In the twilight of the superheroes, Daredevil returns from retirement to take on his arch-enemy Bullseye. This is the last time Daredevil will defend the streets of New York’s Hell’s Kitchen. This time the bad guy wins and the Man Without Fear is killed, brutally, as the people he protected for so long watch as if their favorite reality TV show was playing right in front of their eyes. But to the viewers who pay close attention they hear something puzzling, something many missed. Daredevil’s last word, “Mapone.”
Daredevil is dead and that is just how the all star creative team of Brian Michael Bendis, David Mack, Klaus Janson and Bill Sienkiewicz wanted it. The last moments of Daredevil’s life are only the catalyst for the story that takes place in the eight issue mini-series “Daredevil End of Days” from Marvel Comics collected into a deluxe hardcover of the same name.
Each creator is known for big moments in the near 50 year history of Daredevil, some of the seminal high points of his publishing history. For co-writer Bendis it was his 61 issue run as the head writer of “Daredevil” where he collaborated with artist Alex Maleev to define a new era of the hero by outing his secret identity to the public. From there, Daredevil’s life spun out of control with a hasty marriage and declaration for himself to be the new Kingpin of Hell’s Kitchen a declaration that landed the hero in maximum security prison.
Co-writer and contributing artist Mack wrote the introduction of Echo to the Daredevil mythos and then provided the art for Bendis’ first “Daredevil” story “Wake Up” a story that factors prominently in “Daredevil End of Days.”
“End of Days” penciller Klaus Janson began inking Daredevil in 1975 with “Daredevil” #124 his run on the book ended with issue #194 in 1983. During this time Daredevil experienced his first golden age as writer/artist Frank Miller redefined the street vigilante not only through his pencils but his writing as well. As Miller stepped back from penciling, Janson took over and drew the end of Miller’s run continuing the dark realistic tone of the stories.
The “End of Days” series inker Sienkiewicz has an outstanding pedigree himself with Daredevil, working with Miller on the revolutionary “Elektra Assassin” eight issue series in 1986 and then the “Daredevil: Love and War” graphic novel also in 1986. His water color stylings were like nothing else in comics at the time giving the books a distinct look that made them wildly popular.
The events of “Daredevil End of Days” take place in a future several years ahead of the current Marvel Universe. There has been a changing of the guard and the heroes of today are retiring and out of their prime. Prior to his fatal confrontation with Bullseye no one had seen Daredevil in years. It is up to Daily Bugle reporter Ben Urich to piece together the story of Daredevil’s final days and bring closure to the life of one of New York’s greatest heroes.
Through the narrative the creators use Urich to revisit the past of Daredevil in a manner that made sense story wise. Urich had a deep connection to the Man Without Fear and it fell upon him to eulogize his old friend. At the heart of the story it is a tale of Urich’s friendship with Daredevil and how he deals with the grief.
Their friendship is central to the story. Urich reluctantly accepted the assignment of covering Daredevil’s last days at the orders of J. Jonah Jameson, publisher of the Daily Bugle. It was a story he felt no one cared about and no one wanted to talk about. But as he faced his own guilt at what he felt was a one-sided friendship with Daredevil he realized that no matter what happened to separate the two in the past he owed it to his old friend to answer the questions of his life. Chief among those is Daredevil’s last word, “Mapone.” What did it mean? Was it some sort of code word, a past love, guilt, nonsense, a sled? The questions raised drive Urich.
Through his digging into Daredevil’s past he looks again at Daredevil’s last appearance before his death. It was the day the law he had cherished so much had failed him. It was the day that Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin of Crime, was released from prison for cutting a deal. His actions turned the entire superhero community against him and the man in red became an outcast.
The dark and grim look at the last days does carry some humor as we find many of the past loves of Daredevil’s alter-ego Matt Murdock in a variety of new roles. Killer assassins like Elektra and Typhoid Mary have moved on from their past to be a soccer mom and a soap opera actress / mother respectively. Great departures from their current roles within the Marvel Universe and their children all bear a striking resemblance to Murdock.
The combination of Janson’s pencils with Sienkiewicz’s inks set the tone of the series. It is rough and raw and captures that unclean feeling of the future this story is set in. The settings they show reveal that the world sees its protectors as cheap and gimmicky as their images are commercialized littering Time Square is bright neon and cheesy sales pitches. These backdrops tell you so much of this time that you can tell the fascination with the world’s protectors is taken for granted leading credence to the thought that the world was disillusioned by Daredevil that they were willing to stand idly by as the bad guy won.
This artistic team also shows that they know how to tell a noir story. The pacing of the panels as Urich walks through Daredevil’s life, tracing the hero’s steps, is excellent.
Even as “Daredevil End of Days” pays tribute to the great history of Daredevil with nods to longtime readers of the book, the story is a great entry to the Daredevil mythos. Following Urich’s investigation will introduce you to a hero you want to know more about, things you would not ever realize about the hero until he died.
The collected edition reprints the original covers for the series by Maleev, with the variant covers by Mack for each issue as well as other talented artists contributing art to the edition.