Today, Patrick and Ethan are discussing Daredevil 29, originally released July 31st, 2013.
Patrick: White supremacists are the worst. Don’t try arguing otherwise, ETHAN! They’re represented here by the Sons of the Serpent, a group that tempers their problematic world-view with some good old fashioned supervillainy. This way they feel a little more at home in the Marvel Universe. Just like you can’t have too many straight-up gangsters in Batman before one of them starts to affect a Penguin’s quack or whatever. But there’s one detail about this group that I can’t decide whether in lends credence to their real-worldness or their comic-bookiness: they have infiltrated government organizations at high levels of authority. Hey, either way: Daredevil’s going to have to kick ’em in the face.
Matt Murdock had just been shot in the head at point-blank rage. OR HAD HE!? No, obviously, he had not – he’s Daredevil, man. Instead, Matt pieces the following together very quickly: the Sons of the Serpent have infiltrated this courtroom (if not the whole legal system) and are executing his client. Matt tries to call them out on it, but the police that arrive on the scene immediately believe the “Judge’s” version of the events: that a mad gunman rushed in, shot Nate and bailed. After a little scufflin’ around the Courthouse, the Judge also drops a gun in the hands of one of the attending EMTs — who just so happens to be black — and pins it all on him. Matt, now in his Daredeviliest threads, tries to protect the accused EMT, but his efforts are complicated by some radar-jamming, which is effecting both his radar sense and all other forms of communication in to and out of the Courthouse. Daredevil and his new friend trace the jamming back to A BOMB.
Unable to disarm the thing, Matt smashes the radar jammer and, working with his new EMT buddy, clears the Courthouse so there are no casualties.
Matt deduces that the Serpents intended murder Nate — and cover it up — so he would never be able to tell anyone about the radio/radar jamming equipment that he helped them develop. At least, I think that’s what’s going on. The Sons of the Serpents are such excellent lairs throughout that their motivations beyond “frame the black kid” are tricky to discern. Even when we take a step back to consider that their plan included this bomb as a sort of smokescreen for the assassination, there’s the huge lingering question of what they’re planning on using the jamming technology for. But Matt takes on the crusade against the Serpents for much more personal reasons: he doesn’t like seeing his legal system infiltrated. Between that, and the intended target being a “friend” of Matt’s from childhood, Daredevil’s starting to take this whole thing personally. That might sound crazy, but that sort of thing isn’t without precedent: the last mega-story arc in this series dealt with increasingly personal attacks against Matt Murdock at the hands of Bullseye. So there’s a hint of the oddly familiar as Matt slowly discovers that every authority figure he appeals to has been replaced with Serpent.
I was struck by how alone this made Daredevil seem in this issue. He’s never really been a team player, but the man clearly has friends. Whether Foggy or Spider-Man or just his old stable of villains, Daredevil seldom needs to go it alone. Hell – it’s precisely this not-aloneness that made the last arc so moving. Who isn’t stirred to excitement at the site of the Avengers coming to Daredevils aid one-by-one? But that is pointedly not the case here and Daredevil has to scrounge his allies up from where ever he can find them: an honest cop here, a scared EMT here. And those people that should be on his side — like the Judge or the rest of the cops — turn out to be the most despicable people in the room. That means that Daredevil ends up spending as much time running from the cops as he does trying to do the right thing.
Javier Rodriguez returns for penciling duties on this issue, and he continues to nail the simple, graphic style that Samnee all but perfected on the last year in the series. One thing that I sorta miss is Samnee’s gleeful depictions of the way Matt perceives the world. I count three panels of radar sense in this issue: one pretty neat one on the first page, one to check Nate’s vitals and one several pages later, just to show us some cops from Daredevil’s point of view. There is some kind of device mussing up his radar, so that’s a half-explanation for this omission, but I think Rodriguez rightly assessed that this story arc has less to do with how Matt perceives the world and more to do with how the world perceives Matt. Mark Waid even has Matt acknowledge in his voice over that part of the reason he put on the Daredevil costume is that people respond to him differently. This makes Rodriguez’ depiction of what Daredevil is doing that much more interesting. Even from page one, we see those priorities laid out: one small panel on radar sense, one GIANT panel of Matt kicking a dude in the face while also tripping him.
Plus: what a great kick.
Ethan, I take it back – you can argue whatever you want with me. You want to come to the defense of the Sons of the Serpent: that’s fine by me. Or (as is probably more likely) you want to speculate as to who showed up at the end of the issue to ask for Foggy’s job? The “NEXT:” title promises the Silver Surfer, but I don’t think you can serve as “Herald of Galactus” on a parttime basis. Unless Galactus is trying to cut down on labor costs, then he can get everyone down to below 27 hours a week and not have to offer healthcare or PTO. Your thoughts?
Ethan: I’m gonna have to actually go with your original, challenging hypothesis and agree that white supremacists are, in fact, the worst. Not only are their bigoted ideologies horrible and indefensible all on their own, but their goofy outfits really seal the deal. I mean, look at those Sons of the Serpent jokers from the previous issue:
In a world of a people known for white uniforms featuring poorly cut eye-holes, the Serpents EVEN FORGOT THE EYE-HOLES. Yeesh.
Despite the lack of intelligence evidenced by their life choices AND their wardrobe choices, the Sons of the Serpent actually made Daredevil sweat a bit in this issue. That caught me a bit off-guard, honestly. While his sharp mind is often one of his primary tools, we’ve most recently seen him diving around in some spectacularly acrobatic scenes in his fight against Bullseye, Ikari, and Lady Bullseye. The combination of a radar jammer, two hostages, and a bomb in a public building mean that Daredevil can’t rely on his martial arts skills for much other than self-preservation this time; it’s his ability to adapt quickly to the changing environment that allows him to keep everyone alive. So many stories in comic books have to do with pitting superpowered heroes against superpowered villains that it’s easy to fall back on a flashy slug-fest and watch the sparks fly.
But even bombs and radar jammers aren’t that hard to find in this genre; I was most impressed by the way that Waid managed to keep the tension high in this one through the malicious misdirection of the authorities. I think Matt sums it all up quite nicely in the second panel here:
Sometimes the conventional authorities get in the hero’s way and get pigeon-holed as a little bumbling next to the awesome abilities and intel that the protagonists bring to bear, but they usually don’t flat-out lie to protect murderers. I liked the mirroring between Matt’s and the reader’s own unpleasant surprise at finding out just how far the Serpents have infiltrated the ranks of the people who are supposed to be keeping everyone safe. Right after Matt is escorted out of the room, we get a scene of an officer attempting to smother Nate while he’s still lying unconscious on a gurney. Not only did the Serpents plan a murder AND a bomb in the basement of a courthouse to confuse the crime-scene, they also apparently have people EVERYWHERE. As Daredevil pins one of the conspirators, a group of officers come running around the corner. Great chance for the hero to hand off his captive to the good guys, right? Well, only in a manner of speaking, this time.
Aside from Matt’s workout trying to stay one step ahead of the omnipresent Serpents, the other thing that caught my attention was the way Matt’s blindness came up in this issue. It never slows him down in combat, thanks to his radar-sense, but it in the wrong situation, it can actually be pretty limiting. Some of these limitations are big ones: when the real cops show up at the courthouse, he can’t credibly implicate the judge in the shooting, because someone who allegedly can’t see can’t claim to be an eyewitness. This part of his character does begin to stretch the imagination a smidge for me – everyone and their dog knows that Matt Murdock is Daredevil; Daredevil does a lot of really strenuous things that require some kind of spatial perception; ergo, Matt Murdock should be able to call it like he sees it, if you will.
In other settings, his actual blindness – not just other people’s perceptions of it – are problematic. Since he’s always whizzing around the rooftops, its easy to forget that there are some things that radar can’t pick up, like printed letters on a flat surface.
I don’t know why this detail struck me the way it did. I think it has to do with the stark contrast between the things that Daredevil takes for granted versus what I take for granted. For Daredevil, jumping over the railing of a several-story stairwell is a feasible method for arriving at the bottom floor in perfect health. For me, this exercise would be a bit messier. On the other hand, when I’m near some stairs or an elevator and I want to know what floor I’m on, the act of glancing around to find the signage is to some degree subconscious. For Daredevil, even though he just executed an insane fall – while holding another full-grown man under his arm – without so much as tweaking an ankle, just looking at the door and reading the sign that says “Basement” is something that’s beyond his reach. Matt’s got so much going for him in the gifts department — 360 degrees of situational awareness, finely honed close-combat skills, super-hunk abs — that it’s easy to forget his limitations.
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