This review will contain spoilers for Daredevil #36 so proceed with caution if you haven’t read the issue!
Okay, wow! This issue was quite the thrill ride. While the destination was known to most readers who’ve kept up with the news – that Matt Murdock would be forced to relocate to the west coast by the end of the issue – the details of how it would all unfold were not. Sure, the cliffhanger at the end of Daredevil #35 gave us some indication of how things would play out, but there were still lingering questions: Was Matt’s apparent confession to being Daredevil on the witness stand actually what it seemed? Would there be some kind of fake-out at the end? Would Matt’s identity as Daredevil now be officially known rather than just strongly suspected? And what would that mean in practice?
From looking at fan reactions to Daredevil #36, it seems the end to volume three has been pretty universally praised. I agree with much of this praise, as you’ll see below. However, there were key moments in this issue that I must admit still have me scratching my head a bit. I’ll get to that too. Overall, Daredevil #36 is a great issue. It’s beautiful, well crafted, perfectly paced. It’s great for many of the same reasons nearly every other issue of volume three has been great, and it clearly shows why this run has quickly become a favorite of longtime fans and new converts alike. However, what took this issue down a notch for me was that it didn’t, in my mind, adequately address the consequences of the events that were set in motion.
Let’s start with the good. The art, as always is amazing. Chris Samnee somehow manages to continuously outdo himself. He inserts plenty of drama into an issue that, for all its action, contains an unusual number of talking heads. He spices up a courtroom scene by highlighting the tension brewing under the surface, and even the words themselves become become part of the artwork in that amazing page that sees “I AM DAREDEVIL” provide a window on the reactions of other key players in the Marvel Universe. Samnee is great at conveying the emotions of all the characters in this book, and his action scenes are always well- choreographed and easy to follow. Javier Rodríguez’s colors are also top-notch, as always.
As for the individual scenes of this issue, the one between Matt and Foggy that starts it all off is a really strong one. It provides further insight into the relationship between the two and how Foggy views his own life, both in relation to Matt’s and in terms of how well it stands on its own merits. This conversation provides a very plausible backdrop to the decisions that Matt makes on the stand and addresses the consequences they will have for their practice and Foggy’s medical care.
A while back, Mark Waid mentioned that he hadn’t quite figured out how to handle Matt’s relationship with Kirsten McDuffie. Over the last few issues, however, he seems to have figured out the right formula, and I love their interplay here. Kirsten is someone Matt can lean on both personally and professionally, and part of the reason she is able to provide such solid support is that she is not someone who will passively surrender to his will, but challenge him on many levels. The two of them have started a romantic relationship, but Kirsten has clearly avoided getting herself emotionally and psychologically sucked into the whirlwind that is Daredevil. She is willing to play her part in Matt’s apparent downfall, but has obviously voiced her own opinions on the matter, and is even the one to offer a solution to his problems at the end of the issue.
Daredevil #36 also does a great job of tying up the loose ends of the Sons of the Serpent subplot. With Matt set to leave New York, we all know he wouldn’t want to leave the justice system he has been a part of for so long in a corrupted state. But, in order to expose the Serpents’ reign of terror, he has to pay a very steep price by making their hold over him worthless and beating them to the punch. Matt’s conflict with the Sons of the Serpent has forced him to examine his own ideals, and here it is his personal integrity that wins out, even when it comes at great risk to himself. This, more than anything, shows Mark Waid’s firm grasp of the core values of Matt Murdock.
The magnitude of the events of Daredevil #36 cannot be understated. Matt has had his secret identity revealed before, most recently at the hands of Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev during the beginning of their run on Daredevil. What made Daredevil’s most recent outing stand out from the rest, and compared to some other Marvel characters, was that it was never completely undone. Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark managed to repair the status quo enough so that it allowed for other kinds of stories to be told, but the cat never did find itself completely back in the bag. In Daredevil #36 Matt publicly admits that he is Daredevil, and he does so while under oath. The cat ran off and someone torched the bag. This is it. And this is huge. Which is what makes what happens next seem relatively inconsequential.
Yes, Matt does get disbarred – as does Foggy – and he does find himself in a major bind as far as his and his partner’s futures are concerned, but considering what he just confessed to, this is a slap on the wrist. To be honest, I was doubtful that Waid & Co. would actually let Matt get himself into this much trouble precisely because of what the consequences would be. I was also surprised to see Matt’s old law suit against the newspaper that outed him be brought up in this way. We see Matt apologizing for it, but we’re skirting the major issue here which is that Matt sued the Globe for millions of dollars and won. If I were legal counsel for the Globe, I’d get ready to go after Matt in five seconds flat. Matt confessing to being Daredevil also opens him up for the criminal charges which Daredevil should be facing following Shadowland, along with a long string of other legally questionable things that Daredevil has done over the years. And what about all the criminals Nelson & Murdock have put away that have had even the slightest hint of Daredevil involvement?
Instead, we see none of this (at least at this point) and even the people presiding over Matt’s ethics committee hearing seem regretful, almost apologetic. They shouldn’t be. We fans love Matt Murdock and get what Daredevil is about, but there is simply no way around the fact that being Daredevil is highly illegal and that Matt’s history of acting on both sides of the law is unethical. That Matt sees himself forced to move to California is such a minor consequence of such a major plot development that it makes this issue, for all its undeniable merits, seem a little off-kilter to me.
I’ve seen this issue referred to as the perfect ending to this chapter of Daredevil. I would disagree for some of the reasons mentioned. I will say this though: The last couple of pages were the perfect beginning of the next chapter. I love the idea of taking Matt to San Francisco, and I love that he’s going with Kirsten and Foggy at his side. I foresee a great future for this creative team in bringing their concepts and storytelling prowess to a new volume of Daredevil. It remains to be seen just if and how Matt will be haunted by his decision down the line, but for now, I’m perfectly content to see Matt try to build a new life for himself in his civilian guise, and as Daredevil. And, as you all know, we’ll only have to wait a few days for the first episode of the digital series Daredevil: Road Warrior which premieres on Tuesday. I will definitely check back with you then, and probably sooner!
As always, please leave your comments below! I’d love to hear your thoughts on this issues.