The current Daredevil arc, “Cruel and Unusual,” gives Brubaker and co-writer Greg Rucka ample opportunity to stretch their crime fiction limbs, albeit in a superhero context. There’s an engaging central mystery at the center of the plot, and a number of compelling twists in the way of our heroes. Lark’s artwork perfectly complements the writing with gritty, naturalistic depictions of the streets. The book is clearly working well in their hands.
So why aren’t I raving about it?
To be honest, it may just be a question of taste. While Brubaker’s take Daredevil isn’t a million miles away from Bendis’ version, there’s a certain perfunctory air to Brubaker’s recent arcs. Everything slots into place a little too perfectly, and the characters tend to feel more like pieces on a chessboard rather than the flawed-but-human cast I remember from Bendis’ era on the title. Under Brubaker, the characters — Murdock especially — feel a little one-note and repetitive.
That said, the wider plot arcs and more immediate mysteries are more than enough to keep the series entertaining, but it’s hard to believe this is the same Brubaker who had me gripping the pages the first time I read “Lawless.” Perhaps there are some preconceptions of what a Daredevil title should be that are hampering my ability to appreciate the work, or perhaps the pacing is just a little too slow for me. Whatever the reason, I find myself admiring the work on a technical level rather than fully engaging with the story. I get it in my head, but I’m not feeling it in my gut.
The one thing that does have me eager to read the rest of the story is Ben Donovan’s apparent willingness to die for a crime he didn’t commit. Between that and the attack on Dakota at the end of this issue, I can at least be hopeful that the arc will, at least, deliver a satisfying conclusion, and I’ll find it much easier to forgive a dull journey if the destination’s exciting. It’ll be some time until my goodwill towards the “Daredevil” team is exhausted, but it’d be nice to see a major shake-up soon.