Hey gang! Sorry for my delay in posting this review. I couldn’t get my hands on this issue until Friday due to one of the many religious holidays that my country insists on observing despite the fact that no one knows what they’re for (Sweden being one of the most secular countries on the planet and all). Enough about that, let’s get to the review, shall we?
What we had this month with Daredevil: Cage Match, written by Antony Johnston with art by Sean Chen, was a good ol’ done in one story taking place at some unspecified time in the past. We’re talking back when Like Cage wore a tiara, though obviously not so far back that Foggy doesn’t know about Matt being Daredevil (which he only discovered about fifteen years ago, real time). In fact, the story reminds me quite a bit of the stories from that same time, when Daredevil was written by Karl Kesel, followed by Joe Kelly, and Matt Murdock was a much more carefree guy.
The Kesel run in particular was controversial among fans for not delivering your typical angst-driven Daredevil stories, but I quite liked it personally as Kesel’s take on Matt Murdock didn’t strike me as being the least bit out of character (I can easily imagine even a contemporary Matt refuse a drink with a “No thanks, I’m driving”) and in fact demonstrated just how versatile the character can be.
In a sense, Johnston’s take on Murdock and friends in this one-shot represents a similarly gutsy move in just how much it differs from the tone and the current themes in the main Daredevil title. Naturally, I have to assume that this part of the point. We’re reminded of the fact that Matt had something resembling a normal life once, with friends and a job that didn’t consist of leading an evil ninja order.
In this issue, we see a new take on the old hero vs hero match-up when Matt challenges Luke to a fight to determine which one of them really has the best moves. Both parties immediately start to regret the arrangement but neither one of them is willing to back down. Matt is looking to protect his ego, and Luke is looking to do the same; protect Matt’s ego, that is.
At his side, Matt has the real star of this issue: Foggy Nelson. In the early days, Foggy was often used for comic relief and he is used to that same effect here. However, unlike the bumbling fool we got used to seeing in the decades old issues of Daredevil, this take on Foggy respects all the growth the character has experienced under Bendis and Brubaker. He’s a witty guy, but he’s also sharp, courageous and the sole voice of reason.
The middle and end of the issue cover the fight itself, and its complications in the form of an appearance by regular Daredevil lowlife Turk (pictured above with Foggy) who is looking to take advantage of the situation.
The fight allows artist Sean Chen to treat us to some well choreographed swings and poses and these scenes go a long way toward selling us on the idea that Daredevil might actually be able to give Mr. Power Man himself a run for his money. The art in general is well suited to this kind of story, and my only complaint is that Turk isn’t quite as recognizable as I would have wished. He looks like a teenager to me, something a simple change in wardrobe could have fixed. Matt Hollingsworth supplies the colors for this issue, but it’s a brighter palette than we’re used to seeing in the regular title, even for the scenes taking place at night or in a dimly lit gym. It’s a good fit for the art and the more playful tone of the story.
Daredevil: Cage Match is a fun breath of fresh air that allows us a nice break from some of the heavier stuff happening in Murdock’s life in current continuity. It also it clearly intended to investigate Matt’s and Luke’s relationship as friends before they presumably go head to head again under less playful circumstances in the upcoming Shadowland event.
What I did miss in this issue, however, was either a more conclusive ending or just a little more depth. It’s a fun issue for sure, and I’d be the first to sign a petition for more (character appropriate) humor in Daredevil, but it’s not the kind of story that stays with you for very long after you put it down. Either way, it does show that Daredevil – both the title and the character – can and should be allowed to take an occasional breather from the heavy stuff.
I’ve said before that the character of Matt Murdock is like a versatile actor who has had the misfortune of being typecast and limited to playing only certain types of role. Daredevil: Cage Match shows that it is possible to write a different kind of Daredevil story yet remain true to the essence of the character, and this is something I’m looking forward to hopefully seeing more of.