Daredevil’s new status quo

If you read my review of Daredevil #500, you know that I enjoyed it a great deal, and as a whole, I’m very excited about where the new direction might lead. Before I get to that part, however (hidden under a cut for those who haven’t read the issue yet), I’d just like to talk a little bit about the old status quo. You know, the one that has Matt Murdock being your good old-fashioned low-powered superhero next door with a somewhat normal professional life and ordinary friends. It is oftentimes a very shitty life, but still fairly grounded in the “real world.”

Matt has left the default status quo before at various points in the history of the book, and usually with interesting results, but I would still say that the basic premise of Matt being a blind lawyer who fights crime at night is insanely interesting in and of itself. Where some people might consider that well to be completely dry, I’m going to go in the opposite direction and say that it’s under-explored and has never really been used to its full advantage. Television and movie action-dramas involving cops, lawyers and criminals are everywhere, and part of the reason they’re everywhere is because there is a demand for them. And why is there? Because there are tons of ways to make them interesting. This basic storytelling engine combined with a superhero element is even better, and while this well is visited on occasion (the Cruel and Unusual and Trial of the Century story arcs for instance), there really haven’t been that many stories that treat Matt’s job as more than just another job. I’m not advocating Daredevil going full legal drama, but I would like to see someone do more with the lawyer angle when Matt eventually returns to the default status quo. That might be a year from now, two years from now, or even further down the line, but it will happen eventually. And I would love to see it done right. Currently, with the new shake-up, we are possibly farther away from the default status quo than we’ve been in decades. It looks like it’s going to be a very interesting and exciting ride, but my reason for feeling that way has everything to do with the story itself and very little to do with any kind of notion that Daredevil really needed to be fixed.

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Brand New Amnesia

Amazing Spider-Man #600 came out last week (I doubt anyone missed it), and it had a lengthy guest appearance by Daredevil. I don’t usually read Spider-Man, and the headache of Brand New Day makes the thought of picking it up just slightly unappetizing, but I did actually enjoy the anniversary issue. It even casts some light on how the whole “I know who you are, but you don’t know who I am” situation. I’m not saying it makes a lot of sense, but apparently Matt is very much aware of the fact that he should know who Spider-Man is, but can’t remember and is apparently mystically prevented from figuring it out by his usual means. When Spider-Man offers to let him in on the secret, Daredevil stops him and reminds him of all the things it’s cost him to have his private life exposes. Still, the new setup is a little awkward as far as these two guys are concerned.

image from Amazing Spider-Man #600

“He wears the flag”

Last year this time, I decided to celebrate the 4th of July by posting a panel from one of Ann Nocenti’s issues (where the story was actually set on the date in question). I thought the idea of continuing to post something with a touch of Americana might be a fun tradition, so I hereby present these classic panels from the last issue of Born Again, Daredevil (vol 1) #233.

The man wearing the flag in this case is Nuke, the well-known pill-popping and crayon-wielding crazy whose affinity for red, white and blue naturally escapes Matt’s attention. There are, of course, many ways to interpret this particular exchange between Matt and Captain America, and I love the ambiguity of this panel. Also, nice dive off the building, Matt. You make the superhero biz look so effortless.

Happy Independence Day to all Americans out there and happy Saturday to the rest of us!

Review: "The Losers" by Andy Diggle, Jock et al

With Andy Diggle taking over the writing duties on Daredevil, starting with the Dark Reign: The List tie-in in September, I saw it as my duty to take a look at the writer’s previous and ongoing work and post some of my thoughts.

So far, I’ve been following Diggle’s Dark Reign: Hawkeye mini and his run on the Thunderbolts. I’ve also read the trade collecting the stand alone mini-series Hellblazer: Lady Constantine and his own creation, and the subject for this post, The Losers.

It’s been a very fun ride so far and I feel convinced that Diggle is perfectly capable of pulling off a Daredevil that might just be different enough to give the title the shot in the arm that even a sworn Brubaker fan like myself is beginning to feel that it needs, while staying in the familiar milieu that has made the character so successful. But this post isn’t about Daredevil specifically, but about The Losers. So, let’s get on with it, shall we?

I’m going to start by going off on a brief tangent and admit that I was a huge fan of the first couple of seasons of Prison Break. It had intrigue, action, and a smart plot that connected the little people to the big players with the big guns in unexpected ways. There were clever twists in every episode that managed to surprise the viewer without seeming too contrived. The show was a smash hit, so much so that its life span kept getting extended with one season after another while the plot began to suffer. Eventually, I gave up. Reading The Losers was, for me, an experience reminiscent of watching the first two seasons of Prison break, equipped with the timely ending the television show didn’t have (to those still watching it, did it ever get back on track?).

Starring an eclectic former black ops team who turns on their mysterious CIA handler when left for dead in Afghanistan while on a mission, the thirty-two issue series is smart action at its best. Diggle manages to pile layer after layer of intrigue without ever confusing the reader, and that’s quite a feat with a story this long and involving this many players. What impresses me the most, though, is how intelligent the writing is. It is all too often the case that, in order for the protagonists to seem appropriately cunning, their adversary by default comes across as completely incompetent. That is never the case here. Instead of leaving the “wait, that doesn’t work” bit to the scrutinizing reader, the writer in this case seems to have error-proofed every single scenario. That’s not to say that there aren’t fantastical elements to this tale, or improbable events and circumstances, but that’s in the nature of the genre, and this particular thrill-ride is free of contrived cop-outs and annoying plot holes. There’s an attention to detail at every juncture that keeps the story feeling real. Diggle also manages to keep the entire story very even-paced, and I can’t think of any passage where there is any noticeable dip in quality or tension.

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How being a Daredevil fan made me better at my job

As promised, here’s a little personal anecdote from my life away from this blog that will give you some idea of why I’ve been so busy for the last couple of months. I also thought it might be fun to share this with you since it pretty much proves that reading comics has actual benefits, even though the ways in which I was able to turn my love of Daredevil into a marketable skill might seem a little far-fetched.

In my everyday life, I work for a political party where my usual job is to provide “communicative support” (which in practice translates into writing articles and speeches) for two members of the national parliament. When election time rolls around, which it did recently with the elections for European Parliament last week, most of us on staff pick up additional duties as well as the whole organization shifts gears. Very unexpectedly, I was called up to my boss one day and offered a project manager position which had to do with translating campaign material into other languages as well as making it accessible for people with disabilities. I suspect the reason I stood out from the crowd when being more or less assigned to this job was the mention in my resume of having worked as a translator and the fact that I had studied no fewer than two sign languages. Needless to say, I had made no mention of being a Daredevil fan.

Now, I should say that before I started reading Daredevil, my knowledge of blind people was no better than anyone else’s. I didn’t even know you could write Braille by hand (if you didn’t know either, don’t feel bad). While I always found Daredevil’s unique trait to be an appealing and exotic aspect of the character, I had never had any specific interest in blind people. In fact, the only reason I had originally become interested in the deaf (as one might be able to deduce from my past adventures as a sign language student) was because I was a language nerd who at the age of fifteen had fallen in love with linguistics and later become fascinated with the three-dimensional grammar that characterizes languages that are signed rather than spoken. But reading Daredevil did pique my curiosity, even though the character’s blindness is rarely mentioned. Getting to know fellow Daredevil fan Alice (who sells custom-made braille T-shirts) also helped make me more aware.

So, sitting there in my boss’s office I already felt a plan forming and two years of gradual insight into everything from the demographics of the visually impaired to accessible web design suddenly find an unexpected outlet. I knew right then that I wanted to kick ass at that project. The fact that I’m genuinly interested in civil rights and liberties, which is what accessibility really comes down to, helped make me even more motivated for the job.

And, I’m happy to say that I worked my little ass off on that project. I added subtitles to YouTube videos, made high-contrast versions of web documents and kept hounding the IT department to add “skip to content” links on our website. And that was just the beginning. I was on fire. At the end of the day, I’m not sure I won us any extra votes, but I’m very proud of my efforts and I know that they were appreciated.

So, thanks to my readers for being patient for the last couple of months. I haven’t had as much time to devote to real quality content and you’ve had to contend with word balloon contests and erratic news roundups. As of now, I’m back in high gear!