In Daredevil #9, storytellers Waid and Samnee skillfully add a new layer to the Purple Man’s mythos by setting up his children as a new and different threat to Daredevil. As anyone familiar with Matt’s history with Killgrave will know, the former’s blindness makes him partially immune to the latter’s powers of persuasion. Not completely immune, mind you, but able to resist by sheer force of will. At least part of Purple Man’s power depends on his puppets being visually exposed to his purple skin.
His children, however, are different. And, as we are about to find out, potentially much better at wreaking havoc simply by showing up. In addition to their powers being somewhat enhanced, in ways that spell disaster for our favorite blind superhero, they lack their father’s calculated control. They’re kids, and they act like it. They want what they want when they want it, and are prone to sudden changes in moods and desires. These moods affects those around them, and Matt is not immune.
Before Daredevil has his run-in with the Purple Children, we check in with Matt who is on his way to breakfast with Kirsten and a poorly disguised Foggy Nelson. There is much to enjoy in this scene. It is charming, and Samnee generally nails the art (the level of detail, from the pattern on Kirsten’s blazer to the city in the background, is incredible). It also features an interesting exchange between Foggy and Matt, where Foggy expresses concern about Matt’s ability to revisit his past without being dragged down. These couple of panels are important in light of what happens later in the issue.
However, for all its qualities, I must admit to taking issue with two things happening in this scene. First of all, I don’t believe for a second that Matt is a poor writer. I will buy that he doesn’t usually have the patience for it, so the suggestion that his style is, as Kirsten puts it, “terse” doesn’t bother me (and her way of expressing it is certainly clever). But Matt Murdock is someone who, as a kid, was forced to spend much of his free time studying. For years. He then went on to be a top student at a prestigious university with a presumably spotless academic record. He’s never given any indication that he’s anything but well-read and well-rounded.
I’m not suggesting that people who may be dyslexic – to mention one reason someone would have specific issues with writing – can’t be lawyers or generally brilliant, but Matt isn’t dyslexic. Why would he be failing at basic spelling and punctuation? The one thing I might go along with is that his lack of patience combined with his blindness (let’s say he’s turned off the voice feedback from his keyboard while typing, is a sloppy typist, and can’t be bothered to listen back through his own writing for typos after the fact) might result in subpar writing on a day to day basis, especially if he knows it will be checked by an assistant on the way to its final destination. But that he couldn’t do better than that if he tried? No, that makes no sense to me at all. And we actually have proof that his writing is fine.
There is also another aspect of this scene that makes it a little too cartoonish to mesh perfectly with this particular storyline, which is otherwise quite dark. In one panel, Matt appears to be pulling out his advance check for the book deal he was offered last issue, only to have Foggy discover that it’s a dry cleaning receipt. This, in and of itself, is funny. But Matt’s big “Aha! I’ll show you!” feels over the top to me, and in what is a very rare misstep on Samnee’s part, even his expression looks somewhat exaggerated. It feels like Waid and Samnee both are trying a little too hard to be funny throughout these two pages. I wish they’d reigned it in just a tad, especially since Foggy’s appearance is already farcical enough.
Having said that, there is definitely a clear point to this particular chapter of the story, and it gets back on track as soon as the trio enter a diner and Matt realizes that there’s is a commotion nearby. His costume change is a fun twist on an old classic and Daredevil’s first meeting with the Purple Children, then behind the wheel of a police car, is very well-conceived and illustrated.
This issue was an unusually fast read for me, and it’s not due to poor pacing. Quite the contrary. The last half of the issue has a frantic feel to it that makes it a real page-turner. Chris Samnnee’s line art, beautifully layered with Matt Wilson’s colors paint a perfect picture of chaos. The pages are dripping with adrenalin and confusion, much of it Daredevil’s as he’s trying to make sense of the situation. He knows that Purple Man is active in San Francisco, and gradually realizes that the strange children he’s encountered are connected to him, but he obviously can’t see their purple skin.
One of the more interesting things about the Purple Children, that sets them apart from their father, is that they make for much more sympathetic villains. The children are themselves victims of their father’s sadistic machinations and they are clearly still feeling and expressing normal human emotions. They’ve come to rely on each other and will fiercely defend their siblings from attack, whether real of perceived. They also appear to be passing in and out of “purple mode,” as evident in the clever lettering of Joe Caramagna. Caramagna has been doing a fantastic job on Daredevil for years now, and it’s always nice to see an issue where his skills are on display to the extent that we see in this issue.
Nowhere is the victim status of these children more evident than in the way their experiences echo those of Matt Murdock. One page is split down the middle to showcase the past struggles of each of the five children and how they compare to past events in Matt’s life. Not only is this page beautiful to look at, with its clever use of contrasting background colors, it is also quite heartbreaking.
At this point in the story, it’s been established that the children do more than command people, they “leak” emotions and are able to project those emotions at others around them. With Matt’s past battles, they are able to tap into his greatest weaknesses. It is like they are playing him like an instrument, each of them striking one string and causing it to vibrate at its resonance frequency and collapsing the delicate wall Matt has built around himself for protection. And when it falls, it falls quickly and completely. And then, more trouble shows us. If you’ve read this issue, you’ll know what I mean. 😉
This story arc will reach its conclusion in the next issue, but with Daredevil #9, the creative team set things in motion that promise to have ramifications beyond the scope of this particular story. It has been suggested since Mark Waid’s first issue on the title, over three years ago, that Matt is actively trying to bury things. Away from the children, Matt’s complete despair might lift, but the fact that he’s been forced to confront these emotions, all at once, is sure to leave its mark. I’m very much looking forward to what next issue has in store.