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Daredevil: Lowlife

We'd better enjoy Brian Michael Bendis while we can. Sure, he says he'll never leave comics and he seems like a standup kind of guy.

But admit it, you know that a guy who writes as well as he does will be moving to Hollywood or getting into the world of prose fiction. He's just too damn good to be spending his time on terrific comics like the recent graphic novel Daredevil: Lowlife. Sure, we've all read his book Fortune and Glory, which chronicled in great detail how Hollywood sucks its writers up and spits them out. I understand that.

I just don't buy it.

How does a guy who writes such terrific dialogue stay in comics? How does someone who writes such unpredictable plots, who creates three-dimensional characters so easily, stay in comics?

Look at Daredevil: Lowlife, the fourth collection of his run on the monthly title. This one tells the story of what happens to Daredevil when his secret identity of Matt Murdock is revealed to the world by a New York tabloid newspaper. In the meantime, Murdock may have found a new love, and an old nemesis steps into the place of the recently-departed Kingpin.

If this were in the hands of anyone other than Bendis, it might have been a cliché-ridden tale of secret identity and arch-villains. In the hands of Bendis, the story becomes something special - part detective story, part character study and only a small part a superhero adventure.

As with most of Bendis's best writing, it's the dialogue in this comic that makes it special. There's a sequence between Murdock and Luke Cage that's wonderful, and another one between Murdock and his long-time partner Foggy Nelson that's plain amazing. And the scenes in which Matt begins to get close to a new woman in his life are charming and wonderful.

Alex Maleev's art is just amazing. His style is wonderfully dark and muted, and very realistic. His people look like real people - when Cage and Murdock are chatting, the size and body language of each man presents their respective attitudes with amazing subtlety.

But the real showplace moment for Maleev occurs in part four of this five-chapter story. Matt and his date Milla are walking through Hell's Kitchen, New York. Maleev shows the pair walking down a deserted street with the area's brownstone tenements looming over them, emphasizing the connection both people feel to the community. Suddenly, on the next page, as the pair talk about the history of Hell's Kitchen, Maleev presents a two-page view of the same street in the 19th-century. The street looks realistic as Maleev immediately conjures up the past in one gorgeously-drawn spread.

Great as Maleev's art is, though, it's Bendis who's the star creator of this story. And there the question still remains: how long will we have him in comics? We'd better enjoy his writing on Daredevil and his other books while we can, because it has to only be a matter of time till greener pastures present themselves.

Jason Sacks

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