So, this is such a mouth-watering premise: Daredevil in prison, tangling with those he'd put away. Matt Murdock's life had been on a downward spiral for a while now, thanks in large part to writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Alex Maleev. That critically acclaimed creative team has gone, but that's not to imply that things now get rosier for the blind man, with Ed Brubaker (Catwoman Vol. 1: The Dark End of the Street (Batman), Gotham Central Vol. 1: In the Line of Duty (Batman), Immortal Iron Fist Vol. 1: The Last Iron Fist Story (New Avengers)) and Michael Lark (Gotham Central Vol. 1: In the Line of Duty (Batman), Terminal City) taking over the reins in 2006. Far from it! Picking up right where Bendis left off, Brubaker makes a jawdropping debut with "The Devil in Cell-Block D" story arc, which tells of Matt's harrowing time spent at Ryker's Island.
Basically, the FBI has incarcerated Matt Murdock for being Daredevil. No hard proof, mind you. Which is part of what makes this storyline so intriguing. Matt - first in Protective Custody, then as behind-the-scenes finagling of his enemies lands him in General Population - is still trying to convince folks that he's not the vigilante of Hell's Kitchen. Somehow, he must find a way to survive while pretending to be helpless and defenseless. Matt runs into various old foes and arch-foes and plenty of scum he himself had put behind bars. The Black Tarantula, Hammerhead, the Owl, the Kingpin...is one of these crime lords the mastermind behind what becomes one of the most tragic events in Matt's life? And, in the aftermath of this tragedy, just how far over the line will the guilt-ridden Daredevil go to get even?
In the outside world, someone has taken up the mantle of Daredevil and is policing Hell's Kitchen. Ah, but who? And why? Meanwhile, an old acquaintance of Daredevil's will concern himself with Matt's plight to the point that he gets himself purposely imprisoned at Ryker's.
Seriously, this is some of the best Daredevil stories I have ever read, ranking just below Frank Miller's legendary stuff. DAREDEVIL: THE DEVIL, INSIDE AND OUT Vol. 1 collects issues #82-87 of the monthly, which features the 6-part "The Devil in Cell-Block D" story arc. If you like your superhero steeped in brooding and noirish elements, then this one's a must. It's also a pulse-pounding and action-packed prison drama. It's fascinating to watch Matt Murdock as he becomes so, so tempted to simply lose it and cross that line. Plus, there's something electric and thrilling about seeing Matt costume-less and viciously jacking people up. Something visceral and gratifying about it. And I think it's plenty ironic that one of Marvel's longtime, most unabashedly violent characters comes in and tries to steer Matt back into the light. He tells Matt: "You're hurtin' a lot right now, Murdock, with good reason. But you don't want to be me. You needed to remember that." His was a cool guest star appearance.
Ed Brubaker knows his Daredevil. I didn't think anyone could adequately follow up on Bendis's great work here, but Brubaker is one hell of a yarnspinner. He knows how to lay down atmosphere and suspense, human drama meshing with bone-crunching action sequences. Bendis is gone, but the Daredevil series hasn't at all missed a beat. Michael Lark handles the art, which is moody and dynamic and perfectly complements Brubaker's gritty, edgy storytelling. In fact, after only the first couple of issues, Lark became my second favorite Daredevil artist of all time (after David Mazzuchelli, who also had an influence on Lark). Now, I've read GOTHAM CENTRAL in the past, which boasted Brubaker as writer and Lark as artist, so I'm not at all surprised that these two guys rock so well together.
So, there it is. DAREDEVIL: THE DEVIL, INSIDE AND OUT, Vol. 1 is highly recommended. And, as a neat bonus, this trade paperback also offers up a transcript, four pages' worth, of Brubaker and Lark providing tongue-in-cheek commentary on the artwork for the first five pages of Daredevil #82. So go grab this, yeah?