Page 45 Review by Stephen
With which Bendis wraps up the emotional rollercoaster ride that has been the tearing down of Matt Murdock's public life, leaving him with no privacy at all.
THE GOLDEN AGE:
Alexander Bont is ninety-three years old. He's finally just got out of prison to find that everything's changed. His restaurant is a video rental, his wife Lucy is now a tombstone in the snow, Matt Murdock has been outed as Daredevil
and taken over as Kingpin of Hell's Kitchen. It was because of Daredevil that Bont was sent away for so many years in the first place - indeed he's had unpleasant dealings with Murdock as well. Before that, he used to run Hell's Kitchen. All of it was his, built on a reputation he gained from the blood of one masked man. If he wants it back, he's going to have to spill the blood of another and kill two birds with one stone. And lord, does he want it back!
Bendis, who several books ago stole Frank Miller's crown as the finest writer to work on this series, returns to the format of his first proper stint and sends readers backwards and forwards in time in a way that seamlessly links all the components while Murdock is beaten to a pulp. There's a superb moment of transition towards the end of the second issue where Bont takes current revenge in a single punch for several pages of grief he suffered under Murdock's caustic wit many years ago. Two panels, beautifully played.
And if that's not enough the ramifications of the disastrous White Tiger trial finally come into play as one of the deceased's relatives - an FBI agent on the case to prove Murdock's identity and guilt - seeks answers and Melvin Potter, the reformed Gladiator, finds himself between yet another rock and a hard place.
Alex Maleev has been so lucky to find a writer with enough skill to make him shine, but Bendis has been equally fortunate to find an artist for this series who will make him look even better than he is. The rain, the architecture, the nigh-impenetrable shadows and low-lit glows... Superb texture, superb pacing. Great positioning of the "Dead End" sign. Things like that.
A local priest offers some Hell's Kitchen residents the opportunity to discuss in confidence their year-long lives in a district over which Daredevil has declared himself in charge, much like the Kingpin had, albeit with the opposite intentions. Gradually a connection emerges between some of the stories they tell involving a demonic baby/dwarf and a man who's sitting amongst them, smirking. There aren't many writers and artists who could fill six issues (of a title from which the majority of its readers expect at least some action) with one long conversation in a single room and still see the same number of copies sold, but that's what happened, even though one customer suggested that they should, in all honesty, change the comic's title to "Matt Murdock". And I wish they would, because then perhaps a few of those potential readers who would lap up this sharp urban crime might actually forget that it ever had anything to do with spandex, and take the plunge. Although in this book, as it happens, it's more of a chilling horror story. Here's that entrance I promised you, towards the end, albeit without the timing which the art carefully affords, as anticipated by the sadist who's been sitting quietly in corner, and is now trying to goad them with his potentially insane beliefs:
"There are religions and powers in this world that are tens of thousands of years old. Hundreds of thousands of years old. Millions of years old.
"Matt Murdock? You were right to be scared of him. You should be scared of him. He's a ninja. You know that? You know what a ninja is? Really? The dark arts of the ancient shadow warriors. You know how many people are left on this planet that know what Matt Murdock knows?
"And his master died with more secrets than he even told Matt Murdock. But Matt knows a lot more than he's letting on.
"He knows aaaall kinds of ninja secrets and tricks. Like... he can sit in a room and he can make it so no one actually notices him. He can sit right next to you. And you wouldn't notice him... until you noticed him.
"Isn't that right, Matthew?"
Murdock: "And you are?"
THE MURDOCK PAPERS:
It all began with Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin, and that's how it ends as the absolute bastard manoeuvres everyone from haggard Ben Urich (Daily Bugle reporter and Matt's long-time confidant) and the FBI to Matthew himself into precisely the position he wants them: one with no possible exit.
For months now the public, the authorities and the press have "known" that Matt Murdock, the blind lawyer, is somehow Daredevil. But they've never been able to prove it. If they did, he'd go straight to jail for perjury. It's not just that he's another of those vigilantes in tights who are constantly taking and breaking the law, it's the fact that during one particular trial he had the brazen gall to stand up and defend "Daredevil" whilst an impostor stood right there in the witness stand. Also, he's counter-sued a newspaper for claiming he's Daredevil. But now, in front of the press and the FBI, the Kingpin announces the existence of the Murdoch papers - the irrefutable evidence of Matt's dark secret.
Two chapters and a single, seemingly innocuous gun wound later, Wilson Fisk, The Kingpin, pulls the rug out from under everyone's feet. I can assure you, there are no happy endings for anyone, and only Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark could have followed Bendis and Maleev into the hole they've dug the title character into. Only they could have made things even worse. And they have, you know. You'll be buying those books as well.
P.S. Also includes the three issues of ULTIMATE TEAM-UP so difficult to get hold of drawn by Bill Sienkiewicz.