Reevaluating early Daredevil

Daredevil swings down and lands on a car in Daredevil #14, apparently guided more by its sound than its shape.

If you were thinking that I had gone back into hiding, I certainly wouldn’t hold it against you. It’s been over a month since my last post, and I’ve had my share of false starts over the past few years. However, I do have a few posts planned that I would like to get out there before too long, and I’m hoping to finish the year with a total of at least twenty for 2021.

For this post, I would like to talk about a rather surprising epiphany I’ve had over the summer, while working on my book. Or to be more specific, while rereading every single issue of Daredevil and taking detailed notes about how Matt Murdock’s senses are actually used. What I’ve discovered is that, contrary to the idea I’ve had that Daredevil’s senses have stabilized and gotten more “grounded” over time, a case could be made for a very different kind of evolution. Depending on what aspect of the character’s senses we’re talking about, Daredevil has actually been getting more powerful in at least some respects.

Considering that this is not my first time reading every issue of Daredevil (I have, in fact, read most runs many times), how could I have missed the things I’m now noticing? Where does my bias against the sensory portrayals of early, “pre-Miller” Daredevil come from? Well, I think it comes down to a few different factors:
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Sister Maggie in Daredevil season three

Someone who must be sister Maggie in episode two of Daredevil, season two

In this post, I will once again speculate on what we might see coming up in season three, based on available interviews and other tidbits of information. If this sounds a bit too spoilery for you, read no further!

Yesterday, we finally saw the Collider interview with Joanne Whalley that had been teased ever since all those set visit stories and interviews were published last week (I have yet to see an extensive interview with Whalley anywhere else). As with everything else we’ve seen over the last week, including the two trailers, you have to wonder about the amount of information they’re giving away, either explicitly or in the form of disparate details that anyone who so wishes can piece together into what are possibly major plot developments.

Before reading the Whalley interview, we had already been teased that Matt’s relationship with Sister Maggie might not be exactly what comics fans would expect. This could mean that they do not share the biological bond we know from the comics, where Maggie turns out to Matt’s mother. At the time, this was a clever retcon by Frank Miller from the Born Again storyline, pencilled by David Mazzucchelli, since Matt’s mother had been presumed dead up until that point. While little is known about Maggie’s own story, another pice of the puzzle was added quite recently, in a story by Mark Waid and Javier Rodríguez, which gave us a pretty satisfactory explanation for why Maggie felt compelled to leave her family.

Jack and Grace "Maggie" Murdock, as seen in Daredevil #7 (vol 4) by Mark Waid and Javier Rodríguez
In the “Original Sin” storyline from Daredevil #6 and #7 (vol 4), by Mark Waid and Javier Rodríguez, we learn that Maggie left the family for fear of hurting young Matt after she developed a serious case of post-partum depression (or even psychosis).

In the interview linked above, we learn that Matt actually grew up in Maggie’s care since she runs the home (I refuse to use the outdated term orphanage…) where he grew up after Jack’s death. This means that Maggie is known to him, and that she, regardless of their biological relationship, has been a mother figure to him. Since the choice to have Jack die while Matt is still young raises all kinds of questions about what happened in Matt’s life between Stick’s abandonment and his meeting Foggy in law school, I find it comforting to know that he had people in his life that were some kind of steady presence.

We also learn all kinds of other things that I know many of us had been wondering about, such as the role (if any) Father Lantom would play in this coming season. It turns out that he’s instrumental in getting Matt to Sister Maggie (though who delivered Matt to Father Lantom remains unknown to the many of us who don’t belong to the lucky few who have seen the first few episodes. (Lest you forget, the review embargo lifts on Friday, so expect an additional onslaught of information, even though early reviewers are usually instructed to not give away too much.) What seems clear is that both Father Lantom and Sister Maggie will be important this season, beyond their ties to Matt.

Matt and Maggie in a promo still from season three. This particular image was “borrowed” from ManWithotFear.com’s excellent page collecting all the news on season three.

One thing you have to wonder about going into season three is whether the glimpses into Matt’s history that were introduced in seasons one and two will be addressed in the story we’re about to see. One scene that stood out to me right off the bat was the one in the second episode of season one, when Jack is making arrangements for Matt in case he ends up dead after his final match. He calls a woman, presumably Matt’s mother, and leaves a message on her answering machine. The only thing is, the outgoing message on the machine doesn’t sound like what you’d expect from a nun living in a convent. If Matt’s mom is someone other than Maggie (and this has been planned since season one somehow), then what is the connection between her and the convent? And what exactly have they been planning?

There’s also a scene from the third episode of season two (see the teaser image) where Matt, knocked unconscious by Frank Castle, seems to remember being cared for by a nun that we all figured had to be Sister Maggie. What is interesting about the environment in which this seems to take place is that it looks a lot more like the images we’ve been teased from season three than the hospital Matt landed in after his accident. You might wonder why this matters, especially if you’ve discovered the character through the Netflix show, as opposed to the comics. In Born Again, it’s clear that Matt receives a visit from Sister Maggie while he’s still in the hospital. She also, somewhat mysteriously, seems to know what Matt is going through, and that he’s developed some kind of new gift.

Looking at the show, it is clear that the scene from season two takes place some time later, presumably after he came to live with her and the other nuns. You can always hope that the clues they leave over the course of a show like this line up in the end, but I’m always impressed when they actually do. Especially since something as basic as how much time has passed since Matt and Foggy finished law school is completely different between seasons one and two. 

Well, I’m going to hand over all the speculating to you guys now. For those of you who are curious to learn even more about Matt and Maggie’s relationship on the show, a scene from season one featuring the two was among the clips shown to attendees at NYCC. You can read descriptions of it here (Bleeding Cool) and here (Comicbook.com).

Daredevil volumes 3 and 4: Nods to continuity

Matt recalls his past hardships, as seen in Daredevil #9 (vol 4), by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee

One thing I’ve always appreciated as a Daredevil fan is that the character’s history is fairly uncluttered. Unlike many other characters, he’s only ever had one book, save for a few mini-series, and his team involvements have been minor. While I certainly wouldn’t complain if we could somehow get even more Daredevil, he’s an easy character to get into, in part because you don’t need a spreadsheet to track his most important appearances.

Some of Matt Murdock’s adventures obviously stand out more than others, and a fair share of them are completely forgettable, which means that there are several key moments that later writers like to return to. In that sense, many of the nods to past continuity we’ve seen during volumes 3 and 4 are in no way unique to this run. Stories involving Matt’s relationship with his father are common, as are mentions of Stick, all the heinous stuff that Bullseye has put Daredevil through over the years. While I’ve appreciated the specifics of how these recurring bits of continuity have been included (see the adorable scene of Matt’s childhood below, courtesy of Javier Rodríguez), let’s take a look at some things that I felt set this most recent era apart.

Mike Murdock's hat and glasses appear in the background, as seen in Daredevil #2 (vol 3), by Mark Waid and Paolo Rivera
From Daredevil #2 (vol 3), by Mark Waid and Paolo Rivera

The Mike Murdock era, when Matt pretended to be his own made-up-on-the-spot identical twin – from Daredevil #25 through #41 (volume 1) – is regarded with an amused sense of disbelief by fans today. It’s the kind of story that seems like the complete opposite of what we associate with Daredevil today, which makes it difficult to address in any other way than through the use of clever Easter eggs. We’re not likely to see a scene in which Foggy questions Matt about the details of this particular ruse, because that would make it a little too real for comfort – as opposed to some kind of Silver Age hallucination – but it’s fun to play with. Even the very serious Netflix show did it (“Mike” was the name given to Matt by Claire, when he refused to give his real name), and during the Brubaker/Lark run, Matt used the name “Mike” to check in at the airport after breaking out of prison. Then again, his full name is Matthew Michael Murdock.

In the panel above, we see a different kind of jab at Mike Murdock, in the form of his hat and glasses. The same accessories appear in later issues as well, and it definitely put a smile on my face every time it did. It’s just a small detail that doesn’t really detract from the scene, but rewards longtime fans for their loyalty. Just as a good Easter egg should.

Daredevil battles Stilt-Man, as seen in Daredevil #17 (vol 3), by Mark Waid and Mike Allred
From Daredevil #17 (vol 3), by Mark Waid and Mike Allred

One aspect of the Silver Age madness that this run made sure to address more directly were the villains. Above, Matt fights Stilt-Man in a story set in the past, at a time when fighting Stilt-Man was a more regular occurrence. Of course, Daredevil also fought an upgraded Stilt-Man in the present alongside the Superior Spider-Man, but in both instances Mark Waid put an appropriate amount of distance between the goofier past and the more grounded present by the way Matt himself narrates the events. If you’re going to include something a little nuttier from the past, acknowledging the nuttiness of it all, in some way, is more or less required.

A different approach to using past villains, which used to great effect during this run, has been to dust them off and make them legitimate threats for the modern age. This will never work for Stilt-Man, who is inherently ill-conceived, but plenty of others have great potential for creepiness. Old Spider-Man villain the Spot has never been quite so disturbing (not to mention the similarly powered new character Coyote), and I loved the return of Klaw, who appeared in one single episode of Daredevil, decades ago. There was the update to Purple Man’s story (though he was always pretty disturbing), and many others. I thought this was a great way to use the past stories of not only this particular character, but the greater Marvel Universe.

Flash-back to Matt's childhood, as seen in Daredevil #28 (vol 3), by Mark Waid and Javier Rodríguez
From Daredevil #28 (vol 3), by Mark Waid and Javier Rodríguez

Another great use of the more obscure chapters of Daredevil history was the nod to Matt’s lecture at Carter College, about the legal implications of extra-terrestrial visitors to Earth (see below). Again, Matt treats the reminder with an appropriate amount horror, even commenting that he may not have been sober. The nod to past continuity is also wonderfully reflected by the art. For more on this, see my old post dealing with the same scene.

Matt recalls his old lecture about aliens and the legal system, as seen in Daredevil #30 (vol 3), by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee
From Daredevil #30 (vol 3), by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee

These are just a few examples of the many ways past continuity was treated, ever so lovingly, by the creators of volumes 3 and 4. What are your thoughts on this topic, and do you have a favorite little nugget that I didn’t mention here? Let the rest of us know in the comment section!

Daredevil volumes 3 and 4: The big issues

Foggy learns he has cancer, as seen in Daredevil #23, by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee

Hey gang! I’m sorry it’s taken me this long to get to this next round of posts. The good news is that I’ve been working on all of them in parallel as I read my way through the last few years of Daredevil so, they’re all lined up to go. We’ll start with a quick one. Because, yes, volumes three and four dealt with quite a bit in terms of heavy stuff, but much of it was directly related to Matt’s mood. We’ll start there.

Right from the very first issue, when it was clear that the new era would set a lighter tone for Daredevil, Mark Waid made sure to remind us that Matt’s past issues were not all in the past. In fact, there were signs early on that Matt may have been putting on a front, for his own benefit as much as for those around him, as strongly hinted at below, in Daredevil #7 (vol 3).

Foggy catches Matt brooding, and "old Matt" is mentioned, as seen in Daredevil #7 (vol 3), by Mark Waid and Paolo Rivera
From Daredevil #7 (vol 3), by Mark Waid and Paolo Rivera

Of course, Matt’s balancing act didn’t go unnoticed by Foggy, who had been suspicious since the very beginning. Not only that, when he suspects that Matt has lost his mind – due to the machinations of Coyote and his teleporting powers – it isn’t his first rodeo. Matt’s mental health issues go back decades of Daredevil history, and it is easy to forgive Foggy for not giving Matt the benefit of the doubt.

Foggy confronts Matt, as seen in Daredevil #16 (vol 3), by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee
From Daredevil #16 (vol 3), by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee

Fortunately, Matt and Foggy settle their differences, but just in time for Foggy to tell his friend that he may have cancer. Matt, of course, is with him when he finally gets the sad news.

Foggy learns he has cancer, as seen in Daredevil #23, by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee
From Daredevil #23 (vol 3), by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee

I wish that the Foggy cancer storyline could have received a better resolution, as it was put on the back burner for most of volume four, and then finished up a bit too quickly at the end. However, it did spawn some very strong issues along the way, and a very sweet back-up story in Daredevil #26 (vol 3). And, the children’s drawings are spectacularly rendered by Chris Samnee.

Foggy meets children with cancer, as seen in Daredevil #26 (vol 3), by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee
From Daredevil #26 (vol 3), by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee

Another story that garnered a lot of attention – and added a great chapter to Daredevil continuity – was the one that looked at the reason why Sister Maggie left Matt as an infant. The young Maggie’s struggle with post-partum depression was deeply moving, and put the spotlight on a common, but often neglected issue.

Sister Maggie talks about her post-partum depression, as seen in Daredevil #7 (vol 4), by Mark Waid and Javier Rodríguez
From Daredevil #7 (vol 4), by Mark Waid and Javier Rodríguez

After finding balance again after his move to San Francisco, Matt is once again shaken to the core by the influence of the Purple children who project all of their torment onto him, and remind him of his own. This amounted to a study of depression that struck a chord with a lot of people.

Matt in despair, as seen in Daredevil #10 (vol 4), by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee
From Daredevil #10 (vol 4), by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee

Personally, one of my favorite parts of this particular issue was the very end where Matt goes home and goes to bed. And this is where the reader initially thinks the issue ends. But, there’s more. A final page, following the letters’ page sees Matt finally reaching out, and we find out that Kirsten was there waiting for him all along.

Kirsten waiting outside Matt's door, as seen in Daredevil #10 (vol 4), by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee
From Daredevil #10 (vol 4), by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee

Honorable mention

I thought I’d end with something that should no longer be a big issue, and give the creative team some major kudos for not treating it as such. Which kind of makes this an odd thing to put this list, but there it is. What am I talking about? Random characters who happen to be gay in roles that have nothing to do with them being gay. In Daredevil #2 (vol 3), we meet Matt’s professional acquaintance and his boyfriend, and in Daredevil #1 (vol 4), Matt saves a little girl who has two mothers, one of whom is the deputy mayor.

Daredevil seeks out a fellow lawyer and his boyfriend, in Daredevil #2 (vol 3) by Mark Waid and Paolo Rivera
From Daredevil #2 (vol 3), by Mark Waid and Paolo Rivera

The female deputy mayor of San Francisco with her wife and daughter, as seen in Daredevil #1 (vol 4), by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee

That’s it for now! Did I miss anything? Let us know in the comment section!

The end of an era for Daredevil

It’s been over four years since Mark Waid came onboard as the writer of Daredevil, with the launch of volume 3. Paolo Rivera and Marcos Martín were his first partners in crime, with Martín supplying the artwork for the second arc (and one story in issue #1), while Rivera put his distinctive mark on the first and third arcs, including the stellar stand-alone Christmas issue, Daredevil #7. After the Omega Effect arc – a Daredevil/Punisher/Avenging Spider-Man crossover with art by Marco Checchetto – Chris Samnee came onboard. His first issue, Daredevil #12 (vol 3), is another one of my all time favorites, and Samnee would go on to outdo himself with almost every issue for the next three years. In addition to an already great roster, we had Javier Rodríguez, the colorist for most of volume 3 and much of volume 4, occasionally stepping in as the penciller – and doing a fantastic job of it – making sure that Daredevil kept looking consistently amazing.

Of course, I also want to mention Peter Krause’s artwork on the Road Warrior digital comic, Matt Wilson’s excellent work as the colorist of the tail end of volume 4 (he opened with a big splash of purple, my favorite color…), and the always excellent Joe Caramagna whose letters made me take note of this craft in ways I hadn’t previously. Last, but certainly not least, we have the editorial team and the guest artists I didn’t get to already, but for fear of missing anyone, I’ll just extend a big, collective “thank you” to everyone who contributed to the success of the last four years.

Foggy and Matt in their college dorm, from Daredevil #12, by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee

This era of Daredevil has been unique in many ways, and as much as I’m looking forward to seeing what Charles Soule and Ron Garney have in store for us in a new Daredevil #1 later this year, I suspect I will always look back on these past few years with a huge sense of nostalgia. The Other Murdock Papers has been up and running for almost eight years, and volumes 3 and 4 have covered more than half of that timespan. I don’t know if I’d been as inspired to keep blogging if there hadn’t consistently been so much great new material to talk about.

I’m also grateful that I’ve been able to meet Mark Waid, Chris Samnee, and Paolo Rivera in person. I have nothing but great things to say about these guys, and how generous they’ve been with their time at conventions and in conversations online. (And the fact that I actually had a cameo appearance in an issue still inspires awe among my friends who don’t even read comics. It definitely ranks among the coolest things that has ever happened to me. Is that sad? Naw, I think it’s awesome.) 😉

I make a cameo appearance in Daredevil #31 (vol 3), by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee

I initially figured I would write one post listing all the things that I’ve enjoyed about this run, but I quickly realized that would take much more than just one post if I wanted it to be exhaustive. So for the next couple of weeks, I’d like to return to each of the points below so I can delve into them a little deeper. Because there’s so much to say that doing it all at once would be overwhelming, and you guys would have to wait even longer for this already overdue back-from-hiatus post. What I will do is list each thing I wanted to get back to, and maybe you guys would even like to weigh in with your own examples in the comments.

  1. The artwork

    Matt's hand hesitates, then reaches for his phone, as seen in Daredevil #10 by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee

    I know, a discussion of the artwork alone could easily cover several posts, and if you’re itching to read something that has me gushing about the brilliance of Paolo Rivera and Chris Samnee, there are several older posts I could refer you to. I’ll put a list of recommended reading at the end of the post.

    In essence, though, what has really made the artwork stand out to me, in particularly during Samnee’s tenure, has been the complete merging of words and pictures. Of course, this is the kind of experience that comics, at its best, should always deliver, but few do it as smoothly and beautifully as we’ve seen over the last few years. Pick almost any Daredevil comic from this run, and you’d fairly easily be able to understand the story, including at least the gist of individual conversations, without even reading the words. It’s been visual story-telling at its finest, and has kept me coming back to reread every issue, just to enjoy all the little details.

  2. The tone

    expectations_featured

    This is probably be the most controversial item on this list, as I know people disagree about what constitutes the perfect tone for this character. I know many people first started reading Daredevil with volume 3, and for them, this is “their” Daredevil. Many other fans view the Bendis run, for instance, as the quintessential Daredevil. Some of those fans have enjoyed the last few years as much as I have, and some have not. That’s fine. As a Daredevil completist, I don’t consider the tone of this run as extreme in any way. It’s had its lighter moments – much needed considering the dark era that preceded it – and it’s dealt with serious topics as well. True, the events of Daredevil #14 (vol 4) were too whimsical for me personally, and aside from several great moments (which I may return to), this final story arc has not been my cup of tea. However, this in no way lessens my profound enthusiasm for the vast majority of the issues that came before, and I feel that the tone has mostly been spot on. There are many different ways to write this character and still remain true to the core of who he is, and this creative team has done a better job of exploring Matt Murdock and his friends than most.

  3. Perfect pacing and thrilling twists

    Ikari reveals his secret, as seen in Daredevil #25 by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee

    Over the last four years, buying an issue of Daredevil has almost guaranteed the reader good value for their hard-earned money. This is probably not the most exciting way to talk about a work of art, but with the relatively high cost of comics for the few minutes it takes to read each issue, it’s always appreciated when every single read is a satisfying read. While still mostly conforming to the modern format of stories that span several issue, each issue has stood well on its own.

    I’ve already mentioned the quality of the artwork, but here I also want to point out Mark Waid’s incredible talent for plotting a story and getting the pacing of it just right. He’s never been afraid to let a quiet moment take the time it needs, at the same time making sure that no single page is wasted. This makes the big reveals feel all the more gratifying, and the twists so much more shocking. See the panel above. ‘Nuff said.

  4. The big issues

    Three panels of Daredevil's fist planted firmly against the ground, as seen in Daredevil #10 by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee

    I mentioned this briefly while talking about tone, but I think it needs its own heading (and subsequent post). This creative team is not the first to bring up Matt’s fragile mental health, but perhaps the first to attempt to explore it this fully. The examination of Daredevil’s depression has moved so many readers, including yours truly, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s actually saved lives. Add to that the story which dealt with Sister Maggie’s tragic reasons for leaving Matt as a baby, Foggy’s cancer and many other themes with real-world implications, and there’s been plenty of reason to stay invested in these stories.

  5. Nods to continuity

    Matt remembers his lecture at Carter College, from Daredevil #30 by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee

    It’s always great when you can tell that the creative team are true fans of the character they’re working on, and can use the treasure trove that is fifty years of comic book history to ground the characters in that history and make nods to the greater Marvel Universe. On the other hand, you always want to make sure the stories don’t put up unnecessary barriers for new readers. Daredevil has struck the perfect balance, with plenty of nods to Daredevil history for the longtime fan to enjoy that don’t exclude newcomers. This run has also seen the use of old villains which have been dusted off and made more interesting, and threatening, in the process.

  6. Matt Murdock, the blind guy

    Matt talks about how he handles money, from Daredevil #22 by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee

    This last item is probably not a surprise coming from me, but I know I’m far from the only one who has appreciated a serious and insightful handling of this topic. Mark Waid pretty much proves the observation I made long before 2011 that the creators who pay the most attention to properly exploring Daredevil’s senses tend to be the same ones who know how to handle the limitations of those senses. Really trying to get into Matt Murdock’s head will usually lead to insight into both of these inter-related domains, and I know Waid has spent a lot of time thinking about these issues.

    The way of visually depicting Matt’s radar sense during this run, introduced by Paolo Rivera, has also gone a long way to establish a new standard that works really well, and helps the reader better understand the difference between Matt Murdock’s “view” of the world, and the norm. I really hope that the incoming creative team will draw inspiration from these guys when it comes to this aspect of the character.

That’s it for now! As I mentioned, I will return to a deeper discussion of each of the items on the list, but please feel free to speak you mind on anything and everything related to the last four years in the comment section.

Thank you for reading and thank you to the Daredevil creative team for a spectacular four years!

List of recommended art posts:

Recommended stand-alone issues of Daredevil

For my first proper countdown post – as we await the release of all thirteen episodes of Daredevil on April 10 – I wanted to take a look at some of my favorite stand-alone issues of Daredevil. Not all of these are perfectly self-contained, of course, but they stand well enough on their own that you don’t need to know much going in, and you get a full story with each issue. The issues I chose for this list also meet the criteria of being reasonably friendly to new readers and at least minimally relevant to the Netflix series.

That last bit would really only exclude stand-alone issues like Daredevil #92 (vol 2) which is told from the perspective of Milla Donovan and deals with her and Matt’s relationship. It wouldn’t make my list anyway, but since Milla isn’t going to be in the Netflix series, I wouldn’t even consider it.

Having said that, I should also mention that while technical quality is certainly an important consideration, I’ve put greater emphasis on whether these issues have important things to say about Daredevil and/or other characters or can serve as a good introduction to Matt Murdock and his world. Let’s get started! All issues are listed in chronological order, not by individual merit.

Exposé (Daredevil #164, vol 1)

This issue, written by Roger McKenzie, and penciled by a very young Frank Miller does require some background information going in, namely that Ben Urich is a journalist who, over several issues, has begun to piece together that Matt Murdock and Daredevil may be one and the same. Daredevil is in the hospital after a recent bout with the Hulk, but that’s not really relevant to what happens next, which is that Urich confronts Daredevil with his findings. After Daredevil fails to identify a photograph of his father, he confesses and begins to tell the journalist about his life.

Ben Urich confronts Daredevil in Daredevil #164 by Roger McKenzie and Frank Miller

This issue marks the beginning of the close relationship between Matt and Ben, and is important to the continued stories of both characters. Ben Urich gradually uncovering Daredevil’s true identity was an important plot element in the 2003 Daredevil movie, and we can likely expect elements of the same in the coming Netflix series where Ben Urich – played by Vondie Curtis-Hall – is a central character. If you want to know how it all began, and get a bonus recap of Daredevil’s origin, this is a good place to start. I’ve also written extensively about this issue and the ones leading up to it in the post “Meet Ben Urich” from 2008.

Where can I find it? This issue is included in the first volume of the Daredevil Visionaries: Frank Miller trade paperback, as well as other collections that cover the same era. It is also available on the Marvel Unlimited digital platform.

Roulette (Daredevil #191, vol 1)

Daredevil #191, written and penciled by Frank Miller (with inks by Terry Austin) may be my very favorite single issue of Daredevil. It is the perfect stand-alone story in that, while it certainly helps to know who Daredevil and his nemesis Bullseye are, it’s not crucial to appreciating the story. The artwork, with generous amount of negative space, interesting panel layouts and elegant simplicity, is the perfect match for a story that does a perfect job of nailing down, defining and explaining Matt Murdock.

Daredevil and Bullseye, as seen in Daredevil #191 by Frank Miller

This issue showcases his fears and weaknesses through the torment he suffers, not just in the wake of Elektra’s death, but in the way he feels complicit in the shooting of a young boy by being, not just a hero, but a role model for violence. I have nothing negative to say about this issue, it’s as close to perfection as they come, and it’s truly innovative in its approach. See also my previous post on this very issue.

Where can I find it? This issue is also easy to find in the many collection that cover this era. Of course, it’s also available on the Marvel Unlimited digital platform.

Promises (Daredevil #192, vol 1)

Another great one-shot is writer Alan Brennert’s sole contribution to the Daredevil archives, with art provided by Klaus Janson. It’s just a nice little slice-of-life story focusing on Ben Urich (more so than Exposé above, which is really more about Daredevil’s own story), but also featuring plenty of insight into Daredevil, as well as the Kingpin who also makes an appearance. You also get a great sense of Daredevil’s world and the corruption that runs rampant in it. The story revolves around good people doing good, good people doing bad, and the many shades of gray in between. It also reminds us never to presume to know what anyone else is going through, and doing the best with what we have. It is a tale which is both tragic and optimistic, and surprisingly moving.

Daredevil and Ben Urich talking, from Daredevil #192 by Alan Brennert and Klaus Janson

Where can I find it? This issue hasn’t never been collected and isn’t available through Marvel’s online channels so look for it in back issue bins.

The Price (Daredevil #223, vol 1)

On the surface, The Price, by Denny O’Neil and David Mazzucchelli, may appear a little campy. The Beyonder appears in Matt and Foggy’s office and asks them to argue his case, a case that is pretty much based on the alien visitor’s wish to own the entire world. It’s certainly a little out there. As is what happens to Daredevil during the course of the issue when the powerful Beyonder restores his sight.

Matt has his sight back in Daredevil #223 by Denny O'Neil and David Mazzucchelli

The outlandish aspects of the story aside, this issue is surprisingly moving. It’s really the first time that Matt has had his sight back and actually been able to enjoy it for any length of time. The experience is also pretty heartbreaking for out main character who has to deal with some delayed grief when he realizes exactly what it is he’s been missing all these years. In the end though, he decides that he cares about his principles even more than this new gift. It’s pretty powerful stuff and says a lot about the character. I’ve written about this issue before as well.

Where can I find it? This issue hasn’t never been collected and isn’t available through Marvel’s online channels so look for it in back issue bins.

34 Hours (Daredevil #304, vol 1)

On the title page, 34 Hours is introduced as “A story about New York.” This sums up the issue well, and also explains why I love it so much. I like this issue almost as much as Roulette, as they both do a fantastic job of stripping away the fuss and focusing on what makes Daredevil such a great character. Aside from that, the two issues really don’t have much in common though. Where Roulette is tragic, 34 Hours is brimming with optimism. The latter issue, by D.G. Chichester and Ron Garney, is also much more traditional in its format.

Panel from Daredevil #304, by D.G. Chichester and Ron Garney

I’ve written about this issue before as well so I recommend giving that post a read for more information on this tale of a day in the life of New York and the title character!

Where can I find it? Sadly, this issue hasn’t been collected either and also isn’t available through Marvel’s online channels so look for it in back issue bins.

Honorable mentions

Other issues that meet the above criteria, and can be found in collected editions and digitally through Marvel, are the following:

  • Daredevil #1, vol 1

    The very first issue of Daredevil, by Stan Lee and Bill Everett, is actually pretty good. It does a good job of introducing this brand new character, uses quite sophisticated storytelling techniques, and obviously managed to capture enough interest to make up for the very inconsistent quality of the first couple of years of the title.

  • Guts (Daredevil #185, vol 1)

    This is a clever Frank Miller issue (inks by Klaus Janson), that focuses almost entirely on Foggy Nelson, as he sets about doing his own crime fighting. While I like this issue, it has to be said that most modern readers have gotten used to seeing Foggy as a more serious character compared to how he appears here, but it’s still a good read. For another, more recent take on Foggy, see The Secret Life of Foggy Nelson (Daredevil #88, vol 2), by Ed Brubaker and David Aja

  • Return of the King: Prologue (Daredevil #116, vol 2)

    Also by Ed Brubaker and David Aja, this issue is all about the Kingpin, and his new life in Spain where he finds love again after the death of his wife Vanessa. It all comes to a tragic end, of course, but the story really highlights the complex nature of the Kingpin, something which appears to be a big part of the Netflix series.

  • Daredevil #7, vol 3

    This stand-alone Christmas issue by Mark Waid and Paolo Rivera is another favorite of mine. Waid and Rivera skillfully take Matt out of his element as he goes on a school trip with a class of blind school children and they’re stranded in the woods after a bad bus accident. I like the idea of Matt doing volunteer work. It goes well with a character who’s always cared about his community, regardless of what costume he’s wearing.

Well, that’s it! What did you guys think of my choices and what are some other issues you’d like to add to the list? Let the rest of us know in the comment section!

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!

Review of Daredevil #12

My apologies for the extreme delay in getting this post up. I ended up having to switch gears at work a couple of weeks back. It’s all good though, I’m having more fun than I’ve had in ages, but needed to play some initial catch-up!

Daredevil #12 contains the kind of twist that encourages you to go back to the previous issue to double-check whether there were any signs pointing us in the direction of the revelation in question. I did, and found none. I can’t quite decide whether this is necessarily bad (or good), but it is certainly a more accurate reflection of real life. Life throws your curve balls all the time.

In this issue the more interesting scenes, in my opinion, deal with Matt’s reaction to being blind-sided (no pun intended). It raises interesting questions about how much he depends on his usual means of doing things, specifically detecting deceit. If you’re used to having a nearly infallible ability to detect when people are lying, hedging or hesitating, you might stop listening to other the other clues that might inform your intuition.

Daredevil chases the Stunt-Master copy cat in Daredevil #12, by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee

The biggest strength of this issue is the magnificent artwork by Chris Samnee and colorist Matt Wilson. Because the issue is so heavy on the action, much of the enjoyment comes from the amount of energy and motion that is injected into each and every panel. The extreme setting – the Golden Gate bridge and an honest to goodness car chase – help make things interesting, but then the challenge becomes making sure the reader can follow along through all the twists and turns. The story was never difficult to follow, though I must admit some of the more extreme tricks, such as Daredevil tipping a car on its side, did stretch credulity a little too much for my liking. 😉

Kirsten suspects foul play, as seen in Daredevil #12 by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee

In my opinion, this was not one of the stronger issues of volume four. Gorgeous and riveting? Absolutely, but a little too much of one thing for my particular taste. However, I really like what Waid and Samnee are doing with Kirsten McDuffie. People always tend to be divided over whomever Matt is dating (an interesting topic for another post), but I’ve been a fan of her character since at least Daredevil #12 (vol 3), and enjoy seeing her fleshed out a bit more, and becoming a major player in Matt’s life.

I also continue to really enjoy Mark Waid’s voice for Matt. This issue opens with Matt thinking to himself: “On occasion, I have to convince people that I’m not suicidal. This will reassure no one.” This is perfectly in line with the sardonic wit that I tend to associate with Daredevil. It’s understated and sarcastic. It’s how I like my jokes.

Speaking of Kirsten, how about that last page? I personally found it cute, and well-timed, and try not to think too much about whether Marvel intends to flip the switch on everything we know and love in the near future (I guess that’s yet another topic for a post).

So, what did you guys think? Let us know in the comments! And I’ll get back to you soon with the latest issue of Superior Iron Man #4 which stirred its own bit of controversy!

What really happened when Daredevil met Hawkeye

Happy New Year everyone! I hope 2015 has been treating you well so far. One of the first things on my agenda this year, as far as the blog is concerned, is to put together a longer post about Daredevil on Netflix. That’s something that might take a few hours, however, and I didn’t want to put off my first post of the year for much longer.

So, for this first post, I thought it might be fun to look at the fight scene between Daredevil and Hawkeye that was referenced in Daredevil #11.

The first meeting between the two heroes took place in Daredevil #99 (vol 1), written by Steve Gerber with Sam Kweskin and Syd Shores listed as designer and embellisher, respectively. First we’ll look at how Chris Samnee’s take on the events compares to the original, and then we’ll cover some other gems from the issue! (As always, click the image to zoom in, click again to “pop” it back down.)

Daredevil punches Hawkeye through a window, as seen in Daredevil #11 by Mark Waid and Chris SamneeDaredevil swings Hawkeye through a window, as seen in Daredevil #99 by Steve Gerber and Sam Kweskin

The perspectives are a little different. The more recent issue has a clearer focus on Daredevil, which seems apt under the circumstances, and the angle brings the Black Widow into the scene. Daredevil #11 also leaves out the part about the Black Widow bemoaning the destruction of her beautiful windows. Probably a wise decision.

More importantly, in the original version Daredevil uses his billy club to grab Haweye and then swing him out the window. When Matt retells the event in the present, he lets his fist do the talking instead. Though to be fair, there was some punching action earlier in the issue. Except Daredevil was on the receiving end of it. I guess this is what present-day Matt boils down to “embellishment.”

Matt remembers Hawkeye's trick arrow, as seen in Daredevil #11 by Mark Waid and Chris SamneeDaredevil shields his eyes from one of Hawkeye's trick arrows, as seen in Daredevil #99 by Steve Gerber and Sam Kweskin

Well, this part happens pretty much the way Foggy tell its, but the original unsurprisingly offers a longer, and even more hilarious scene. In my head, I’m going to imagine that “Archer, you’ve flipped” is now something Matt works into conversations when he meets Clint Barton, as an inside joke reminding the two of their first, spectacularly absurd meeting.

As for what happens on the very next page, right after the phosphorous arrow business, I decided to just include the whole page. There’s no other way to do this scene justice. It has a wonderful mix of melodrama and awareness of that very same melodrama. Matt pretty much nails it with:

“This has to be the most bizarre, ridiculous battle I’ve ever fought. Not to mention the least gratifying.”

Daredevil ponders his encounter with Hawkeye, as seen in Daredevil #99 by Steve Gerber and Sam Kweskin

Interestingly, this isn’t even remotely the most quotable line of the issue. Daredevil #99 is full of them. First off though, let’s just cut to who actually won the fight:

After Hawkeye leaves the scene, he runs into a gang of street thugs to do battle with (because, why not?) when Daredevil shows up. The latter is then attacked by an arrow that releases a gas which does a real number on Matt’s senses. This is followed by a sonic arrow that really has him begging for mercy. I guess Clint just got really lucky choosing among his trick arrows because they seem perfectly suited to Daredevil’s weaknesses, which he knew nothing about at the time. Daredevil then rebounds, breaks Hawkeye’s bow – and makes it look way too easy, by the way – before they both get to play with Daredevil’s billy club. Finally, the two settle things and call it a draw.

Daredevil and Hawkeye decide to call it a draw, in Daredevil #99 by Steve Gerber and Sam Kweskin

So, the encounter ends amicably enough. But what prompted it in the first place? Well, call it a take on the age old tale of two men doing battle over the same woman while she watches – and rolls her eyes – from the sidelines. Hawkeye simply shows up, as Daredevil and the Black Widow return to their San Francisco home following the events of the previous issue, to tell his ex-girlfriend what she means to him. Yup, he traveled across the country on a whim just to do that. Though in his defense, this issue predates the invention of email and “sexting.”

On the second page, Clint delivers a juicy comeback for the people expressing their disapproval of his impromptu visit:

“I’ve been perched like a partridge in that pear tree over yonder… for two hours and 38 minutes — just waiting for you clowns to get home!”

There are many things to like about this quote. The play on the lyrics to The Twelve Days of Christmas, the use of the word “yonder”, the suggestion that Clint keeps immaculate track of time, and the juicy clown insult at the very end.

As you can imagine though, things go downhill from here. Both Daredevil and Hawkeye act like jerks, while the Black Widow – the only reasonable person for most of the issue – tries unsuccessfully to get across that she is capable of choosing her own boyfriend. Here are some highlights.

The blind joke

Daredevil: “Cool it, William Tell. Can’t you see you’re upsetting the lady?”
Hawkeyes: “My eye are as good as yours, fearless.”
Daredevil: “I’ll just bet they are.”

Daredevil’s pose in this panel

Daredevil does a sexy pose on the stairs, in Daredevil #99 by Steve Gerber and Sam Kweskin

Hawkeye insults the Vision

At the very end of the issue, the two combatants return to the home of Matt and Natasha, and find some of the Avengers. They are there to ask Daredevil to join them on a mission – he later accepts – but the self-proclaimed ex-avenger Hawkeye is not happy to see his old team mates, especially not the Vision, with whom he’s had a falling out (in Avengers #109).

Hawkeye yells at the Avengers, in Daredevil #99 by Steve Gerber and Sam Kweskin

And I think “Stuff it, synthozoid! The Avengers ’n me are thru!” is about as good a place as any to round off this little trip through the often hilarious archives of Daredevil canon. And thanks to Mark Waid and Chris Samnee for the slice of nostalgia! 😉