Written by Ed Brubaker, Andy Diggle & Ann Nocenti
Art by David Aja, Billy Tan & Michael Lark
Before getting into the whole review, I just wanted to let you know I've broken the review into three parts - one for each of the three parts (not counting the Daredevil #191 reprint) of the oversized anniversary issue. The reprint was a great choice and well worth reading if you haven't before.
There was also a cover gallery, which, for how small they are, I think of as a waste of space, but it was only a couple pages and I'm sure someone will enjoy it. Finally, there's an excellent pin-up gallery from a collection of the most well known creators to have worked on Daredevil. Even Brian Bendis took up a pencil and, with some excellent colouring applied, did a bang up job on his contrbution. My favourite was posted in the Moments of the Week yesterday, so you can check it out there if you'd like.
Part 1: Return of the King
However, as a Daredevil fan, I kept up to date on it through spoilers online and flipping through on the racks and have the basics of what has been going on with Kingpin, Daredevil, Lady Bullseye and the Hand's attempts to recruit Matt into the fold, so am not coming into this issue with no idea of what is going on.
I'm also loving how Izo has seemlessly been placed into the thick of things, even being the one to first discover Matt in the hospital after his accident and informing Stick of the promising new pupil. There's also the great parallels of Izo between the first master of the Hand, Master Izo and Stick and how each turned to drinking and hanging out in bars in the real world.
The entire first half of this issue played out like an action-suspense thriller and had a very cinematic quality to it with a lot of credit given to Lark's moody pencils.
While the idea behind this works, I'm not a fan of the 'flashback revelation at the end' explanations for important plot points in any story, so this was the one point in the issue that really felt weak to me.
As I said above, I love the addition of Izo to the mythos and his character, even now, is a complete enigma to me. Is he a good guy? A bad guy? He didn't want the Hand to be evil, but rejected the Chaste's pure anti-thesis to the Hand direction as well. He worked to stop the Kingpin here, but is also working with Lady Bullseye, whom he manipulated to get this whole thing rolling in the first place. Just what are his goals here?
Finally, with Matt as the new leader of the Hand, Brubaker has left Andy Diggle with an even bigger cliffhanger to follow up than Bendis did for him and I'm thrilled with the story possibilities that come out of this. And Matt isn't completely alone with the Hand either. Both White Tiger and Black Tarantula will be joining him as plants that are supposedly still loyal to the Hand. I haven't been this excited for where a story is going probably since the last creator change on Daredevil.
Part 2: Dark Reign: The List - Daredevil Preview
Part 3: 3 Jacks
Nocenti's story was equally as impressive. It's set in the past and features the aftermath of a Daredevil/Bullseye fight in a rather surreal type of setting with a young girl and punch drunk fighter. I'm not sure if they are merely projections of Matt's pysche or actually there either. It's a great read and boils the character down to what makes him tick without being an outright recap or rehash of old content either.