It’s bizarre to skewer a writer for one creation and then praise him so vividly for another. That’s the conundrum I find myself in with Brian Michael Bendis. While I’m seeing his All-New X-Men begin to fall apart, his Daredevil: End Of Days with David Mack continues to get better and better. I’ll admit, issue #3 threw me for a loop but issue #4 is right back on point. Old school reporter Ben Urich is looking to find out what “Mapone,” the last word Daredevil said before he died, meant. It’s a weird case that gets more bizarre as Urich digs deeper.
Daredevil: End Of Days #4 opens with something you never thought you’d see - the dead body of Bullseye after a fight. Urich is brought to the crime scene by a cop who owes him, and as he stares at the greatest assassin of all time, something feels wrong. In a tiny dilapidated hotel room, Bullseye has been in a shoot out and lost. Bullseye? Lost? Bullseye missed his target? Yeah, Urich smells something funny going on. To make matters worse, the word "Mapone" has been written on the wall by Bullseye in his own blood.
The majority of issue #4 takes place over Bullseye’s dead body. Urich begins to piece together various clues from the room. Daredevil’s bloody mask, the signs of a struggle, the fact that there are so many random shots in various directions and the information that a woman matching Elektra’s description was seen running out of the hotel room. Having just visited Elektra and her new life as a soccer mom, Urich is hesitant to believe the true Elektra came to kill Bullseye. Finally, Urich connects the gunshots and stumbles upon how Bullseye died, though he’s no closer to discovering what Mapone means.
Brian Michael Bendis and David Mack really carve the fat out of End Of Days. The usual overindulgence in dialogue and plot is gone. They keep the clues coming fast, but the plot itself very lean. There’s a lot to grasp here and they makes sure we never miss a beat. With every new answer comes a new question, and they juggle keeping you guessing with not getting mired in convoluted plot details, perfectly.
Another level happening here is the piss-take on the state of superheroes and comic books today. We’re all watching the comic book world being pilfered and prostituted by giant corporations. The heroes we once loved are now on the line for shilling toys and fast food meals. Subtly, they take aim at this with the art and story. Two of the four opening gatefold pages have been Urich standing in Times Square, surrounded by the remnants of a mass-marketed superhero culture. “Hammer Insurance” with a picture of Thor, "Fantastic Foods" featuring the "Hulk Burger," an ad for a Hawkeye reality show, that kind of thing.
Story wise, Bendis and Mack are looking at a world devoid of heroes through the eyes of Urich, the last man who wants to believe and see the heroes as they were. The final pages of Daredevil: End Of Days #4, between Urich and a long imprisoned Punisher, really sums up how the heroes fell from their better natures towards the end. They're dealing out powerful snipes at the idea of superheroes in the same way Alan Moore did with Watchmen.
Again, the art is ridiculous. The pencils from Klaus Janson are rigid and harsh. The characters here reflect their surroundings. Taking the pencils to the next level is iconic artist Bill Sienkiewicz, who uses Janson’s work and folds into his finished artwork. It’s hard to really see where Janson ends and Sienkiewicz begins, and that’s just fine. Together they create seamless and beautiful work. I must also log a creative nod to artist Alex Maleev, who creates this beautiful homage to Bullseye on page six of the issue. It’s a truly gorgeous splash page and stands out against the other work going on here.
Daredevil: End Of Days is a powerful story that rattles the emotional core of the superhero world.
(4.5 Story, 4.5 Art)