Review of Daredevil #1 (2019)

Image from the cover of Daredevil #1 (2019)

A lot of you have been asking when I’m going to start writing reviews of the comics again. And, I was actually going to start with the Man Without Fear mini, which I’ve really been enjoying, but it was hard to find the time in between the #SaveDaredevil campaign and my somewhat overwhelming day job. (I’ll get to MWOF one of these days though, don’t worry!)

However, when I read the new Daredevil #1 today, I knew I couldn’t put off returning to the blog any longer. The Matt Murdock I love so much is back, you guys. In a big way. And the best possible way to get back to writing about Daredevil is to be so moved and excited by something that your myriad of thoughts on the subject can’t be contained. For this review, they will be mostly spoiler-free though.

I’m actually going to start with the art this time around. It’s glorious. I’ve mentioned before how much I’ve loved Marco Checchetto’s take on Daredevil in the handful of issues he’s worked on over the years. The way he draws Matt lines up better with my inner picture of the character than probably any other artist. And his style incorporates just the right amount of detail and realism in its rendering of people and places without making the scenes too busy or hard to read.

Matt in bed after sex, as seen in Daredevil #1 (vol 6), by Chip Zdarsky and Marco Checchetto

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Thoughts on Daredevil #7

On the day that Daredevil #8 comes out, I thought it was high time I got to the previous issue, which came out two weeks ago. The fact that I didn’t actually get around to reading Daredevil #7 – one week after picking it up at my comic book store – should speak volumes about my current state of “Daredevil depression.” Here’s the thing though, I actually kind of liked this issue. And to clarify, it’s not as if I’ve outright disliked the previous issues, it’s just that I’ve felt like something out of an, albeit pretty well-written, alternative universe story that I’ve been unable to feel emotionally invested in.

I’m still feeling some of that, or not feeling it, as it were, but this issue is a big step up for me. I can’t quite put my finger on why, but it may have been the inclusion of several characters who are not just nameless extras in this story (such as all the people at the D.A.’s office).

Daredevil fights Elektra, as seen in Daredevil #7 (vol 5), by Charles Soule and Matteo Buffagni

Aside from Elektra, whose own two-issue arc is more interesting than many other stories involving this always complicated character, we finally get to meet Foggy again. Which is great, even though he and Matt are not on the best of terms. A conversation with the Night Nurse also makes this story feel a bit more connected to the larger Marvel Universe. As for the twist at the end (spoiler alert: since I’ve taken this long to write about Daredevil #7, I’m going to assume that any readers of this post will have read the issue in question), I kind of expected it. The idea of Matt and Elektra having a child together would have added further confusion to a new status quo that fans are still trying to figure out. I do find the psychological game play pretty interesting though, and I have to wonder if it’s not somehow connected to whatever it is Matt’s done to change people’s memories.

The whole mystery of what kind of deal Matt has made – and with whom – to change people’s memories remains the biggest issue with this volume of Daredevil. I think Charles Soule really needs to hurry up and get to the point where this is finally revealed. I doubt I’m the only one getting impatient. Soule is a very solid writer and odds are he will need to be to make whatever setup they’ve planned work in a way that won’t leave fans scratching their heads. As for recent changes I’m happy to keep, I’m really digging Matteo Buffagni’s artwork. He doesn’t deliver the most flattering take on Foggy I’ve ever seen – or young Matt, for that matter – but overall I’m a big fan. Interesting panel layouts, nice handling of different perspectives and a great match for Matt Milla’s colors, which are finally starting to grow on me.

Matt talks to Foggy, as seen in Daredevil #7 (vol 5), by Charles Soule and Matteo Buffagni

One last thought before I let you guys head out and get this week’s issue: The topic of whether this run is a good match for the Netflix show or whether that was ever the intention. As far as intentions go, the tail end of volume four of Daredevil was not the best match for the first season of Daredevil, the television show. Regardless of whether you liked both or neither of them, it seems pretty clear that Marvel wasn’t overly concerned about the fact that the two were quite different, both in terms of tone and content.

As for this new volume, the fact that Daredevil and Jessica Jones have been massive hits may have made the comic book people pay a little more attention to whether the book matches up with the show. But that’s assuming that they do, and I don’t really agree that that’s the case. In terms of tone, yes. But, to be fair, the tone of this most recent volume is pretty well in line with how Daredevil has usually been written over the last two decades. In terms of content, I’d expect newcomers to the comic to be almost as confused as they would have been jumping onboard a year ago. The book is mostly populated with new or marginal characters, Karen is nowhere to be found (for obvious reasons), and Foggy is mostly an afterthought. The Night Nurse is the comic book version of the character, not Claire Temple, and Elektra also represents a different take on the character than the one we saw on the show. I don’t think this, in and of itself, is a problem. If Marvel specifically wanted to bring in new fans from the show, my suggestion would be to create a new line of comics built on the MCU.

Okay, one more thing: As you might have guessed, I did enjoy the fact that Matt had to seek out Foggy over something of a “blind issue” and I appreciate that Soule isn’t the type to try to sweep those sorts of things under the rug, but actually incorporates them into the story. So, kudos! And, I think I’m done, bring on the comments!

Brief thoughts on Daredevil #6

So, I’m admittedly still in a bit of a Daredevil funk (see my previous post). Which is fine. I’ll get over it, and I’m just going to ride it out. With Daredevil #7 coming out tomorrow, I still wanted to put together my thoughts on this month’s issue. I’m not going to call this a review. Reviews should ideally be well thought out, and address all aspects of a comic. They shouldn’t be whatever this is.

First, let’s just get the bits you actually would find in a review out of the way. The art is beautiful, Matteo Buffagni (whom I totally had pegged as Ron Garney) draws a great Elektra, and the unusual color palette by Matt Milla is growing on me. There is also plenty to suggest that Charles Soule has a good grasp of Matt’s character. All in all, I’m pretty sure there’s actually a good story in there somewhere. Which is why it’s such a shame to see this run buckle under the weight of its own illogical continuity.

Matt spots Elektra in the court room, as seen in Daredevil #6 (vol 5), by Charles Soule and Matteo Buffagni

In many ways, I find the beginning of this story to be more compelling than the one we saw in the opening arc. However, the elephant in the room has grown to such proportions that it’s effectively blocking my view of anything but the elephant.

Whatever is allowing Matt to have his identity back and get back to practicing law is apparently so major that it’s made a cheater out of everyone Matt has ever dated. Let’s not even get into the nitty gritty of how the version of Matt that Elektra knew revealed his abilities to her almost as soon as they met. This Matt predates Daredevil. There is no version of this that doesn’t leave Elektra with a massive headache of messed-up memories that make no sense. Personally, I can’t think of any way to do a memory wipe this major that is actually worth the cost of what it’s doing to this book right now.

Matt is thinking about how Elektra remembers him, as seen in Daredevil #6 (vol 5), by Charles Soule and Matteo Buffagni

I’ll keep reading this title, and hopefully things will either start to make sense or find a new balance that will pay off in ways that let us look beyond whatever has happened in Matt’s world. For the moment, I would have much rather seen a complete reboot of this book. The desire to protect and preserve some kind of continuity at all cost is exactly what creates the kind of situation where all we have left is something that looks like a Daredevil book on the surface, but has lost its heart. Matt is now a man without a history, and without any meaningful and real relationships. I’m finding it really hard to care about what happens next.

Review of Daredevil #5

Taking a break from writing my review of the fourth episode of the Netflix show to attend to the comic book it’s based on. With all the attention surround the live action version, one might be forgiven for forgetting that we do also get a monthly comic. Mild spoilers below!

With this issue, Charles Soule, Ron Garney and colorist Matt Milla finish up their first arc. It remains to be seen what will become of Daredevil’s apprentice Blindspot going forward. I suspect he’ll keep popping up, though maybe not as a supporting character in every issue. I hope this means there will be more room to develop other areas of Matt’s life; I’ll return to that below.

Matt gets an interesting message, as seen in Daredevil #5 (vol 5), by Charles Soule and Ron Garney

So, this issue puts a satisfying end to the Tenfingers story, and throws in a couple of gruesome twists toward the end. What I’ve appreciated about this particular villain is that he combines obvious real powers of the kind you would – and often do – see in the Marvel Universe, with typical real-life cult leader qualities. Just because he’s got abilities (and a ridiculous number of fingers), doesn’t mean he’s not also a charlatan. Even when the Hand shows up, you’re not really sure who’s going to end up on top. At least I wasn’t.

Just like the previous issues this run, the art overall is really nice. I’m even finally getting used to Milla’s limited color palette. There have also been nice little moments sprinkled throughout. Even though I was complaining about the radar panels last issue (and they still make no sense to me), that doesn’t mean I didn’t think the rest of that scene, with Daredevil having to improvise with the bomb.

This issue, another clever trick is having Blindspot send out a tweet with a message for Daredevil, that he’s relying on his followers to repeat out loud. Okay, so you have to question how many followers the guy has, and the percentage of whom would 1) see the tweet at the right time and 2) actually follow the command, but it’s still pretty creative.

Daredevil fights Tenfingers, as seen in Daredevil #5 (vol 5), by Charles Soule and Ron Garney

However, if you sense a “but” coming, you’re right. I’ve already mentioned that I’ve been having a hard time getting into this volume. Sadly, that hasn’t really changed. To be brutally honest, this just doesn’t deliver what I expect from a Daredevil comic. Obviously, it’s not the action that’s missing. And there certainly are plenty of ninjas (though I’m in the camp who would happily forego ever seeing a ninja again in a Daredevil comic). What I’m missing is Matt Murdock.

Matt is, of course, physically still in the comic, but he exists in it without a context. There is no supporting cast to speak of, short of complete newcomer Blindspot who only knows him as Daredevil. The people at the D.A.’s office are essentially extras that appear to exist only to remind us that yes, Matt does have a day job. We know nothing about them or what kind of relationship Matt has with them. Foggy is the only person who apparently still knows about Daredevil, and he’s nowhere to be seen. This comic has been without Foggy before, that’s not really an issue in and of itself, but Matt either needs some kind of private life populated by other people to care about, or he needs to be at least a little uneasy about being by himself.

This is not a character who is generally at his best when jettisoned out of his usual social environment, and there have been plenty of interesting stories told about that (Born Again, anyone?). His apparently being completely okay without all of Matt Murdock’s personal relationships does not make for an interesting story. It becomes a story that lacks tension, and that precious sense of balance. It reduces “Matt Murdock” to being only a secret identity, which, in my book, is one of the worst things that can happen to a Daredevil story. So, for all the obvious qualities of this run, I hate to say that if I weren’t running a Daredevil blog, I would probably choose to drop my monthly subscription and wait for the trades instead.

Daredevil offers Blindspot advice, as seen in Daredevil #5 (vol 5), by Charles Soule and Ron Garney

Just a final question before I wrap this up: Was I the only one who reacted to what Matt has to say to Blindspot in the panel following the one above. After telling Blindspot that the job doesn’t end, he adds “That’s the best thing about it.” In a caption that’s placed in a panel of traumatized people being cared for by EMTs!

The issues I’ve been having thus far have not primarily been about Daredevil acting out of character per se, but this really struck me as a very strange thing for him to say. Does Matt need Daredevil? Yes. I think he loves the athleticism of it, and he knows that it realistically will never end. But wouldn’t he prefer that he didn’t have to save people from violence? As someone who’s lost so many people that way, I should certainly hope so.

So, what do you think? Do you agree with me or do you think that I’m way off base? Speak your mind in the comment section! I’ll return tomorrow with my next single episode review.

Quick review of Daredevil #4

Hey gang! Just a quick review of the last issue of Daredevil. This came out weeks ago and, to be honest, I completely missed it. Pretty unforgivable for someone who runs a Daredevil blog, but I’ve been preoccupied with the Netflix show (season two is now less than nine days away!), and just life in general. As I mentioned in my last review, I also haven’t really found myself as emotionally invested in this run as I would have liked thus far. I still maintain that we’re dealing with a very well-crafted product, but it’s like listening to classical music. I can appreciate the skill that went into the composition, and it’s beauty, it just doesn’t make me want to get up and dance.

When I admitted on Twitter that I had yet to read the most recent issue, several of you mentioned that you enjoyed Daredevil #4 and felt that the story was starting to pick up speed. I definitely agree with this. This is a well-paced issue with plenty of intrigue and plenty of Daredevil being Daredevil. The inclusion of Captain America helps tether this story to the larger Marvel Universe, which feels like something we needed after the rather jarring shift in tones between volumes four and five.

Daredevil approaching a bomb lab, as seen in Daredevil #4 by Charles Soule, Ron Garney and Goran Sudžuka

This issue also provides some valuable character progression for Blindspot, for whom the conflict with Tenfingers hits very close to home. As for Tenfingers, he too sees another few layers added to his character, and the conversation between him and Matt cleverly plays with the notion that truth in religion is very subjective. Soule also uses this insight to shine a light on Matt’s own motivations for using his powers for good.

This issue, Ron Garney gets some assistance from Goran Sudžuka on art duties. The art continues to impress, and this may have been the best issue yet in this regard. I may even be getting used to Matt Milla’s limited color palette.

One thing that needs to be said though is this: What on Earth is up with the radar sense in this run? I know some of you – obviously knowing me – had been expecting me to bring this up sooner, but I honestly didn’t think that the shots of Blindspot (while invisible) in previous issues were actually supposed to be Matt’s radar perspective. I thought that was an artistic way of giving the reader an infrared view of Blindspot. I couldn’t even fathom that it was supposed to represent the radar, simply because that seemed ludicrous.

In this issue, we actually have a radar panel (see below) that seems to suggest he can almost read the “DYNAMITE – DANGEROUS” on the sticks of dynamite. And, how on Earth is there more variation in color in the radar panels than in the ones representing the standard view? Based on what happens on the next page, the radar panel even seems richer in detail. This state of affairs leaves me absolutely flabbergasted, and I desperately hope that the arts team will reconsider their approach.

Most bizarre radar sense ever, as seen in Daredevil #4 by Charles Soule, Ron Garney and Goran Sudžuka

So aside from the radar (I’ll get over it, maybe…) and the unsettling feeling that Matt may have used magical means to erase everybody’s memories, this run is starting to feel like it’s starting to hit its stride. I promise I won’t miss getting the next issue up on time! 😉

Review of Daredevil #3

Hey gang! I’ll keep this one short and sweet as real life is keeping me busier than usual this week. On the plus side, the fact that it’s been a few days since the issue came out frees me up to talk about some of the more spoilery details. If you haven’t read this issue and, this is your cue to bow out.

First off, I feel like I need to make a confession. This new volume of Daredevil still feels like it’s taking place in an alternate universe to me. This isn’t a slight on the overall quality of the storytelling or the artwork. The book looks fantastic – though I do find the lack of variety in the coloring a bit distracting – and, as I’ve mentioned before, Matt Murdock still acts and talks like Matt Murdock should. I also find the new villain quite intriguing, and the addition of Blindspot brings out an interesting side of our main character.

Daredevil fighting The Hand, as seen in Daredevil #3 (vol 5), by Charles Soule and Ron Garney

There’s just something I can’t quite put my finger on. Maybe it’s just hard to make sense of where this story fits within ongoing continuity. That’s not something that’s terribly important to me, but it does contribute to the feeling that the story is set in an alternate universe. There’s also the lack of a supportive cast. All the new people that populate Matt’s world are just that – new. We quite simply don’t know very much about them, except for Blindspot. And we don’t know all that much about him either.

In this issue, we learn that strings were pulled by the people (previously) close to Matt to get him back to where he is now. It remains to be seen how this huge change came about, but we do know that Matt and Foggy are estranged, which leaves Matt’s private life – the one he must have outside of work and “play” – completely devoid of other people. And this is strange to me. The “mission,” his work as Daredevil has always been hugely important to Matt, but it’s never been everything. Maybe it bothers me that it doesn’t seem to bother Matt that his friends have seemingly abandoned him. Am I actually missing Matt’s guilt? Maybe that’s it.

Matt faces his boss, as seen in Daredevil #3 (vol 5), by Charles Soule and Ron Garney

As things are, I find myself enjoying these issues more with my brain than with my heart. Which is how I end up feeling detached and intrigued at the same time. And, the mystery at the heart of how we got here is a big part of it. The other factor is the main villain, though I wish that The Hand had been left out of the equation. Don’t get me wrong, the big ninja war fight scene at the beginning of the issue is a thing to behold, and there are many great Daredevil stories that feature The Hand. It’s just that I was expecting Tenfingers to be a different kind of sinister. Of course, just as I’m starting to dismiss him as derivative, he shows up on the last page and starts creeping me out again.

Review of Daredevil #2 (2015)

I hope you guys had a great Christmas (if you celebrate it)! I’ve been spending mine with family, taking a good long vacation from work after a very hectic year. One present came early, in the form of the second issue of the newest volume of Daredevil, which brings us to this quick post. Minor spoilers ahead, but I’ll try not to divulge any major plot points.

If I was impressed and intrigued – though not yet convinced – after reading the last issue, Daredevil #2 goes a long way to taking care of that last part. We see a plot thickening, the making of a truly creepy villain (with interesting ties to Daredevil’s past), and a burgeoning partnership between Matt and his young protege that I find myself appreciating more than I had originally expected.

Matt attends to his witness, as seen in Daredevil #2 (vol 5), by Charles Soule and Ron Garney

As I mentioned briefly in my previous review, I felt that Soule had found a good voice for Matt, one that lines up closely with my own expectations for how this particular character “should” act and express himself. Daredevil #2 gives us much more to go on from the very first page, with Matt acting in his civilian professional capacity and walking his colleagues through the case ahead of them. We are clearly already getting a lot of mileage out of Soule’s legal credentials, and I’m definitely looking forward to seeing more of this part of the character.

One of the reasons I enjoy Matt’s professional life so much, is that it’s a great way to showcase his intellectual abilities. His success as a character, in costume and in the courtroom, owes almost as much to his ability to think and strategize his way out of a sticky situation as it does to his physical training. Soule clearly appreciates this aspect of the Daredevil as well, and makes it a central point for Matt to pass on to newcomer Blindspot, as seen in the panels below.

Daredevil teaches Blindspot a life lesson, as seen in Daredevil #2 (vol 5), by Charles Soule and Ron Garney

Ron Garney continues to impress with the artwork. He does a fantastic take on Daredevil in action, and the scenes detailing the world of Tenfingers are appropriately moody and tinged with horror. Garney can – and does – tackle a variety of angles, which makes his pages very dynamic and the flow of the story easy to follow.I know some of you have expressed some objections about the Daredevil’s costume, but while I’m not crazy about the new design for the logo, the rest of it looks quite striking and fits the general mood that this title is clearly going for.

The colors, by Matt Milla, are used to great effect with the contrasting of the different scenes and even parts of scenes really adding to the story. I do still have a preference for a bit more natural lighting though, but from a strict artistic perspective, I have no complaints.

I’m definitely getting more pulled into the story – and slowly starting to let out the breath I didn’t even realize I was holding – and very curious to see where this is going. I’m not usually a huge fan of stories that take us too far into the realm of magic, but I find that the horror elements exciting enough to more than make up for that. Missing and extranumerary fingers? Yeah, I’m totally down with that. Grossed out, sure, but definitely intrigued. Let’s see where this goes next!

Review of Daredevil #1 (2015)

Well, the eve of the release of the new Daredevil #1 is a perfect opportunity to return to the blog after an intense period of traveling and moving into a new apartment. In between stuffing most of my belongings into moving boxes, I did manage to squeeze in watching Jessica Jones on Netflix though, and will return to that in my next post. The short version? I thought it was really impressive.

For now, let’s get to the first issue of Charles Soule and Ron Garney’s Daredevil! While I’ll try to keep outright spoilers to a minimum, I recommend that you read the issue before reading further.

My first thought when I saw the preview for this issue a few days ago was that it had a distinct retro feel to it. We see a crowd of up-to-no-good thugs watching Daredevil dive off a bride in pursuit of their latest victim, and they reminded me of the kind of bad guys you’d find in an old issue by Miller, or even Chichester. The script – and the artwork, for that matter – has a classic feel to it that in no way feels derivative, but appears to draw its inspiration from a very different era than the one we’ve grown used to over the last few years. Of course, as you read the issue to completion, you realize that the “standard thugs” are anything but, and you instantly know what Soule was talking about in his blog post regarding the villains of his coming run. “Creepy” seems an apt description. I’ll admit to being very intrigued.

Your not so standard bad guys, as seen in Daredevil #1 (vol 5), by Charles Soule and Ron Garney

Retro elements aside, this issue brings plenty of news that will probably take a while for longtime readers to make sense of. New characters abound – Blindspot makes for an interesting addition thus far – and the only character (aside from Matt himself) that we recognize from previous runs is Foggy, though his relationship with Matt is clearly not what it once was. In their conversation, there are hints to some kind of large-scale mindwipe (though it may be something else entirely) that I suspect will worry some readers, and as far as I’m concerned it’s too soon to tell, or even try to guess, what’s going on here.

This is part of what makes this issue so difficult to review. It’s one thing to judge the merits of a single issue or story – and in this regard, the creative team does a fine job (more on this below) – and quite another to decide how you feel about events and developments that are still shrouded in mystery, but will ultimately decide how the story is meant to be understood within the bigger context of all that has gone before.

I’m not actually the kind of fan who obsesses about canon, and for that reason I actually prefer something that comes closer to a clean reboot which requires less “magic” (I’m using the term loosely, there may very well be no actual magic at play here). This could very well be the beginning of something truly magnificent – and I absolutely loved Charles Soule on She-Hulk and have a lot of faith in him – but one issue is not enough for me to decide how I feel about this new direction. I’m happy to keep an open mind going forward.

Matt speaking with Foggy, as seen in Daredevil #1 (vol 5), by Charles Soule and Ron Garney

What about the merits of this particular issue? Well, I do think Soule really nails Matt’s voice and general behavior. Whatever else is new, this definitely feels like a Daredevil story. Matt may come across as exceedingly harsh when putting the pressure on a particular client, when compared to the somewhat gentler take on the character during Waid’s run, but this is not out of character in my book. Longtime readers will also recognize Matt’s dry wit, and Daredevil’s character-defining fearlessness. The fact that Matt sounds like Matt is a very good sign of things to come. There is also nothing weird going on with Daredevil’s senses, which is always a big one for me. In fact, I think this aspect of the character is handled really well in this issue.

The artwork is stellar overall, though I have a preference for Garney’s depiction of Daredevil in costume (see below) over his take on the civilian Matt Murdock. The third page, which shows Daredevil looking for Billy Li in the water is amazing to the point where I’d like to blow it up and hang it on the wall, and the details on the bridge on the opening page are mind-blowing.

Matt under water, as seen in Daredevil #1 (vol 5), by Charles Soule and Ron Garney

I’m a little confused by the coloring though. During the night time action scenes, at the beginning and end of the issue, the red hue seems like a stroke of genius on behalf of Matt Milla (a perfect name for a Daredevil colorist, by the way…), particularly over Garney’s distinctive linework. In a daytime office setting, however, it has the same effect as purposely marking a particular scene as having happened in the past, which I think creates some unnecessary distance between the reader and the characters on the page. Either way, it will be interesting to see both the art and writing evolve over time.

With that, I’m going to round things off. This is a strong first issue, but for me, the jury is still out when it comes to the overall direction of this new series (volume 5!). Which is probably as it should be. I’m very interested to hear what you guys think though, so please put your thoughts in the comment section below!

Review of Daredevil #14

Some reviews are easier to write than others. Daredevil #13 was one of my favorite issues in a long while, so my last review pretty much wrote itself. In fact, ever since Waid/Rivera/Martín took over the book in the summer of 2011, Daredevil has consistently ranged from “good” to “outstanding.” When Chris Samnee came along as penciler less than a year later (he would later graduate to a well-deserved co-storyteller credit), he put his own stamp on the book, and has continued to reach new heights of excellence. If there’s anything negative to say about a run being “too good,” from a reviewers point of view, it’s that it’s sometimes difficult to find enough variety in how to praise the creative team responsible.

As you may have gathered from this preamble, I find this review difficult to write for very different reasons. And, if you haven’t read the issue – and particularly if you haven’t even seen the preview – be aware that there will be spoilers. Okay, where was I? Am I stalling? Probably. Anyway, as you may recall from last week, I was quite vocal about the preview on Twitter. I may perhaps have been a bit unfair, and perhaps didn’t express myself with my usual diplomacy. But at the end of the day, I defend the fact that I drew certain conclusions from the preview (i.e. the conclusion that the pages presented in the preview would in fact be featured in the issue itself), and expressed my immediate reaction upon seeing it.

My concerns then were never about the story or the context, which I obviously was not privy to at the time, but about the tone set for the main character of the book by the undeniable fact that he, on page three of the preview – and, as it turns out, the full issue – was appearing in court in a red Daredevil-inspired business suit. Which he had been fighting crime in. And then gleefully introduced himself with “Daredevil for the defense!”

I didn’t expect after reading the issue that the tone set by this somewhat jarring image would be one of my lesser concerns – I’ll get to that in a moment – but I think it might be worthwhile to discuss the topic of “tone” and why this matters. What I mean by tone, in this context, are all the little hints in terms of the overall artwork, the characters’ demeanor, their spoken interactions and the plot elements present which signal to readers what the character is about and what kind of stories he typically appears in.

I personally have a pretty generous idea of what can be an appropriate tone for a Daredevil comic while still being recognized as distinctly Daredevil. A Daredevil comic doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom, and I’ve generally not seen the relative levity of the last few years as being incompatible with how the character “should” be presented. On the contrary, what’s kept the character grounded for me is how some goofier elements have been balanced by fairly mature themes and a willingness to explore the complexity of Matt Murdock.

Matt playing baseball, as seen in Daredevil #14 by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee

I’ve had some issues with the tone of this book before, but they’ve been minor. There were some things in the Silver Surfer story that were maybe not 100% for me, to take one example, but on the other hand Matt also gets to play the straight man, and contemplate the absurdity of earlier eras (his lecturing on aliens at a nearby college, early in his career). I’ve enjoyed this play with Silver Age elements that has been common in the current run, but the humor always stemmed from the way it’s been contrasted with modern sensibilities, it’s never been about giving into that level of absurdity.

Until now. As I caught my first glimpse of the new “costume” one of my first thoughts was to paraphrase a well-known line from the movie Tropic Thunder: “You went full Mike Murdock. You never go full Mike Murdock.”

So yes, clearly, the new costume meant crossing a line that I, personally, don’t feel the least bit comfortable with. I also found the editorial decision to do this now to be completely baffling. This is going to be the issue still on the stands when the Daredevil series comes to Netflix on April 10. At least some people unfamiliar with the character will likely seek out the comic book and get a very strange and atypical idea of who Matt Murdock is and what he’s all about.

What was more disturbing than the aesthetics of the costume, however, was how it’s introduced and what it means for the character. I was initially hoping that this new costume would be part of a dream sequence, and that we’d see Kirsten waking up in cold sweats on the next page. No such luck, and I honestly wasn’t holding out much hope for this particular scenario. Another thought that came to mind was that it might be some kind of stunt relevant to a particular court case. That would have at least limited the scope of the insanity. Instead, it comes about as a deliberate decision to a dilemma that isn’t really a dilemma.

While conversing with Kirsten’s father on a baseball field (I actually really like the artwork here) on the topic of Matt’s upcoming book, they start to discuss the topic of whether the author they’re trying to “sell” is Matt Murdock or Daredevil. Aside from the fact that I’ve never been completely onboard with the book deal idea, I really don’t understand how Matt changing into a new costume for the sake of branding makes any kind of business or marketing sense. The Daredevil costume is the established symbol of who Daredevil is, and this is true regardless of whether people know who is behind the mask. And it is a powerful symbol that means something to people (not to mention that it’s more convenient for fighting crime).

What finally makes Matt decide to go ahead with the costume change, however, is the realization that he shouldn’t have to hide behind a mask and that the last few months have been about being true to himself. Why this would lead to the decision to wear the same costume in court as he does fighting out on the streets escapes my comprehension. Is Matt being “true to himself” by showing up to court in completely inappropriate attire, and introducing himself as “Daredevil”? No, he’s making a mockery of the justice system. Last time I checked, Matt had respect for the courts and his chosen career. His actions here are completely out of character. Kirsten has the unenviable job of playing it straight this issue and voicing the concerns that many of us have. This clearly means that Waid and Samnee are, on some level, admitting that this is absurd. But that’s not good enough for me if it means turning Matt Murdock into a joke.

Matt-Devil in court in Daredevil #14 by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee

Matt Murdock is Daredevil, and Daredevil is Matt Murdock. Reimagining this to mean that there can literally be only one mistakes “role” for “identity.” Our sense of our own identities is probably pretty much fixed, and this should never be a problem for Matt either, especially not since he announced publicly that he was Daredevil. But that doesn’t mean that Matt-as-Daredevil, or Matt-as-lawyer, or even Matt-as-boyfriend boils down to playing the same “role.” I assume a different role at work than I do in my personal relationships. Don’t we all?

When Matt assumes the role as Daredevil it is no stranger that he should choose to dress for the occasion than that a police officer wears a uniform while on patrol. The Daredevil costume does in no way stand in the way of any wish on Matt’s part to be true to himself. The “Matt Murdevil-suit” has no reasonable justification to back it up, in my opinion, and thus seems to me to only be a stunt, and one I don’t have the patience for.

Interesting things happen in this issue, a new villain (or is she?) is introduced and the Owl is put to really interesting use. It’s a shame then that I’m so distracted by the new Matt-Devil that I keep being pulled out of the story.

Mark Waid and Chris Samnee have only a few more issues to go, and I can probably live this down and still rank this run among my very favorite of all time. But I can’t in good conscience pretend that I’m onboard with this new direction. I look forward to seeing what this duo has lined up after Daredevil, and I will very likely pick that up, but for the first time in a long time, I’m not excited for the next issue of Daredevil.

Review of Daredevil #13

Daredevil #13 was easily one of the most enjoyable issues of Daredevil I’ve read in a long time. Considering the overall quality of the title in Mark Waid and Chris Samnee’s capable hands, that’s saying something. The story itself packs a punch and offers many great character moments. On top of that, the level of craftmanship evident in the delivery is truly amazing.

For a perfect example of what I’m talking about, how’s this for a first page (see below)? Not only is it visually astounding, it also highlights the power of the comic book medium. Without any dialogue, and just one short caption, it shows the passage of time, and in doing so, lets us know that Matt and Kirsten cannot get enough of each other.

We see them having dinner, and then we see them being the only ones left in the restaurant. Next, they go dancing, and Chris Samnee makes sure to give us a glimpse of Kirsten’s shoe. Give the couple some time, and Kirsten’s feet have grown tired, and the shoes have come off. Even then, the date isn’t over, and things get downright steamy by the end of the page, as Matt and Kirsten have made it to the beach and into the water.

A perfect opening page: Matt and Kirsten, as seen in Daredevil #13 by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee

This level of pure elegance, and magnificent attention to detail, is evident throughout the entire issue. The pacing is perfect, as are the transitions between scenes. A well-known villain is back, and there are recurring reminders of his eerie presence blended into an otherwise self-contained story. I’m really impressed with this approach. On the one hand, this intriguing set-up whets your appetite for more, and on the other, you get a full story that stands well on its own.

More than anything, Daredevil #13 is a great character study. Waid and Samnee dig into Matt’s past to paint a credible picture of his mental state at the realization that his relationship with Kirsten is getting more serious. At the same time, they make sure to reinforce Kirsten’s status as her own person, high-profile enough in her own career to have her own enemies. Matt, on the other hand, is so stuck in his own thinking patterns and preconceived notions that he won’t even consider that not everything is about him.

Daredevil and Kirsten embrace after fighting off a villain, in Daredevil #13 by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee

Colorist Matt Wilson continues to knock it out of the park in this highly emotional issue, where the icy blue shades associated with our silent watcher contrast beautifully with the warmer shades that dominate the rest of the issue. The interesting use of light sources is another thing that stands out this issue, with people coming up and down stairs that lead from lighter to darker areas – and vice versa – and examples of spotlights to illuminate characters from above. The way this is handled gives a great deal of added depth to the overall artwork. Kudos also to Joe Caramagna. This issue is rich in dialogue, and Caramagna’s competent lettering makes sure that it’s easy to follow and mixes perfectly with the underlying artwork.

With that, all that remains is for me to say: “More, please!” With this team’s fantastic run coming to a close, they seem determined to go out on a high note. It is bitter-sweet, but I intend to enjoy every moment of it!