Daredevil is dead. Seriously. He was killed by Bullseye. Of course, this happens at some point in the future, as do all of the End books. Marvel has written a number of books that detail the end of the line for some of their favorite characters. These books are supposed to be in continuity (although we know better). This mini-series has been a very long time coming, it was originally announced back in 2007 at the second New York Comicon and has taken all these years to get the creative team together. It’s quite a creative team too, artists and writers from throughout the Daredevil saga, from Klaus Janson and Bill Sienkiewicz to Michael Bendis and David Mack, this is an all-star team for the story to end all Daredevil stories.But what is the story? As I said, Daredevil is dead and, as odd as it seems, this entire story is told without Daredevil in the book. It details the very last story of reporter Ben Urich, told in the midst of the final shutdown of the Daily Bugle. In his last battle with Bullseye, Matt Murdock uttered a final word, “Mapone”. Ulrich wants to know what it all means and this sends him on a chase through old associates of Murdock’s, from ex-wife Mila to Foggy Nelson to Elektra and even Nick Fury.
Yet this is a dark story and certainly a sad story too. It’s the story of a superhero in decline, a man who is past his prime and who, in his latter years, isn’t the man without fear that we all have known and loved. His death was almost a mercy, yet in the end, Matt knew a secret that terrified the mighty Bullseye enough for him to off himself and it’s that secret that drives the story. It’s clear from the beginning that none of this has anything to do with current Daredevil continuity, it’s more of an extension of the old Bendis/Maleev storylines. After all, Bullseye is currently dead, although we know that never lasts, and in some of the recaps Ulrich does, clearly things have changed from the old days upon which this story builds. This is really a story for people who liked the Miller and Bendis days, this isn’t modern Marvel decompression, the story develops slowly and for at least the first half of the series, there is virtually no action. Ulrich visits former friends and enemies and tries to discover what Matt’s enigmatic “Mapone” actually meant. As I said, this is quite sad because, in the end, it turns out that Matt had very few friends. Foggy Nelson has moved on and become much more successful without Matt. Mila, his ex-wife, has remarried and really has no interest in talking about her recollections. In fact, virtually none of Matt’s old “friends” wanted anything to do with him. They’ve all moved on and most of them abuse Ulrich for daring to ask about him. Perhaps the one most willing to talk was Punisher, whom Ulrich visits in prison. It really made no sense to me when the guard expressly forbid Ulrich from passing Frank Castle anything, yet when he got into the room, they were separated by a glass panel, he couldn’t have passed him anything if he had wanted to. Of course, Punisher only allowed Ulrich to visit so he could escape from prison and then he went on a killing spree, taking out all of the people Ulrich had already talked to. Thereafter, he goes to visit the Owl and the Purple Man, both of whom end up dead at Punisher’s hand, but it’s never really explicitly explained why he’s doing it, other than that’s just the kind of crazy stuff Frank Castle does.
However, once you get to issue 6, the pace does quicken. Ulrich ends up being called to a seedy hotel where Bullseye lies dead, he shot himself while mumbling “Mapone”. We are introduced to a new Daredevil, who turns out to be Ben Ulrich’s son, Tim. Tim had been training with Murdock for a long time and while he was a skilled fighter, he had none of the enhanced senses and was therefore only a shadow of Daredevil at best. However, we see a number of flashbacks where Matt tells Tim that his real sensei will be the reincarnation of Stick, the one who trained Matt. Ben Ulrich goes to see the Foot Ninjas, who are now running a cult, and when they attack, the new Daredevil goes into action, but Ben Ulrich is killed in the melee. Thereafter, Tim goes to a bar where a girl is hustling pool in the background. He goes outside and meets Nick Fury, who had all the evidence for “Mapone” all the time and feels guilty for not giving it to Ben. He hands it to Tim, but Tim doesn’t really care and tosses the file into the fire. Immediately thereafter, he goes back into the bar where the girl takes out a bunch of drunk idiots, it turns out that she’s Mapone Romanov, her nickname is “Stick”. Do the math.
However, there are a lot of things that are not well-explained in this mini-series. They never really explain why “Mapone” would cause Bullseye to kill himself. They don’t explain how Tim managed to fool everyone and have time to train as the new Daredevil. They didn’t really explain why everyone hated Matt Murdock by the end, even his best friends turned their back on him. There are a lot of question that are left unanswered by the end.
It’s nice to see that Matt’s legacy continues though. We see and are led to believe that he has had children with a large number of his former loves, from Elektra, now a loving soccer mom, to Mila, to Black Widow, all of whom are shown to have red-headed children. In fact, that’s something I should have picked up on earlier because it plays directly into the secret at the end. I was aware, as I read, that he clearly had a lot of children by a lot of women, but “Mapone” never struck me as a name, which it turned out to be. To be honest, I’m not sure why Bullseye, a world-class assassin who never misses would be afraid of the daughter of Murdock and Natasha Romanov. Sure, if she had all of the skills of Daredevil and all the skills of Black Widow, that would be a force to be reckoned with, but I’m not sure that most of Matt Murdock’s abilities would be genetic. After all, he gained his abilities by being struck in the face with radioactive material and it heightened his senses at the same time it blinded him. Is that radiation going to affect his sperm or is it something that happened to his brain? It would seem to me the latter is most likely, therefore passing along those abilities to an offspring would be unlikely. By the same token, Black Widow has no natural mutations. Her abilities are the result of extensive training. However, there is a potential problem here, she did receive a variant of the Super Soldier serum, making her slightly better than human standards, but it had the side effect of making her totally infertile. So is Bendis talking about a version of Black Widow that never received the serum? It’s never defined.
But beyond all of the seeming criticism, I really loved this mini-series. The most recent Daredevil series has been much lighter and while I will admit that we’ve had a long, long spate of dark Daredevil, that got boring after a while, I don’t think Daredevil, over the long run, ought to be super dark or super light, kicking Matt Murdock until he flips out can only go on so long and the current lighter turn is very entertaining, but it’s also nice to look back at the darker times too. This was a great series, it allows fans of the dark stories to relive the old Bendis days. It’s depressing to be sure, but in the end, it’s one I’d re-read again. Highly recommended for any dark Daredevil fan.