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.

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.

19 comments

  1. Even after reading your review I’m still not sure what to expect when I pick up my copy on Saturday, although I am cringing inside.

  2. I suspect Mr. Waid himself will revert this. That this decision of Matt will lead to something awful as it has foreshadowed (“What’s the worst thing that could happen?”), and that Waid run is ending with Matt in his Daredevil costume again.

    To be sincere, I have liked the issue. I had no problem with Matt doing this stunt. I think he’s evolving with time. I don’t think someone could go through so much without becoming a little weird, and now popularity is affecting him (like it did at the end of Bendis’ run). If only that, someone so unpopular at school could be willing to compensate.

    The art was gorgeus. That fight scene with Matador was outstanding. It may be Samnee’s best art so far. In the scenes with that she-Owl, it has reminded me of a Spanish comic artist from the 90’s whose name I can’t remember now…

  3. “Comment: I suspect Mr. Waid himself will revert this. That this decision of Matt will lead to something awful as it has foreshadowed (“What’s the worst thing that could happen?”), and that Waid run is ending with Matt in his Daredevil costume again.”

    Oh, I fully expect Matt to be back in the original costume by the end of next issue or the one after that. I don’t think this will be long-lived at all. My issue with all this is how he ends up in the costume, and why. I don’t buy it.

    But I’m glad you liked the issue! 🙂

  4. I suspect that the point is we’re meant to hate this costume. (Mission accomplished. In spades.) Going by the solicits, for the next couple of issues:

    As an old foe makes a surprising return, Daredevil must make harder choices. But is he going off the deep end?

    After reading the preview for #14, my first thought sure was, “this is just going too far.”

    #16: In order to preserve the new life he’s built, Daredevil is faced with a critical decision–which may mean the death of Matt Murdock! Plus, with a new rival in town, is DD’s time in San Francisco coming to an end?

    Sounds like this is going to come back to bite him pdq.

    Now, I want to be clear. The suit is awful. To the point where if I were into cosplay, you would see me cosplaying as Mike Murdock before you saw me cosplay in the new outfit. But if we look at it from the standpoint of someone who, way back in Vol 3 #22, told Foggy that he wanted secrecy to stop being his default setting… someone who spent years hiding part of himself in plain view and then he goes full disclosure on Daredevil and discovers that the world is still turning. He tells Kirsten how he feels about her. The sun still rises. The things that made the Man Without Fear all too aware that his tagline was a bit hyperbolic have happened in short order and… his life has actually been pretty darn okay.

    So. If every time Matt’s disclosed a bit more, it hasn’t been the catastrophe he once thought it would be, I think he decided to go all-out. Yes, the same ‘gusto’ and silliness he brought to Mike Murdock. Of course. Because as silly and stupid as that time was, there was that part of Matt that liked cutting loose and indulging his inner showman.

    The problem? Mike never existed until Matt invented him. When things got out of hand, Matt killed him off and went back to living a double life instead of a triple one. And I think that precisely because (for him, anyway!) so much has been going right since he went public with his identity, he’s forgotten just how horribly wrong things can turn in an instant.

    He’s gone from one extreme to the other, but this is a man whose default setting is winging it. He’s not Batman with five backup plans and ten contingencies, for each backup. He’s taking this as it comes and because things he thought would never work have… I get the sense that he’s trying to see how far he can take this. And I suspect that next issue, he’s going to find out what most of us are saying/thinking/moaning right now: he has gone way too far.

    Yes, I hate the look. Along with the AzBats Batman in the 90s and Kitty Pryde’s first attempt at costume design: http://static.comicvine.com/uploads/original/0/6754/554510-shadowcat_bigcostume2.jpg. In Matt’s defense, he can’t see how awful it is. And all three looks have something in common: they didn’t last.

    This was far from my favorite issue. And saying “it’s still better than Shadowland” is damning with faint praise. But I suspect it’s going to get better from here.

  5. Both this and the last issue, which I hated as much as you seemed to dislike this one, are paced horribly. Did this story end? Nope, it just stopped

  6. I may go read Daredevil: Father to cheer myself up. Is it too late to get Andy Diggle back on the book for Shadowland 2?

    The only thing I can say about this is thats it better than End of Days, which to me is the worst Daredevil story I’ve ever read. When I think about all the bad or questionable Daredevil stories from the last 20 years: Guardian Devil, Father, Playing to the Camera, Shadowland, Flying Blind, Dark Knights. From here on out I can look at those stories and say “Well this is at least better than what Waid did at the end of Volume 4.”

    I thought the tell-all book was the most out of character thing anyone had ever had Matt Murdock do, but I guess Waid had to top himself. I’ve been saying this since the end of Volume 3. Waid has been slowly turning Marvel’s (arguably) most complex, mature, and intelligently written character into a buffoon and the joke of his own book. This was almost inevitable.

    And I said this on Facebook and you touched on it in your review, but I feel terrible for anyone who decides to check out the Daredevil comic for the first time now or in the coming month(s).

  7. I really, really hate this “you’re only as good as your last one” mentality that seems to pervade a good deal of popular entertainment nowadays. I’m not advocating lowering one’s standards and accepting any junk that may come your way as “fair enough”, on the contrary. I only wish that people would be more objective about what they take in and understand that absolute perfection in any endeavor is so rare as to be almost impossible and that (for a multitude of different reasons) they aren’t all going to be winners. Waid and Co. have done an outstanding job on this title during their tenure, it may be my favorite run on the book. This team has created a lot of personal goodwill, and I have defended almost all of their decisions. I think that most of the criticism leveled at the book has frankly been baseless, unfair and exaggerated nonsense – I still do. And when I listen to the fans crying out for a total retcon, I think to myself, “this is why we can’t have nice things”. Nevertheless, I would like to think that I’ve remained reasonable enough to call fowl on some of the elements that didn’t work as well as they could have. When the preview for #14 came out and all the grumbling about Matt’s wardrobe began popping up, I was really tempted to say something about how fans were overreacting to a single panel in what amounted to a three-page preview which had been removed from the context of the larger story that it was a part of. Because of that previously mentioned goodwill I feel to the creators, I’m still willing to play Devil’s Advocate (so to speak) and remind everyone that this change is in no way going to be permanent, that the only one who thinks that Matt’s new suit is a good thing seems to be Matt himself, and that these are all elements in a larger arc that has gradually been building to its advancing climax where, it is implied, it will all come together and pay off.

    Having said all of that, I hope the payoff is worth it.

  8. Finally read #14. And I need to say some things.

    Okay, so… to be absolutely honest, for the first few moments I kept thinking that I was turning pages of a Deadpool comic. Because, as you’ve said in your piece, I don’t think we’ve seen this kind of a stunt since Mike Murdock. I honestly don’t know what to feel about this issue.

    About the current run. From the beginning, for some reason, I couldn’t enjoy vol 4 as much as I did the previous volume. Maybe it’s the change in surrounding, maybe it’s the lack of cameos from men and women wearing colorful spandex…or maybe the fact that Waid chose Leland Owlsley to be the main antagonist of this volume. (Understand that I could never take Owl as a serious villain, not when he was introduced, and both Bendis and Brubaker’s treatment of the character only made it worse, if you get my hint). So, when I heard that the storytellers are going to put him on center, I had a sense of foreboding, but I kept it to myself. But now that the volume is coming to an end…I realize my fear has come true. Leland Owlsley simply isn’t doing it for me.

    Regarding the autobiography angle; I am going to be blunt and say that I simply do not care for that plot point at all. Is it even a plot point ? Ever since the issue of writing the book was brought onboard, any pages dealing with the subject felt like filler material to me. But that’s probably just me.

    Same deal with Owlsley’s daughter. Ever since she was introduced in the special 50 year anniversary issue, I’ve had a nagging feeling of ‘oh, this isn’t gonna be bad. Like, really bad. Why’d you do that ?’. And so far, I’m not impressed. But it’s just her first issue. On that note, how many issues do Waid-Samnee have got left anyway ? 1 or 2 ? Will it be enough to put a satisfactory end to their run ? At this point, I’m not so sure. Are they being forced to abandon the book because of the Secret Wars (read Reboot) ? I’m not a fan of reboot. Reboots are what made me drop DC titles. It’s like washing away years worth of story and character development down the drain. Anyway, at least I’ll be finally able to bid farewell to one of the most memorable daredevil eras ever to come. Looking forward to the penultimate issue, with less expectation, for reasons stated above.

  9. Also not a huge fan of this issue. So many problems, a lot of confusion, and just some very bad life choices on Matt’s part.
    That being said, Samnee did an absolutely fantastic thing and drew in two of his biggest fans as the women who picked up Daredevil and drove him back into town. It’s been confirmed by Samnee himself, and I think that is absolutely fabulous. I’m a bit jealous in fact.

    I also loved him playing baseball. (Hasn’t played since he was ten… pft.)

  10. I think I can’t dislike any of Waid’s run because of the overall technical quality. Daredevil has never looked so good. It’s a fact. With other creative teams, Daredevil has looked ugly. Even if it may seem (and it may be true) that Matt Murdock isn’t Matt Murdock anymore and this whole isue is not “Daredevil”, it’s still a living thing. Ok, it may just be something about a person who physically resembles Matt Murdock, but it stands on its own, and I don’t mind reading it.

    In other runs, Daredevil may have had either a good writer (let’s say Frank Miller) or a good penciller (let’s say Gene Colan), but it has been extremely rare to find both a good artist and a good writer on Daredevil at the same time (first half of Bendis run, until it became clear that Maleev couldn’t draw action and Bendis relied fully on weird time jumps; first half of Brubaker run, until it became clear that Brubaker had run out of ideas and, regardless of what he did, Lark’s pencils would be blurred by depressing colors). As a long time reader, I always complained (to myself) that Daredevil was always getting the B-list pencillers despite its great plots, while the famous artist were pencilling crappy plots somewhere else.

    It’s the quality what convinces me the whole time, regardless what trick Waid is pulling out. Daredevil by Frank Miller was well written and told, but he couldn’t really draw at the time: a lot of gestures and proportions looked weird. Daredevil by Gene Colan looked good, but it had Stan Lee’s scripts.

    Look at “officialy crappy” Daredevil stories: Shadowland was both uglyly drawn and lazily plotted (nothing happens, the main aim was to sell as many tie-ins as possible). The same goes for the last story of Dark Nights. The whole Reborn plot was a cliche and featured a very convenient villain as a plot device. It’s like they didn’t try.

    If you didn’t like the issue, try to look at it as if it wasn’t a Daredevil issue. You may even read the script alone or look at the images without text. It’s beautiful. On a technical level, it doesn’t deserve de one-star-out-of-five it’s getting at manwithoutfear.

    P.D.: That having been said, I really disliked the Monster Mash issues. And it also looked as if they weren’t trying. The art felt rushed and the plot was a cliche…

  11. “If you didn’t like the issue, try to look at it as if it wasn’t a Daredevil issue. You may even read the script alone or look at the images without text. It’s beautiful. On a technical level, it doesn’t deserve de one-star-out-of-five it’s getting at manwithoutfear.”

    Oh absolutely. If I were reviewing this for a general comic book news site, I would be writing a very different review. Its technical merits are mostly sound (though it’s difficult to completely disregard what I find to be a wildly out-of-character treatment of the main character). The art is fantastic. It’s always fantastic. For these reasons, I actually gave it two stars at manwithoutfear. 😉

    On this site, however, a Daredevil site that exists solely because of my profund love and passion for this character, I can’t disregard the fact that this is supposed to be an issue of Daredevil. As a general story, it’s okay. As a Daredevil story, it kind of broke my heart. This is my personal opinon, and I don’t expect others to share it. If you were able to find enjoyment in this issue, good for you! I envy you.

    I also need to make this clear (if it wasn’t already clear from my review): This is by no means an idictment of the Waid/Samnee run as a whole. I have loved almost all of it, will continue to love almost all of it for years to come. If and when I run into these guys at some convention in the future, I look forward to a great chat about how amazing this run has been. And speaking of technical merit, this issue obviously doesn’t change my mind when it comes to whether either of the people involved are good at their jobs. Waid is an amazing writer, and Samnee’s art has made me a lifelong fan. None of that has changed.

    This review is about this particular issue. I don’t expect the costume change to last very long. Besides, I personally have a pretty loose idea of continutity so I don’t mind adding this current insanity (for the two or maybe three issues I expect it to last) to my list of other stories that I can simply pretend never happened. And that will be fine. This issue doesn’t “ruin” the character, it doesn’t invalidate anything that’s come before, I hold no personal grudge against anyone involved and I still have high hopes that things will turn around by the very end.

    However, there’s another point that has some bearing on this, and that’s whether one should take into account that something might happen next issue, or the one after that, that will put this issue into perspective. First of all, I most certainly hope something will happen that makes all of this magically better. There are many things in this issue that need to be explained and addressed, and I expect that to happen. But the wait and see approach can only get you so far. I think every issue also needs to stand on its own. If Daredevil #14 is meant to mark the beginning of some kind of mental breakdown (it might), then there should be some foreshadowing to that effect. We know that there are issues lurking in the back of Matt’s head, but those need to be acknowledged somehow. I appreciate that Kirsten is resisting Matt’s behavior, but I would have rather seen her taking him to a psychiatric emergency unit.

    Daredevil #14 featured a character who looked like Matt Murdock. (Sort of.) But I didn’t recognize my favorite character in him. That’s what’s at the heart of my disappointment. When he shows up again, I will welcome him back with open arms. I actually have no issues sitting out the rest of this run if it fails to move me. What Waid and Samnee has done with this character up to this point is more than enough, and I will be forever grateful for that.

  12. After thinking about this, I think I can organize my thoughts better:

    I actually don’t hate the new look as a crime fighting get up. The scene at the drive in showed how advantageous the more open get up can be to a superhero and fun to read about for a reader. The recent Moon Knight series showed putting a traditionally costumed superhero into a pulp-esque suit can work really well.

    The problem for all this comes in the trial scenes where Matt makes a mockery of everything he loves and successfully undercuts, undermines, and ruins what is good about the suit.

  13. I also found many elements of this issue confusing. The idea of being true to ones self while exploring reinvention is an acceptable theme, but the outfit as a vehicle to do that is an odd choice. I think it’s bolder that he has chosen to remove his glasses; a subtle gesture that I suppose has been overlooked because of the DD-Riddler suite (seriously, add a bowler). There has always been a sense of hiding, almost shame in the sunglasses. Back in the day he’d be illustrated wearing them under his mask or when exercising. I understand that the outfit won’t last long, but whatever the reason for doing this; it’s just a logic flaw. So to ask the obvious questions:

    1. Why the hair cut? Isn’t more logical to have short hair if you are wearing a cowl all day?
    2. In what way is a tailored suite good crime fighting gear for a dude who relies on athletic skill? (again, fine for the Riddler)
    3. If your outfit pulls double duty, how do you keep it clean? You’ll stink-up the courtroom.

    All this said, I think the creative team is brilliant and I’m actually grateful to Waid not showing us the same rehashed Miller-inspired stuff. We have it. We’ve seen it. It was good. Show me something new. Every story shouldn’t be Matt in a ridiculous outfit or walking around with his head detached from his body (remember that), but take a damn chance. Because what’s worse than that is for readers to get bored.

  14. I’d rather be bored by a Daredevil story than sickened. People have been talking about not recognizing Matt Murdock in this issue. I haven’t recognized him since the Ikari/Bullseye story of volume 3.

    I have nothing against the outlandish or the humorous or the sci-fi elements. I’ve been saying to my friends since the end of the Brubaker run that I’d love to see Matt and Foggy accidentally beamed up into space for a year long swashbuckling adventure with the Starjammers. But in that scenario I always imagined Matt and Foggy acting, speaking, and thinking like Matt and Foggy. Something that they haven’t been doing in a long time.

    The problem is that there’s no “straight man” in Waid’s Daredevil. Matt’s going crazy again in a new way. Okay fine, but why have Kirsten and Foggy been cheerleading the process all this time? Everyone is alternating between being the clown in the scene or the butt of the joke. I’ve given this issue grief like lots of others, but it really didn’t shock me that much. This was just par for the course. Inevitable. And yes this will all be undone, probably very soon, and those that want to can forget this ever happened. My broken toe will heal soon and then I can walk without limping and all will be well, but i wish it hadn’t been broken in the first place.

  15. I miss Hell’s Kitchen. I miss NYC. I miss the scum of the earth taking a beating in some dark alley. Netflix DD save us! You’re our only hope!

    C.

  16. I found it disappointing.

    Hopefully it gets better again in the last stretch of issues.

    “I’ve been saying to my friends since the end of the Brubaker run that I’d love to see Matt and Foggy accidentally beamed up into space for a year long swashbuckling adventure with the Starjammers.”

    Would read.

  17. Matt’s outlandish, out of character behavior here reminds me of the time in the early 2000s when Britney Spears suddenly started acting in truly bizarre ways. Including changing how she dressed, talked, and even shaving her head, just like Matt did.

    Brit’s behavior was a cry for help and she suffered a very public meltdown of her mental health. I have to wonder if the creative team is signaling something similar for Matt.

  18. You know, I’ve never thought of that. And it makes a fair amount of sense.

  19. Hmmm….

    You know, sometimes when someone who has been repressed for years steps out of the “closet” they slam to the opposite extreme. For decades Matt Murdock had to hide who he really was and what he could really do, both as the lawyer and the superhero. Yes, I think he’s gone a little crazy. It’s not unprecedented. How many years of self-repression is he throwing off? If that’s what the writers were trying for, though, they may or may not have made that clear to the reader. How this plays out over the next few issues will make a huge difference.

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