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

The Story: Daredevil continues to use the Hand as an instrument to battle corruption.

What’s Good: I continue to enjoy Diggle’s take on Dark Reign, which remains one of the most unique in Marvel’s stable.  While most series simply have Osborn stomping about and occasional cameos by the Dark Avengers and/or the Thunderbolts, Diggle’s book best depicts how the world and society itself has changed thanks to Osborn’s rise.  Daredevil is used to occupying his own little corner of the Marvel Universe, and much of this issue is a wake-up call that even the farthest/lowest fringe of that Universe is subject to this major shift in status quo. The series’ own isolation stands in relation to Matt’s obliviousness to the larger state of things, absorbed as he is in his own crises.  Matt, and the comic itself, can now no longer ignore larger events, which do have an effect on Hell’s Kitchen, whether Matt realizes it or not.

While the theme is great, Diggle also writes some great dialogue this month.  The conversation between Daredevil and Izo was a particularly good.  Both men seem to be speaking in veiled threats and what seems to be the same old conversation we’ve heard a million times between the two takes on a tone of menace, where we’re forced to wonder who is trying to intimidate the other.  Is Izo getting impatient enough to threaten Matt?  Is Matt becoming inflated by his leadership of the Hand?  And which character is the initiator and which the respondent?  It’s a fascinating, multi-layered conversation that bears reading twice.

Other than that, the issue gives us everything we’ve come to expect from a good Daredevil comic.  Diggle writes the kinetic, thrilling action scenes that have been the signature of his career,  Kingpin is an absolute badass,  Becky, Foggy, and Dakota are as lovable as ever, and seeing Matt hold a pep rally for his horde of devil-horned ninjas definitely gets the blood pumping.  Meanwhile De La Torre continues to put out the best work of his career, as it’s clear that he was meant to draw this comic.  It’s shadowy, grimy, and gritty in the utmost, but with no loss of detail or clarity.  It’s quite the achievement, and he makes action and dialogue scenes equally engaging.

What’s Not-so-Good: I still don’t know where exactly Diggle is going with this.  The moral and ethical issues are there.  The push and pull on Matt’s conscience are there, and so are the strong inter-personal dynamics.  But the major plot, or conflict, still isn’t in place.  It doesn’t feel like we’re actually in a real story-arc right now, yet Diggle’s issues have been too inter-related to be considered episodic one-shots.  But there’s just no real thrust or direction at the moment aside from Matt’s general moral confusion and the general atmosphere of this new Daredevil status quo.  While I can’t say that nothing has happened, it feels like Diggle is still setting the stage.  It’s forgivable at the moment, but I hope Diggle gives us something that’s a little more identifiable as an actual arc sometime in the near future.

Conclusion: After this issue, it’s clear that Diggle’s run won’t be any weaker than those of his predecessors, which is saying quite a bit.

Grade: B+

-Alex Evans