Daredevil has been walking down a long slow trip for decades and Michael Lark and Ed Brubaker finally showed him what was down there.
And what was down there was his downfall. Which I think he knew all along.
The character of Matt Murdock has been a fascinating decades long study of how to constantly orbit that noir black hole. He would have slipped in long before but narrative cycles never end in comics and so no one could ever truly just lay Matt to rest in the darkness. But then Lark/Brubaker had the stones to do it and they took months to delicately and intricately exact their midnight plan.
When Daredevil was handed to them by Alex Maleev and Brian Michael Bendis, they had outed the superhero’s secret identity and so Lark/Brubaker had to figure out how to make that work. Their response was to have Murdock suffer even worse in an excruciating plan that’s partially happening to him and partially happening because of him.
Because Murdock’s past is littered with the mess and entrails of his poor decisions. The women he left in his wake, the friends he bailed on, and the countless times he sold pieces of his soul to the wind. No one is more haunted by themselves than Matt Murdock.
Except when he’s positioning himself into a love square where he comprises 3 of the points around Karen Page. Because that’s not weird at all, Mr Mike Murdock, not in the slightest. Well, actually, not for you.
The thing about Murdock is that he’s cognizant of his choices every time he makes them and he knows where they will lead him. But he’s willing to shoulder the burden because he’s a born martyr, and I don’t believe he thinks he can actually survive the mountain of sludge he piles on himself, instead it seems he deserves the just desserts at the end of it. Which is just about the saddest thing ever.
This run opens strong with Murdock in jail for his dual identity sins and while there he starts to break bad. How else do you survive prison? Murdock wants to hold fast but he’s soon showing a hyperviolent side, and he’s making deals with his well sworn enemy, Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin.
By the time of his escape, he’s broken an alarming amount of bones, he’s double-crossed the villain he was dealing with, and he’s absconding with the Punisher, not exactly someone he would normally be teaming up with. Frank Castle even comments that it looks like Murdock is finally becoming more like him, which is your first step in knowing a hero is falling.
Upon reentry to the real world, though not exactly legally yet, Murdock takes off to Europe on a lead. He doesn’t stop to see his estranged wife who herself is blind and fears for him, he makes the choice to play hero first. Because his sense of duty is what too often leads him to making the wrong choice. And breaking out of jail and running away to Europe instead of seeing your wife even once is most certainly the incorrect decision.
Once there, Murdock is lured in by a woman whose special perfume makes her smell like whatever a man’s heart might desire, love, remember, cherish. To Murdock, she smells like Karen Page, a previous love. Because Murdock’s body and mind, even on a subconscious and cellular level, is betraying him and making the wrong choice. The noir path is something ingrained in his DNA.
The entire run is a series of poor choices from Murdock. And it all comes crashing down midway through when Mr Fear, a fear toxin using villain whose only intent is to destroy Murdock, is victorious. Daredevil loses, and had already lost, before the real fighting even took place. And could he have prevented it? I say yes.
The fact Murdock farmed his wife out to other people, the fact he left her alone and unloved, the fact his attention and priorities are well away from where they should be left Milla open and the right villain pounced on that avenue to destroy Daredevil.
When you are a hero, in spandex, keeping a city safe, you still need to make the smart small decisions. Daredevil has been thinking too long in burroughs and not in relationships. He misses the hard calls and it costs him, no less how much it costs his wife who ends up incarcerated and quite literally insane.
From this pivot point, the defeat of a superhero, Lark/Brubaker begin the downward slide to the inevitable. Something Frank Miller commented on years prior was that Matt Murdock had the perfect villain origin story. And yet he never gave up. But eventually he’d have to give in and this is the run where that happens. Much like Lark/Brubaker were handed a narrative bomb, they too handed off something explosive. After a few arcs trying to piece his life back together, Murdock eventually falls too far away and by the end of their final issue, he has become a villain himself. For the greater good.
In trying to best The Hand organisation of ninja, Murdock gives himself to them to stop the Kingpin taking control of them, which he knows will be bad for him and everyone. But suddenly becoming the leader of a known assassin squad is apparently also detrimental to your health and so Murdock suffers. But that all comes later, in SHADOWLAND, and such, but Lark/Brubaker leave him doing what he’s always done best, we leave Murdock walking down, forever down, certain he can make it work.
The next we see him, he’s wearing a black suit. The French would describe it was noir.