Daredevil 31

Alternating Currents: Daredevil 31, Ethan and DrewToday, Ethan and Drew are discussing Daredevil 31, originally released September 18th, 2013. 

Ethan: The latest issue of Daredevil delivers a some shocking moments. A respected lawyer calls for blood in the streets after an unfavorable verdict, Daredevil pistol-whips a policeman, a swarm of ants controls the weather… and the final panel delivers a heart-dropping twist. To those of you who haven’t picked up this issue yet, here thar be Spoilers. Seriously, no joke, don’t read this if you plan to read this issue but haven’t gotten the chance yet. A revelation at the climax of issue has the potential to shake Matt Murdock — and we the readers — to his core.

At the hospital, Foggy delivers Daredevil t-shirts to his fellow cancer patients before a group therapy session he’s leading. Once everyone arrives, he shares his personal message of the pursuit of fearlessness in the face of adversity. Later, Matt stops by the hospital to visit Foggy, and Foggy lets slip that he was the one who suggested to Kirsten that she come work for Matt to help him stay on top of his law practice. Matt returns to the office in time to watch the judge deliver a not-guilty verdict to a defendant accused of following and shooting a young African-American teen who turned out to be an upstanding citizen. After the verdict is read, the lead prosecutor gives an exit interview, appearing to show the names and addresses of the jurors and call for the masses to find and attack the jurors at their homes. Just before the inflammatory message, Matt heard a sound and recognized that the voice of the prosecutor was replaced by an imitation — someone hijacked the live feed to incite a riot. Matt attempts to intervene and protect people against the rioters, but he can’t be everywhere at once, so he attempts to get a message requesting help to Thor by calling Thor’s teammate Hank Pym (Ant-Man). Thor isn’t available, but Hank sends a cloud of winged ants to seed the clouds over the city to trigger a torrential rainstorm, effectively disrupting the riot. Daredevil finds a lead pointing to the riot’s mastermind, but the lead is more of an invitation than a discovery — the instigator, John Powers (The Jester) clearly wants Daredevil to come to a specific address. Daredevil makes his way there and cautiously gains entry to the lightless, brownstone row-house at the address, where a noose holds a body hanging from the entryway ceiling fan.

We’ll get back to that body a little later. This title has the habit of packing more into each issue than I am able to fit into one industrial-sized suitcase, and Mark Waid and Chris Samnee manage to make it look like they’re just bringing a few shirts and a toothbrush. This one’s no exception. The first big hit we get is the trial — blatantly reminiscent of the Trayvon Martin case in the real world — and its aftermath. In just a page or two, the story taps the deep emotional well of that recent trial and gets us right where it wants us, soberly contemplating the pros and cons of our justice system, the ongoing history of race relations, and the Olympian power of every stray word granted by our mass media. And right in the middle of our ruminations, the grave prosecutor, voice of the deceased young man, drops this bomb:

Daredevil31_Jurors

I had to flip back and forth a few times to convince myself that I hadn’t misread something. With the metropolitan psyche so thoroughly parked in the slow-burning ire brought on by bigotry and the dissatisfactory judgement, this call to violence was a pile-driver. Frankly, while this issue does a great job in general, I don’t think it captures (or perhaps is capable of capturing in this format) the scale of civil unrest that could be sparked by such a declaration. You can only cram so many angry bodies into the real estate available on the page. I think part of what made this moment so disconcerting was the tension between how much we want to see evil punished, and how misdirected the hatred of the (faked) statement from the prosecutor was. Seeing someone literally get away with murder — and murder for the pettiest of reasons, a fear and intolerance of someone who is different — just makes my bones itch. But chances are most of us have gotten those letters from the courthouse calling us up to serve on a jury. The people who judge their peers aren’t the ones who pulled the trigger. It made the wonder what would be going through my head if I’d been a member of that crowd watching the streamed interview. So much anger buzzing around, so much frustration and helplessness, and then to hear the voice of the one you’d been listening to so closely for weeks deliver a message so extreme. Heavy stuff.

And then there’s the last page.

Daredevil31_Uhoh

Red hair, slight paunch, Daredevil t-shirt. Hospital-scrub pants, shuffly slippers hanging from unmoving feet. If that isn’t Foggy, I’ll be damned. I can only hope that there’s some kind of harness holding him up and that he’s been drugged. If he’s been killed with such gruesome disregard of his hope and fight to go on… I don’t know.

Drew, do you know? Do you know if Foggy is gone? Is this his body, the body of a look-alike, or just a cruel trick? If you had a pet ant, would you have named it Larry?

Drew: While I’d probably go with “Adam” or “Anthony” first, I think I’d ultimately have to defer to whether or not he looked like a Larry.

That certainly looks like Foggy dangling from the rafters, but I sincerely doubt that Foggy is dead. I’m reminded a bit of issue 28, which concluded with the suggestion that Matt had just been shot in the head — we know Waid isn’t going to kill his hero, but it’s still an exciting way to end an issue. I certainly feel like Foggy might be just as sacred, and while killing him would be an incredibly compelling motivator for Matt, I’m just not sure the Jester is worthy of that level of ire. More importantly, this issue demonstrates just how skilled the Jester is at forgery. It could be a drugged Foggy in a harness, or just some rando Jester popped a Daredevil shirt on.

Of course, Matt may not realize this right away, so the next issue may operate at least partially under the assumption that Foggy is dead, which kind of allows Waid to have his cake and eat it to. It’s kind of like getting to go to your own funeral — we’ll get to see how Matt reacts to Foggy’s death without anybody actually dying.

Enough conjecture! There’s enough here to sink out teeth into.

I recently tore into Action Comics 23.2: Zod for the heavy-handed, ripped-from-the-headliness-iness of its anti-war message, but the overt recreation of the Trayvon Martin case didn’t bother me at all. The big difference is the way Waid builds from the reference — it’s not just there to create the faint glimmer of recognition. It’s also surprisingly even-handed. Matt clearly disagrees with the verdict, but he can’t fault the jury — while he admires the hell out of Priest’s case, he admits that he can’t overcome a reasonable doubt. It reminds us that, for all our certainty of what might have happened between Martin and Zimmerman, we actually don’t know. It’s the kind of level-headedness I’ve come to expect of Waid any time some internet controversy pops up.

Hey, speaking of the jury, how about those references?

Jury Dooty

Sally Draper jumped out at me right away, and I had to work a little harder to recognize Alex P. Keaton (Michael J Fox’s character from Family Ties), but that of course meant I had to google all of these folks. I turned up what I think are duds for all of them except Kuljit Mithra, curator of the impressively exhaustive fan-site manwithoutfear.com. Mithra created that site in 1996 (which I think is well before I had ever even heard of the internet), and it has become an indispensable resource for all things Daredevil. It’s a neat shout-out to a devoted fan turned near-difinitive authority on Daredevil.

My favorite part of this issue, though, has to be the focus on Daredevil’s limitations. Unlike his Avengers buddies, he doesn’t have the power to single-handedly quell a city-wide riot. Sure, his first thought is to call the guy he knows who can summon a raincloud with a hammer, but I love that the solution had to be even more absurd. Even better is how frequently we’re reminded that radar sense isn’t vision. Matt is literally left in the dark about the Daredevil insignia on Foggy’s shirts, and he’s confronted twice with information on screens that he simply cannot read. Waid is brilliant at pointing out problems that you’ve never thought of but are incredibly obvious, and all very true to the way a blind man experiences the world. Here’s hoping that the note taped to the chair in that last page wasn’t written in marker.

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?

7 comments on “Daredevil 31

  1. Isn’t Len Lemon the father of Liz Lemon on 30 Rock? It doesn’t look like that picture could be him though, so that sorta ruins the fun – both Alex and Sally look like they could be approximations of what those characters would look like in 2013 (and it’s also totally believable that either one would live in New York City).

  2. It’s interesting how this doesn’t so much crib from the actual Trayvon Martin incident, but more specifically from the tension surrounding the delivery of the verdict in the trail. It never occurred to me that the character of Matt Murdock can be used to comment on controversial issues in the justice system, and it’s cool to see Waid and Samnee tapping into that so effectively here.

  3. Of course Sally Draper voted in favor of the defendant–she’s still traumatized by that time “Grandma” Ida broke into her Dad’s apartment and nearly robbed them blind.

  4. Pingback: Daredevil 34 | Retcon Punch

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