I’ve been meaning to write about Mark Waid’s Daredevil series for a long time now. I feel like I shouldn’t even have to say this, but if you don’t already read Daredevil, you need to start right now. You can find people saying the exact same thing here, here, here, and here. Honestly, if you love comic books, there’s really no reason for you not to pick up this book. It easily competes with Thor: God of Thunder for Marvel’s powerhouse series. Issue #22 has all the elements that have made the series great so far, and it’s a perfect jumping-on point for anyone not already reading the book. This issue is also one of the first appearances of the highly controversial Superior Spider-Man, as well as the return of Daredevil’s most ridiculous enemy, Stilt-Man. And in true Mark Waid fashion, he manages to do the seemingly impossible by making Superior Spider-Man likeable and Stilt-Man menacing.
Warning: This review contains spoilers.
I came to Daredevil: End of Days reluctantly. I remember standing in my local comic book store, turning to the now infamous two-page spread in the beginning of the comic, feeling disgusted and angry, putting the comic back and thinking, “Fuck this.” As a devout Daredevil fan, Matt Murdock being murdered in the street by his nemesis, with his own baton, in such a gruesome fashion, seemed ignoble and unworthy. I felt betrayed. But the more I heard people talking about how brilliant it was, I decided I had dismissed it without knowing enough about it. So I gave it a second chance.
Second impressions are a hell of a thing. It’s quite possible that End of Days is a masterpiece in the making. It transcends the conventions and assumptions of comic books and what they can accomplish. This issue achieves a level of complexity, subtext, and characterization normally reserved for novels. And I mean classic novels, like The Sound and the Fury or To the Lighthouse. This comic is so much more than your standard “death of a superhero” story, which was my initial, uninformed opinion of it. No, this comic is a nuanced, subtle examination of “The Hero” archetype, the merging of news and entertainment, voyeurism, schadenfreude, the cheapening of any sense of justice in society, and the untenable dependence between hero and villain. In fact, there are probably layers of this story that I won’t even notice until I reread it multiple times.
It has been nearly ten years since Fox released the poorly-received Ben Affleck vehicle Daredevil to theaters. Though much of the criticism of that film was justified, it was certainly exaggerated. Yes, it was far from perfect, but much of the hostility about that film had more to do with Bennifer “Gigli” Affleck’s shaky career and tabloid popularity at the time, and less to do with the actual quality of the film. Given Affleck’s meteoric rise in the director’s chair in the last few years, if Daredevil were made with Affleck today, I doubt very much it would have been panned so harshly. It still would have received its fair share of deserved criticism, but Affleck wouldn’t have gotten a Razzie for it. Daredevil definitely had its problems, but many of those were remedied in the 2004 Director’s Cut version of the film. If you’re a Daredevil fan and were disappointed with the theatrical release, then you need to check out the R-rated Director’s Cut. It’s darker, more violent, and includes an interesting subplot that was entirely cut from the theatrical version. Yes, some unforgivable problems still remain, such as the atrocious soundtrack where the orchestral score would have sufficed, and the unintentionally funny fight scene in the park still made the cut. But in general, it’s a vast improvement over the original, and certainly worth two hours of your time. It’s a very fun movie, and it looks great. And frankly, I think Ben Affleck looks the part and did a good job playing it too.
If there’s one thing people love, it’s ‘end of days’ scenarios. Everyone dies, the legend ends, the final story is told. But then everything gets fixed and that story is voided. Or it gets relegated to a future time, one we’ll never see.
Marvel would like you to think that Daredevil: End of Days is the final Daredevil story. Matt Murdock is brutally murdered by Bullseye and we’re supposed to sit through the next seven issues and witness the fallout. It’s really hard to think of this story as little more than an ‘alternate’ story. Alternate universe, alternate ending, alternate events. In the end it doesn’t matter because none of it is the real story. You can’t have the last Daredevil story while they’re still publishing ongoing Daredevil stories. If it was the end it should be the end.