In End of Days, Brian Michael Bendis takes our erstwhile hero and kills him quite brutally at the hands of his longtime nemesis, Bullseye. You would think the story ends there, but instead it is just the beginning of a long journey for reporter Ben Urich. The veteran writer is assigned to cover the case for his dying paper, The Daily Bugle, and the investigation, which seemed simple at first, takes a whole new direction as he must discover what the word Mapone means, the last utterance of the hero known as Daredevil. For a book that barely features the costumed hero, Daredevil casts a long shadow and Bendis manages to inject it and its lead, Ben Urich, with the full gamut of emotions – fear, loss, happiness, shame, sadness, loneliness and more. It is an incredibly strong tale that anyone can associate with and a wonderful finale to Bendis’ long tenure on the book.
The story takes place an untold number of years in the future of the Marvel Universe where heroes are not as well regarded as they used to be. They still exist and are still around, but are no longer looked upon with awe, and more often than not, with simple indifference. Bendis treats us to future versions featuring some of his regular cast such as Nick Fury, who is still as mysterious and as stealthy as he ever was, Elektra who is now a mother, and Typhoid Mary who is just a single personality now, among other stalwarts of Daredevil’s life, both heroes and villains. They still retain their unique personalities, but events have made most of them bitter, cautious and none too trusting. Aside from the few that were just mentioned, the Owl is a standout in the book even though he only appeared in a few pages, proving just how villainous he really is.
The end cap to Daredevil’s life is a bleak and depressing tale with very little hope or light within the pages of this book. The search for ‘Mapone’ takes Urich all over the city and throughout the past, much of it where he would rather leave it and not have to revisit. Not only does he fear some of those areas, but to make it worse, he no longer finds fulfillment in writing as it has become that which everyone hates – a job. But being the professional he is, Urich will do what he must and write the story as soon as he finds the right angle to do so. The pitfalls and ordeals he goes through to get the story would be enough to give anyone pause, but Urich is intrigued enough to do so. And Daredevil, as much as he could be called so, was a friend.
Bringing this tale to life are some names long associated with the Hell’s Kitchen hero, namely Klaus Jansen, Bill Sienkiewicz, Alex Maleev and David Mack. Jansen’s pencils are powerful, strong and forceful. They fit the tragic tale of Daredevil’s last days perfectly as they are both bleak and beautiful at the same time. His pages are expressive with every line on the page full of emotion, whether it is a simple cityscape or the tapestry of emotions upon Urich’s face during various times throughout the book. David Mack provides us with some flashbacks, depicting our hero during his years away from the spotlight, with Maleev and Sienkiewicz doing the occasional interior page, some covers and Sienkiewicz on inks. Every one of these artists has at some point in time, had tenure on the book and they make a powerhouse team to usher in the final days of one of Marvel’s most beloved heroes.
If there is a negative to the book, it is that aforementioned bleakness. While grim and gritty is good and usually makes for an interesting read, reading this tale and knowing that it is supposedly canon, does not paint a pretty portrait for the future of the Marvel Universe. Secondly, if this is how things end up, why have there not been any follow up series to explore the ramifications that this series paints? It is a good book and it hooks you in every way, but having only one story about this supposedly future time is a shame, especially when Age of Apocalypse or other timelines can be visited more than once. If things go bad, let us have a series that shows us how we get there. It is at least worth visiting one more time.
While the tone of this book might be a dark one, the story is all about legacy. It is about what we leave behind when we are gone, whether positive or negative and Bendis shows us the legacy of not only Daredevil, but of many of our cast. The Punisher for instance, who escapes custody when visited by Murdoch, leaves a legacy of violence and pain to many, but for the innocent, it is a worthy one. And being worthy is what Daredevil seems to have strived for most of his life. He has always wanted to live up to the memory of his dad, to make him proud and be the hero. When Matt murdered the Kingpin, that was the day when his world ended and nothing would ever be the same. He might have been killed by Bullseye later on, but taking a life was the moment when the public turned on him and he disappointed himself. When reaching the end of the book, without spoiling anything, Urich has finally solved the mystery of the word Mapone to find out that he and Daredevil have a shared legacy, something that ends the book on what had been missing throughout the series, a little bit of redemption and hope.
5 out of 5