7/28/15

I really dodged a bullet by finishing Daredevil: End of Days before Rustie uploaded this comedic gem yesterday, as Matt Murdock’s fateful last word now and forever reads as Ben Urich’s misinterpretation of Matt’s final attempt at reciting the hook from Ginuwine’s shameless debut single.

“. . . ride it, Mapone.”

The book’s last issue reveal of “Mapone”‘s meaning was unfortunately less interesting. I give immense credit to Brian Michael Bendis and David Mack for spinning a yarn that expertly spins its wheels, creating an ideal vehicle for Bendis’s entertaining character exchanges while largely clearing the path of loose ends that typically trip up his superhero work. Unlike Citizen Kane, where the mystery propelled a study of the protagonist’s past—which we already know through the 400+ past Daredevil issues, End of Days focuses on, for its concluding half at least, the birth of a new mantle bearer.

I guess this makes the subtext of Matt’s murdering the Kingpin and fatal try at Bullseye that his character has been taken as far (i.e. as dark) as it could and now it’s time for a successor who can continue the pursuit of justice without the baggage from his destructive personal rivalries. The problem here is that those rivalries were an essential part of Daredevil’s appeal. As Frank Miller admitted in his and Klaus Janson’s interview with Peter Sanderson*, Daredevil’s rogue’s gallery was “one of the weakest” before he came on to flesh out the stakes between the players. Until then, with the exception of Wally Wood’s short-lived run and scattered gems throughout Gerber, Colan and Bob Brown’s runs, Marvel’s overall grasp on DD’s character was loose and unfocused.

But now, with subsequent runs being so reliant on the groundwork laid by Miller and Janson’s classic run, Daredevil’s world is now one of Marvel’s most insular. In order to justify the introduction of a new Daredevil, End of Days backtracks on what could’ve been a celebratory look at what Matt Murdock’s uniquely principled crusade wrought for Hell’s Kitchen and is forced into a narrative that argues the need for any street-level hero to take his place.

Superficially, the new DD has everything from a boxer’s fighting spirit to his own Stick, who will teach him to “feel” the city the same way Matt did in his augmented blindness. What he doesn’t have is the legal background (the other part of DD’s appeal), which secured second chances for the likes of Gladiator** and other small-time super criminals. There is a scene of Ben Urich telling him to honor the “heroes don’t kill” rule, and there is the sense that maybe he’ll take up a journalistic alter-ego as inspired by him. But will that hold nearly as much power in this decidedly more dystopian New York, where the Daily Bugle can’t support itself and even Matt Murdock eventually ran out of ways to keep his enemies in jail?

In the end, for all its positives—and there are many both in the art and writing—the concept falls flat under the same scrutiny The Dark Knight Rises did earlier that year in its hopes to convince the viewer that John Blake would continue the Batman’s legacy. As good a person as he was, and despite the film’s effort to show how Batman could be built from the ground-up, it’s simply not as feasible or engaging to imagine anyone other than the hellbent crusaders we’ve known for at least half a century behind the masks. It’s less the fault of the creators and more that the formula isn’t something viewers question until confronted with change. At least the choice for the new Daredevil serves as a much deserved apology for how Bendis treated Mack’s Echo in New Avengers.

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*Printed in the back matter of the first Daredevil Omnibus.

** Who is used as more of a plot device here, as his struggle to remain on the right side of the law is well-established in previous run.

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