Daredevil #23 revisited

Just like last month, I knew while writing my review of Daredevil #23 that there were a couple of things I wouldn’t be able cover since they don’t really fall within the scope of a review. That, and I don’t want my reviews to contain unnecessary spoilers. This post, however, will assume that you have already read Daredevil #23. You have been warned.

Recreating the accident that created Daredevil

Let’s start with the whole deal concerning the “new Daredevils” in the orange jumpsuits. And I’ll start by quoting what Bee Clayton said in his comment to my original review:

“The new insights into his origin are interesting, but I’m not sure I like the idea behind the orange jumpsuit guys. It implies that Matt’s accident was not a singular unique one. Of course, it appears that it took much effort for this mystery villain to replicate the results, but still I think it makes Matt less unique in a way.”

As you might imagine, I too was scratching my head a little about this one. However, I suspect that we probably won’t have to worry about the part about Matt being “unique” since it feels like Mark Waid has planted seeds about Matt’s uniqueness going back to the Latveria arc. Even in that opening sequence, he has Matt mentioning a person’s body chemistry as being a factor that may have affected the particular outcome. I think there is much more going on that meets the eye here, and I also think that the over-the-top insanity of these test subjects might be meaningful somehow.

Failed experiment, from Daredevil #23 by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee

Personally though, I’m struggling a little bit with the fact that it’s anywhere near possible to repeat a freak accident like that and see a similar outcome. It makes the statistical impossibility (or let’s call it “near-impossibility” in Marvel Universe terms) that was the creation of Daredevil something that’s actually an expected outcome from being blinded by mystery radioactive chemicals. The only way this could be an expected outcome is if the chemical is something considerably more sophisticated than some random radioactive compound. Genetic damage through radiation happens completely at random. Except in the Marvel U where every lab accident translates into some bizarre super villain’s origin story. ;) Although, even in the Marvel U, the specific effects do seem random.

So, even when allowing for Marvel Universe super-advanced “science” there still needs to be some kind of property of this toxin that’s targeted for a specific effect. Going back to the origin of the Fantastic Four, for instance, the characters developed very different powers in response to the same exposure, and this is how other kinds of Marvel Universe radiation should work as well, if there is any logic to it. I realize that’s a big “if,” but I’m hoping that Mark Waid is at least expanding on the origin by making the toxin (and I think it’s noteworthy that it’s referred to as such in this issue) something above and beyond just “radiation.” Chemical toxins can have very specific effects on the body, often the nervous system, so that would at least make more sense. Which, of course, makes you wonder whether Matt’s own accident was staged. And I think that’s what we’re supposed to be wondering at this point.

Daredevil fights prisoner, from Daredevil #23 by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee

Before letting this topic go, I also have to give some props to Chris Samnee and Javier Rodríguez for their beautiful (hm, no that’s not quite the right word…) rendition of Daredevil sticking his thumbs into some guy’s eye sockets. First it’s decapitated heads, now it’s missing eyes. Mark Waid will surely be driving his art team insane before too long. On a more serious note though, I think this does tell us something potentially interesting about the dose and amount these guys are being exposed to when the nasty stuff actually burns through the entire eye ball (Matt obviously still has his eyes). Maybe that’s why they seem to be in some kind of over-drive. While Matt mentions in his internal monologue that he was driven mad “that first day” he also talks about how his abilities came gradually:

“The radioactivity gradually rewired my remaining senses… amplified them. In time, I’d be able to hear ultrafrequencies and heartbeats. Read newsprint by touch. Taste the exact number of salt grain on a pretzel. And more.”

The prisoners seem to be “fully operational” right away. On the other hand, we don’t know how much time has passed between that opening scene and their being let loose at the party. Daredevil seems to think they must have just been exposed, but how would he know? Hmm… As you can tell, I’m just speculating here. Please help me speculate some more in the comments! This must make sense! :P

Matt’s hair

So, as many of you pointed out (here, and on Twitter), Matt finally got a haircut! As charming as that shaggy look was, this definitely looks more professional. I don’t know when he got the time to go to the hair-dresser’s, but I suppose some time before taking Foggy out for a night on the town is as good a guess as any!

And I think I’ll end there. There is much that could and should be said about Foggy’s illness as well (and man, were those last couple of pages pitch perfect, or what?), but I think I’ve engaged in enough speculation for one day!

Matt meets Foggy at the doctor's, from Daredevil #23 by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee

Comments

  1. Steve says

    As far as Matt’s haircut is concerned, I think perhaps his hair stylist was looking at old “photos” of Matt back when a stylist named Gene Colan was grooming his hair!

  2. DAN WITHOUT FEAR says

    I don’t think that the implication is that maybe Matt’s accident was staged. If anything, the implication is that Matt’s accident WAS such a singularly unique one in terms of Matt’s body chemistry (we may learn that whatever Hank Pym detected may have been already there before the accident), toxin strength (the party crashers had no eyes) and random toxin splatter pattern (test subject 22 gets his whole face melted off), that whoever the mystery villain is, he’s having alot of trouble reproducing the same effects that resulted in Matt’s case.

    That said, we know from the solicitations for issue 25 that DD goes up against his opposite number. So it seems that the mystery villain will eventually, through much trial and error, be able to replicate Matt’s condition to a standard that will challenge Matt in a big way.

  3. says

    I think that whoever is conducting the experiment won’t be totally successful. My points:
    Orange jumpsuits might suggest that the unfortunate test subjects are convicts, whose personal story and upbringing mean that the sensory overload drives them to a mad binge (i.e.: eating like animals, molesting ladies in a rather ungentlemanly fashion, etc…). In comparison, Matt’s post-accident behavior and response to his own hipersenses is that of a well-behaved stoic.

    So what makes Daredevil is not merely a random burning isotope, but a personal stance and moral standing: Add Jack Murdock and Stick to the equation.

  4. Brook says

    The different effects of the same chemical/radioactive compound on different people at different times remind me of the great Latin satirical novel The Golden Ass, in which the protagonist, Lucius, secretly witnesses a witch rubbing ointment on herself, after which she turns into an owl and flies off. Lucius desires magical abilities, so he tries to replicate the process, but he turns into a donkey, instead.

    I got the sense from this issue that the mind, and perhaps genetics and/or body chemistry of Matt Murdock is hard-wired for intelligence, careful arrangement of his responses to hyperstimulation, and predisposed toward productive if sometimes violent ethical responses to situations. (Perhaps he even has Marvel-style undiscovered genetic mutations that had not yet manifested when the accident happened…!)

    A group of what seem to be convicted felons would have a very different base on which the chemo-radioactive substance could act. As in the actual American prison system, we are probably looking at a population with a high percentage of mental illness, not to mention horrible life experiences. When we throw in a larger amount of the substance, and the implication that the prisoners have probably been turned loose with some plan in mind by Daredevil’s tormenter, yes, the local-wife-to-owl vs. power-hungry-man-to-ass distinction in The Golden Ass seems a decent analogy to poor-kid-driven-by-a-loving-and-disciplined-father (young Matt and his dad) vs. convicted-men-with-compromised-mental-and-social-qualities in Daredevil #23.

  5. Brook says

    P.S. I think Daredevil thinks they have just been exposed because he can smell the toxin on them, right?

  6. says

    For me, this issue was all about perception and literally trusting what your senses tell you. The first few pages are a classic piece of misdirection aimed at the reader, that takes full advantage of the Marvel NOW banner. A re-telling of the origin would have been very appropriate considering that this was a jumping-on-point, but this was wonderfully subverted by revealing that the voice in the captions was nothing to do with the point-of-view shown in the art.

    Matt made full use of perceptions in his battles with the jumpsuit goons. For me, the point being made wasn’t that Matt’s accident was anything but unique, but that his years of training and experience are what created Daredevil. The jumpsuits don’t fully understand what their senses are telling them, and Matt takes full advantage of that.

    And, of course, the final scene is all about Matt not working with his senses at all. His all-too-human side leads him astray, colouring his interpretation of what his senses are telling him. He makes the same mistake on the penultimate page that we made at the start of the book.

  7. Bee Clayton says

    Some very intriguing thoughts here. Let me add my two cents worth:

    1) I hadn’t considered the angle of Matt’s accident being staged for some reason. I think it deserves more consideration since this mystery villain is going through the whole effort of recreating the accident. If it was just exposure to the toxin, why not subject them to it in a more controlled environment such as lab or examination room? Why bother to recreate the accident at all? There’s more here than we think.

    2) The toxin itself. I think you’re right, something about it must engender such results. Like Matt mentions though, a person must have the right body chemistry to receive those results. Since so many test subjects were (apparently) used, this specific chemistry may be what helps DD remain ‘unique’.

    3) For now we deal with the quantity of the exposure. If he is recreating the accident, how can he possible control how much they get exposed to it? Too much, too little, does contact have to be via the eyes? It seems to be a haphazard way to conduct an experiment. Which is why I think the party-crashers were over-exposed. They had to deal with the sudden onslaught of hyper-senses combined with the intensity of those senses. No wonder they went nuts.

    Waid has definitely opened up a wonderful mystery here on a event we thought we knew so well. ;)

    Also….love the haircut!

  8. says

    I’d like to add one point to Bee’s observation about dosage. Certainly it would be hard to control the dosage of the magical mystery chemical, which might account for varying effects …

    … and getting back to Matt’s observation about the effects of body chemistry, I’m going to toss out puberty as a factor too.

    Puberty is a huge deal in the Marvel Universe–mutant abilities, anybody?–and in most depictions of Matt’s origin, he seems to be somewhere between the ages of 10 (in John Romita Jr’s art) and 16 (in Frank Miller’s) when he’s blinded. 12 or 13 seems like a good average. Yet I notice that the party-crashers all appear to be biological adults. There are plenty of drugs out there that affect children in one way and adults in another; why not this toxin, whatever it is? At puberty Matt’s brain would still have been developing in some pretty important ways, which might contribute in some comic-booky fashion to the way he processes his hypersenses. Plus there’s all those hormones to consider. Neither of those factors would apply to adults exposed to the same toxin, even before Stick gets involved.

    Talk about unstable molecules …

    Great post, Christine! I’m loving the discussion!

  9. says

    Although it suddenly occurs to me that if Waid goes that way (which I doubt he will), this villain’s going to start trying his process on kids … euughh.

  10. Elizabeth says

    The experiment made me think of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. For those who didn’t follow that comic/cartoon/movie, their origin was that they were dropped in the goo at the time of Matt’s accident. (Implied, but any Daredevil fan would have understood the reference.) Not what the writer intended, I’m sure.

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