If you read my review of Daredevil #500, you know that I enjoyed it a great deal, and as a whole, I’m very excited about where the new direction might lead. Before I get to that part, however (hidden under a cut for those who haven’t read the issue yet), I’d just like to talk a little bit about the old status quo. You know, the one that has Matt Murdock being your good old-fashioned low-powered superhero next door with a somewhat normal professional life and ordinary friends. It is oftentimes a very shitty life, but still fairly grounded in the “real world.”
Matt has left the default status quo before at various points in the history of the book, and usually with interesting results, but I would still say that the basic premise of Matt being a blind lawyer who fights crime at night is insanely interesting in and of itself. Where some people might consider that well to be completely dry, I’m going to go in the opposite direction and say that it’s under-explored and has never really been used to its full advantage. Television and movie action-dramas involving cops, lawyers and criminals are everywhere, and part of the reason they’re everywhere is because there is a demand for them. And why is there? Because there are tons of ways to make them interesting. This basic storytelling engine combined with a superhero element is even better, and while this well is visited on occasion (the Cruel and Unusual and Trial of the Century story arcs for instance), there really haven’t been that many stories that treat Matt’s job as more than just another job. I’m not advocating Daredevil going full legal drama, but I would like to see someone do more with the lawyer angle when Matt eventually returns to the default status quo. That might be a year from now, two years from now, or even further down the line, but it will happen eventually. And I would love to see it done right. Currently, with the new shake-up, we are possibly farther away from the default status quo than we’ve been in decades. It looks like it’s going to be a very interesting and exciting ride, but my reason for feeling that way has everything to do with the story itself and very little to do with any kind of notion that Daredevil really needed to be fixed.
— SPOILERS —
So, what is the new status quo? Well, Matt Murdock has agreed to command the Hand, a multi-national murderous ninja order whose aims are about as different from his as can be. When Lady Bullseye first offered him the gig back in Daredevil #115, in a move that honestly looked downright silly to me at the time, I never could have foreseen this. Why in the world would he ever do that? As mild spoilers pointing to what events might lie ahead for post-Brubaker Daredevil hit the Internet, it soon became clear to most of us that Daredevil would indeed take over the Hand. With Daredevil #500 finally out, it’s a relief to see this outrageous move done with such skill as nothing about Matt’s basic decency has been sacrificed. He accepts the role because refusing would cause more harm, and would lead to the Kingpin assuming the position in his stead. He also makes his choice knowing that he’s got two friends, the Black Tarantula and the White Tiger, watching his back and no longer under the influence of the Hand. The whole things reeks of destroying the enemy from within. And that, in turn, sounds very much like the Matt Murdock I know. We also need to take into consideration that Matt was tricked into this position by Master Izo, a man he trusted much more than he obviously should have. Master Izo has grown into a very intriguing character. Is he good, is he bad, or is he both? His larger plan, that is to steer the Hand back on track, appears to be benign, but he doesn’t hesitate to use and manipulate people in order to reach his goal. It’s going to be interesting to see the Daredevil vs Izo subplot play out (the cover to Daredevil #501 clearly depicts some kind of show-down between the two).
There is also one other thing about the new status quo that appeals to me for reasons beyond it simply being fresh and interesting, and that’s the idea that this might allow for something of a reboot of Matt’s mood and psychological state. That particular aspect of the character is perhaps the only thing I do feel needs fixing. I know there are fans who love watching Matt become more and more depressed and unhinged, but I would bet that a majority are begging for change in this regard. With a new sense of purpose for Matt and Diggle’s ability (at least as far as I’ve seen) to write both serious and funny, this might eventually lead to the slightly lighter take on Daredevil most fans have been asking for.
This takes me to Diggle’s first outing which we saw in the preview to Dark Reign: The List – Daredevil, printed in Daredevil #500. This Dark Reign tie-in is penciled by Billy Tan, whereas the ongoing series will be penciled by Roberto de la Torre, so we don’t get much of a sense of what the Daredevil book will look like from now on beyond this issue. There are also only eight pages of story to go on, but there are still some interesting events and revelations here. First of all, I was pleasantly surprised to see that Matt obviously won’t be leaving his civilian life behind entirely (well, he left life as he knew it, but won’t just be hanging out with ninjas in dark tunnels). On second thought, this makes complete sense. We know from previous events that the Hand has a business side to it. Matt’s attitude toward the Hand’s corporate goons is depicted as appropriately brusque, and very much “let’s get to the point,” though I must admit that I initially read the scene of Matt essentially giving braille the proverbial finger with a hint of annoyance. My guess is that Diggle was only trying to demonstrate Matt’s undeniably cool print-reading ability to new readers as well as establish a certain “I don’t need anything from you” sort of vibe, but not only do I find the idea that he wouldn’t prefer braille to print to be sort of loony (for comparison I would say that, yes, I can read faded 4 pt print in dim lighting, but that wouldn’t be my first choice), it also doesn’t quite sit right with me. Since I’m pretty sure I’m reading too much into this, and that only I and a handful of other people even care, let’s move on…
From the extended scene featuring Matt and the corporate side of the Hand, it is clear that Matt will have to make certain sacrifices, which makes me wonder whether this is part of his initiation or if that has already happened and this is a new set of demands. Either way, it definitely piqued my curiosity. Finally, Matt is being told “I think you will find, Mister Murdock… it has already begun,” which takes us to another part of town and a meeting between semi-regular cast member Detective Kurtz and a couple of crooked cops, and an equally crooked judge. At the end of the scene, all but Kurtz himself have been killed ninja-style, and I’ve seen quit a few readers react to this scene with concern that Daredevil has turned to killing. I don’t really see how they would get this idea since it’s fairly clear that this particular ball has been set in motion without Matt’s involvement. It’s enough, however, to prompt Norman Osborn (who had the now dead crooked cops reinstated) to put Daredevil on his infamous list and give Bullseye the task of killing him.
As a whole, I think these scenes give us enough background on why Osborn would like to see Daredevil taken out of the picture. He has become a major player, and has unwittingly made himself an inconvenience. It doesn’t feel contrived, and Daredevil’s involvement in any kind of larger event makes much more sense than it did before the reveal of Daredevil #500. Diggle’s first eight pages fall short of blowing me away, but I like the set-up here and remain cautiously optimistic that we are going to see some great writing in the next few months. I’ve also been following Diggle’s Dark Reign: Hawkeye, and I like his batshit crazy take on Bullseye who is clearly a character he enjoys writing. After having to endure a bi-monthly schedule for Daredevil since April, it’s nice to know that we only have to wait three weeks for his next outing. As of this writing, it’s only two and half. I’m definitely looking forward to it.