Drew: Superhero comics are great at exaggeration. Everything is a matter of life and death, good vs. evil. It makes for exciting stories, but it also has the power to make anything less extreme seem dull by comparison. Many titles deal with this issue by avoiding it altogether, minimizing any time the heroes spend outside of their costume to brief interruptions in the otherwise endless stream of fights and explosions. Mark Waid’s run on Daredevil has always found a much more even balance between his life in and out of the costume, but issue 24 goes a step further, presenting the superhero action as brief interruptions in an otherwise normal life.
Matt is going a little stir-crazy keeping Foggy company in the hospital, so Foggy sends him out to make amends with Kirsten. Turns out, Kirsten has already moved on, and Matt’s awkward apology is actually interrupting a date. She ends up doing most of the talking, which has the unfortunate consequence of making Matt fall for her all over again. Trying to clear his head, Matt checks in with Hank Pym, who ends up accurately diagnosing Foggy via phone. Back at the office, Matt is overwhelmed by the mountain of work that has piled up in his and Foggy’s absence. Also, a crate full of Daredevil-ified attack dogs has just been delivered to the office. Matt incapacitates them with the fire alarm, but it reemphasizes the question: who’s behind all of this? The answer may come via one of the botched Daredevil recreations we saw from last issue, who shows up at Foggy’s hospital room to help.
We actually get some hint of who might be pulling the strings in the issue’s opening scene, were we only see the culprit in some kind of Iron Maiden/Sarcophagus thing, struggling to talk. I’ll admit that I don’t know my Daredevil villains, but the way they’ve arranged the pictures seems like a pretty big hint to me.
Now granted, whoever it behind this is gunning for Daredevil, so crosshairs might be appropriate for anyone, but I can’t help but see this as a clue to the villain’s identity: Bullseye. Sure, he’s supposed to be dead, but that might just explain the whole “relegated to a coffin, struggling to speak” thing. The fact that this entire volume of Daredevil has been building to this conflict certainly feels appropriate for the return of a dead villain, which makes this feel right.
My conjectures aside, the thing I loved most about this issue was how focused we were on Matt’s day-to-day life. He visits his friend in the hospital, has an awkward conversation with an ex, and is overwhelmed by the volume of work at his job. Sure, he’s also attacked by crazed, radioactive dogs, but that really feels like superheroics interrupting normal life, rather than the other way around. That emphasis on reality works to sell the seriousness of Foggy’s diagnosis. A 10% chance of survival is terrifying in real life, but we’re used to heroes staring down much scarier odds (hell, in Empire alone, Han faces odds of 725 to one and 3,720 to one and survives both), so its important that Waid stress the reality of the situation.
Waid draws our attention to this towards the end of the issue, as Foggy and Matt discuss bravery.
That “you’re much braver than me” speech has the danger of being a little trite, but it really works here to highlight the scariness of Foggy’s situation. He’s not afraid of rampaging Daredevil knock-offs or Stilt-Man, he’s afraid that his own body might be failing him — it’s a much more relatable, but also much more abstract fear. To me, this scene is really the heart of this issue, asking us just what it means to be brave.
The reality of the situation takes on a different life in light of the research Waid did to bring it across. In the letters section, Editor Stephen Wacker thanks Giants linebacker Mark Herzlich for agreeing to “appear” in the issue as a famous case of the same cancer Foggy is diagnosed with. It’s a small detail, but in tying Foggy’s illness to an actual cancer survival story, it picks up the ballast of the reality, making for a much more effective scene.
With that, I’d like to turn things over to guest writer David “The Mast” Masters, who is a big Daredevil fan. David, I’m curious if you were as pleased with this light-on-action issue as I was. I can see why it might make for a less exciting issue, but I thought it was an effective choice, given the subject material. What did you think? Also, can you shed any more light onto just who might be inside that sarcophagus?
David: I really cannot find fault with anything Mark Waid is doing with Daredevil/Matt Murdock as a character or a comic book. Truly. Light-on-action doesn’t necessarily mean it lacks density or impact, and I think you hit the nail on the head with your points. A lot of people seem to be frustrated that this isn’t the Daredevil Bendis writes. Before that, people were annoyed that it wasn’t ever the Daredevil that Miller wrote. It really is a case of being damned either way, for Waid. I fall on the side of thinking he is one of the best writers to ever touch the character. Waid is doing a great job of something Miller did, which ended up elevating the character from a “poor man’s Spider-Man,” to a beloved cult character. What he’s doing is taking Matt out of the costume and showing you the human machinery beneath the cloth. He’s showing you that these are not two different elements, secret identity or not.
It’s not as though superheroes work in an office and they can leave their work at work. Matt is finding it very hard to be Daredevil and juggle the stomach-churning grief of finding out that this is an opponent he can’t beat. With Bullseye, there’s always the chance he can stop him. He can fight him, he can outwit him. What can his billy club, peak martial arts ability or intellect do against cancer? That’s what adds gravity to the whole story, really. It’s the idea that no matter what Matt does, he is at the mercy (As is Foggy, more importantly), of something outside his hands.
After the events of Shadowland, arguably the largest missed opportunity in recent memory (I was not a fan outside of the first issue), he has been living a life of false happiness. Waid has built him up and this issue, like all before it, pays off greatly. You get the feeling that the false happiness may have been turning into something real, but the veneer of contentment is slipping. First there was somewhat of a false flag with Coyote, and now we encounter someone and something that may truly drive Matt over the edge.
As someone so invested in the character, it turns my stomach to see Matt enduring everything that Waid is putting him through, which should please fans, theoretically. Lots of people didn’t like what they referred to as a return to the more swashbuckling type of Daredevil. I never saw it as that. It’s especially coming out in these last few issues that he has been lying to himself. Though there has always been an element to Daredevil that makes you feel he could tip over the edge in a really bad way, I feel like Waid (This issue especially) has a grand opportunity to do the darkest, blackest story ever.
The pacing on this issue was fantastic, as it always is. One thing I will say is that I miss the art style of Rivera/Martin. Not that I dislike Samnee, because I adore his work. It’s just that I miss the little parts where there’d be weird panels depicting his senses and such. There’s that amazing part in #1 where they’re crossing the street. A gigantic double-page spread in which it shows you all the various types of things Matt’s sense home in on. I miss that, but Samnee does an incredible job telling a visual story in perfect harmony with Waid. There’s a solidity to the artwork. It almost reminds me of how Romita took over from Ditko on Spidey. Slowly, Samnee began imitating Rivera/Martin so that the transition was seamless for readers (Which it was), and then he slowly made it his own. It’s not Rivera or Martin, but I can’t think of many better suited people as of right now. It fits the story, too. Particularly the scenes of Daredevil in motion here, and throughout other issues. Maleev does amazing work on Daredevil, but it wouldn’t fit what Waid is doing presently.
I’m in total agreement with you on how them including professional, real-world athletes gives the story a grounded and honest feel. It was exceptional of them to include such a helpful detail. Of course, the big catch here is all leading up to who is behind all this and why. I think we all know it’s going to be Bullseye. I wish it wasn’t so obvious, because my favourite character returning out of the blue would’ve been absolutely incredible, but I’ll be glad anyway. My one issue with this is that Bullseye was never this methodical. He was always more of a, wind-me-up-and-let-me-go type villain. By no means dumb, but he loved killing. He was always the weapon, never the shooter. So, that’s what makes me feel this may not be him. All signs point to it being him, though. Maybe the reasoning is that he is in no condition to fight yet, so he has to weaken Matt before coming out and laying his cards (No pun intended) on the table. Though, didn’t we see that in Born Again? He clearly has someone working with him, too. Lady Bullseye is my guess. We’ll have to wait and see.
All in all, it’s just another pin-point, fantastic issue of Daredevil. Waid does an absolutely phenomenal job of portraying Matt perfectly. He’s a man who wishes to do all the good in the world, but has never really had a true enough grip on his own life, and those involved in it, to avoid causing damage. It’s a thin line, but if Matt is as beloved a character to you as he is to me, you should be digging this. I find myself hanging on the end of every page and every issue. I can say that about maybe three other comics. It’s a magnificent series worth every bit of praise it’s getting, and this issue was just packed with development and on-point characterisation amongst great story-telling.
“David ‘The Mast’ Masters has been infatuated with comic books since he picked up Daredevil #187 at six years old and hasn’t looked back since. As well as Daredevil, David has a soft sport for Batman, Ms./Captain Marvel, Cassandra Cain, The Silver Surfer and Ghost Rider (Dan Ketch). Surprisingly, he is also the world’s biggest Hazmat fan (Self-Proclaimed). He has an almost violent love for Saga to the point that he will bludgeon people with copies of it until they are read. He considers Prince to be holy and listens to everything from Swedish death metal to Korean pop. Outside of comics, the San Jose Sharks, the Miami Dolphins are his most adored sports teams and one day he will write a comic book about Logan Couture being the child of Zack Braff and Ryan Reynolds.”
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