Better to Reign in Hell's Kitchen: Brubaker on "Daredevil"

It seems like Matt Murdock doesn't get any happy times in his life, just calm points before major storms. Readers saw the clouds starting to gather in "Daredevil" #95, the first part of the new storyline "To the Devil, His Due" and this Wednesday the heavens open up and the downpour begins when issue #96 hits stores. CBR News spoke with "Daredevil" writer Ed Brubaker about the series and what's next for Marvel's Guardian of Hell's Kitchen.

Some readers might look at the latest issue of "Daredevil" and when they see Matt Murdock practicing law and prowling rooftops as DD, wonder why Brubaker returned things to the status quo, instead of keeping Matt Murdock on the run from the law. "I don't think things will ever be back to the full status quo where nobody thinks he's Daredevil," Brubaker told CBR News. "Brian [Bendis], in his last arc on 'Daredevil,' took things that extra mile, the sort of 'What's the worst thing that can happen?' The government finally turned on him and put Matt in jail, but once you've done that story what are you going to do? I had him in prison. I had him on the run in Europe. After a year of telling those stories I kind of felt like I wanted to take the book in a slightly different direction. It's a pendulum swing. In all serialized fiction there are pendulum swings. You can only take a story like that so far. I don't think it's as much as returning to the old status quo as just saying this is now part of the status quo; most people think Matt Murdock is Daredevil. There is an air of doubt about it; some people will think it's like a government conspiracy and he was set up, but you can't take back that much.

"Eventually you've got to get back to Matt Murdock is a lawyer," Brubaker continued. "Up until 'The Murdock Papers,' Matt was practicing law in Brian's run, even while he was outed as Daredevil. One of the reasons I always liked 'Daredevil' is that Matt Murdock is a lawyer. I like that aspect of the book and wanted to sort of get back to that."

Fans of the court room action aspect of "Daredevil" will be excited to hear that a major legal case will come Matt Murdock's way at the end of the summer. Brubaker said the impact of the case will be comparable to the White Tiger trial from Bendis' run. "There's some major court room stuff coming up that I've been planning since like my first issue on the book," Brubaker said. "There's a major case that starts around issue #100, that's going to sort of redefine Matt Murdock's life for awhile; basically it's the trial to sort of save or sell his soul."

In the first issue of "To the Devil, His Due," readers also saw Matt Murdock's day job play a significant role as he and his partner Becky Blake decided to represent Melvin Potter AKA the Gladiator in his current legal troubles. "He and Becky have been sucked into this Gladiator case, where they think the Gladiator has been framed for a couple of murders and that someone is setting him up. Of course you find out at the end of the issue that it's not exactly as cut and dry as that. Something is going on with the Gladiator that not even the Gladiator understands. That's going to lead to some really hardcore stuff between Matt and the Gladiator and whoever is sort of behind the scenes on this."

Careful readers of "Daredevil" #95 might have spotted a link between the Gladiator case that Matt is handling as a lawyer and the rash of armed robberies he's trying to stop as Daredevil. When Daredevil confronts an armed robber, someone or something caused the robber to go to such an emotional extreme that he committed suicide. At the end of the issue, something launched the Gladiator into a blind homicidal rage causing him to kill an inmate and a prison guard and leaving him with no memory of doing it. "There's a definite link between those two things," Brubaker explained. "I try to always have every line of dialogue in every scene not just be something that is tossed off. If you read things closely you can pick up on bits and pieces."

Readers will most certainly be paying attention to the bits and pieces of future installments of "To the Devil, His Due," as they try to deduce the identity of the mastermind behind the crime wave in Hell's Kitchen and Gladiator's blackout inducing murderous rages. "It's a familiar villain," Brubaker said. "I have to credit Ralph Macchio for pointing out this old Daredevil villain. I had read just about every issue of 'Daredevil' at this point, so I knew this villain, but I actually hadn't considered much of them. I was talking to Ralph about 'Daredevil' one day and he just sort of offhandedly suggested this character as someone who could have been a major Daredevil villain and he pointed out that up until Frank Miller, nobody really considered Bullseye to be Daredevil's arch nemesis. So I though, huh – taking an old Daredevil villain that has never been really seen as an arch nemesis and trying to make them a really cool and messed up villain might be fun."

The machinations of the mysterious mastermind are just some of the problems Daredevil will have to contend with in the remaining chapters of "To the Devil, His Due" and future story arcs. "In issue #96 Lilly Lucca shows up. We last saw her boarding a flight from London to New York at the conclusion of the last story arc. She hasn't been seen for a few issues and now she's got a storyline in this arc too," Brubaker stated. "There's also going to be some pretty major stuff with the Gladiator. With this next year of the book, I'll have three or four plot lines that are all sort of over lapping each other. So, the Gladiator story is really just a thing that's leading us into this larger sort of meta-plot that runs throughout the book for the next couple of arcs. We're also probably going to see a mixture of new and old Daredevil villains. Right now I'm leaning towards using Ox just because I always thought Ox was such a cool looking character and I like the way Michael Lark draws big hulk like characters."

Brubaker began laying the ground work for the plotlines that will run through the next few arcs of "Daredevil" with issue #94. "The set up issue for the whole next year of the book was really the romance comic issue, with Milla," Brubaker explained. "Everything that's coming in the next year of the book is all sort of foreshadowed in that one issue. That was one of the reasons that I needed to do that issue. Partially because I wanted to recap the Matt and Milla stuff and because with everything that's going to happen with Matt and Milla and Foggy and Becky and all of the characters for the next year of the book, you'll need to know who these characters are and how they all relate to each other. You also needed to see Milla's point of view before jumping into any of the stuff that came next. That's all sort of foreshadowed in there.

"So Matt is in for some hell," Brubaker continued. "Just because Tony Stark isn't going after him and the government has been so embarrassed by their pursuit of him that they're sort of leaving Daredevil alone for now doesn't mean that his life is going to get any easier. He's being set up pretty well right now."

The federal government may be currently leaving Matt Murdock alone, but Daredevil still has to deal with local law enforcement, many of whom are divided on their feelings of DD's status as an unregistered hero. "Some of them don't mind and some of them do," Brubaker said. "We're going to see more of that in the third chapter of the current arc. We see him having to deal with the cops a bit and the frustration of being an unregistered superhero."

Matt Murdock's very public ordeal with the government is currently keeping some of the pro-registration superheroes away from him, but Daredevil's status as an unregistered superhero might lead to a confrontation with another Superhero Registration Act enforcer, one that Murdock has a very long and nasty history with. "There is some stuff coming up, but it really depends on what Warren [Warren Ellis] does with the 'Thunderbolts,'" Brubaker explained. "I had an idea that it might be kind of a cool story for Bullseye to lead the Thunderbolts into Hell's Kitchen to hunt down Daredevil, but that might make a better issue of 'Thunderbolts' really."

One of the reasons Brubaker is having such a really great time writing "Daredevil" is the fact that his collaborators are artists Michael Lark & Stefano Gaudiano and colorist Matt Hollingsworth. "The art is so great," Brubaker stated. "Michael, Stefano and Matt are making me look so good every month. They're amazing. For the first story arc, Michael tried to ink as much of it as he could and Stefano basically sort of became his one-man team of assistants. Then for the second arc, Michael had gotten behind, so he was pretty much doing tight pencils of characters and layouts. Stefano was doing everything else. Now it's interesting because Michael is so far ahead that he's doing tight pencils now. It's really interesting to see the work come in and everybody add their layer to it. Stefano is such a good artist on his own, and it's really great to have an inker who's also an artist, too. Stefano can write and draw his own comics and he has. I feel like the team has really gelled together perfectly.

"In issue #100 we have a bunch of guest artists," Brubaker continued. "I don't have all of them confirmed, but I know John Romita Sr. is doing a few pages and I know Gene Colan is doing a few pages. We have five or six guys that are going to step in and do some different sequences during the issue, which is going to be really fun."

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