Sorry it took a while, but with the busiest week of the year behind me at work, I am finally rested and ready to give Daredevil #31 another go. As you all know – if you have read the issue (and I assume that you have, or that you at least don’t mind the spoilers), there is plenty of drama in this issue. We have an absolutely shocking final page to discuss, as well as Waid’s decision to reference real-world events.
When comics and the real world collide
The Trayvon Martin case (or is it technically the George Zimmerman case?) made the news even where I live (Sweden, for those who didn’t know), though it obviously received less coverage than in the United States. Still, it didn’t take me more than a panel’s worth of the in-story trial coverage to recognize where Mark Waid had drawn his inspiration for it. While this issue, like most of this volume of Daredevil, has been very well-received, there were quite a few people (on message boards and elsewhere) who admitted to groaning a bit, at least initially, at what was perceived as a lack of subtlety. I’d be willing to agree with this, to some extent. Making the victim of the shooting out to be a saint, and his shooter correspondingly villainous may not be subtle, but I would argue that what happens after that is. I realize that some people apparently mentally checked out the minute they realized there was a real-world reference at play, but in my opinion, they would have done so prematurely.
The monthly comic book format is limited in how much information can be contained in a single issue, and in order to get the ball rolling quickly, and in this case, move on to the issue’s main story, taking shortcuts is sometimes required. This is how I view the decision paint victim and shooter as polar opposites. It can be done swiftly (literally within the scope of the one panel seen above on the right), and allows us to move on to other things. It also has the advantage of playing into the bigger plot that’s brewing with the Sons of the Serpent.
But what is interesting is Matt’s relatively level-headed reaction to the verdict. While personally dismayed by the outcome, he acknowledges the undeniable skill of the defense team, and doesn’t actually put that much blame on the jurors. He realizes the difference between what is “the right thing to do” from a moral perspective, and what can be proven from a legal standpoint. And this shouldn’t really be all that surprising since this goes to the very heart of Matt Murdock as a character and is the whole reason he dresses up in a devil costume in his spare time.
Matt the lawyer is fully aware of the limitations of the legal system, and can make better sense of them than someone without his many years of education and professional experience. It is also by distinguishing between “legal right” and “moral right” that he creates room for what it is he does as Daredevil. Daredevil operates at the fringes of the law, in many ways even completely outside of it. At the same time, Daredevil’s kind of justice cannot replace the more narrowly defined legal justice. He knows this, and accepts it. What he does as Daredevil can never be officially sanctioned. You could write an entire essay about the dichotomy of Matt the Lawyer and Daredevil the Vigilante, but I think Daredevil #31, far from lacking in subtlety, very skillfully cuts to the core of this conflict.
Worth noting is that Matt isn’t the only one appealing for a more forgiving attitude. During his interview on the courthouse steps (the real one, not the one manipulated by the Jester), D.A. Priest says of the jurors:
“Leave. Them. Alone. We asked twelve good men and women, who for safety’s sake will remain anonymous for now, to look a woman in the eye and decide if she will live or die. That’s a decision they will carry unimaginably heavy with them for the rest of their lives. So leave them be.”
At the end of the day, and taken as a whole, I see nothing “preachy” about this issue. On the contrary, if you want to insert real world references into a story, this is not a bad way to do it, by simply using a real world case as a starting template and then doing somethings completely different with those basic building blocks. By bringing the Jester and his well-known M.O. into the picture, you also get the chance to highlight some of the potential differences between the real world and the Marvel Universe.
So, on the very last page we see someone who must be Foggy dangling from a rope, and it appears that he has hanged himself. And may I just take this opportunity to remind everyone that in this context, the correct form of the past tense is “hanged,” not “hung.” My apologies for using such an intense scene to throw in a grammar lesson, but there you go.
Every time an issue comes out, I usually go check out the comic book message boards and read other people’s reviews, and I’m always surprised by the kinds of strange ways people interpret certain things. I have seen more than one person who very clearly didn’t get that it wasn’t the real D.A. who exposed the jurors, just as I have seen more than one person who clearly thinks that Foggy has willingly taken his own life, despite the very obvious ties to the Jester (which is how Matt finds him to begin with). Yes, even with the suicide note, this scene has supervillain setup written all over it.
That’s not to say that there wouldn’t be a conceivable reason for Foggy to want to kill himself, based on some heat of the moment impulse. Between the events of that morning, as depicted earlier in the issue, and the scene on the last page, he may have been given some particularly bad news by his doctor, or even by the Jester, or someone else posing as his doctor (hey, who knows?). Ewing’s sarcoma is obviously a very nasty kind of cancer with poor chances of survival if it has metastasized. And, even survival might come at the cost of a limb in some cases (as is the case with many tumors of the bone) or very radical surgery. However, like I said, this all smells of the Jester. If Foggy had wanted to end his own life, why go across town to do it? To an address associated with the Jester, no less?
Having said all this, I find it highly unlikely that Foggy is actually dead. If I had thought that he was, I would be very upset at this point. Like, send Mark Waid a voodoo doll level upset. (I’m just kidding, I wouldn’t go that far… Or would I?) 😉 There are several reasons why killing Foggy at this stage makes no sense to me:
- You could argue that killing Foggy is a bad idea, period. That he is such an integral part of the Daredevil cast and so important to the main character that you would be doing permanent harm to the health of the title itself. Killing off Karen remains controversial to this day, and she was a character who was missing from the cast for years at a time. To use Mark Waid’s own toy box analogy, breaking the Foggy toy may not be such a great idea.
- Killing Foggy would cut short the current storyline which sees him dealing with cancer. Waid has explicitly stated that he sees this as an interesting way to explore the two characters by having them lean on each other and this would truly be a very weird end to that story. Since Marvel is actually working with the American Cancer Society, I have a very hard time consolidating this kind of ending to Foggy’s story with a semi-realistic take on dealing with cancer. Besides, Waid has also hinted that he’d like to see Foggy’s struggle with cancer play out for a while.
- This kind of scene may be shocking, but is not something that we as readers are unfamiliar with. Dramatic cliffhangers are commonplace and things are very often not what they seem.
There was also a new interview with Mark Waid in the Washington Post last week, which featured unlettered preview art that shed some additional, albeit inconclusive, light on this scene. I won’t reference it here, but everyone is perfectly free to comment on it in the comment section. If you haven’t read the interview and choose not to, then stay clear of the comments.
I think I’m going to end here, for now, and get on with writing my review for Daredevil: Dark Nights #3 and #4 so I can get that up too. Comment away, everyone! What did you think of this issue and what do you think happened with Foggy?