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In a world of ambiguity, doing the right thing is a precarious affair. After all, what IS the right thing? When does the line blur? It’s something I have to ask myself frequently. When it comes to superheroes, that question is amplified with very serious ramifications, and it seems that Daredevil‘s “weakness” is that he simply tries to do right despite warnings otherwise.
I felt for this character more so than others in recent memory, because I have made similar decisions based on the same amount of evidence given to me. I try to save others based in impulsive Superman-esque actions, but I am not Superman, and neither is Matt Murdock. Date someone that would be considered untouchable by most guys? Why not, after all, he can save her. Everyone is worthy of redemption in Murdock’s eyes, and I think we can blame this flaw, if you want to call it a flaw, on his conflicted childhood. I read the Battlin’ Jack Murdock mini-series last year and, while the man was by no means perfect, he stood up to the mob in front of his son. By doing the right thing, he lost his life. Furthermore, who do you believe in this world? Everyone has an agenda, even if they don’t intend to. Black and white should be fired as colors, because at this stage in my life, everything is cast in a shades of grey.
And with that said, we begin the descent into Kevin Smith’s run on Daredevil. I loved this story arc and part of the reason was the writing. It contained more captions than any other comic I’ve read of late, and the dialogue between each character really strengthened my determination that this was the best written run that I’ve read thus far. Fortunately, or unfortunately, Kevin Smith also believed this as well. At times, his writing appeared smug and somewhat self aware, to the point where I thought some of his tangents were more or less commentary on his own life. If you pick up and read these eight issues, you notice thinly-veiled shots at movie critics, brief insight into the life of a “B-Lister” in Hollywood, and a flat out reference to his film, ‘Clerks‘. Yet, I still loved the writing, so that should tell you something about the caliber of word-smithing on display.
What starts as a plot reminiscent of “End of Days” quickly turns into a mind screw of epic proportions, and we watch as Daredevil’s life crumbles in on itself. Karen Page, an ex adult film actress and Murdock’s girlfriend, leaves him at the beginning of the run. I found her reasoning to be realistic considering the circumstances, and I fully sympathized with Matt. To make matters worse, soon after the break-up his best friend and co-worker is arrested for the murder of a client. Then there’s the natter of a baby that is delivered to Matt, said to be the next savior by the mother and brought to him for protection. I must admit that for a while, Smith had me going with this notion that he really was going to inject religion into this run on a very serious level, but luckily he kept it as means for character growth.
For those that don’t know, Daredevil’s mother, Sister Maggie, left his father and become a nun. Shortly after the baby’s appearance, she provides Matt with some guidance, and a dose of closure for the resentment Matt carries for her. After all, she is the reason that his father returned to the boxing career that would eventually cost him his life. Their interactions were genuine, and I truly sympathized with the rather unorthodox family dynamic.
I was also introduced to an ex of Daredevil, Black Widow. Nowadays, she is is obviously best known for her appearance in The Avengers. Interestingly enough, she acts more like Matt’s guardian angel than anyone else in the arc and at one point professes that she still loves him. I have to admit that I never read the issues where they were a couple, but repeatedly through these 8 issues, she provides our hero with a dose of reality and hard truths about his personality. Matt Murdock sucks at picking women. He is, for a lack of a better term, inflicted with a severe case of White Knight Syndrome; something I can unfortunately identify with all too well.
There are a few red herrings as to who the main antagonist in this story really is. More than halfway in I finally had the dubious honor of being introduced to Bullseye, a villain that was not done justice in the Daredevil film of the early 2000’s. He was truly devious. I feel safe using that adjective to describe someone who massacres a nunnery. In addition, he proved to be a formidable opponent to our hero, and winds up taking one of the things that Matt Murdoch loved the most away from him. I’ll be honest, I did not it coming, and I physically resented Bullseye for this, even though he’s a fictional character. Part of this is due to the fact that there isn’t any closure; Bullseye disappears because he isn’t actually the primary villain of the story.
The addition of Mysterio in this run at first confused me. His justification for wanting to end Daredevil’s life was both intricate and, at the same time, nothing more than the selfish scheme from a dying man. It is briefly explained why Mysterio didn’t go after Spider-Man first, given that they are rivals, but the complexity of the way he attempted to bring Matt down was almost disturbing for two characters that had only one interaction prior to this run. The baby was nothing more than a setup; a way to confuse and befuddle Daredevil from the inside out. He knew that the religious hangups Matt had with his mother would help his plan. With that, everything else clicked into place.
While I didn’t get my satisfaction from seeing Bullseye go down, we do get to witness the demise of Mysterio. Smith may have written off the character in such a way that you might have a shred of sympathy for him, but I didn’t. I reveled in it. I cheered on our hero as he resisted the mental torture and escaped with the innocent child. We also get a farewell from Black Widow, who very clearly advises Murdock to find guidance in himself before he pursues another relationship. I’ll be the first to admit that the man is broken, and I can recognize that because I’ve been in his shoes before.
The last issue contains a brief interaction between Spider-Man and Daredevil, and a brief tangent by Murdock clearly sets up where the character stands from here on out. If you haven’t guessed it by now, I loved this comic. I am intentionally withholding many details because I want you to pick it up and give it a read if you haven’t.
While you’re at it, you may as well enjoy the divine artwork of Joe Quesada. The man is a genius at his craft, as I’ve read comics published well after this run that didn’t look half as good. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the magical saturation of colors by the talented Dan Kemp as it really added to immersion I felt while flipping through the pages of this story. I especially enjoyed the depiction of the battle inside the nunnery and the detail given to our heroes darkest hour. I especially hope that I will find more of Quesada’s work in future issues of what I read.
Ultimately, your enjoyment of this run will depend on if you’ve ever been in a situation where you are being given advice on all sides and genuinely have not had a clue which way to go. To an outsider, it was apparent rather quickly that there was no Heaven vs Hell war in this comic, but when it’s happening to Daredevil, he is given so much conflicting information that he doesn’t know what to believe. It even leads him to hurting someone he cares about very much; something he wouldn’t have done in any other circumstance.
I’ve been there. I once had an untimely train be the difference between taking bad advice and sound reasoning, despite how obvious it may have looked from the outside. It took a nudge by something completely trivial to get me to see the light. So I get it, and that’s why I love this comic; my ability to relate.