The whole idea of introducing a “Lady” Bullseye into Daredevil’s life seems more than silly, so it’s a testament to the skill of Ed Brubaker that he not only makes it work, but that he uses it to develop his best “Daredevil” story arc yet.
Brubaker’s work on “Daredevil” has been strong since the beginning, but it has always been a distant second to his superior “Captain America” series. I blame the shadow of Brian Michael Bendis, as Brubaker spent most of his “Daredevil” run, until recently, following up on plot points and situations established during Bendis’s character-redefining tenure on the title. Even Michael Lark seemed handcuffed by a kind of Alex Maleev influence, underplaying the momentous drama with a lot of subtle brooding and repetitious panels. Such an approach led to a smooth transition from the Bendis/Maleev team to the Brubaker/Lark one, but after a couple of years, it’s been more than time enough for the current team to take the series in a direction all their own.
And that’s exactly what they’re doing here.
This “Lady Bullseye” arc, of which this is the second part, seems to have provided a bit of creative freedom for Brubaker and Lark, and it feels more like what we’ve seen from them elsewhere than just a faithful continuation of what Bendis and Maleev did for years. It would be overly simplistic to say that this arc feels like “Gotham Central” meets “Immortal Iron Fist,” but that’s kind of what it feels like. It has the weight of the human drama and the thrill of the martial artistry. The dialogue is terse and effective, and Lark captures the grace and violence of combat as well as anyone. It helps that Iron Fist actually appears in this issue, fighting off a team of ninjas, but Lark (with artistic collaborator Stefano Gaudiano) evokes the best of David Aja on those pages, and offers more visceral thrills than we’ve seen from him in a while.
As dark as this issue is, and it’s literally very dark — full of heavy blacks and plenty of night scenes — “Daredevil” feels more vibrantly alive than it has in a long time. This is a far cry from a light-hearted comic, but it seems to have shaken off the shackles of the burdensome melodrama. Brubaker and Lark have embraced the Frank Miller building blocks of this series, adding 50% more ninjas and giving Daredevil a mysterious new costumed foe who just happens to be a beautiful, and deadly, woman.
Perhaps it’s not that Brubaker is taking this series in a new direction, but that he’s returning it to its roots, and doing it in his own particular way. Without a doubt, though, “Daredevil” has now regained its status as one of the must-read Marvel comics. It’s the Brubaker/Lark “Daredevil” comic that you expected a couple of years ago, finally free of the Bendis influence.