01/11/2009. Contributed by Ewan Angus
(pub: Marvel Comics. Price: $ 4.99 (US).
check out www.marvel.com
This review does contain spoilers and for that I apologise, it was very difficult to write this without spoilers. So there you have it.
OK, since I'm not having to worry about spoilers then there may be a good load of them.
So here we go. Daredevil # 500. 500! I hear you say, 'That many?'
On the other hand I hear the sceptical, 'Is that it?'
And to you both I say there is no point in caring about how much or how little has passed before in the life of Matthew Murdock before because it ALL changes now.
'The Return Of The King' storyline has being playing out throughout the majority of Brubaker's run on the Man Without Fear and with this landmark issue it comes to a satisfying and intriguing close. In fact, it so crazy that you can't help but think holy crap, Marvel really know how to sell an issue.
So, for the uninitiated, The Hand (the occult ninja death group) have spent the better part of the last two years attempting to envelop Daredevil into the fold as their leader. Except there's a few big problems, namely:-
The Hand are bad guys
Daredevil is a good guy
So there you have it, a conundrum if there ever was one. Whilst the blind have been leading the blind (Daredevil's sensei is also blind), the Kingpin of Crime has returned. Yup, the vacationing Wilson Fisk has been off in Europe and due to the actions of The Hand, has come back and he's just as mean as before.
It's this plot point I love the most for this book. With a title like 'The Return Of The King' you know the writers are shooting for bloody epic. Not just titanic epic but the whole three 'Lord Of The Rings' films epic. Except it's kind of like a noir epic and who doesn't love a geeky name drop. Even when it is this blatant. However the title also plays on its main plot points, too. There's the Kingpin coming back, return of the...you get the point. Then there's the twist. Which I am not going to spoil here.
I know I said spoiler warning but it's a spoiler, I'm not going to treat you. This is one you need to read for yourself.
The whole issue is a violent one, the kind of well-paced, revenge driven violence that Brubaker seems to pile into his comics that compliment the dark psychological aspects. The fight between Daredevil and the long-suffering, and ultimately rubbish bad guy, the Owl, is short but deserves its place in comicbook legend. The calm methodical approach taken by Daredevil to stop a psycho who was willing to kill one of Matt's confidants is excellent. I wont say much, but the Owl is going to be out of play for quite a while, maybe even forever.
The dark noir like colours of Brubaker's storyline compliment the dreary oppressive feel that this title has become renowned for whilst the scratchy pencil art work really backs it up, making the darkness Daredevil feels seem contagious and, as his friends find out, dangerous. I'm sure as hell going to miss the artistic super team of Lark, Gaudiano, Janson, Samnee and Azaceta, now that it's being handed over to Andy Diggle and Billy Tan.
Of course, as this is a big landmark, issue then there is plenty of bonus material. A preview of 'The Dark Reign: The List, Daredevil' by Andy Diggle and Billy Tan shows where Murdock will go following the twist at the end of this issue. My one problem with this preview is the major jump in art styles. 'The Return Of The King' arc has been dark, peering through the detail dark whereas Tan's pencils and colours seem to punch you in the eyes, they're that bright in comparison. It might take a bit of getting used to. There's a short strip by Ann Noncenti and David Aja, which is pencilled brilliantly because let's face it, Aja is brilliant. His work on the Immortal Iron Fist was outstanding. The story is a little weak and serves well in this context but it's not anything to jump up and down about.
There is also a reprinting of Daredevil # 191 from way back when Frank Miller was the head honcho. Delighting in its twisted sense of moral ambiguity and relishing its dissolution of religious protocol, it really serves well to highlight who Daredevil is and how that underneath the mask there is not a devil but an ordinary man. In the context of this issue, it is a clever move to include this one.
Daredevil # 500 has been a great ending to a great story and it has served brilliantly to cement Daredevil's place in the Marvel Universe and, more importantly, in the comics industry as a staple who is consistently looked to for great characters and great plots.
With a twist like that at the end the slightly more expensive cover price was worth it. There's also a cover gallery with all 500 issues covers in it. They're tiny, but it's the thought that counts.
My copy has a wraparound cover with loads of characters on it. Including the Iron Fist. Who can deny a comic its praise when it has a wraparound cover on it! Who? Who dares? You do? Then you are heartless.
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