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DD Book Club - Return of the King

 
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Mike Murdock
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 18, 2021 7:51 am    Post subject: DD Book Club - Return of the King Reply with quote

We'll have to make some tough decisions soon about whether we want to do Shadowlands. But, in the meantime, we have the last of Ed Brubaker's run.

Daredevil Vol. 2 #116 - Return of the King, Part One

Quote:
Nearly two years ago, the Kingpin left America to try to build a new life and find a new purpose for himself. Is that new life now coming to the attention of old enemies? And how does this connect to Matt Murdock and his troubles in New York with Lady Bullseye? Find out in this prelude to the new epic – RETURN OF THE KING. Reteaming four-time award-winning best writer Ed Brubaker with groundbreaking artist David Aja for the first time since their work on the cult sensation IMMORTAL IRON FIST!


Due 4/24
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Dimetre
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 19, 2021 4:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Twelve years after this issue was published, its impact is still felt. This is easily one of the best installments from Ed Brubaker's Daredevil run, and another great one-shot collaboration with David Aja.

Matt doesn't appear in this issue at all. It's simply shows the aftermath of Matt's banishment of the Kingpin from American shores. Wilson ended up in Spain on the Costa da Morte. As he sneers at the sea, a woman offers to lend him her umbrella. He's unprepared for neither her kindness or charm. And so his love affair with Marta begins.

I remember discussing this issue on this board when it came out. I don't remember who pointed out the drawing of Wilson with Marta's umbrella, but it was a brilliant analysis. Marta's umbrella is too small to protect Wilson from the elements, and by lending him it, she completely exposes herself to them. It's a brilliant panel from Aja, and a powerful example of foreshadowing.

Brubaker shows a deep understanding of Fisk in this issue. The passage about the fragility of happiness and its companionship with fear is totally something Fisk would feel in his bones. I can picture him picking up his pace every time he comes close to Marta's house out of worry for her safety. He would always expect the worst, because that's what he's learned.

If I would do anything differently, I would have given more space to his life in Spain with Marta, and condensed the last part with Lady Bullseye. I kind of remember that last part being shorter anyway, so it was a bit surprising today to see how many pages were devoted to it.

But this is a brilliant issue, and I'm guessing this is the last truly great Brubaker Daredevil issue. I give this one a 4.5 out of 5.
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Mike Murdock
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 23, 2021 6:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sorry I took so long to get around to this.

This is just a very beautiful issue. The art is wonderful. The story is sentimental until the very end of it. Then the end turns it very harsh and bitter, which is a great contrast to what came before. I like that this was a single story with a nice flow and didn't have to worry about changing points of view or focusing on different characters. I know they can never just retire the Kingpin, but it still sucks to see this. It felt like this could have been a good end for him.

Four and a Half Stars. Just shy of five, imo.
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Mike Murdock
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 26, 2021 6:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Daredevil Vol. 2 #117 - Return of the King, Part Two

Quote:
RETURN OF THE KING continues! Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin of Crime, comes back to Hell's Kitchen to forge a pact with Daredevil! Their target? Lady Bullseye and the Hand! By the award-winning team of Brubaker and Lark!


Due 5/1
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I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 27, 2021 7:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Michael Lark returns for the second part of "Return of the King". I still marvel at the amount of detail he gives to the environments in which the characters live. The snow obscuring the fight between Izo and the Hand ninja is gorgeous.

This issue shows Matt making another bad decision -- creeping up on the photographer who snapped the pictures of him and Dakota. This succeeds in messing up the Donovans' case against Matt, but it shows how faulty his current judgement is. He is still so intent on salvaging whatever he can of his marriage, and is so quick to pin the responsibility for everything on Lady Bullseye -- even though nobody made him and Dakota fall into bed with each other.

The fact that Wilson Fisk is also rightfully angry with Lady Bullseye has Matt open to teaming up against her. I honestly think that the Kingpin may come off as slightly more noble than Matt in this issue. He was sincerely doing his best to leave his criminal past behind when Lady Bullseye stormed in and tore his new life apart, and Fisk is willing to lay down his life to stop her. Matt, on the other hand, is showing a tragic lack of self-awareness here. His hubris foreshadows the descent that we know follows throughout Andy Diggle's run.

This isn't as artfully constructed an issue as the last one, which is one of the best in Ed Brubaker's run. It's a fine issue, but it's short on story. Most of this issue is various characters yelling at Matt, and they are in the right to do so. We get to see Daredevil unravel, but I feel like Brubaker and Lark are coasting towards the finish line. I give this issue a 3.5 out of 5.
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Mike Murdock
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 29, 2021 7:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

This issue is mostly for the soap opera. The Hand and Kingpin stories seem tangential.

The Milla story is dragging on and I'm not thrilled with Matt's actions. I don't like Daredevil beating up the Private Investigator. I don't know why, but it doesn't seem particularly heroic. He also seems to be putting Foggy in a terrible position. Dakota seems to make the rational decision to get out of there, but I'm not sure she's the one being screwed over the most,

The art is good. However, there's a scene with Izo in the snow that is almost impossible to see.

Not a lot to comment on, to be honest. It's a very slow build clearly written for the trade. I'll give it Four Stars.
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Mike Murdock
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PostPosted: Sun May 02, 2021 12:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Daredevil Vol. 2 #118 - Return of the King, Part Three

Quote:
Did you think it was going to be easy for the Kingpin to waltz back into New York City? Or did you smarten up and realize that every crook and super-villain who ever had a grudge against him would crawl out of the woodwork and try to kill him? By the award-winning team of Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark!


Due 5/8
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I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!
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PostPosted: Sun May 02, 2021 4:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ed Brubaker has steadily eroded away Matt's sanity and good sense throughout this run. His character has progressively coarsened, and this issue shows him at a new low, costing him more than he anticipated.

I wrote in my review of last issue that Matt has lost a lot of self-awareness. It's a bad look to still be trying to hold on to Milla at this point, but now he's on Dakota's fire escape, gazing at his navel all melancholy, brooding about how he wished he could have made that work. At this point Matt is pretty pathetic, and I can easily understand why Izo and Foggy are so fed up with him.

Funnily enough, though, I can kind of see from where he's coming about teaming up with the Kingpin against the Hand.
Quote:
I know better than anyone that I can't trust the Kingpin... I don't need reminding of that.
But if the Hand meant for Fisk and me to go at each other for the umpteenth time...
...then making a pact with him to take them apart... piece by piece...
...it just feels right.

By that rationale, it seems Matt thinks the Hand wouldn't expect the Kingpin and him to collude against them. We also remember that they worked together before to bring down Micah Synn. So, from where I'm sitting, I understand this move. I also understand the need to keep it secret. And I completely understand the level of Foggy's fury and frustration.

Normally, when someone has endured everything Matt has, they need to just stop, go somewhere and deal with their internal mess. Matt is not being given that chance. It's completely understandable how he has become such a toxic figure.

It just doesn't make for the most pleasant read.

Matt's supporting cast are great in this issue. I like how Izo is calling Matt out, and Foggy is a force of nature in this issue. Fisk is great too, and I enjoyed his dialogue with Vanessa's ghost.

I wish someone would write the Owl as more than a B-grade Kingpin. That's all he is here. His offer to hire Lady Bullseye to kill some people is this issue's cliffhanger, and it's hard to get too worried about that.

Matt's choice to hang out on Dakota's fire escape was such a pathetic and discomforting move that I wonder if that was the reaction Brubaker was hoping I'd have. It's hard to tell. Daredevil is my favourite superhero, but I don't remember him being so hard to empathize with in this arc. Maybe I've grown since I first read this. Normally, I'd be hoping for a redemptive move to come up in the future to make this alright, but we know that's not coming anytime soon.

For what it is, this issue is well-written and Michael Lark continues his stellar artwork. I just don't like where this is taking Matt. So I'm giving this a 3 out of 5.
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Mike Murdock
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PostPosted: Mon May 03, 2021 8:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

So Matt is teaming up with Fisk to take down the Hand. Izo thinks it's a bad idea. But it's not the first time the two have teamed up so I'm not sure I see the point. It's cool seeing the Kingpin be a badass and use his resources to help Matt.

I'm not a fan of Foggy/Matt fights. They should happen from time to time, but it's felt too drug out. It's made Foggy a very morose character who isn't very fun.

This issue felt like it was over very quickly. The cliffhanger didn't feel all that exciting. I'm not sure what to think, but I feel it was a step down. Three and a Half Stars.
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I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!
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Mike Murdock
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PostPosted: Sun May 09, 2021 9:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Daredevil Vol. 3 #119 - Return of the King, Part Four

Quote:
It's the penultimate chapter of the riveting RETURN OF THE KING arc! Kingpin's true agenda is revealed, as Lady Bullseye and her minions come out of hiding to begin the final confrontation in Hell's Kitchen.


Due 5/15
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PostPosted: Mon May 10, 2021 2:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

So we're very nearly done Ed Brubaker's arc, and it's clear that from the start he has eroded away at Matt's mental stability. From the hardening of his character in prison to the breakdown of his marriage, Matt's mindset has deteriorated to the point where he seems utterly scattered in this issue. The opening conversation with Detective Kurtz makes it plain. Matt is in no shape to even attempt to be a superhero at this point. He needs to go away and put Humpty Dumpty together again. But he's my favourite superhero, and it's consequently very sad to see him like this.

It's a good thing then that every other character here rocks hard.

Wilson Fisk is amazing, dealing with his wife's ghost while manipulating the Owl and earning the respect of Lady Bullseye. Speaking of Lady Bullseye, she's particularly impressive this issue. You can't put anything past her, and she'll make you pay in the most ruthless way. I very much enjoyed Dakota and Foggy's conversation. They're probably the easiest characters with whom to relate in this issue. I can totally understand Foggy's position; I felt he was completely justified in firing Matt, but as his friend his duty is to be present when Matt isn't well.

I think it would have been better if this issue closed with a cliffhanger involving Matt. Perhaps a reveal of where Izo led him? Instead we get Owl knocking out Dakota. That's the second time Brubaker has closed an issue with Dakota being knocked unconscious. I'm not too worried for her, because I'm sure Matt will save her in the end, so it's not that intense an ending.

I think I enjoyed this issue more than the one previous. Matt isn't as pathetic this issue, because he isn't hanging out on Dakota's fire escape, but he's still incompetent. Still, Brubaker and Michael Lark have shown us how Matt sunk to this depth. It's still not the most pleasant read if Matt is your hero, but it's not bad.

I give this a 3.5 out of 5.
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Mike Murdock
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PostPosted: Wed May 12, 2021 9:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

There's a lot of intrigue in the first half of this issue as all the parties talk about each other and double cross each other. Brubaker keeps things moving and keeps people guessing. It's setting up the exciting conclusion, but that means the big exciting part is next issue. The two big things are Dakota getting captured and the Hand targetting Foggy. I guess Fisk working with the Hand qualifies. Everybody is backstabbing everybody so it's hard to get a good sense of what the actual plan is.

Still, I enjoyed this story overall. Four Stars.
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I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!
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Mike Murdock
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PostPosted: Sun May 16, 2021 8:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just the main story for this because it's big enough being issue #500.

Daredevil #500 - Return of the King, Part Five

Quote:
This is it! The 500th issue of DAREDEVIL! What is the Kingpin's true plan? What do he and Lady Bullseye have in common? What will Matt Murdock do to make things right again? And just how will Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark leave this story for the next creative team to pick it up? Don't miss the twists and surprises that will have everybody talking! An all-star anniversary issue featuring new stories by Ann Nocenti, David Aja, and others!


5/22
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I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!
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PostPosted: Tue May 18, 2021 6:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I clearly haven't read this issue since it was released. I had forgotten a lot.

I had forgotten how much was revealed about Izo's history, and how much he had orchestrated things throughout the centuries. I had forgotten that he had been in both the Hand and the Chaste. He's an interesting character. I can't remember how much Izo gets used in Andy Diggle's run, because I've clearly blocked a lot of that from my memory.

Coming as a relief is Matt's bid of goodbye to Milla once and for all. He is enough of a man to realize that he can't have it all. His anger directed at Turk is ferocious, which leads him to savagely take out the Owl. Daredevil has rarely come off as this sadistic ever before. It kind of makes sense as the culmination of everything Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark have put him through, but that leads me to a big problem.

I had forgotten that Izo actually wanted Matt to take leadership of the Hand, so he could turn them back to their original non-evil iteration. He says, "...it's not going to be easy, boy... or fun. But I think you're up to the task... now that your head is clear." Izo thinks Matt's head is clear? I'll grant him this, Matt has less distractions in his life. He has no marriage and no career. Is it possible that someone has old and learned as Izo is lying to himself? The idea of Fisk taking control of the Hand is so abhorrent that he'll convince himself that Matt is ready?

The other big problem I have is one I've always had dating back to when this issue came out? Why does the Hand want Matt to lead them? He's been a thorn in their side for years. Is it not about him being qualified to lead them, but for them to consume him from the inside? Maybe that's the direction Brubaker and Diggle were intending? It just didn't make sense at the time, and now that I know where this is heading, I'm not sure if that ends up becoming clear.

But there are other smaller things. If Lady Bullseye thought she was going to lead the Hand, why did she carry out Hirochi's orders, and try to recruit Daredevil to lead the Hand? And does anyone else think Hirochi was killed way too easily by the Kingpin?

I suppose I can accept that Izo knew about Black Tarantula's healing factor, and that it would allow him to escape the Hand's mental influence, but it does come of as a bit of a cheat. The hit on Foggy was only ordered last issue, and Carlos was presumed as a slave of the Hand far before that, so the reveal that he was just faking being under their command seems a little cheap.

The reveal of Izo's history was my favourite thing about this issue. What drags this issue down are the hopeless depths to which Daredevil is sinking. I can't imagine a single reader believing Matt to be able to steer the Hand into being a force for good. I certainly didn't.

Ed Brubaker is very likely my favourite writer in all of comics history. I still read every comic he puts out. For his run on my favourite character to end with Matt losing his marriage and his career and joining a death cult -- it's a crying shame. All Matt has done throughout Brubaker's run is sink deeper and deeper. I wish Brubaker had stayed so he could have written Matt's redemption. Instead, I can tell when Brubaker started to check out. It's not as though Brubaker lost his talent. Some of his best work has come out since this Daredevil run. Read Velvet, Kill Or Be Killed, or either of the two Reckless original graphic novels that came out since this past December.

It's an issue with a lot of problems for me. For what it is, it's beautifully rendered, with some nice guest art spots from Klaus Janson, Chris Samnee and Paul Azaceta. The bonus story from Ann Nocenti and David Aja is also worth checking out. However, I can't give this issue a better grade than three out of five.
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Mike Murdock
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PostPosted: Wed May 19, 2021 7:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

There's a lot of tying up loose ends in this issue. For example, the Milla plot is finally resolved. It's all too brief, but it has a moment of poignancy. Matt's been entirely stuck in his head and it's good to see him listen when that's pointed out. I feel like I should be able to give more thoughts to the whole Milla relationship now that we've seen it as a whole, but it's felt pretty over for a while. I thought Bendis rushed into it and the surprise wedding did it no favors, but Brubaker's love story helped give it some sentimentality. But the Mr. Fear story was basically it's end and now we've just been on autopilot for Matt's disfunction and melodrama.

We're treated to lots of Izo flashbacks. I've always thought of Izo as NOTSTICK. We get a better sense of that here a long with some Hand history. I like that he was both a member of the Hand and the Chaste before we get to where we are. That being said, his similarities to Stick make the Chaste seem odd. They're supposed to be the goody two shoes who are all pure, but Stick was anything but that. Izo just seems to call that out. I guess he seems to have the shadiness of the Hand while being a good guy based on the last scene where he trained Lady Bullseye. But I still think he's Stick-Light.

Weirdly, one of my favorite moments was Turk as a good guy. He's part of this intricate plan and he just goes "nah, I don't want to do this anymore." The follow-up rescue of Dakota is less appealing. I don't like Matt as methodically brutal. I'm also pretty sure his treatment of the Owl gets ignored entirely. But it's good to see Matt save the day.

Honestly, the final confrontation goes by really quickly. In some ways, it's more of an anticlimax. All that was required was for Matt to accept the offer as leader of the Hand. I'm not opposed to this. I think Brubaker decided to spend more time building anticipation for the new status quo. We've seen that through the Hand (and Matt's own stupidity), he has nothing left, which makes him ripe for his job as Hand leader. We wonder if, as leader, he can successfully change them or not. I think it sets up an interesting status quo.

Four Stars. I thought everything was resolved too easily, but it's good to see Matt get his head straight. But his actions with the Owl still annoy me. I wonder if, arguably, it's setting up a more cruel role as leader of the Hand.
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