by Andy Diggle (writer), Roberto De La Torre (art), Matt Hollingsworth (colors), and Joe Caramagna (letters)

The Story: An out of touch Matt Murdock becomes familiar with the current Dark Reign environment.  Meanwhile, the power shifts continue in Hell’s Kitchen.

What’s Good: It seems that most Marvel comics are more focused on Osborn and his Avengers running about and appearing at inopportune moments.  While this can be fun, it glosses over the larger, overall effect of Osborn’s rise to power.  This issue of Daredevil is thus somewhat refreshing as it takes a street level look at Dark Reign, a world where the police and the entire justice system are under Osborn’s sway.  Daredevil isn’t battling the Sentry, but rather Osborn’s diseased system itself.  In many ways, this approach only makes Osborn seem all the more powerful: we never see or hear him, but we see his effects on the world and the people he has in his pockets.

This ultimately makes Matt’s use of the Hand all the more interesting.  It’s the always-fun trope of beating bad guys by becoming a bad guy.  Matt’s using the ninja deathcult to combat police officers, and this really encapsulates what Dark Reign should be about, as the positions of good and evil are reversed.  Meanwhile, behind this all, the Kingpin still lurks, plots, and consolidates.

Roberto De La Torre meanwhile continues to put out some of the best work of his career.  It’s clear that he was born to draw Daredevil and is the perfect choice for the series.  Art-wise, it’s a real challenge to think of a book currently on the racks that’s any darker, grittier, or more shadowy than this.  De La Torre’s work is in this sense really quite daring, as its far darker and grimier than you might expect from such a mainstream book.  The design for Matt’s DD-inspired ninjas is also completely awesome.

What’s Not So Good: It’s hard not to be incredibly let down, even frustrated, when Diggle completely reverses the giant twist he dropped on us last month.  It was such a daring move and to see it completely taken back only leads to a bevy of “what ifs” and a feeling that the book has somehow been dumbed down, that it’s become less brave and risqué and more typical.  It also makes me feel like a lot of page-space has been wasted these past couple of months on what is essentially a very simple, even unimaginative, trick.

Indeed, instead of the relentless forward progression that last month’s twist furthered, we end up spending a couple of pages listening to the same old conversation we’ve heard several times already: destroy the hand, or try to use it for good?  It’s as though we’ve gone back to square one, replete with psychological water-treading.  The relentless rush of story progression that the last couple months have seen for DD slows this month to your bog-standard, steady trickle.

Conclusion: It’s by no means a bad book, but it’s hard not to be aggravated by Diggle going back on what made his first issue so great.

Grade: B –

-Alex Evans