When Daredevil jolted back to life in 2011 under the pen of Mark Waid, the series climbed out of a pit of cobwebs and into a bright, vibrant landscape which sought to put some fun back into Matt Murdock’s life. And, as should always be the case when a comic becomes about fun rather than woe, people responded to it in dazzling numbers, championing a book which finally decided to try something different.
Waid didn’t turn Daredevil into a Disney fantasy filled with kittens made out of clouds who rain candy, though – he simply equalised things out. He erased the despair one-upmanship which had defined the series, and did his best to turn his lead into a more balanced, fair-minded character. After 25 issues, however, the surprise of a fun Daredevil has died down, and quietly become status quo. So with the selling point of the series now settled into the background, what does Waid have next for readers?
Issue #25 delivers another shock to the system for Matt Murdock – but this time as he’s comprehensively outmanoeuvred by an enemy and left beaten and scared. The man without fear suddenly has something to be scared about! Which, sure, is something we’ve seen in the past. 25 issues into this run, however, it’s an unexpected moment which reminds the reader that it’s perfectly possible to twist the knife somewhat and still keep the mood up. In order to get us to this point, though, Waid is tasked with the difficult job of deftly hiding an obvious surprise so readers don’t spring the trap before Daredevil’s opponent does.
He manages it, just about, although he has to pull a fair few tricks on the reader in order to keep their attention elsewhere. The final reveal falls into place neatly, perhaps not offering a major feeling of surprise and illusion for readers, but offering just enough of a flick of the wrist in order to make the ending fall into place. When Daredevil started this new run, all focus was on the artwork and the character, rather than just how much craft Waid puts into each page of his script – now that we’re all JUST starting to take Chris Samnee’s wonderful work here for granted, he delivers an issue which showcases off Samnee’s talent front-and-centre.
Having already shown off his ability as storyteller, artist, and collaborator, this issue sees Chris Samnee experiment wildly with his page breakdowns. Not content to break each page into a series of panels, on a number of occasions here he utilises the gutters as part of a page, creating black spaces between punches in a fight scene to bring a sense of momentum to the beating. He breaks some of his bigger panels apart, cutting around a large image of Daredevil’s head in order to showcase how the ears, brain, nose and mouth are all sensing the atmosphere simultaneously.
And he’s backed by yet more startlingly vivid colours from Javier Rodriguez, who once more proves himself to be the heart of this book. His work emphasises bright shocking colour – but he swamps it with pitch blackness, offering the reader flashes of blindness amongst a sensory overload.
It’s business as usual, then. Daredevil hasn’t had as much attention this year as it did during it’s first, but that’s for a fairly clear reason – it’s utterly rock-solid. Reviewers get bored of saying “yep, still great” every month, which is why books like Fatale and Daredevil tend to experience a little critical fatigue the longer they go on. I’d argue that Daredevil does suffer a little from being so dependable – with readers already aware of what kind of experience they’re in for when they pick up an issue, there’s little sense of recklessness at stake here. With a comic which rolls from being good-to-great, there are more errors and slips in the work, and that can make for a more entertaining read than something which never puts a foot wrong.
The Empire Strikes Back is the best Star Wars film, but it also has some glaring mistakes in it. There’s fun and excitement in not knowing if something might collapse in on itself on the next page. If a creative work never appears to make any big mistakes in execution, then it can be very easy indeed to take it for granted and forget the work that goes into it.
But, I mean, let’s not get lost in it, guys. Every issue of Daredevil I’ve read has been a darned reliable comic, written sharply by Waid and with stunning creative work from Samnee, Rodriguez, and lettering from the irreplaceable Joe Caramagna. Take any one of those talents out of the series and you may start to see a more erratic quality come into the series. – but isn’t it nice that there’s at least one superhero book which you can rely on? Rather than getting bored at seeing high quality on a regular basis, this is a book we should continue to champion, even 25 issues in.