikely at this stage that Frank Miller could stage a coup and deliver his own finishing touch on the Daredevil legacy, even if he wanted to, there are few artists better suited to singing the character to his rest than Klaus Janson and Bill Sienkewicz. Janson provides the bulk of the visuals, offering some truly visceral and concussive action beats for Matt and some equally brutal squalor for Urich. It isn’t always pretty, but that’s the point. These characters and this neighborhood have been through the ringer, and Janson’s pencils are a stark reminder of the rough and tumble days some readers may well have forgotten. Then, in the center of it all, a decadent fever dream from Bill Sienkiewicz, whose paintings seamlessly mesh with Janson’s style. Perhaps it’s the level of aggressive expression exhibited by both artist that allows for two disparate styles to coalesce like this. If these are the two rings of Murdock and Urich’s hell, they run in parallel and often interweave.

Through Ben Urich, Bendis and Mack intend to tell us the true story of Matt Murdock, the man known as Daredevil. It’s a dark path and by no means a straight line. It’s evident, though, that Bendis has an unwavering vision of the proper tone and aesthetic for a Daredevil title. It could’ve easily functioned as the next (and likely final) story line in his own run on the main title. That doesn’t necessarily mean readers need to disavow the diverse chapters since 2006. In fact, the ultra-serious “End of Days” probably benefits from the distance and perspective brought on by the series’ evolution. Rather than deeming it a return to form or devolution though, it functions best, at least so far, as a cautionary tale viewed through one of several well-chosen lenses.

It’s fitting that blind Matt Murdock has viewed his reflection in so many diverse lights, all of them just as accurate and equally as disingenuous.

That Marvel’s modern survey of Hell’s Kitchen never quite tracked with the gentrified real-life neighborhood has amused New Yorkers for years. As an outsider, I’m not sure if Bendis’ and Maleev’s and Janson’s or even Miller’s depiction of Midtown West is any more truthful than Waid’s and his artist’s. I don’t know if gentrification is holistic, if the spirit of a place can ever truly be exorcised for good or ill even if every brick is replaced. Is Bendis and Mack’s Daredevil more honest than Waid’s? It’s almost certainly not as simple as that. In a way, maybe each chapter in Matt Murdock’s life is equally brimming with deceptions and realizations. Burning down his ruins and rebuilding something new and wondering why it never quite feels like sanctuary.

Story: 4 / Art: 4.5 / Overall: 4.5

(Out of 5 Stars)

 

Daredevil: End of Days #1 hits shelves on October 3rd.

Comments

  1. I certainly do want this but I’m afraid I’ll have to Trade wait, need to save & plenty already out there that I get!

  2. i just went to dcbs to order this

  3. This story begs to be read as a trade… But very, very tempting…

    • Uggh, my thoughts exactly and like having a smaller pull these days, tend to enjoy the few I like the most much more when not trying to keep up with too many. This one is gonna be hard not to buy but is definitely trade shelf material.

  4. Thanks for your review Paul glad to see it get a good rating!

    I have two questions for you hopefully you can answer.

    1. For someone like myself who wasnt reading comics during the highly acclaimed Bendis Daredevil run would i be able to jump into reading this mini?

    2. Based off the first issue would this be something that you feel might read better in trade?

    Thanks

    • 1. Yes. Ben Urich is a reporter with close ties to Daredevil. He’s the central character in the story at least in this issue. His efforts to write about Daredevil and his last public appearance inform the narrative style. It includes flashes of Matt Murdock’s biography, so it makes for a great primer on the character and Bendis’ treatment of the material.

      2. Having only read one issue, it’s hard to say. It’s certainly going to be a substantial story in trade. Accounting for the price, that wouldn’t be a bad way to go. But compared to other recent projects like Spider-Men, I do think this is a robust enough installment to warrant reading it serialized in issues.

    • Thanks for the reply

  5. i’m so excited for this. i remember listening to the fanboy radio interview with david mack when bendis called in and announced this (in january of 2007!). can’t wait to finally see this.

  6. HALLELUJAH!!

    This is the one single book I’ve been waiting for for years. Wow, and now that its a month away, I still can’t wait.

  7. Damn I’m trying to budget between my bodybuilding supplements and comics but I have to pick this up!

  8. Has Marvel said if most/all of these are in the can? I’m on the fence about trade-waiting, and if delays are likely I will definitely wait.

    Great review, by the way.

  9. I’m fairly sure that David Mack cover was used on at least seven issues of the old DD series…

  10. Three great DD runs: Miller, Bendis, Waid.

  11. Waid’s revitalizing of DD was the best for me.

  12. Great review!

    I have to admit, while I’m enjoying Waid’s run, I do miss the dark and gritty DD from Bendis, et al. Sounds like this will make for a nice trade.

  13. My most anticipated book of this week. I don’t necessarily want the Waid run to have Matt careening off the cliff back into misery though.

  14. Another great, nuanced review, Paul. I grew up with the Lee/Colan run & although I loved what Miller/Bendis/Brubaker did with the character, I always missed the “swashbuckling” strain from the old days, & was really glad to see Waid bring it back. Having said that, Wake Up was probably my all-time fave DD story & this seems like it will have a certain affinity with that. I’ll be there for the issues.

  15. This should be available tomorrow? I can’t seem to find anything on the Marvel website.

  16. I’m a little confused because I read somewhere that it fits just fine in the context of the regular title. I read Daredevil 18 before this one just in case, and I have to say while I thought End of Days was terrific and I’ll be sticking with it, how does it coexist?

    P.s. Everyone else says the current Daredevil series is a must read and i feel like it’s taken a while but now with the last 2 issues, i can also say that.

    p.p.s. End of Days is EIGHT issues? really? I hope they can carry the load.