Daredevil #501 marks the first issue of the newest creative team, Andy Diggle and Robert Del La Torre, run on this title. I am not too familiar with Diggle’s previous work but I was not very impressed with what he did on Dark Reign: The List–Daredevil one-shot. And after were Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark left Matt Murdock and everyone in the cast in Daredevil #500 Diggle and Del La Torre have some tough shoes to fill on this title.
Writer: Andy Diggle
Artist: Roberto De La Torre
Colorist: Matt Hollingsworth
Story Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 8.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: The issue begins with the funeral of the 107 innocent civilians that were killed in the explosion caused by Bullseye (Dark Reign: The List—Daredevil). The priest talks about how good the people were and that they acted when they saw their community in danger. He continues to say “They knew that evil may only ever truly prevail when good men stand by and do nothing.”
Outside the church Daredevil is on the roof listening to the priest words. Master Izo arrives to meet Matt on the church’s roof. Matt tells Izo that it is his fault those innocent people died. Izo says that it was not Matt’s fault and it was Bullseye. Matt repeats what the priest in the church said and how he did nothing to stop Bullseye even with a whole army at his command. (Ah, the old Catholic guilt. Matt never changes.)
Izo says that The Hand is a army are assassins of death culturist and Matt should not forget that. Matt continues to blame but Izo tells him he can’t carry the weight of the world on just his shoulders. Matt talks about how he tried to fight the system as a lawyer and as Daredevil but now HAMMER is all over the streets and they need to play a new game with new rules.
Izo tries to stop Matt from continuing but Matt continues to say that The Hand is just a weapon that can be used for good in the right hands. Matt tells Izo that his initiation demands a sacrifice. The Hand, dressed in Daredevil like gear, and Matt says the sacrifice is Izo. Izo does his best to fight off all of The Hand ninjas but there are too many of them and soon over power them as Matt has his back turned to the whole fight.
In the Office of Nelson, Blake and Murdock Foggy tells Becky that he is sure Matt had nothing to do with the murder of the judge Walden. Becky says that Detective Kurtz witnessed the attack and that he saw men dressed in black and faces masked. Foggy says she means a ninja and Becky says maybe one of The Hand members went rogue. But Foggy tells Becky all of The Hand members are very loyal and they wouldn’t kill unless told by Matt.
Dakota comes in with a box of donuts as a peace offering and asks about the judge situation. Foggy tells Dakota everything about the case the judge and she ask if he has seen Matt since it happened. Foggy says he has only talked to Danny Rand (Iron Fist) and he said no one has heard from Matt since he joined The Hand. He continues to say that things don’t look good. Dakota defends Matt that he is no killer and he would never cross that line. Foggy brings up what has happened with the Owl, Milla, The Hand, and with him firing him. Foggy says that he is afraid Matt is still falling.
We shift to Kingpin’s office in Midtown Manhattan were Kingpin tells Turk that he told Turk that he would only be his lieutenant until he found a more suitable replacement. He then says he has found one and Lady Bullseye appears behind Turk holding a knife to his neck. Turk begs for Kingpin to make it quick but surprisingly Kingpin shows him mercy and says he has seen enough death already.
Turk leaves the office and Lady Bullseye complains that Kingpin should have let him kill Turk and that now Turk will tell everyone Kingpin has lost his nerves. Kingpin explains that it is exactly what he wants them to think as he does not want to be exposed just yet. He continues to say that he is going to let his enemies destroy themselves while he watches.
The scene cuts to somewhere underground New York were we see Master Izo chained up in the middle of a room where he is surrounded by Daredevil, White Tiger, Black Tarantula and The Hand ninjas. Izo can’t believe how lousy of a judge of character he was as he is the one who choose Matt to be the new leader of The Hand and he has just become corrupted. Matt says he knows what he is doing and that things have gotten out of control and sacrifices must be made.
Izo says it looks like he is the one making the sacrifice but Matt explains how everyone in his life has become a target and that he should have lived in a cave instead of being with others. Matt then says that The Hand is his cave now. (Damn, Matt is pulling a Frank Miller Batman in this scene.)
He continues on to say that now with him being the leader of The Hand he will not stand being on the sidelines anymore and Hell’s Kitchen answers to him. Izo says Matt does not understand what The Hand is and what they’ve done to him already. Matt says he does not care as long as he can bring the city back from demise. Izo calls Matt on his BS and that they both know where the road Matt is taken leads.
The Hand council members interrupt the conversation and say that the final test must be made by Matt: murder an innocent. Izo laughs saying it’s the first time he has been called innocent. Matt apologizes for what he is going to do but Izo tells him just to get it over with. Matt then gives Izo a big punch in the middle of Izo’s chest that sends him flying across the room.
The Hand council checks on Izo and say he is dead. Black Tarantula welcomes Matt to The Hand. All of The Hand members then bow to Matt calling him “Lord Daredevil.” End of issue.
The Good: Daredevil #501 was a great issue to kick off Andy Diggle and Robert Del La Torre run on this title. While I was very disappointed by Diggle’s first shot on this title with Dark Reign: The List—Daredevil I am glad to see that he was able to recover and turn in a very well written issue.
What is most impressive about this issue is other than what happened with Master Izo and Matt’s final test to become the leader of The Hand not much happened in this issue. Instead Diggle choose to lay the foundation for his run and show fans of this series that he has a firm grasp of all the characters on this title. For a first issue of a run, especially with all that happened at the end of Brubaker’s run, it was a smart move to go this route. While one issue isn’t enough to judge how Diggle’s run on this title will go this was a good start to show he is the guy for the job of this title after Bendis and Brubaker’s individual runs.
And I don’t know what it is about Daredevil but this is the one title that when a change happens it feels like it is a permanent change not a short one year change. Diggle is able to make these changes feel permanent by focusing on making this a very character driven issue. By not focusing on action he is able to show just how all the characters have been affected by Matt’s decision of becoming the leader of The Hand. The action will come later in this story arc and run but for now these are the types of issues we need to get since there is a lot to Matt’s decision to take in and Diggle really shows that this title can go in many directions with the new status quo.
I liked how we got the reaction of Foggy, Dakota, and Becky in this issue to what happened with the murdered judge. Each one of these characters offered a different opinion of what is happening with Matt now that he has disappeared. With Becky we saw a more rational opinion of what Matt has done. Dakota offered more hope that Matt isn’t responsible and is still the same Matt they know. While Foggy offered the most depressing look at what is happening as he partially blames himself for what has happened. It was a very interesting breakdown of each characters psyche as it is quickly establish how each person in Matt’s life is reacting to his actions.
I also enjoyed the scene in Kingpin’s office. After the huge disgrace that Kingpin and Lady Bullseye suffered at the end of Daredevil #500 it is interesting seeing the non-direct approach Kingpin is taking. Originally I was thinking Kingpin would start reigning hell for what happened but I love this approach that Kingpin is taking instead in order to regain the power he has long since lost. His explanation to Lady Bullseye was perfect and makes the involvement of these two characters to what will happen in this story much more interesting as we know that they will try and get their revenge in a more direct manner sooner or later.
My favorite part of this issue was, unsurprisingly, the scenes with Matt, Master Izo, and The Hand. From beginning to end these were the scenes I was the most edge on my seat to see. Starting these scenes at the church were the funeral to all the people killed in the explosion Bullseye caused was a perfect way to show Matt still has that same old Catholic guilt he always has. And it was interesting seeing Izo try to play the voice of reason in this issue as unlike before Matt was not really listening to Izo like he did before. Instead he ignored all of the words Izo was saying and continued his on self-destructive talk.
I was a bit surprise that the sacrifice that Matt had to make was kill Izo to become the leader of The Hand. And I got to admit the twelve panel scene with Izo fighting The Hand ninjas that bum rushed him was one best single page scenes I have ever seen. The silent scene of Izo fighting the Hand while Matt had his back turned the whole time really made the whole scene feel more real as it felt like Izo was going to die.
Then it came the moment that had my jaw on the floor. After a long talk between Matt and Izo after Izo’s capture we see Matt actually go through with it. He actually killed Izo with his own hands. While I don’t believe that Izo is actually dead when I was reading the issue I couldn’t believe that Matt actually went through with it. It was a very powerful scene that Diggle did a fantastic job building on with the conversations Matt and Izo had throughout the issue. They were very intense scenes with a lot of real emotion behind them that felt like the plan the two set up at the beginning was falling apart.
I really liked how Diggle was able to make a subtle connection between Daredevil and Batman in this issue with Matt’s speech to Izo before he struck the killing blow. Daredevil has always been the Marvel version of Batman and it can be said he is a much darker character than Batman. Daredevil’s metaphor of needing a cave to seclude himself from the rest of the world and The Hand being his cave was perfect example of this as we see, like Bruce does with the Batcave, his new home with The Hand helps him not to become close to anyone like before with Foggy, Dakota, and Milla.
Robert De La Torre artwork is a perfect fit for this title. It is great to see De La Torre finally given a book to fit his talents as his artwork is a much better fit with Daredevil than it was with Iron Man. He does a great job giving this issue even more depth to the issue that greatly complements Diggle great writing. A great example of this is the twelve panel page that I mentioned earlier. That single page was just fantastic.
The Bad: The only complaint I have against this issue was how De La Torre drew Foggy, Dakota, Becky, and Kingpin. The art for these characters was very stiff which wasn’t helped by the inking and coloring provided in those scenes.
Overall: Daredevil #501 was a great read. Diggle and De La Torre set a very good foundation for the start of their new run. Diggle did the right thing to take a slow and methodical approach with this issue as this was a very character driven issue. And with the surprising ending we got at the end of this issue things only look to get even more intense with future issues. I highly recommend any fan of gritty street level titles to pick this issue and series up as it is a very well written series.