Daredevil’s Long Goodbye

Daredevil has been a sort of generational touchstone at Marvel Comics since Frank Miller took over the title in the late 1970s. His initial work on the title–especially when collaborating with inker Klaus Jansen, was (for a time) considered the best comic book run in the long history of the superhero. His revisitation of the character in 1986 was arguably better, and that Born Again story arc became the high water mark against which all other monthly comic plots had to compare.

Many high profile teams of writers and artists followed, including David Mack who brought in pal Brian Michael Bendis to succeed him, and it was the latter’s four years at the helm of the title with artist Alex Maleev that matched and outdid the great work Miller had done on the title. Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark had the unenviable task of following the best ever run on the storied franchise of Daredevil and managed to match it for the next three and half years.

Once again, many talented folks followed, but none have lived up to the back to back Bendis and Brubaker years–including the current award-winning series by Mark Waid. That all changed two days ago with the release of Daredevil: End of Days #1. Mack and Bendis began plotting this series back in 2006, and have an artistic dream team in former Miller collaborators Klaus Jansen and Bill Sienkiewicz. Why the long wait? There’s just no rushing perfection.

So what happens when one of the least conventional comic creators teams with one of the most popular?

They kill Daredevil.

This isn’t really a spoiler, as the hero’s corpse is pictured on the cover of the first of eight issues, and his death is revealed a mere five pages into the actual comic (after a gruesome battle with long time nemesis Bullseye). This story takes place in the not-too-distant future and so is outside regular Marvel Universe continuity. In many ways it’s the perfectly spaced conclusion to the “Wake Up” story that Mack penciled for Bendis back in 2001. We’ve all known that the red, horned guardian of Hell’s Kitchen wasn’t going to die of old age, and he wasn’t ever going to retire. It’s always been in the cards that Matt Murdoch would die in his Daredevil costume, and via Daily Bugle journalist Ben Urich we get the story. Like Citizen Kane, End of Days opens with a great man’s dying words and hopefully in the next 7 issues we’ll learn what they meant. Regardless, this is some of the best writing out there, and it’s great to see Jansen and Sienkiewicz back in top form. There is a double page spread of the Bugle office immediately following a double page spread of the killing blow, and so textured and detailed is the newsroom that I spent a full five minutes scanning it. This is one of those books that is so sumptuous, that you almost don’t want to turn the pages but so compelling is the script that you’re helpless against the urge to continue. This is why we buy comics.

I’ve known David Mack for a little while now. He’s a friend and if I asked him he might just tell me what’s going to happen in this eight-issue mini-series. Of course that would rob me of the great joy of discovery I am guaranteed from now until next spring. I think I’ll wait.