There’s a bit of middle-of-the-arc lull in “Daredevil” #114, but Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark’s work on this “Lady Bullseye” story continues to showcase their considerable talents. As I said in my review of issue #112, “Daredevil” has now replaced Brubaker’s “Captain America” as his best monthly superhero comic. While “Captain America” has felt a bit deflated in recent months, now that the Arnim Zola/Red Skull/Bucky as new Cap storyline has reached a sort of conclusion, “Daredevil” has felt reinvigorated by Brubaker and Lark’s back-to-ninja-action approach.
They haven’t abandoned the thick, mopey flavor of this incarnation of Matt Murdock, but they’ve tempered it with some sinister fun. Lady Bullseye herself as brought a bit of life to the series, and so has Danny Rand — even if he is out of his green and yellow costume for this particular issue.
Most of this issue is actually spent dealing with a custody battle, as Milla’s parents have begun a legal fight for the right to take care of their seriously screwed-up daughter. Murdock’s reaction to this situation — and his infuriating stubbornness — would seem almost comical if we hadn’t seen both characters put through terrible turmoil over the past few years. The Milla court battle is a pretty transparent way for Brubaker to get rid of a character who has become (or has always been) a leaden anchor around the ankle of his protagonist, but Brubaker makes the scenes work by showing Murdock’s irrational attempt to control a situation he has lost control of long ago.
The legal drama alternates with kung-fu action, as the Black Tarantula follows-up on a White Tiger situation from last issue. Black Tarantula? White Tiger? These are absurd characters — second rate Daredevils and Black Panthers — but Brubaker makes them a convincing (even essential) part of Matt Murdock’s gritty world.
It helps that Michael Lark and Stefano Gaudiano give us a shadowy New York City filled with characters who look like they’ve been carved out of sooty granite. Lark and Gaudiano have done impressive work before, and their stuff on “Lady Bullseye” isn’t shockingly different from what they’ve given us in the past, but it’s more efficient, more streamlined, and I think it’s the best work they’ve done on this series. They convincingly frame superhero action alongside civilian melodrama, and their distinctive take on Daredevil’s world evokes the kind of brutal noir that Brubaker’s writing often aspires to.
“Daredevil” has turned a corner with this story arc, and if you haven’t been reading it lately, now is the time to take another look.