Review of Daredevil: Reborn #4 (4.5/10)

NOTE: This review contains spoilers.

Damn, I wanted to like this issue. Not only had we been waiting for it for what felt like a month too long, this also marked Andy Diggle’s last issue and I wanted this mini to end on a high note, not just for us fans, but for Diggle as well. To say that Shadowland was a somewhat controversial storyline would be the understatement of the year, but I was personally more than willing to put my feelings on the matter behind me and enjoy this story on its own merits, knowing that Diggle can be an excellent writer and has demonstrated this on many occassions. A powerful final end to this mini-series would have served to cap off his run in a positive way.

Daredevil: Reborn got off to a great start, in my book at least, and I had high hopes for the rest of the series. While issues #2 and #3 seemed to indicate that we were dealing more with a crime story set against the backdrop of a redemption story than the other way around (which would have been the more rewarding option), the preview for this final issue got my hopes back up. However, the tension of those first few pages quickly fizzled and the story we were left with was one so emotionally unrewarding that it actually made me angry. That’s right, for the first hour after reading this, I have to admit that I was a little pissed off. Me. Pissed off. I’m rarely pissed off. Even more rarely am I pissed off at something as mundane as a comic book.

The first problem I had with the issue is the too quick segue between the dramatic and tension-filled scene that shows Matt almost passed out in the blind boy’s bath tub and the one that follows, in which they’re seated in the living room with Matt patched up and apparently all better. I actually had to stop to check if I had missed a page. Sadly, I hadn’t.

Anyway, this little heart to heart between Matt and the blind boy (Billy, apparently) sets the scene for Matt’s transformation from self-loathing and defeated to “let’s go beat up the bad guys.” It happens because he gets a good talking to by someone who with each panel looks more and more – and most likely not coincidentally – like the child version of Matt himself (complete with a dead hero father), and it happens so suddenly that you can’t help going “huh?”

Matt talking to Billy, Daredevil: Reborn #4 by Andy Diggle and Davide Gianfelice

So, next up, we see Matt don the exact same outfit he wore in Frank Miller’s Man Without Fear mini twenty years ago, and go out hunting for bad guys. This costume and the ersatz stigmata (Matt is bleading from his hands and temple) are good examples of what’s wrong with this issue. Matt’s wounds are an obvious reference to Christ that I assume is meant to act as a not so subtle symbol for Matt’s rebirth as a hero. The return to what looks like his old pre-Daredevil costume is, again, another example of the writer hammering home the message of rebirth without allowing this theme to come naturally through the character. The result feels hollow. It becomes a matter of telling a story by reminding readers of past stories and hoping that makes up for the lack of real emotional impact. Religious imagery á la Born Again? Check. Bring back an old costume used in a much better story? Check.

Matt fighting with some bad guys, Daredevil: Reborn #4 by Andy Diggle and Davide Gianfelice

The showdown with the villain Calavera is a paint by numbers ordeal where Matt stands up to his fears by saying all the right things at all the right moments, before skipping town and going home. This takes us to the worst scene of the entire issue and the one that I have to admit actually upsets me. While the issue up until now had been a disappointing collection of clichés, the ending made my jaw drop. First of all, let me say that I’m a big fan of Matt and Foggy hanging out, and that seeing the two best friends reunited should be a cause for celebration. However, Matt showing up in Foggy’s kitchen in the middle of the night and casually telling him that he’s been looking for places to rent an office, is such an out-of-left-field development that I’m considering clinging to the notion that this is all happening in Matt’s head and that he’s really on an acid trip. Nothing about this scene feels natural or in character.

Now, we all know that Daredevil is being relaunched in July and one of the conflicts of the first few issues will be between a Matt that’s eager to sweep everything under the rug and the people around him who are not as eager to let him off the hook. So, in a way, one could say that Matt suddenly acting this way is a way for Diggle to tie this ending to the start of Mark Waid’s run. Sadly, that explanation doesn’t make this complete mood shift any less jarring. It also doesn’t explain why Foggy is acting as if Matt didn’t basically try to kill him during their last encounter. There is also nothing going on earlier in the issue to explain why Matt, even though he may have forgiven himself, should act this way. This story should be able to make sense on its own, not rest on readers having a hunch of where the next writer might want to go two months from now.

Now, you might wonder why I’d be willing to give this issue as “high” a rating as a 4.5 when just writing this review has me grinding my teeth. Well, when you take out the final scene and the fact that this was supposed to be a redemption story, it does actually hold together well enough as a crime mystery story. So, if you approach this issue, and the entire mini-series, with a completely different set of expectations you would get something entirely different out of the experience. Objectively, this issue isn’t quite as bad as my strong subjective feelings about it would indicate.

As you can tell, I’m a little heart-broken about this. Like I said, I wanted this to be good. I wanted it for my own sake, because I’m a huge Daredevil fan who was really looking forward to a rewarding ending, and I wanted it for Diggle’s sake too. My impression has been that he’s been really invested in this story which makes this ending even more baffling. Heck, the final issues of both Shadowland and his Daredevil run proper were much more compelling than this. When the time comes for me to do a post looking back at Diggle’s entire run, I know it will fare much better on average than this single issue when everything is all added together. It’s just such a bummer that this lackluster effort was his last on the title.

On the positive side? Well, Davide Gianfelice’s art is perfectly fine (I, for one, don’t mind the Abe Lincoln beard) and Jock’s covers have been absolutely stunning throughout this series.

Christine Hanefalk

Christine Hanefalk

Based in Stockholm, Sweden, Christine is a die-hard Daredevil fan who launched The Other Murdock Papers in 2007 to share her passion for Matt Murdock and his friends with other fans.

8 comments

  1. Good artwork. The only positive thing I can say about this.

    This has been the most pointless story I’ve ever read involving Daredevil. (Not the worst, the most pointless)
    They could have just let Matt disappear after the end of the Shadowland, then had him show back up in the new DD#1, just like Waid has planned. Then Waid could fill in the gap however he wanted, like Bendis did with his one year jump.

    I know you’ve actually conversed with Diggle so maybe you have a better perspective on this, but as a reader I have to disagree with you on DIggle being invested in any of his DD work. I’ve said this before and stand by it. His whole run from start to finish reads like it was a homework assignment from Marvel that he really didn’t want to do. He throws in constant references and story elements from the infinitely superior work of Frank Miller* hoping fans will accept it because it reminds them of something they love instead of building on those elements in a well written way (like Bendis and Brubaker). Some of his runs many problems can be easily blamed on editorial (Shadowland), but the buck has to stop with him on this mini.

    *yeah Frank Miller has gone nuts in the past years, but everything he wrote before the late 90s was pure gold and on his best day Diggle can’t compare. If he doesn’t want to be compared, maybe he shouldn’t have used The Beast as his villain, named his mini “Reborn” invoking the title of the best DD story ever, and ripped off elements from TMWF.

  2. I’m still laughing at your comment “I actually had to stop to check if I had missed a page.” As I did exactly the same, only to find adverts. On the whole I enjoyed the story, even if it was full of hackneyed cliches, until that last scene. At that point the whole series felt like a mini-series that had been cut from 5 issues to 4 resulting in a the missing scenes and jarring ending.

    Also what happened to the long standing convention that each writer hands over Daredevil with loose ends for the next writer to resolve and explore, but inside i just *know* this ending has been made to order for the start of the next run. “Matt and Foggy set up new Law Firm”

    Grrrr

  3. What I’ve loved about the series: Davide Gianfelice’s art, fluid, dynamic, and remisniscent -to me- of Ferdinando Tacconi’s work (Tacconi was one of my childhood’s favourite artists.

    Now about the series: I recall that Brubaker’s “return to Statu Quo” (A false return, as it turned out) which was very criticised by some, was better developed than this one. Of course “back to normal” after the Shadowland disaster was quite a challenge, but I feel that this “reborn” series had more promise than actual delivery: Not that I dislike the basic plot and I think that it is interesting to have Matt out of his milieu, but I feel that there were too many plot elements which were not fully, or better developed. Still, I liked Matt’s relationship with the blind kid, and I would like it to see it developed further (I’m not asking necessarily for a Batman-Robin type of mentoring, though)

    As for the end… I’d also expect Foggy to be a bit more questioning, While he’s a long time friend of Matt, and devoted to him beyond the call of duty, I expected him to, well, ask Matt for some explanations: he’s just too accepting, IMHO.

    (And… Lord! the Fogster looks emaciated here!)

  4. Man, I cannot stand the Abe beard. It just looks completely out of character. Put my vote down for hating on it, hardcore.

    That final sequence with Foggy looks terrible and is terrible. Foggy looks like he hasn’t eaten in the weeks since Shadowland and the whole thing was forced. Though Gianfelice does draw one hell of a NYC skyline.

    This whole series was a complete failure, sadly. I, too, dig on Diggle and wish the man no harm but he didn’t do too well at all. Very well stated Robert, it did feel like a homework assignment he just lost his way on right from the start.

    Let’s all welcome Mark Waid to these glossy shores in July.

  5. A ridiculous amount of misery has been piled up on the protagonist for a large part of the past issues, and this right before deciding to “burn it to a cinder”, as Quesada declared, implicitly telling that they had run out of idea for what to do beside piling up more misery.

    Such being the setup, I think that fo the rebirth story to be effective it would’ve needed a storyarc of at least 6 issues, not this. This was a story that was planned by Diggle originally and, only then, it was forced into being the story of DD’s rebirth after Shadowland.
    I’m not disappointed by this issue, but only because I knew from the start that four issues of a recycled story weren’t going to make it.

  6. “Well, when you take out the final scene and the fact that this was supposed to be a redemption story, it does actually hold together well enough as a crime mystery story. So, if you approach this issue, and the entire mini-series, with a completely different set of expectations you would get something entirely different out of the experience.”

    Due to monetary concerns, I was waiting for the TPB to read this mini. Your reviews are usually spot-on so this diminishes my intent to read this. Matt’s redemption (if only for himself and not in the eyes of others yet) was supposed to be an occurrence that uplifts the character again, a moment to be celebrated both for himself and we dear readers. Sadly, based upon what I’m reading, that wasn’t the case.

    So when I do get the TPB, I’ll take the your advice Christine.

  7. Just no new ground broken. And, soooooooo disappointing considering the vast potential to be covered, both metaphorically in his psyche and literally over the open, wind-swept desert. (I was hooked in ish #1 as well).

    Apparently I am a dissenter, but I did not like the art either and now think in retrospect it may have been more applicable to the open space and less caricature type inhabitants.

  8. Let me preface my comments by saying that I’ve been collecting Daredevil since March 1966, issue #16, “Enter Spider-Man.” So I’ve been around the block a few times with Matthew. That said, what disappointed me about Reborn is that despite the buildup, in the end, it was really no different than any other issue where Matt/DD has had to reconsider his life, his choices and “regain his soul.” You can go all the way back to DD #53, “As It Was In The Beginning…” to see the first time Matt had an identity crisis. Considering the way Reborn turned out, there was no editorial reason to allegedly reboot the title. As far as I’m concerned, these should’ve been DD #512-516, with the July issue being 517. After 45 years of collecting I’m not giving up on the man in red, but a THIRD start for him? As Ben Grimm might say, “Enuf awready!!”

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