I have been really looking forward to Daredevil #500. Brubaker has been doing a fantastic job so far with “The Return of the King” story arc. I have no idea how this story arc is going to end, though I am sure Brubaker has something great in store to cap off his run on Daredevil before Andy Diggle steps in to take the reins. Let’s see if Brubaker and Lark can deliver with Daredevil #500.
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Michael Lark, Stefano Gaudiano, Klaus Janson, Chris Samnee, and Paul Azaceta
Colorist: Matt Hollingsworth
Story Rating: 10 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: The issue begins hundreds of years in the past in a Japanese temple were Izo tells Naguchi that he blinded himself because he could not accept how The Hand does not have honor anymore. Izo continues to say that their leader would be able to find enough sake to wipe from his mind what The Hand has become if he were still alive.
Naguchi asks Izo if he blinded himself to be like their former leader. Izo says he is nothing like their former leader as he is a disgrace and weak though not as weak as Naguchi.
Izo then gets on a ledge and says if the Hand wants to kill him that they will have to find him. Izo wishes Naguchi luck and jumps off the ledge.
In the present, Daredevil and Master Izon are in Milla’s hospital room. Daredevil asks Master Izo how he found Milla. Izo responds by asking if Matt forgot her scent or lost himself. Izo leaves the room so Matt can be alone with his wife.
Matt takes off his Daredevil mask and asks Milla why he keeps allowing his pride and rage. He leans in close to Milla to tell her that he loves her and gives her a kiss. He puts his mask back on and tells Master Izo that he needs to make a call.
We cut to Foggy asleep in his office. Foggy is woken up by a phone ringing. He picks it up to and hears Matt on the other line. Matt, from a payphone, tells Foggy to give Milla’s parents everything they want. Foggy tries to talk to Matt but Matt already has hung up the phone. Foggy leaves his office to see Black Tarantula and White Tiger outside his office waiting for him.
We cut to fifty-five years in the past with Stick meeting with Izo to tell him that the votes have been cast and that Izo is no longer the leader of The Chaste. Stick says it was Izo’s constant gambling and drinking problem that lead him to be out and Stick to be the new leader. Izo leaves telling Stick that they were supposed to be what should have been and not a bunch of prudes.
Back in the present, Turk is in his car using a cell phone to try and get into contact with Daredevil. Turk only gets Daredevil’s voice mail. Suddenly, Daredevil appears on top of Turk’s car and pulls him out of the car by breaking the front window to his car. Daredevil asks Turk what Kingpin is doing. Daredevil then notices Dakota’s purse in the car.
Daredevil throws Turk into a bunch of garbage cans and tells him to talk. Turk says there is a note in the car and all he wants is out. Izo appears to ask why and Turk responds by saying everything is messed up. Daredevil asks Turk where Dakota is.
In a studio apartment we see The Owl slap Dakota awake. Owl tells Dakota that he is going to take out some of his anger from what Matt did to him back in Ryker’s on her. Dakota tells Owl that Matt will kill him or at least make him wish that he is dead. Owl tells Dakota that he hopes he hears about Foggy’s death before coming to rescue her as Matt will be even madder and give him a real rematch. Dakota is in disbelief with what The Owl just said.
On a roof of a building we see Black Tarantula holding Foggy by his collar ready to drop him off the roof. While Foggy begs Carlos not to throw him off the roof White Tiger asks Black Tarantula why they didn’t just kill Foggy in his office. Black Tarantula tells White Tiger that this way it looks like Foggy committed suicide and that they don’t always have to put their names on a murder.
We cut to 18 years ago in an emergency hospital were Matt’s father is asking how the doctor thinks that his son being blind is a miracle. The doctor tells Matt’s father that he is sorry.
In Matt’s room Master Izo comes in through the window and young Matt asks who is there. Master Izo says Matt will be all right after all. This causes Matt to scream in pain as he feels like Izo’s words are screams since Matt cannot control his enhanced senses yet. Matt’s dad bursts in upon hearing his son’s screams. Matt’s dad and hugs Matt and tells him that everything is okay.
Outside the hospital Master Izo is using a payphone to call Woody’s Pool Hall asking for a blind man named Sticks.
Back in the present we go back to where Dakota is being held captive by The Owl. Owl tells the Kingpin’s men to get out or else he will gut them where they stand. As Kingpin’s men leave Daredevil comes in through the door with Master Izo and knocks out two of the guards.
The Owl holds Dakota and tells Daredevil to stand down or he will kill Dakota. Daredevil tells Master Izo to do his thing. Master Izo throws his sword right through The Owl’s shoulder who is then kicked away by Dakota.
Master Izo fights off all the guards while Daredevil, using Master’s Izo sword that he takes out of The Owl’s shoulder, goes one on one with The Owl. The Owl lunges at Daredevil who jumps up and slashes The Owl in the back with his sword.
The Owl is unconscious because of the blood loss and Daredevil asks Dakota where the Kingpin is. She informs Matt that Kingpin is with Lady Bullseye as they have made a deal with one another. Dakota then mentions that The Hand are going after Foggy. Master Izo steps in and tells them not to worry about it as he has someone on the inside.
We cut back to where Black Tarantula is holding Foggy of the roof. Black Tarantula tells Foggy to tuck and roll. Black Tarantula throws Foggy at The Hand ninjas while he elbows White Tiger in the face. Black Tarantula shows himself to be Master Izo’s inside man. Black Tarantula is able to knock out White Tiger and kills all of The Hand ninjas while Foggy watches.
We flashback to several months ago with Master Izo meeting with Carlos. Izo tells Carlos that Carlos has the warrior’s heart and that his “inferiors” have rubbed off on him. Master Izo tells Carlos that once The Hand kills him that he has to pretend that he is on their side when they bring him back even though his healing powers will allow him to cleanse the Hand’s evil from his mind.
Back in the present Foggy asks Carlos what just happened. Carlos tells Foggy that Matt’s master thought he would need someone on the inside and he figured he owed Matt. Carlos then proceeds to cleanse White Tiger from The Hand’s influence and tells Foggy that Matt, along with Master Izo, should be in the belly of the beast.
In some unknown location Kingpin and Lady Bullseye meet The Hand council. Kingpin tells the council that Lady Bullseye never said anything about the ceremony turning into an inquisition. The council members tell Kingpin that he must respect the sanctuary they are in and them. Kingpin says he is not afraid to die. The council says that is the reason Kingpin is there.
Kingpin tells the council to show him why they are worthy of his time. One of the council members draws his sword and jumps out of the circle to face Kingpin. The council member takes of his hood and reveals himself to be Lord Hirochi and the one that gave Lady Bullseye the order to bring Kingpin here.
Kingpin grabs Hirochi by the neck telling him he owes him a thank you. Kinpin snaps Hirochi’s neck. Kingpin turns to the council to talk about the offer but the council tells him that he is not their first choice and he has to take steps to show he is worthy to be the leader.
At that moment, Daredevil and Master Izo bust in and start fighting the Hand ninjas. Daredevil throws his baton at the wall to bounce off it and hits Lady Bullseye in the back of the head with it. Daredevil uses this distraction to gain the upper hand on Lady Bullseye and knocks her out after a few strikes.
Master Izo attacks Kingpin, while making a fat joke, and drives his sword through Kingpin’s left hand.
We flashback to a couple hours ago on the rooftops of Hell’s Kitchen where Daredevil and Master Izo are heading to The Hand’s hideout. Izo tells Matt that Matt is the perfect man for the job now that his mind is clear. He continues to tell Matt that they can’t allow Kingpin to be the leader of The Hand. Izo says that Matt is the one that can actually change the organization, if they don’t corrupt him first. Matt asks what if The Hand does corrupt him. Izo simply says that he will kill Matt.
Back in the present Izo continues to fight Kingpin and making fat jokes at Kingpin’s expense. Daredevil takes care of The Hand ninjas. Daredevil grabs one of The Hand council members holding a sword at the council member’s neck. Daredevil tells the council member that he accepts their offer to be the leader of The Hand but with two conditions: 1) The Hand is never to do business with Wilson Fisk again and; 2) Lady Bullseye is to be outcast.
The Hand council agrees to Matt’s terms while Lady Bullseye and Kingpin can’t believe what is happening to them and yell at Matt for what he has done. Matt has The Hand ninjas take Lady Bullseye and Kingpin outside.
Matt takes off his Daredevil mask and throws it to the ground. The council members tell Matt that though he has accepted their offer he still has yet to proven himself as the true leader of The Hand to them just yet.
The next morning Foggy and Dakota are outside of Matt’s home but Matt is not home. Dakota looks through the window but sees that no one is there. Neither of them has a key to Matt’s place.
Over at Kingpin’s place we see the ghost of Vanessa telling Wilson that he was never going to win. Wilson tells Vanessa to leave him alone.
Elsewhere, Master Izo and Lady Bullseye talk on a rooftop with a bunch of pigeons flying around them. Lady Bullseye tells Izo that he said she would lead The Hand. Izo says he told her a lot of things when he trained her. Izo says that he said what he needed to say. Lady Bullseye tells Izo he just used her and that someday she will kill him. Izo tells her to get in line. Izo then jumps off the roof.
Back at Matt’s place Foggy and Dakota notice the door unlocked and enter Matt’s place. They look around and notice nothing gone. Dakota says it feels empty. Foggy finds a note and reads it. Dakota asks what is on it. Foggy says it’s a request from Matt to put his stuff in storage as he will be gone a while.
Somewhere underground we see Matt is being escorted by The Hand council somewhere to be tested. We see Black Tarantula and White Tiger by his side. Matt thinks about how Master Izo said how the road he is taking is not an easy one but he says he deserves it for all the pain he has caused those around him.
Matt prays that he can endure the trials ahead. Though when Matt thinks about it he smiles as he can’t remember the last time he actually prayed. End of issue.
The Good: Wow! Daredevil #500 was a spectacular read. Brubaker did a fantastic job with the final issue of his run on Daredevil. And credit to Marvel for making this anniversary issue feel like a celebration of the character with some nice extras.
Unlike the Amazing Spider-Man #600 anniversary issue from last month this anniversary issue was not a single issue story but the ending to the “Return of the King” arc. And even though it is the final issue of a story arc Brubaker did as good of a job a writer could have done to make this final issue of the story arc as reader friendly as possible. As a reader you can get a good sense who all the characters involved are and why each one of them is in the position they are in during this issue and at the end. Though I recommend getting the other parts to this story arc to get a complete story as you may get lost if this is your first experience with this story arc or title.
This was a very dialogue heavy issue which made for a very gripping story. This is not to say this was a pure talking heads issue as Brubaker smartly made all the dialogue take place while characters were moving around Hell’s Kitchen to get to a specific location or in the middle of some action scenes. With a story as big as this all the dialogue and thoughts of Matt throughout the issue made the scenes more dramatic and intense than it they would have been.
And as has been the strength of Brubaker’s work this issue had some great character work. There wasn’t a member of Daredevil’s universe that was involved in this story that I didn’t like. Brubaker did a great job making characters like Dakota, Black Tarantula, and White Tiger, who have been mostly minor characters in the Marvel Universe, more than just supporting characters to the story. Instead Brubaker made them play important roles in what Matt and Master Izo are planning to do.
I especially like everything Brubaker added to the Daredevil mythos by showing us more of deep history of Master Izo and how important the character has actually been in Matt’s life without Matt even knowing. Master Izo was easily the character that Brubaker developed the most throughout his run. I loved seeing how Master Izo throughout his life remained the same free spirit he always was even when part of organizations like The Hand and The Chaste.
While he may come off as a senile old man this is a very manipulative old man who use every character involved in this story like a bunch of chess piece he easily moves around the board in order to win. This was easily shown at the end of the issue were Lady Bullseye reveals to the reader that Master Izo was the one to train her to be the killer assassin she is today. And another example is how Izo has actually been watching Matt throughout his life and making sure that Matt was set-up with the proper teaching and challenges in order to be the one to lead The Hand to become the organization it once was under Izo’s master.
And speaking of Izo’s past Brubaker did a great job with how he cut from the present to the past back to the present again in order to inform the reader of key details we did not know before. The use of flashbacks is always a tough thing to do when a writer tries to use it to explain something because it usually ends up looking like the writer is using it as a cop-out for his or her lazy storytelling. But in this issue all the flashbacks feel like they are a natural progression to the plot of what Master Izo has been planning. Also all the flashbacks help to reinforces how Izo used all of these events to move the characters involved into a proper place in order for his plan to work.
Brubaker also did a great job with the three villains involved in this story. Kingpin, Lady Bullseye, and The Owl are all characters the reader loves to hate because of how they tried to use the hero of the story, Daredevil, to their advantage. Even though the three of them tried to work together so they can reach their own goals you knew that the partnership between these three characters is doomed to failure. And with how much they tried to use Matt to their own advantage it made the moments were Matt, with some help from Master Izo, defeat each one of these villains even more sweater.
Out of the three villains of the story Kingpin was appropriately the stand out character. Brubaker did a fantastic job using this story as the characters big return to the Marvel Universe after being in exile. With everything that has gone on in the Marvel Universe with Civil War and Secret Invasion the Kingpin is one of the characters that has least benefitted from these large events as his star has mostly faded in favor for characters like The Hood and Norman Osborn. And in the position that Brubaker set the Kingpin up at the end of the issue I look forward to seeing the character return to the prominent figure he once was in the Marvel Universe.
Also while I didn’t like Lady Bullseye when she was first introduced, as I found her a lame derivation of the actual Bullseye character, by the end of this story arc I like her addition to Daredevil’s rogue gallery. With the revealed connection to Master Izo and how she was unceremoniously kicked out of The Hand she is character that will be interesting to follow from here on in. With her being on her own and having no attachments to any organization she may become even more deadly than before.
As I mentioned before, I liked how Brubaker made Black Tarantula and White Tiger play intricate roles in what Matt is going to be doing in The Hand. With how Matt has had to give up all of those important in his life both Black Tarantula and White Tiger will be the ones to keep Matt from breaking down under whatever The Hand has in store for him. This actually launches both characters from being in the E- to D-list character range into more of the B-list character range which for these two characters is something I thought they wouldn’t reach.
But Brubaker’s strongest character work in this issue and story arc was Matt’s evolution. Master Izo was quick to point out that Matt is maybe the Marvel character that has had the hardest life. He has never been able to find a happy ending since everything and everyone around him goes through something tragic because they were associated with Matt. His thinking process throughout the issue was a nice way to get this across and see how every event in Matt’s life has harden him to be at the point he is at when the issue ends.
Throughout Millers, Smith, Bendis, and Brubaker’s run we have seen Matt go through the ringer with one tragic thing after another happening to him. Matt has always been the character that seemingly is never destined to live a happy life. And Brubaker takes this to its natural evolution as Master Izo shows Matt that it is all the tragedies he has gone through that makes him the man with the strength to bring The Hand back to what they once were.
While it does seem a bit predictable that Matt became the leader of The Hand I like the twist Brubaker threw in with this. Just like were Bendis left Matt in a prison at the end of his run for Brubaker to pick up on to begin his run I loved how Brubaker does the same thing for Diggle as he puts Matt in a situation where there is no new beginning but a continuation of his life. It presents Diggle with a nice challenge as he will want to make the book feel like his own while also continuing were Brubaker left off. And this is also a good way to keep current readers from leaving this title as it makes you want to see were Diggle takes all the characters now that Brubaker has left them in a position of uncertainty.
I also like all the extra’s Marvel put into this anniversary issue. While it is not the same quality as the extra’s from the mammoth Amazing Spider-Man #600 anniversary issue, which honestly is hard to top, they were nice additions to make the issue worth the $4.99 price tag of this issue.
I liked the small preview to Dark Reign: The List – Daredevil. Diggle did a solid job integrating what happened to Matt in this story arc into the current Dark Reign storyline. I was on the fence with The List one-shot for Daredevil but Diggle showed he knows how to write the title character. And I look forward to seeing the actual Bullseye to return to face his old foe especially since Matt now leads The Hand.
The Ann Nocenti and David Aja extra story was also a nice addition. While it wasn’t a great story I enjoyed seeing another battle between Daredevil and Bullseye since the two of them always have great fights. And Aja’s art style for the story gave the story a nice distinct look to separate itself from the other stories in this issue.
The last story of this issue by Frank Miller and Terry Austin was a nice celebration of the character. It works on a similar to the story by Stan Lee and Marcos Martin’s story from Amazing Spider-Man #600 as it explores the characters history. It was an enjoyable story and a fine extra for this anniversary issue.
The stand out of all the extra’s provided in this issue has to be all the different covers/pin-ups that we were given. It was great seeing all the interpretations of the character through the eyes of different artists. Each one had a dynamic and distinct look and I would mind having some of them on the wall of my room.
Finally I got to mention Michael Lark and Stefano Gaudiano artwork. While I have never been a big fan of Lark’s artwork I thought he did a great job with the dark and gritty tone of this story arc. His artwork for this issue was some of the best I have seen from him. All the action scenes in particular were really well done. He also did a solid job with the slower parts of the issues as he did a great job with the characters facial expressions throughout the issue.
The Bad: I have no complaints for this issue.
Overall: Daredevil #500 was a spectacular read. Brubaker and Lark did a fantastic job with this anniversary issue that serves as a great way to end their run on this title. The place were they leave Matt and his supporting cast is a very interesting place for Diggle to pick up on and I will be interesting to see were the characters are headed from this point forward. I definitely recommend picking this story when it comes out in trade paperback as it is a very deep and complex story that has some great action scenes with very likable characters.