Daredevil 34

Alternating Currents: Daredevil 34, Drew and PatrickToday, Drew and Patrick are discussing Daredevil 34, originally released December 18th, 2013. 

Drew: We tend to associate soapbox speeches with masturbatory lectures important only to the speaker — it’s an annoyance when someone gets on their soapbox — but at one time, soapbox speeches were actually considered a form of entertainment. I’m not entirely sure if the audiences tended to agree with the speeches, or if there was more of a morbid curiosity factor in play (the same type that might keep you up late watching youtube clips of The O’Rielly Factor), but the point is: there was a time when somebody would literally be on a soapbox, and people’s reaction wasn’t to just tell them to get of of their damn soapbox. I was reminded of this as I read Kirsten McDuffie’s soaring call for levelheadedness in Daredevil 34.

The issue finds Matt back in New York, sharing the recovered Darkholm pages with Doctor Strange. Strange explains that the pages include the name of The Serpent — that is, the famous apple pimp from Genesis — which allegedly gives anyone who speaks it special powers of persuasion. Matt’s not sure about all that, but he knows he has to get the Jester — who has been helping the Sons of the Serpent incite violence across the city — off of the street, so he hatches a plan: he rigs up a system to make a PA announcement to basically every electronic device in the city, telling the Sons of the Serpent that he will torch their precious Darkholm pages unless they turn in the Jester.

It’s a daringly proactive idea — and one that owes a great deal to Matt’s lawyer-y negotiation skills — but is probably lacking any real threat. How do the Sons of the Serpent know he’s not bluffing? Enter Kirsten McDuffie, the only person Matt knows daring enough to read what very well may be the palpably evil name of that original Serpent over his jury rigged PA. Satisfied that he has shown the Serpents he means business, Matt zips off to collect the Jester, but Kirsten has other ideas. Being a lawyer herself (an A.D.A., no less), she decides to use the powerful soapbox Matt has assembled to appeal to the hearts and minds of the citizens of New York.

And that’s where her soapbox becomes rather nakedly Mark Waid’s. Ultimately, her speech is meant to combat the racial unrest the Serpents have been seeding around the city, but Waid broadens it just enough to make it clear that he’s talking about fear-mongering in general.

The Man Without Fear

Calling out people for demonizing the poor feels political, but I think that’s exactly the reaction Waid is driving at. His agenda here is ultimately entirely apolitical: he just wants everyone to take a deep breath and think. About what they’re scared of. About who enables those irrational fears. About what they might have to gain from it. It reminds me a bit of John Stewart’s “Rally to Restore Sanity” — a much-needed reminder that maybe the sky isn’t falling, after all.

Part of why I respect this position so much is that I’ve seen Waid take it over and over again, and always to the benefit of the discourse he’s engaged in. Seriously, he was a lone voice of reason when Apple allegedly banned Saga 12 from its iOS Comixology app, or there was that time he had to defend himself for essentially asserting that a person is innocent until proven guilty. Waid is an incredibly thoughtful, principled person, and I personally find his argument here beyond reproach…but I’m still just a little uncomfortable at the idea of having the writer speak so directly and openly to the audience.

Of course, my comfort has nothing to do with this. I asserted last month that Waid is “the writer without fear,” and I cannot think of anything more creatively fearless than dropping all pretense and just telling us what he really thinks. Ultimately, though, this fearlessness works because it’s so familiar to our everyday lives. Isolated violence and ratings-hungry news stations have eroded much of the country’s trust in its fellow citizens, creating an aura of fear that follows us everywhere, from airports to concert venues, and even to our children’s schools. That’s the fear that may be the most familiar to us, which means it’s precisely the kind of fear Daredevil doesn’t have.

Intriguingly, Waid doesn’t dissipate that fear, but simply refocuses it. We should not distrust the unknown immigrants, Kirsten argues, but the friends and coworkers who encourage those feelings. It’s ultimately a much more introspective — and harder to digest — message than we’re used to being fed, but is exactly the kind of complex, difficult moral I’ve come to expect from this series.

Geeze, Patrick, I’ve burned through my word count here and haven’t even mentioned the cliffhanger ending (though, as we’ve already catalogued, Waid may have cried wolf one-too-many times), or Matt’s openness about the “hot, flirty thing” he has with Kirsten. I’ve probably already tipped my hand about which of those I’m most interested in, but I’ll leave it to you to cover whatever you want. (How’s that for an open-ended prompt?)

Patrick: A prompt so open-ended, I’m going to keep talking about the topic you already exhausted!

I mean: not really. One of the reasons Kirsten / Waid’s soapbox speech works as well as it does is that there’s so much other really well-crafted storytelling throughout. Even the speech itself is well-crafted – there’s just enough rhetoric to make it an interesting read, but not so much as to feel buzz-wordy. There’s also just the undeniable attractiveness of an appeal to reason. It’s a phenomenal piece of writing, is my point, and it’s easy to forget that it supports a handful of smart, effective on-going stories that reach beyond the issue’s capital M Message.

As usual, this means that there is a lot of beauty to be found in the details of the issue. I love the New Yorkiness of Daredevil. I know that’s a thing that Marvel does, and that they do for a lot of their characters: Spider-Man is New York, Hawkeye is New York, Daredevil is New York. Matt seems especially connected to the city in this issue – the pre-issue Daily-Bugle recap offers an adorable “You may rest easy New Yorkers” when reporting Daredevil’s return to the city. It’s a nice little appeal to NYC as a character in this drama, and that’s ultimately the character that Matt’s fighting to save throughout the Sons of the Serpent arc.

Consider Matt’s approach to intimacy – he reveals his identity to Kirsten, but he does so in a very guarded, I’m-still-telling-jokes-about-it kind of way. But his intimacy with New York? It’s bare: naked and vulnerable. He turns to Kirsten for logistical help, but he turns to the city for emotional support. Check out how he gathers his own courage after his meeting with Doctor Strange.

Matt Murdock loves NYC

First of all: holy cow – that a beautiful page. But all he has to do to “get over it” is take in his city. And then, once he puts his plans into action, he lets slip an “I love this city.” He’s dismissing Kirsten’s offer for directions, but he reveals his true feelings in that moment. It’s not just a city that’s easy for him or familiar (or, y’know, something he can navigate with radar sense), it’s something he loves.

That sentiment is weirdly at odds with Doctor Strange’s teeny-tiny freakout in Matt’s office. I don’t totally know what to make of it, but Strange says:

I’m… never relaxed in this part of town. The soulless architecture… the omnipresent energy of people obsessed with profits, spreadsheets and material goods…

Now, far be it for me to tell the good Doctor that you can use spreadsheets for fun stuff (give me a week with his library and a computer with Excel on it, and we could get that shit humming), but he’s expressing… something very specific. It’s in direct conflict with Matt’s ‘I [heart] NY’ attitude, and either that’s to draw attention to just how comfortable the city makes Matt, or there’s more going on with Strange than meets the eye. Mind you – I’ve been saying as much about Strange after just about all of his appearances over the last year, so either something REALLY BIG is in the works with him, or he’s just a weird dude and I’m being insensitive about his mild autism.

No, but seriously, what’s up that with “we’re all pulling for him” comment right as the elevator door closes? That’s not comforting at all.

Drew, you asked me about the ending, and whether tossing Foggy’s fate into a cliffhanger has any effect on me any more. This is one of those scenarios where I feel a little cheated by my own perspective. I know — and you know and we all know — that after two more issues, Daredevil is going to move across the country and the series is getting renumbered. So without any indication within the narrative itself, we can be reasonably well-assured that Big Changes are afoot for Matt Murdock. After fighting such a lovely, heartfelt fight for the soul of New York, I can’t fathom what would motivate him out of town, but I have to assume it will be Foggy-related. So, it doesn’t really matter how many times Waid has cried wolf, I’m bracing myself for the worst.
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 34

  1. Waid continues to prove why he is one of the best in the biz with this issue. I don’t have much expand on since you both did a great job of highlighting what is great about this issue. I personally love it when comics preach well. Waid and Gage both do this expertly to me. They both do it with the perfect balance of heart and logic.

    I love Samnee but I have to say that Rodriguez is spectacular. Fantastic illustration, composition, and colors. Can he always be the go to fill in guy for this series?

    This continues to be one of the most adult tights and flights book being written that you can give to a kid because it is never pandering or pathetic.

    The Hulk this week was also great. Over all Waid really nailed it this week. Man I hope marvel can keep him engaged and happy.

  2. What an absolutely amazing issue, and what a great review. You guys totally nailed it! Regarding Foggy, I’m not going to worry too much. I have my reasons for saying that, most importantly a stray comment from Waid in a Marvel.com about the upcoming move to San Francisco. On the other hand, that could potentially be a red herring, so there’s maybe some concern there.

    • Ah! That’s the ol’ perspective machine working against itself, huh? I suppose it’s equally likely that the move to San Fran could be motivated by Foggy’s desire to move. That’s an idea that’s almost too sweet for my poor dark heart. Whatever the case, I can’t wait to see it play out. Thanks for reading and the comment!

  3. Apparently I’m a heartless bastard because I wasn’t moved at all by this issue, didn’t much care for it, and as a matter of fact, two days after reading it, couldn’t even give it a recap I found it so forgettable.

    I remember the colors. I loved the art and thought it was gorgeous looking.

    • Oh, the Doctor Strange thing was weird. He’s been strangely (haha, get it?) utilized in various stories the past few months. I’ve never been a big fan, but always interested in how THE magician would function in a super powered world and his stories always seem to come up a bit short to me. Either, “Easy! It’s magic,” or “I can’t do that. Magic doesn’t do that.”

      Anyway. This issue reminded me of my least favorite scene in Jurassic Park, when the kid is trying to climb the electric fence before it gets turned back on. I guess I’m just not a fan of “Countdown until defenseless person gets [fried/shot/beaten/killed/disintegrated] while hero either races to save them or has to watch without getting involved. The actual mechanism of telling a story like this bothers me. It seems to be a cheap way to add tension to a scene that doesn’t have that tension organically. It’s usually meant to get the audience to mutter, “Stop talking now, you’re going to get shot,” or “Just jump off the fence!” or “No, don’t split up and go looking for the strange sound from the basement!” The writer seems to need to intentionally dumb down the character and make them do something everyone knows is wrong to create the tension.

      Now, I know EVERYTHING in a story is writer fiat, it’s just this always seems artificial, like putting too much Sweet N Low in a coffee and getting that fake flavor which they say should taste good but instead makes you wonder if you just ate a bad Sweet Tart.

      • Oh, yeah, nothing kills a story more than character motivations that feel entirely convenient to the plot. Horror movies are the worst at this, but comics have their fair share. That said, I didn’t get that from this issue. Sure, Kirsten knew this organization had infiltrated the city at basically every level, but it seems like a pretty big leap to assume they would be able to track down a single person in New York City — especially if she’s on the top of a building. If anything, I’m actually more frustrated that Matt was able to correctly guess that they’d find her. Like, how long was she talking that they had time to get a helicopter in the air and locate her? She should have been totally home free, but there was more tension to be had if Matt was racing the clock to save her, so that’s what we got.

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