Page 45 Review by Stephen
When someone brings to the table the ambition and talent to surpass Frank Miller, it's time to sit up and take notice.
The first nineteen issues of Bendis' definitive run on The Man Without Fear began in a quiet, thoughtful way with a psychological mystery as Ben Urich, Daily Bugle reporter, becomes dangerously obsessed with a traumatised boy. What happened on that roof top to transform an able young lad into a wall of silence? What's the truth behind those superhero comics he's drawing? KABUKI's David Mack was on hand for that four-issue story, and beautifully painted it was too, but it was Alex Maleev whose highly textured, twilight art leant Bendis' crime the grime it needed to keep it real, and this is the story they told:
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"I know before I'm even awake. Even in my sleep I hear them. I hear them on their cells. I hear the motors in their cameras whirring and winding. I hear their snide backstabbing whispers toward each other. Then I smell them. I smell the coffee. The croissants. The freshly laid deodorant. I even -- yep. I even smell the saline solution in their eyes. I know before I wake up... I know my life is over."
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Wilson Fisk, The Kingpin of Crime, a big, bald brute so physically terrifying that you wouldn't dream of defying him, has ruled the mobs of New York for as long as anyone can remember. He's your abusive father, your ex-headmaster, he's your biggest nightmares rolled into one and although he was blinded some months ago, no one challenged his authority - certainly not his quivering sot of a son. But for several years Fisk has known that the blind lawyer, Matt Murdock, a tireless campaigner against his illegal racket, is the same man who adopts the mask of Daredevil, a perpetually expensive thorn in his side. Fisk has tried to destroy Murdock from the inside, from the outside and by force, but he's never gone at it straight for it's a war of wits, a personal vendetta, and if his enforcers have all known Daredevil's secret for almost as long as Fisk has, the Kingpin has declared the lawyer off limits to everyone but himself. So why has a hit now been sanctioned on Murdock? A hit which has left both Matthew and Wilson in the dark? And, more importantly, is Matthew even the real target?
Bendis surpasses himself in this urban legal crime thriller, unpeeling the layers of intrigue as he moves the story backwards and forwards over the last three months, and Maleev's dark and dirty art is perfect, especially during the retribution sequences involving Fisk's wife, Vanessa. But just when you think it can't get any worse, Bendis does the unthinkable for, in a desperate bid to save himself from retribution, the ambitious young turn-coat at the heart of the mutiny hands himself over to the Feds. A wanted man himself, the only way the authorities would even consider not slamming him away for life would be if he made it worth their while. Give up all his father's secrets. He gives them something else instead: Daredevil's civilian identity.
Now all it takes is one greedy agent to sell the story to the tabloids, and Matt Murdock is in more trouble than almost any other masked vigilante would be. Why? Because Murdock's a defence lawyer partnered with Foggy Nelson, and his last case was defending Daredevil knowing full well that someone else was behind the mask of the man in court. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is called perjury.
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"GLOBE EXCLUSIVE: PULP HERO OF HELL'S KITCHEN IS BLIND LAWYER"
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"Matt -- you can't. You can't come clean. You can't come out. First? You'll be disbarred. And then... then you go to jail. You know I'm right, pal. So the thing we do? We fight this. We deny! deny! deny! 'til we're blue in the face. I say we get up on the highest tree and we scream: liars! We sue everyone in sight until the heads spin off the top of their bodies."
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"Can I get some coffee, Mr. Nelson?"
"Depends -- what brings you here, Mr. Ingersol?"
"My clients at the Daily Globe, Mr. Rosenthal in particular -- would like me to personally reiterate to you that you can shove your grandstanding, four hundred million dollar lawsuit stunt straight up your fake blind, lying superhero, vigilante fazoo!"
"Well... no coffee for you."
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Hand-on-heart recommended to readers of such non-leotard masterpieces like 100 BULLETS, CRIMINAL, Peter Milligan's HUMAN TARGET and indeed STRANGERS IN PARADISE for there are broken hearts, madness just around the corner, and dialogue with attitude. Oh, and lots of conspiracy. Largely Matthew's.