Mark Waid and Chris Samnee brings their five-year run with the Man Without Fear to a close in "Daredevil" #18 with an appropriately climactic showdown between Matt Murdock and Wilson Fisk as well as a conclusion that wraps up the remainder of their ongoing plot threads. Waid delivers a tense, tidy and satisfying (albeit convenient) conclusion to a run that has been nothing short of stellar, and Samnee steps up to create an emotionally fulfilling wrap up. Waid and Samnee use the first half of the issue to finish up this latest -- but undoubtedly not the final -- encounter between Murdock and Fisk and save the second half for a lengthy epilogue that addresses the remaining plot threads.
Samnee's cover design is a clever mockup of the cover for Matt's autobiography, one of the recent ongoing plot elements in Waid's storyline. After the surprise twist at the end of last issue, the creators carefully structure the introductory page to bring readers up to speed, mostly via a series of panels by Samnee that reveal most of the issue's players, until unveiling an equally surprising twist on the subsequent page. Waid and Samnee juxtapose Daredevil and company's tense situation with Fisk with that of the Shroud and the Owl's daughter; the switch between scenes heightens the tension of Matt and Fisk's showdown, with Daredevil bluffing to the Kingpin while his friends are held at literal gunpoint. Samnee's traditional panel layouts ratchet up the uneasiness and also capture the excitement; when Matt makes his move and cuts loose, so does Samnee, leading towards a brutally fun but all-too-brief showdown.
This latest Daredevil vs. Kingpin battle and the stakes behind it evoke the intensity of the final battle in Frank Miller's "Born Again" arc from nearly thirty years ago, although -- as exciting as it is -- it doesn't match up on an emotional level. Still, it stands just fine on its own, and Waid's script even pays a momentary homage to a memorable quote from that storyline. When Matt gets his licks in, Samnee's execution of the sequence almost makes readers want to stand up and cheer. As is typical for pretty much any issue of "Daredevil," red runs rampant from colorist Matthew Wilson, but it works especially well here, as it also captures the rage of both Murdock and Fisk. And, of course, there's plenty of blood, too.
Waid's typical tone throughout the series has been lighter and more carefree compared to past writers, although that tone had darkened considerably in recent issues. Waid rectifies this with the first page of the epilogue, as Foggy enjoys one of his favorite but apparently odorous meals, much to the dismay of Matt and his highly developed sense of smell. The levity is toned down later on as Matt nervously prepares to face the press and address a likely barrage of questions regarding his/Daredevil's recent actions. Some of the ongoing elements are wrapped up a little too easily, though, and Waid could have benefited from having a couple of more issues to finish them off.
Waid and Samnee take the opportunity to summarize what his Matt Murdock has been about and cement their era's place in the character's history, one that uniquely and confidently stands alongside the other eras in the half-decade history of the Man Without Fear. "Daredevil" #18 is a fitting sendoff and leaves a clean canvas for the next era of Matt Murdock to begin.