This review contains some spoilers, but doesn’t reveal any major plot points. To stay completely safe, don’t read past the cut (or dashed line if you reached this post via a direct link).]
Great art, pretty good story, but slightly underwhelming. That pretty much sums up this Daredevil special for me. I think Black Tarantula (as imagined by Brubaker and later Brubaker/Parks) is a great character. Being positioned somewhere between Daredevil and the Punisher – in terms of how far he seems willing to go to reach his new goal as a “reformed” villain trying to make a difference – makes him an interesting addition to the Daredevil cast. I wouldn’t mind seeing him pop up again in the future, but his story dominated this Daredevil special a little too much for comfort for this crazed DD fan. As a follow-up story to the Daredevil Annual that came out last fall, we get the feeling that Marvel is really taking this character for a test drive with this special, to see if he can make it on his own in some future project. Even knowing this, I was still a tad disappointed by how little we see of Matt/DD in this story. I’m happy to read about other characters as well, but I need my monthly Daredevil fix darn it! Especially when reading a comic with his name on the cover. And even Carlos’s own story, while successful in further fleshing out the character, strikes me as a little too generic. Don’t get me wrong, this is a pretty good comic. I just don’t think it’s spectacular.
Let’s start with the good, and there’s quite a bit of that. I really like Chris Samnee’s art here, even though I’d have to agree with those who have said that it looks a little too much like Michael Lark’s art. It’s perhaps not as distinctive as it could have been, but the whole issue just looks really good. Of course, having the same colorist (Matt Hollingsworth) on the book month in and month out also adds to the consistency. Samnee draws a good DD, an okay Matt and a really impressive-looking Black Tarantula. I must say that I’m really digging the costume!
Another thing I like is that this issue works well continuity-wise. While Matt is still not back at work (which is what’s going to happen next issue…), there seems to have been some progression since #106. He’s still a little detached and apathetic, but has come back from whatever edge he was balancing on. There was a scene at the end that I wasn’t too fond of in terms of characterization, but I’ll get back to that.
This issue does a good job of fleshing out Carlos’s personality, origin and general MO. It’s clear that he’s no trigger-happy Frank Castle copycat, but he’s not pulling any punches either. He’s cleaning up his neighboorhood, and that will sometimes get you dirty. We also see him being viewed by the people in the neighborhood as an ally and a friend of the community, and even the cops look the other way. The addition of a family makes you feel more sympathy for the character and showing his powers being tied to his heritage and capable of being transferred to other people was interesting as well. With this issue, Parks and Brubaker have laid a nice foundation for further work on the character and the wide-open ending makes it possible for someone to pick up the proverbial baton with almost any kind of story down the line.
Where this story fails to make it all the way to the finish line is in the lack of surprise moments. Even though the sequence of events aren’t predictable it kind of feels that way. It just moves along comfortably from A to B to C according a sort of paint by numbers approach. Just having Daredevil say “His buddy reeks of cordite and gunpowder” feels uninspired. I’m all for referencing Matt’s sensory experiences, but maybe they should pick a new one. And may I just add one note to all Daredevil writers out there: Cordite is an obsolete substance! The last cordite factory in the world closed down at least ten years ago, and as an ammunition propellant, it hasn’t been in common use in the United States for decades. But enough about that. I must also admit to being a little uneasy with how Matt handles Carlos’s excessive use of violence at the end of the issue. I honestly don’t mind that he decides to look the other way and just let it go. That seems in character, especially when you consider his own mental state. But, he should have been given some better dialogue. “Okay, then… But you better learn to keep a low profile… Stay out of sight” doesn’t sound like something Matt would say. If he had said something along the lines of “You know I can’t condone this, but I understand. Take care of yourself out there,” and then walked away I would have been 100% okay with it.
Well, that sums up this review. I’ll be back later today with my final look at the “Appeal of Daredevil.”