My goodness, what a great issue. For starters, even though I feel like I’m repeating myself whenever I point out that Chris Samnee somehow keeps getting better and better, this issue is a perfect example of what I mean. There are so many scenes and panels in this issue that I absolutely adored, to the point where I may have to do another one of my “revisited” posts to talk about all of them. Even so, this review is bound to have an unusual number of panels from this week’s issue.
To give this issue the full treatment it deserves, I will also be talking about how it ends (and yup, that’s the final page at the very end of the post), so beware of serious spoilers! Fortunately, most of you will have read the issue by now since I got delayed (twice) in putting it up, but if you haven’t, check back later!
The issue begins where Daredevil #9 left off, with our hero curled into a fetal position under a bridge. Not a nice position to be in physically, and even less so when it’s mirrored by Matt’s mental state which gets a very thorough and thoughtful treatment over a number of pages. Mark Waid elegantly describes, through the inner monologue of Matt Murdock, how depression, not unlike a living thing, can take over and feed on a person’s darker moods. And Matt himself was just hit by a massive dose of dark moods, courtesy of the Purple Children’s influence last issue.
An outraged Purple Man repeatedly beats a mentally broken Daredevil who can’t even compose himself to fight back. Until Killgrave utters the magic word, that is. It’s an interesting reflectionon on the character that it’s the notion of “fear” that sets him off and prompts him to defend himself. He’s the “man without fear,” but that has always been something of a misnomer. He obviously feels fear, but after a life of acting as if he doesn’t, resisting that fear seemingly sets in motion a deeply rooted automatic response. Here, it gives Matt enough of a push to snap out of his mental paralysis.
At this point, it’s easy to suspect that Matt has successfully broken the spell, and throughout much of the rest of the issue, it appears as if he’s gone back to his usual self, mostly unscathed. Kirsten is suspicious though, and in a beautifully illustrated scene between her and the beaten Matt who shows up at their office, the creative team skillfully handle Matt’s shaky mental status.
In a couple of panels (I’ll definitely have to get back to these) showing Matt’s face, as Kirsten gently prods him to find out how he’s holding up, Samnee hides Matt’s eyes from the view of the reader, while the rest of his face shows first hesitation, then a smile. It initially reminded me of the many years of Silver and Bronze Age Daredevil where artists would go to ridiculous lengths to hide Matt’s eyes from view. Of course, Chris Samnee has never shown any such tendencies, and here it becomes a clever way to hide Matt’s emotional state. He may be smiliing, but it is clearly half-hearted, forced, as if he’s following a script he’s written for himself.
Still, Matt throws himself into his Daredevil duties and goes to find the children who are clearly in danger from their purple psychopath father. Both Chris Samnee and colorist Matt Wilson seem to enjoy themselves in the bright and chaotic arcade where the Purple Children are roaming around. Samnee gets to use his fantastic ability to convey human emotion with charm and humor to full effect, and the result is touching. The two panels below are two of my favorites of the issue. On the left, Matt is reaching out to a frightened child by alleviating his fears with an impromptu game of peekaboo. On the right is a touching look at that same child holding on to dear life coupled with a very visually striking profile of Matt putting his mask back on. The dark shadow across his face contrasts with his unnaturally bright eyes, and the end result is very cool-looking.
While the wrap-up of the Purple Children plot is well executed and resolved in a very satisfactory way, the biggest strength of the issue is the last few pages, in particular the very last one. This is where everything that went before is put into perspective. Until Matt leaves Kirsten to retreat to his bedroom, the reader is left wondering just how much of the despair of the first few pages will actually matter by the end of the story. Of course, we all know that Matt has deep-seated issues that he doesn’t want to let on, or even admit to himself, but we’ve known this for the entirety of Waid’s run on the book. Would this arc end up being just a reminder of this state of affairs, well-executed as it might be, or will Matt finally be prompted to do something?
This is why the final page feels so incredibly important. Matt finally decides to do something that any longtime Daredevil fan will know is extremely difficult for this particular character to do, and that is to actively reach out to someone and ask for help. Daredevil has always been a fiercely independent character. He shuns most teams, likes to do things on his own, and usually handles difficult times by pulling away rather than reaching out.
When Kirsten thanks Matt for letting her in, those words feel incredibly significant. Interestingly, it also represents something of a turning point, as Matt’s own definition of depression, at the very start of the issue, includes the inability to reach out to those trying to offer support. Matt hits rock bottom at the beginning of the issue, but by the end of it, he’s making a move that is clearly a step in the right direction. I’ll be very interested to see what this will mean for these characters going forward, for however many issues remain of the Waid/Samnee run.
The entire team deserves a big round of applause for this issue. Wilson’s colors are an amazing complement to Samnee’s line art (and I’m not sure what exactly he’s done to the shade of Kirsten’s hair, but it looks amazing). Joe Caramagna’s letters are always good, but they’ve had even more room to shine over the course of this arc. Waid’s characterization is perfect here, as is the pacing, and the way the pieces of the story all fall into place by the end. This was just an all around wonderful issue.