Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing Daredevil 26, originally released May 22nd, 2013.
Patrick: Did you guys see Mad Men last week — “The Crash?” It was a purposefully incoherent mess, all revolving around Don Draper’s drugged-out experience of a long weekend at work. This has come to be something of a Mad Men staple — there’s one just about every year that tests the bounds of what is and is not happening (last season’s “Far Away Places,” season 3’s “The Fog” are both good examples). They’re meandering looks at the characters and their values through the lens of whatever drug they happen to be on, and as such they’re fascinating pieces of television, if difficult to invest in emotionally. “The Crash” sidestepped this problem with a character named Grandma Ida. Grandma Ida is an older black woman who breaks into a bunch of apartments in Don’s building, including his own. Don and Megan are both out for the night, so the kids (Sally, Bobby and Gene) are left to confront the intruder alone. Per her moniker, Grandma Ida claims to be Sally’s grandmother — something Sally knows to be impossible because, well, Sally’s not black. But the charade goes on just a little bit too long and suddenly the invasion feels deeply personal. Sally’s trust — no matter how temporary or misplaced it may be — is violated. And that’s much more horrifying than a simple home robbery: the thought that any time you let someone in, you’re inviting betrayal and danger. Issue 26 of Daredevil hits that same button repeatedly until Matt Murdock and the reader are completely unwound. It’s a heart-in-your-throat masterpiece that finally puts the nickname “The Man Without Fear” to the test.
The issue opens on Matt, beaten and bloody from his encounter with Ikari. Worse than his wounds, Matt’s suffering from shattered confidence as Ikari’s words “I will kill you” echo in his head. The attack, Matt assumes, could come from anyone at any time. And Ikari does send agents out to do his bidding: the first of which poses as a candidate to fill in for Foggy while he’s recovering from his cancer. Matt snaps into hyper-vigilant mode, grilling the candidate with questions and checking his heart-rate and all that Daredevily stuff he’s trained to do. At almost the precise moment Matt decides he’s letting his paranoia get the better of him, the candidate reveals himself to be an agent of Ikari and then disappears. That colors all of Matt’s encounters for the rest of the day as the travels to the hospital (by running the subway tunnels) and visits Foggy (punching the nurse he doesn’t recognize). In every instance, Matt doubts his suspicions moments before they’re confirmed. Strained to his breaking point, Daredevil gets a little deductive-reasoning help from Foggy Nelson and Hank Pym (of the non-murdered-by-Wolverine variety) and determines that Bullseye is behind all of this. Bonus points: they also know where he is. Daredevil wastes no time in going straight to his location, ably knocks out Lady Bullseye, and confronts the Sarcophagus Bullseye. But look out Matt, you’re not alone!
I can’t recall exactly how long ago we had determined that a revived Bullseye was behind all of this, but our comic-sleuthing has done nothing to lessen the impact of this issue. As a mobile, active adversary, Bullseye was a physical danger for Daredevil, which is fine — we need to have villains that can best our heroes one-on-one. But this is a new kind of Bullseye, one with an eye for strategy and who places a premium on destroying his opponent psychologically. The last two years have seen the attacks on Daredevil becoming increasing personal and the revelation that this has been intentionally orchestrated is even more impactful than the reveal of who’s pulling the strings. Whatever Bullseye used to be, his new M.O. is attacking our hero on the psychological plane, which is where Matt’s put most of his defenses of late. The whole forcing-a-positive-outlook thing is Matt’s psychological armor, and Bullseye has dismantled it almost entirely.
Part of the reason it’s so effective in this issue is that every time Matt’s temporary trust is violated, we’re right there with him, feeling equally violated. Take the first example — the dude that comes to the office for the interview. He is presumably unarmed and poses no threat to Daredevil. Logically, there’s no way this guy would be an agent of Ikari, and the suspension of disbelief required to reconcile that fact is disarming. But that’s the world that Waid as created for Daredevil to occupy — one where his every paranoid suspicion is valid. I don’t expect to see four more effective panels this year than the beat wherein the “lawyer” reveals himself.
The way Chris Samnee uses the closing door to represent Matt’s dwindling opportunity to confront this guy is just incredible. And the toothy, calculated grin on his face his about as haunting as you could ask for. It’s like the character and the creative team know just how hard we (you, me, Daredevil) fell for it. Also, I love the lettering choice that Joe Caramagna makes in that second panel: the balloon is partially obscured. It’s almost a “did I hear that right?” moment. It’s an amazing hectic way to portray that dialogue.
Samnee’s art throughout is stellar. Every action sequence is impeccably staged and the quiet moments are all serene and thoughtful (or tense as shit, depending). I love how well Daredevil’s powers of perception are conveyed throughout, but in the final scene there are panels that have both the heart-rate monitor lines and radar-sense-vision. It shows Matt using every tool in his arsenal. This particular pair of panels is awesome — notice how the first gives us the additional information that there’s a third person in the room (we had not yet seen that Bullseye was there) AND that Matt’s heart-rate is so nutso.
Drew, I’m going to pass it off to you to discuss the back-up, which is produced by the exact same creative team (who does that?). The difference in tone between these two stories couldn’t be much bigger, but they do seem to be unified with the kind of emotional honesty that has become a hallmark of this series. Is there a more concrete reason for running these stories together? MORE TRIVIAL QUESTION: Is that really Iron Man or is Tony telecommuting from space?
Drew: Oh, who cares? In spite of Tony’s constant assertion that he is Iron Man, those kids just wanted to see the damn suit. Sorry, I’m getting ahead of myself. The backup follows Foggy, who’s been recruited as the opening act, of sorts, for a kind of superhero day his doctor has set up in the children’s cancer ward. Iron Man is on the way, but Foggy needs to vamp for time until he arrives. Fortunately, the kids are already occupied with crafting a darling comic book for Iron Man, which features the Avengers fighting a monstrous cancer stand-in. Foggy worries that the kids may have some unreasonable expectations for Iron Man’s visit, and takes it upon himself to tell them that the Avengers can’t cure cancer. Their response?
The doctor explains that what gives his patients comfort doesn’t need to make sense, it just needs to give them the strength to fight back. It’s a paean to comics, but a relatively humble one — less “comics can cure cancer!” and more “escaping reality can be important.” Even so, it might have felt like back-patting if it weren’t for Foggy’s take-away. When asked if he understands why the kids fantasies help them, Foggy responds:
Patrick’s right to cite the tone here being radically different from the series at large — at least recently — and that it still somehow manages to fit perfectly within the series, but I do see the inclusion of this backup as a bit more significant. When Foggy asks Matt just why the hell he’s so scared all of the sudden, Matt explains that it’s because he knows Foggy needs him. Normally, danger doesn’t matter, but right now, Matt needs to be there for Foggy. Sure enough, the backup confirms that Matt is a source of strength for Foggy. Perhaps more importantly, Foggy’s faith that Matt can beat anything is a source of strength. I’m not entirely sure what happens when you challenge that faith, but Waid has me on the edge of my seat.
“Edge of my seat”? Is it possible that Ikari will fall Matt in the next issue? Probably not, but I do think it’s possible that he might capture him for a while — possibly a long while — and I’m not sure what that will do to Foggy. Don’t get me wrong — I know Foggy is stubborn as shit, but I have no idea what lengths Bullseye will go to to convince the world Daredevil is dead (especially if living through his friends reactions is going to hurt Matt). Could Bullseye hamstring Foggy’s faith enough to kill him? Again, probably not, but he might be able to exacerbate Foggy and Matt’s only half-resolved trust issues.
Wow. This issue was so effective at making me second guess myself, I managed to keep doing it right off the final page and into whatever that last paragraph was. Sorry. Like Patrick said, the pacing here is taught like a drum, and Samnee keeps the action incredibly claustrophobic — the only splash is the first image Patrick included…which comes at the end of the issue. It’s a relentless, front-to-back thriller, and the pages crackle with frenetic terror. My favorite sequence is where Matt runs furiously from his office to Foggy’s bedside — it feels like the middle part of North by Northwest. At no point is he in control, and we feel that in every panel. I love it so much, I’m just going to include the first two pages (ignore the words, just look at how expertly Samnee conveys Matt’s complete lack of control).
Matt just gets increasingly desperate until he jumps onto ACTIVE SUBWAY TRACKS. (City living rule #1: Don’t do that). Ikari watching the proceedings coolly from a distant roof just underlines how out of Matt’s hands this situation is.
So does bringing the fight to Bullseye even the odds? I thought so, until that last panel made it clear Ikari still had the drop on him. At least Matt’s done running. His fear made for a thrilling issue, but for Foggy’s sake, I hope we’ve just seen Matt overcome it. Now it’s just a matter of beating the guy who handed Matt’s ass to him last issue. That shouldn’t be hard, right?
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?