Review: Daredevil #501

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In 1964, Stan Lee and Bill Everett unleashed one of Marvel’s longest running titles on the comic reading public, The Daredevil! A young boy blinded by a terrible accident but compensated by gaining extraordinary abilities, he has been in continuous publication since his first issue in 1964. Last month he celebrated his 500th issue, and this week we look at issue 501 and a new creative team.

15_DAREDEVIL_501.jpgFirst off, I admit that I have never been a regular reader of Daredevil. I own a reprint of the first issue, few 70’s issues and a nice short run off Miller stories from the 80’s but absolutely nothing from the last few years except a few one shots or mini’s. So, when I saw the solicitations the there was a new team on the title, I figured I could give it a look-see. I really was not ready for what I read.

Right off the bat, I don’t feel too bad about missing the 500th anniversary issue, because they supply a great little recap page. This issue seems to spin out of the events of Dark Reign: The List: Daredevil, as it starts off with the funeral for the families, 107 people, killed in the building which Bullseye blew up while trying to trap Daredevil. Those families just also happened to be holding out against Oscorp in a new development, but that is another story. During the funeral, which is held in a large cathedral,  Daredevil crouches on the roof in the rain, feeling guilty and blaming himself for the deaths. Izo, mysterious blind ex-head of The Hand, teacher of Stick, and currently guide for Daredevil.  They begin to the guilt that Daredevil feels and the Hand. Izo reminds Daredevil several times that The Hand are evil, he could not have used them to stop the deaths. The conversation, very well written, continues and Daredevil says that The Hand is a weapon that can be used for good if the man who wields it is good. Izo continues to tell Daredevil that The Hand is evil and can never be used for good, but Daredevil asks what if one sacrifice could make it right; one sacrifice to stop the deaths. Izo tells him that he could throw himself off the roof; it won’t bring the dead back. Daredevil tells him that he is not talking about sacrificing himself, but Izo. It seems that part of becoming the initiation into The Hand involves a sacrifice, and they want Izo. A great fight sequence with dozen of Hand ninjas ensues, but Daredevil never sees it. He never even turns to face Izo. Is it shame?

Meanwhile, at the offices of Nelson, Blake and Murdock, Foggy and Becky are reading about the murder of Judge Walden and the two detectives. While Becky tries to point out that the witnesses say the attacker was masked, Foggy refuses to put on the blinders. He believes it was a ninja, and that means The Hand, and now that means Matt Murdock. When Dakota North arrives with donuts, they all sit down to discuss the situation. The people killed in the apartment blast by Bullseye, the Judge, and the two detectives where all connected through Norman Osbourn. Osburn was trying to get the land the apartement was on, the judge was hearing the case, and the two detectives where part of a group of police that brock up a protest against tearing down the building, hospitalizing three protesters before pressing charges against them.  And it all points to the possibility of Matt ordering retribution. At this point, even I am beginning to wonder. Foggy, blaming himself for the whole thing, is worried about Matt, even though Dakota says that there is a line he would never cross. Foggy does not seem so sure.

In Midtown, the Kingpin and his assassin, Lady Bullseye, are entertaining a tough called Turk. It was Turk who warned Daredevil where Dakota was being held captive, playing a major part in the Kingpin’s failure at attempting to lead The Hand. But, against type, Fisk doesn’t have Lady Bullseye kill Turk, but instead sets him free. Lady Bullseye protests, saying that word will get out that the Kingpin has gone soft, which is exactly what Fisk wants. But this is all a part his plan. With the streets thinking that the Kingpin is weak, he is free to work behind the scenes, pitting his enemies against each other.

Deep beneath New York, The Hand has gathered for a solemn ceremony. Izo, tht blind, immortal, and often drunk, master is strung up in one of the underground meeting areas. The Hand have all gathered for this, the crowning of a new leader. The next series of pages is rather rough to read, and I do not mean the beautifully written dialogue. Izo and Matt have a conversation about the nature of The Hand, salvation and damnation, and what you must give to achieve your needs. A group of high ranking Hand leaders announce that for Daredevil to take the position as head Hand, an innocent must be sacrificed.  “If you wish The Hand to live and die at your command, you must first murder and innocent.”  With that, Daredevil strikes, and a man dies. But as The Hand all bow down proclaiming, “LORD DAREDEVIL.”, I have to wonder if the innocent that was killed was as cut and dry as it first seems.

As I said before, I have not ever really followed Daredevil. My favorite Daredevil stories are when he is with another hero or group of heroes, such as the classic Gang War series back in the old Spider-Man comics. He was interesting, but there was a lot of angst and self pity whenever I tried to get into it. But when I saw that a new story arc was starting, I was interested. When I saw it was Andy Diggle that was writing it, I was sold. And I was not disappointed. Yeah, there was some angst here, but it was different. It was as if Murdock was really a man at the end of his rope, and he was taking one last ditch effort to save, not himself, but everyone else. One of the biggest things I look for with a writer is individual voices. If the characters sound like they have different backgrounds, it makes for a more believable story, in my opinion, and this hits it.

As good as any writer is, comics are a visual medium. The writer and the artist must be in sink with each other to have a hit, and I believe that Roberto De La Torre hits that mark with Diggle. Yes, it is that dark and grimy art, but it fits this story, it fits it well. You get drawn into the world and can “hear” the comic instead of reading it. The colors by Matt Hollingsworth add to the experience as well, and scenes that may have been hard to interpret are made visually appealing with his colors. And I had another little surprise in it, as the very last page of the book, where the letter page would have been back in the day, is The Devil’s Notebook. Take time to read it, as it is a very nice article by Stephen Wacker talking about the different creative teams on Daredevil over the years.

So, what it all comes down to is was the book good. Take away all the fancy-smancy talk and lay it down on the line: would I buy this book again. I’ve got to say I will. I was rather surprised that I found myself caring about these characters as much as I did despite not having any connection with them. Diggle and team hit a strong chord with the open chapter of The Devil’s Hand, Part One. I really want to see what happens next. I’m going 4.5 out of 5. This is about as good as it gets, and a great refinement of the character.

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