Brian Michael Bendis started his Daredevil run with Wake Up, but it barely featured Daredevil and when it did he was largely standing around talking. This is the real beginning of an era-defining run. An equal component of that run is artist Alex Maleev, whose accomplished digital manipulation isn’t to all tastes. His style modifies photographic reference, yet his pages drip with essence of noir, an effect heightened by colourist Matt Hollingsworth as gangsters go about their brutal daily business in shady rooms and darkened alleyways.

Bendis opens with a Goodfellas style soliloquy as the Kingpin’s power is usurped, and segues into a fine courtroom sequence defining Matt Murdock as he eloquently sways a jury. His enhanced hearing identifies the reactions of the individual jurors and “because of these abilities I know how they will vote before it happens.” Bendis has always relished the rhythm of good dialogue, but he’s very restrained here, letting the art dictate the story, at one point for an entire chapter.

The new boss in town is Sammy Silke, who comes from old gangster stock, and wants a return to old gangster methods. By his reckoning ninjas and super-villains are expensive mayhem-causing distractions that ratchet up the price for a job that a single bullet would accomplish as effectively. This is an attitude honed over three months in the Kingpin’s employ.

Bendis writes Underboss using the same approach he employed in his pre-Marvel material. The plot bounces back and forth in time, as Silke’s rise is intercut with the present day consequences of his new position, with Daredevil kept occupied by the large bounty placed on Matt Murdock’s head. By the end of the book, he has even larger problems ahead.

This isn’t yet peak Bendis and Maleev. Bendis hasn’t yet adjusted the leisurely pace of his independently published crime material to the needs of a monthly superhero title, but it’s an enthralling read even if some aspects never remain in doubt.

This collection is now out of print, but the content is gathered along with preceding volume Wake Up and next volume Out in volume one of Daredevil by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev Ultimate Collection.