Daredevil: End of Days TPB (Marvel)

daredevil-end-of-days

Rating: 5/5 – A superlative character study that will stay with you
Collecting Daredevil: End of Days #1-8

Daredevil: End of Days is not about the day to day exploits of a hero, ‘super’ or otherwise. No, this story explores a hero’s impact; it considers the hero’s ability to inspire us to stand back up even after we suffer defeat.

I’ll avoid any specifics and keep this spoiler free (as I think everyone should just go read this already!) but, that said, I will begin to delve into some potentially-revealing structural and thematic content below. You have been warned!

Like most great Daredevil stories, this tale begins with a fighter on the ropes. But in this case, it is not Matt Murdock who is willing himself to stand back up against impossible odds. In fact, Murdock is murdered in End of Day’s opening scene. After the untimely death of this story’s titular hero, it is Daily Bugle reporter Ben Ulrich who takes the reins of this narrative.

Like everyone else with cable or an internet connection, Ulrich witnesses the death of Matt Murdock. Sitting in his office, soaking in the tragic news, the reporter finds himself in the most desperate state possible for this particular character: he struggles to care. Indeed, the death of Ulrich’s personal hero may prove to be knock-out blow to his own heroic efforts in the newsroom.

Unfortunately, the world doesn’t seem to have a place for Ulrich anymore. And this fact, like every detail in this tale, is literally illustrated to perfection by Klaus Janson, Bill Sienkiewicz, David W. Mack, and Alex Maleev. Case in point: we are introduced to Ulrich’s plight in a particularly effective scene penciled by Johnson. In this particular scene we see the long-faced writer appearing utterly sullen as he sits in quiet reflection in the Daily Bugle’s decaying newsroom. Subtle details like a lack of uniform chairs strewn haphazardly across the cubicles give voice to the world’s growing indifference to Ulrich’s brand of selfless professionalism and journalistic integrity. Like so many other pages in this book, this is an image I will never forget.

Honestly, I couldn’t begin to express the depth of character given life in this masterwork. The art team, each already legends in their own right, are at their very best here. The raw energy and passion injected into these pages make this a must own hardcover for the visual storytelling alone.

Mack, also lending his voice to the script, sharing the scripting duties with Brian Michael Bendis, weaves a character-driven story of the highest order. One means through which the writing shines out is in Ulrich’s struggle to find the words that will define the life of Matt Murdock. Ulrich’s narration literally cycles through words until he finds just the right way to define his own personal hero.

Interestingly, this fictional journalist’s task of defining the core value behind a legendary hero is, in effect, the same task undertaken by some of the very best of today’s real-world comic writers. And really, it’s no wonder that writers endear themselves to the Ulrich character. But although Bendis and Mack had already proven themselves worthy of the Ulrich pseudonym, End of Days proves to be their masterwork.

Unfortunately, unlike Ulrich, most people couldn’t be bothered to care for the titular Daredevil’s passing. But like a faint itch, one unanswered question about the final days of Matt Murdock pushes the journalist down the rabbit hole. What results is a pitch perfect exploration of what makes Daredevil such a wonderfully layered character. Chapter by chapter, and through the lens of each of Murdock’s supporting characters, we peel back layers to this mythos and see how this hero’s example affected the world around him.

Perhaps the highest praise I can give this story is that it is the unsettling, character-driven questions that stuck with me after the final page. These enduring questions center upon the ongoing struggles, as well as the (almost always) unwavering faith that drove Murdock and Ulrich to stand back up again and again.

Murdock and Ulrich are imperfect heroes. The hero won’t always win. But we can learn from the examples set before us. To our last breath, we can stand up again and again and keep fighting the good fight.

End of Days is a love letter to Daredevil and an exploration of real-world, day to day heroism. Even though questions remain, those questions only serve to enrich the story into an all the more affecting experience. This is an instant addition into the pantheon of my all-time favorite superhero stories.

Yes, Bendis, Mack, Janson, Maleev, and Sienkiewicz have delivered a masterpiece.

Reviewed by: John Dudley – john@comicspectrum.com
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