Daredevil 23

daredevil 23Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing Daredevil 23, originally released February 20th, 2013.

Patrick: We write a lot of these Alternating Currents — enough that I am often writing one of these things when I should be doing something else. I can’t count the number of times my girlfriend has asked me when we’re going to be able to leave to do something, only to have me respond that I need another 15 minutes. Decoded, I need like half an hour, maybe more — it always takes more time than I think it’s going to. It’s shitty to keep someone waiting — and it’s even shittier when you know they need you. Foggy Nelson legitimately needs Matt Murdock, but Daredevil is always one step away from solving the case. As the clock on the page tells later and later times, I found myself  saying “oh, I can see how this is frustrating.”

Still sorta reeling from the “I have cancer” bomb Foggy dropped at the end of last issue, Matt decides to show his friend a good time by taking him out on the town. But as Daredevil. Hey, going out in New York City is fun, but can it ever be as fun as flipping around it from a pair of wacky Daredevil clubs? Matt’s gotta cut their superhero-fantasy-camp date short to subdue some bad guys that mysteriously seem to have his exact same power set and disabilities as Daredevil . In fact, we saw in the introduction that evil dudes had some kind of warped assembly line that routinely subjected test subjects to the accident that birthed the Daredevil. Anyway, Matt sends Foggy home and burns off the rest of the night apprehending as many of these knock-off Daredevils as he can. But the clock is ticking: Foggy’s got an appointment with his oncologist tomorrow and Matt ABSOLUTELY NEEDS TO BE THERE for moral support.

Because this the new, cheerier Daredevil, Matt makes it on time — just a little rough around the edges. But because even this bright, fluffy Daredevil has teeth, Foggy’s diagnosis is not good. How not good? The scene plays out virtually silently, only the doctors’ impotent “I’m sorry” manages to pierce the silence. And then the issue ends on a small black panel.

Doctor has bad news for Foggy and Matt Murdock

It’s also just marvelous to trace Matt’s hand in this sequence — it goes to Foggy’s shoulder, drawing his attention all the way back to his friend’s face. But then Foggy breaks eye contact, tears preparing to spill over, but Matt’s hand remains in place. It’s subtly acted and remarkably well staged for such a simple series of movements. Even without words, it becomes Chris Samnee’s cleanest storytelling in the issue.

Christ, that’s bumming me out. Let’s move on to weirder things: like that small army of Daredevil wannabes. There’s a goofy nugget at the heart of a lot of Marvel superhero origins: 90% of these heroes are created by accident. Oops, I was bitten by a radioactive spider, guess I can stick to walls. Oops, I took too much gamma radiation, guess I can throw tanks. Oops, I was blinded with toxic waste, guess I have radar sense. The accidental nature of all these origin stories kind of assures us that we don’t have to endure armies of Hulks and Spider-men — as long as there’s some kind of X-factor, the conditions of the accident are impossible to recreate. Hilariously, the bad guys in Daredevil 23 try their damnedest to literally recreate Matt Murdock’s original trauma: complete with a blind man and a truck full of chemicals on what appears to be a backlot that looks like a NYC street.

later, at the daredevil factory

Mark Waid matches this action with voiceover of Matt recalling the original accident. All of this plays like it is just a flashback until the bizarre curtain is pulled back and we can that some shady organization has made an industry of subjecting prisoners to the exact same scenario in hopes that they too will become Men Without Fear. It’s a warped kind of logic — that maybe something other than just the application of chemicals to the eyes could have caused this condition. I mean, someone on that team saw the role of the bind man as vitally important (couldn’t use a toddler on a tricycle, for example). It’s just goofy enough to be charming.

Hey, you know what else I like? I like it when Matt’s blindness is, in itself a sort of superpower. The bad guys might be shooting for the radar sense, but it’s neat how frequently Matt’s inability to see proves to be an asset. When Daredevil takes Foggy out for a joyride on his sky-hook-things, they stop by Daredevil’s favorite vantage point in the city. It’s high up, and dangerous as fuck, but Matt explains “I am utterly and totally relaxed and probably for one simple reason: I can’t look down.” I always assumed that Daredevil was the Man Without Fear because he moves so boldly through a world he has a hard time perceiving. But this suggests that Matt is somehow capable of overcoming his fears because he can’t see how scary it is. Which is another charming, if sorta silly idea. That’s not the whole story though: Matt’s become the usually-shining beacon of optimism that only breaks under the worst pressure (that damn Coyote), and that ability to block out all but what is immediately in front of him lets him be exactly the kind of friend Foggy needs. He provides a distraction when he needs a distraction, a hero when he needs a hero, and a gentle, understanding touch when Foggy needs that.

Drew, it looks like we’re going to be dealing with these second-rate DDs for a little while, and unraveling the mystery of where they came from, but I’m mostly moved by Foggy’s illness. I want to see Matt being a good friend and helping Foggy through this — it’s exactly the kind of redemption the character needs at this point. I understand we have to flip around and fight crime a little bit while that’s going on, but it just seems like such a compelling story by itself.  Drew: Bad guys trying to create their own, evil versions of their arch nemeses is a pretty common storyline in comics. It’s how Miles Morales became the new Spider-Man in the Ultimate Universe, and just this week we saw Zola has his own band of Captain America knock-offs. It makes sense — why not fight fire with fire? — but I’ve definitely never seen anyone to go to such lengths to recreate the psychological conditions of a hero’s origin. Patrick calls it goofy, but I think it’s downright unsettling.

First off, it implies a familiarity with Daredevil’s origin that villains don’t always have. I suppose Matt Murdock’s childhood accident would be a matter of public record, and it wouldn’t take a genius to assume that the episode with the toxic waste might have been what gave him his abilities. What’s weird is that they’re going to such lengths to make the scene look the same, as if that were the only thing that mattered. That is, I assume the purpose of recreating the specifics of that scene would be that they might affect the psychology of the person in Matt’s shoes. Obviously, the experience of being a normal kid who saves a person and is accidentally splashed with chemicals is a world away from being a prisoner forced to pretend to do those things. It oddly fetishizes Matt’s experience while completely ignoring it, suggesting that a total sociopath might be behind the scenes here.

I suppose the weirdest thing, though, is that it works — and not just once. There’s six of these guys terrorizing a dinner party, and they all seem to have Matt’s heightened senses.

You know what Daredevil needs now? A radar sense for radar sense.

I really loved the idea of Matt having to fight somebody with his same abilities. Ultimately, it doesn’t throw him for much of a loop (he’s been doing this a long time, and these guys are all overwhelmed by their enhanced senses), but it was fun to see him struggle because these guys have his radar sense.

Early in the issue, Matt suggests that the villains he’s faced since he returned to New York may all be working for the same mystery man. I don’t know enough about Daredevil’s rogues gallery to start guessing, but it’s an exciting prospect that all of these adventures might be somehow connected. Moreover, battling some of these villains has taken Matt to his limits — the thought that there’s a bigger bad (one with resources to develop their own Daredevils or bankroll a host of other villains) is genuinely scary.

Matt only mentions his troubles to distract Foggy from his impending diagnosis, in what I find to be a very moving bit of psychology. Foggy is absolutely terrified of everywhere Matt takes him, but he needs the distraction from what he’s really afraid of. Perching on the sides of skyscrapers is both more viscerally terrifying and more thrilling than bad news from the doctor could ever be. In spite of it all, the issue ends on a decidedly down note, to such a degree that I can’t help but feel Foggy (or Matt’s) subjectivity creeping in. “I’m sorry” is a surprisingly editorialized way of delivering any news, and in this case, comes with an air of finality. You know when your doctor is apologizing rather than talking solutions, the news must really be bad.

I have to say, though, that my read of the ticking clock is a little different from yours, Patrick. Sure, Waid fakes us out with that text message at the end, but that sequence isn’t really about the risk of Matt being late. Take a look at the times on the watch faces — the sequence is much more about how Foggy is staying up all night, worried sick about his diagnosis. Whether or not Matt arrives on time to the appointment is kind of besides the point — he wasn’t there when Foggy really needed someone to keep him from worrying. Foggy and Matt may have reconciled at the end of the last issue, but Matt’s responsibilities are already putting a strain on their relationship. In the end, it seems like both Matt and Foggy are left with huge problems they may not be able to solve, which means they may not be able to be there for each other. That’s an especially down note, so let’s bring our New Matt Murdock positivity to the comments, huh?

For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page.  Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore.  If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there.  There’s no need to pirate, right?

5 comments on “Daredevil 23

  1. Yeah, maybe I was projecting a little with the ticking clock. I think both can be true though – as you point out, it’s a long night for both of them. It’s too bad they don’t have eacother for support at that time, that’s all I’m saying.

  2. Hey, between Coyote’s headless slaves and prisoners being thrown in front of toxic waste trucks, there’s an awful lot of human trafficking going on in Daredevil, huh? Is that a new development? Or do those sorts of issues pop up in his stories for some reason?

  3. So, those HAZMAT guys cleaning up in the image Patrick posted sure do look like AIM types. Is that just because AIM agents are essentially wearing HAZMAT suits, or do we think there might be a connection?

    • Oh, you know, I hadn’t made the connection between those dudes and AIM. You’re right they do look like they could be, but that’s probably just a function of those uniforms looking like guys in HAZMAT suits. I’d guess these guys are not super-crime.

  4. Pingback: Daredevil 25 | Retcon Punch

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