Saturday, July 14, 2007

The devil you say!

While at the bookstore the other night, I noticed a few trades were offered at discount prices (five bucks each), so I picked up a couple of Daredevil volumes: Underboss and Lowlife, labelled volumes four and six, but really the first and third of the Bendis/Maleev trades. I've heard many good things about their run, so did these books live up to the hype?

Yeah, sure.

Despite missing the second trade, Out, the story is pretty easy to follow from Underboss to Lowlife. In Underboss, there are two stories basically: someone is trying to kill Matt Murdock and a guy named Silke is trying to get rid of the Kingpin so he can take over. Now, the two seem unrelated at first, but it soon becomes known that Silke put the hit on Murdock as a signal to everyone that the Kingpin's days were numbered--which we know they are because he's killed in the first issue. Except, he survives and, by the end, Silke turns himself into the FBI for protection from Vanessa Fisk and the remaining loyal Kingpin men. To get FBI protection, he gives them a juicy secret: Matt Murdock is Daredevil.

Now, the recap page of Lowlife tells me that I missed Murdock's secret being expossed in a tabloid paper, prompting Murdock to sue the publisher and avoid being Daredevil. At the same time, Vanessa Fisk has sold off the Kingpin's criminal empire and left America for good.

Lowlife begins with the introduction of a new character, Milla, a blind woman Daredevil saves from getting hit by a truck. She's interesting as she later puts Murdock in a position where he can't deny being Daredevil to her because of the different ways she recognises people as opposed to those of us who can see. This volume has Murdock torn between being Daredevil and laying low long enough for people to stop watching him so closely. Except, the Owl has taken over the Kingpin's empire and is pushing a drug onto the streets that unlocks a person's potential mutation (this was also seen in Joe Casey's Uncanny X-Men run, although there, the Vanisher was behind it). Murdock wants it off the street, but because of the "Is Matt Murdock Daredevil?" question, must proceed with caution. In the end, he shuts the Owl down and the volume ends with the return of the Kingpin as he kills Silke in jail.

A few things stood out to me while reading these volumes:

* The shift from ALL CAPS dialogue to mixed-case dialogue must have been just so Bendis could fit more dialogue in. If not, he certainly took advantage of the shift as the volume definitely increases in Lowlife over Underboss. Not that I'm complaining as Bendis' dialogue works well here, especially because there isn't a lot of repetition, everything pushes the story forward.

* In the first few issues of Underboss, Bendis does a great job of showing us how overwhelming Murdock's heightened senses can be as he hunts down Nitro, but has problems because of all of the noise in New York, to the point where he can't hear what's going on five feet away, but is deafened by a stereo five blocks away.

* Those silent issues Marvel did that one month read like shit in trades. I've got four collections or runs featuring a silent issue and it doesn't work in ANY of them. You're going along fine and suddenly, an issue where there's no talking FOR NO APPARENT REASON. I didn't realise what the fuck was going on until the end of the issue when I remembered the whole "'Nuff Said" month.

* The scene where Stilt-Man quits is fantastic. Especially him explaining to Murdock just how scary Daredevil is to everyone--and the fact that without saying anything, Murdock seems strangely surprised by this news.

* The seeds for Murdock eventually declaring himself the new Kingpin are laid here in a couple of places: Stilt-Man's speech and Luke Cage's speech. Stilt-Man telling Murdock how he scares everyone combined with Luke telling him to step up, be a man, and clean up his own backyard point a clear line of action.

I'm definitely going to continue buying these books, starting with Out and then so on. The plus is that this will eventually lead to Brubaker and Lark's stuff, which is supposed to be pretty damn good, too.