Monday, February 25, 2013

The Enemy Makes An Awkward Ally In Daredevil: Return Of The King

The Good: Decent story, Interesting character development
The Bad: Mediocre artwork, Plot requires other books to be fully comprehensible/enjoyable.
The Basics: Daredevil: Return Of The King has the Kingpin returning to Hell’s Kitchen, ostensibly to help Daredevil rid Hell’s Kitchen of the Hand, while he works to get revenge on Lady Bullseye.

I like evolving characters, I always have. In the character arc for Daredevil and his many villains, the Kingpin is one of the few characters who actually evolves, even if it takes quite a bit of time. In Daredevil: Return Of The King, it is ironic because Wilson Fisk appears in the book as a man who has made his changes, fighting to retain his new self and on the opposite side there is the Owl, who returns as villainous as ever. Daredevil: Return Of The King has the foils of the changed Fisk and the unchanging, monolithic villain in the continuing dynamic world of Daredevil. Daredevil’s Hell’s Kitchen is moving in a dark direction and Daredevil: Return Of The King is the direct prequel to Shadowland.

Focusing much more on the Kingpin, Daredevil: Return Of The King is an engrossing character study of one of the more compelling villains in the Marvel Universe. At this point in his character arc, Wilson Fisk has been is exile in Spain. He has given up his life of crime and is living quietly out of the thrust of any storylines. Daredevil: Return Of The King, smartly, opens with a retrospective, a full look at how Wilson Fisk has been living since his wife was killed and he fled the country.

After the revelation that Wilson Fisk has tried, again, to go on the straight and narrow and let love redeem him on the Costa Da Morte. Lady Bullseye kills his love and her children and wounds him, luring Wilson Fisk back to Hell’s Kitchen. When Fisk comes back to New York’s underground, Matt Murdock is still desperately fighting his wife’s parent’s lawyers for custody of his mentally-incapacitated wife. Master Izo uses the opportunity to illustrate to Daredevil how he has lost his way.

Wilson Fisk reaches out to Daredevil to make a deal, attempting to destroy the Hand with Daredevil. When the work of killing off the ninja crime gang is going too slowly, Fisk springs the Owl from jail and sets him to attacking the Hand to draw out Lady Bullseye. When Master Izo is able to prove to Daredevil that his attentions are too divided, Matt Murdock steps up and makes a decision that puts him on a collision course with utter disaster.

Daredevil: Return Of The King is wonderful in that the plot intricacies come down to deeper character traits. So, for example, when Wilson Fisk springs the Owl, he knows that he is getting someone who is harder to control and exceptionally liable to betray him. Fisk is, in many ways, like the Lex Luthor of the Marvel Universe and he is consistently characterized as smart and cunning. Daredevil: Return Of The King maintains that characterization. At the same time, Fisk has a sense of humanity to him that was lacking in most of his earliest books.

Fans of Matt Murdock will stretch to find much of Daredevil in Daredevil: Return Of The King. However, facing the loss of everything and everyone he knows and cares about, Matt Murdock finally turns a corner. Daredevil: Return Of The King is an important turning point for Murdock and his willingness to surrender his liabilities is extraordinarily well-executed.

But largely, Daredevil: Return Of The King puts Wilson Fisk in play in order to have a wildcard for the Shadowland Saga. The artwork in this book is consistent with what one expects of Daredevil, with a somewhat under-developed sense of sketches to almost all of the panels and washed out colors. The artwork looks painted, but without the detail of, for example, an Alex Ross book. It is not bad, but it is in no way extraordinary.

That is much like Daredevil: Return Of The King; in order to get the most out of it, it requires other books, but on its own, it is good. As a standalone book, it is not as impressive as those who know how far Wilson Fisk has grown and how much the encounters in the book challenge his resolve, but it is a compelling character study, even if it is only a bridge into Shadowland.

For other Daredevil books, please check out my reviews of:
The Essential Daredevil Volume 1
Daredevil Vs. Bullseye
Daredevil: Visionaries Volume 1 - Frank Miller
Marked For Death
Born Again
Typhoid Mary
Guardian Devil
Parts Of A Hole
Daredevil: Yellow
Batman/Daredevil - King of New York
Daredevil Noir
Daredevil: Golden Age
The Devil: Inside And Out, Volume 1
The Devil: Inside And Out, Volume 2
Daredevil: Hell To Pay - Volume 1
Daredevil: Hell To Pay - Volume 2
Lady Bullseye
Daredevil: Shadowland
Daredevil: The Official Comic Adaptation


For other graphic novel reviews, please check out my Graphic Novel Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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