New comic book days was a big deal for Daredevil fans this week! Daredevil #28 came out, along with Indestructible Hulk #10 (the second issue of the two-part story Blind Rage, featuring Daredevil). For now, let’s take a look at the most recent issue of the main title, which saw regular colorist Javíer Rodriguez pull double-duty as both penciller and colorist (ably assisted by inker Alvaro Lopez).
In this issue, we see Matt come face to face with one of his childhood tormentors in a story which ends with an unusually shocking cliff-hanger. We also check in with Foggy, who is starting to display visible signs of his disease. His frailty and vulnerability are incredibly tragic to see on the page, even as writer Mark Waid injects these scenes with warmth and humor. The art, which I will have plenty of reason to return to, is absolutely top-notch. Rodriguez’ art style is both distinctive enough to give us an interesting change of pace and similar enough to Chris Samnee’s approach to make everyone feel right at home. Samnee will be back with issue #30, but until then we are in extremely capable hands and I intend to enjoy every panel that Rodriguez treats us with.
Daredevil #28 is chock full of absolutely brilliant moments, scenes, and lines of dialogue that simply could not have been written by someone who doesn’t have Mark Waid’s seemingly instinctive and effortless understanding of what makes Matt Murdock tick. Some of these scenes easily rank among my favorite of his run so far. But, I will admit that it took me a couple of reads to fully wrap my head around the nature of the central conflict between Matt and the man who decides to show up at his office in the shape of no-good, former bully Nate Hackett. I think I finally got there, and I will get back to that, but let’s start by working our way through the issue. Since it took me a couple of days to get this review up, I’m going to assume that most of you have read the issue already. There will be spoilers, and you have been warned!
The first few pages are one of the real high-notes of this issue. We start with a close-up of Foggy’s fingers holding up a tuft of newly shed hair that is interrupted by Matt sticking his head in the door and trying to cheer his friend up with a joke. I know I’ve said this many times before, but people suggesting that it is out of character for Matt to be cracking wise in any way, shape or form are just dead wrong. Matt Murdock has a great sense of humor, and he pretty much always did, even though it’s been expressed to varying degrees and has often had to take a back seat to the heartbreak he’s frequently gone through. It is often self-deprecating, as seen in this scene, where blind humor (massage therapist is up there with piano-tuner on the list of archetypal “blind jobs”…) gets mixed up with his freely admitting to being something of a ladies’ man.
Things get more complicated when it turns out that Foggy’s treatment is also causing a considerable amount of distress for his friend. The smell of the cocktail of drugs going into the chemotherapy is enough to send Matt to the bathroom vomiting, and it is a true testament to his loyalty to Foggy that he is able to steel himself and go back in. This is a great way for Waid to demonstrate not only the depth of the law partners’ friendship, but to remind us of the downside to Matt’s own physiology.
The idea that the powers that allow Matt Murdock to be Daredevil are also occasionally painful or disturbing has a long history in the comic. However, it is worth reminding readers of this fact from time to time, as it adds to the complexity of the character. Daredevil is an unenviable superhero not only because the accident which gave him his powers cost him his sight, but also because the same heightened abilities which make life easier for him, make it harder and more complicated at the same time. This is something to keep in mind for what comes next in this issue, and I don’t think it was a coincidence that Mark Waid had Matt confront one of his life’s frustrations before being confronted with someone who only sees the glamour of the superhero life…
The middle chapter of this issue mixes the here and now – specifically a conversation between Matt and would-be client Nate Hackett – with flashbacks to Matt’s childhood. What is interesting about these flashbacks is that they are told from two different perspectives. Going into this issue, and this scene specifically, I had some expectations for how the meeting between Matt and his former bully was going to play out. Waid goes down a very different path compared to anything I’d had in mind. This made my first experience reading this issue a rather bumpy ride, and it took an additional reading of the story before I was able to fully appreciate what was really going on, and realize that never knowing what to expect is one of the many things that makes this book great.
Rather than paint Nate Hackett as completely unsympathetic, Mark Waid serves us with a much less black and white perspective, and even takes the angelic young Matt down a notch. The flashback scenes shown from Matt’s perspective tell a very familiar story, one we’ve been told before and know very well. It is at the heart of the mythos of how Matt came to be Daredevil. Nate’s version of how things went down is a little different. There’s no denying that he and his lackeys were brutal, but Nate’s memories also show Matt as a know-it-all braggart with a big mouth. And, as Matt admits, there is no sign that Nate is lying about his version of the events. This doesn’t mean that what Nate is telling is the actual truth, but it does mean that it is his truth, and that he believes his own memories and lines of reasoning. This all makes for a very interesting reminder of the fact that we construct our own identities based in large part on the narratives we create for ourselves.
Regardless of what really happened in the past, there is no denying Matt’s feelings about Nate in the present. Or to quote the main character himself: “I’m surprised to realize I’m still furious and resentful all these years later.” Matt shows no signs of forgiveness, and I suspect that Nate’s failure to offer up a genuine apology is what further gets on his nerves. It is revealed that after Nate read in the paper about Matt being Daredevil, his sense of guilt over his past behavior – and Matt’s accident – was instantly lifted, since Matt’s life, in Nate’s eyes, had been improved rather than ruined by what happened. Given everything Matt has been through over the years, in and out of his Daredevil costume, he may be less inclined to see things quite the same way. When Nate finally reveals his legal predicament, it is Matt’s sense of justice rather than any real forgiveness which determines his next move.
When Matt decides to help Nate, it is the same kind of legal coaching type of assistance that he’s been offering other clients lately, and this makes for a very entertaining final court room scene where Nate repeatedly stumbles yet soldiers on undeterred. Well, until the very final scene which puts an extremely shocking end to this issue, and made my jaw drop in disbelief. If there is anything I might fault this issue with, it’s that maybe the ending is a little too shocking. I am extremely intrigued to see what will happen next issue, just as I am eager to find out even more about who Matt was before he started dressing up in red PJs.
Mark Waid is on a fast track to becoming my favorite Daredevil writer. I know it’s considered somewhat controversial to not place Frank Miller on a pedestal and declare his take on the character as the pure essence of “Daredevil-hood,” but doing so feels uninspired to me. The very thought suggests that Daredevil is by definition a character defined more by his past than his present or future, like one of those (rather sad) people who spend their adult lives reminiscing about their years as the star quarter-back in high school, seemingly unable to repeat that level of success. On the contrary, Daredevil is a character with a wide range that seems to be able to bring out the best in his writers. Mark Waid gets Matt Murdock, and I get the sense that he’s truly enjoying the process of getting to know our favorite blind lawyer, taking him out for a spin, putting him in interesting situation and testing his reactions. There is a lot of the latter happening in this issue and I applaud Waid for being as gutsy as he is.
I have only briefly mentioned the art so far, but it absolutely deserves its own chapter to this review. Javíer Rodriguez’s work is extremely strong this issue, and far better than anything I could have imagined. It’s not that I had low expectations going in, quite the contrary, but I didn’t expect to fall in love with the look of this issue to the extent that I did. Among the things that impressed me the most were the flashback scenes (young Matt Murdock is so adorable it completely melts my heart), the Nate Hackett character design (just the right amount of unsavory ogre going on), and the superb amount of detail throughout the issue. The “walk-through” scene above, showing Matt in Nate’s apartment is fantastic, as is the creative use of panel layouts in the spread which shows what Daredevil is doing while considering Nate’s case.
One obvious advantage of having someone already “in the family” provide the pencils for this issue is that Rodriguez already knows what things are supposed to look like in terms of the regular cast of characters, the layout of Matt’s office and the look of Foggy’s hospital room, to mention just a few examples. This means that he can put his own twist on things without confusing the reader needlessly by changing things around that help support a sense of consistency. As much as I love Samnee’s work on this book, I am more than comfortable seeing Rodriguez step in whenever the opportunity presents itself in the future, knowing that he has all the skills to keep the artistic quality of the book up to the standard we’ve become accustomed to. Daredevil fans are spoiled, we all know it.
I think I’m going to round things off here. Now I want to hear what you thought. Let the rest of us know in the comment section!