Daredevil 1.5

Alternating Currents: Daredevil 1.5, Drew and PatrickToday, Drew and Patrick are discussing Daredevil 1.5, originally released April 9th, 2014. 

Drew: Ah, the anthology-style anniversary issue. I absolutely appreciate the concept of bringing in a bunch of top creators to riff on a character they know and love, but in practice, all of that talent ends up competing to leave an impression. That often means wild deconstructions of the very character the issue is celebrating — a thrilling exercise for longtime fans, but one that runs the risk of alienating more casual readers. In the letters column for Daredevil 1.5, editor Ellie Pyle asks what Daredevil means to us, but the question in my mind is “who is this comic for?”

That sounds harsh, but I only bring it up because I suspect the answer doesn’t include me, a loyal fan of Daredevil, Vol. 3, but with no other Daredevil experience. Again, that this isn’t for me isn’t inherently bad — I’ve loved a number of Batman stories that are clearly meant for über fans — but it does force me to question exactly my Daredevil fandom is. Am I a fan of Daredevil as a character? As an abstract idea? Or am I specifically a fan of Mark Waid’s Daredevil? I honestly don’t know, but this issue provides little in the way of guidance.

The feature picks up on Matt’s 50th birthday, where he’s retired as a crime-fighter, and worries too much about his only son. Waid employs some How I Met Your Mother coyness about the intervening years — most notably avoiding any substantive hints as to who his son’s mother might be — but gives us enough to understand that he’s leading a fulfilling life (no husk-of-his-former-self The Dark Knight Returns-isms here). That is all put in jeopardy when the majority of San Francisco is suddenly rendered blind — a chaotic scene that Javier Rodriguez renders with absolute abandon.In the land of the blind...It’s a striking concept (and I highly recommend José Saramango’s Blindness to anyone who’d like to explore the fallout of a blindness epidemic), and one that cleverly gives Matt the hometeam advantage. Matt disables the technology that causes the blindness (turns out it’s the offspring of Google glass: Google eye-drops), but not without sacrificing his abilities, cementing him as the man without fear before circling back to suggesting that his son also has the makings of a hero.

It’s a loving tribute to the character while still offering a wink and a nod that the adventure doesn’t have to end there. Of course, this is a creative team whose take on the character I already understand thoroughly (even if Waid apparently has plenty of surprises up his sleeve), so I can appreciate their particular brand of deconstruction: at his core, Matt is fearless. That thread is harder to find in the two backups, though I’m sure my ignorance has something to do with it.

The first is a virtual prose piece by Brian Michael Bendis, with illustrations by Alex Maleev. I can appreciate that their run is extremely well-regarded, but this story doesn’t give me much to latch onto. Indeed, the story reads more like erotic fan fiction than a comic — half because of the medium, and half because the story is told from the lusty perspective of Stana Morgan, who maybe married Matt Murdock? I don’t think I have the Daredevil knowledge of who Stana is or is not to fully understand what’s going on here, or what it means that Bullseye shows up at the end. Presumably, it’s not good, but it’s also not clear to me that this last will and testament doesn’t reflect some kind of delusion. I’ll leave it to Patrick and/or the commenters to set me straight on this.

The final story also takes the form of a last will and testament, this one for Mike Murdock, a bygone attempt by Matt to throw folks off of Daredevil’s scent by pretending to be his own twin brother. It certainly harkens back to a goofier era of Daredevil stories, but I’m not sure I understand its purpose beyond that. Why would Matt feel compelled to send himself a motivational video will from his own made-up alter-ego? Between the framing device and the presence of a “fake” Daredevil, there’s obviously some dense meta-commentary about the nature of storytelling (beyond the obvious self-deprecation of this particular chapter of Daredevil history), but I’m not sure I’m adequately familiar with the subject matter to parse it.

For me, this issue offered an interesting counterpoint to Detective Comics 27, a similarly reflective anthology-style anniversary issue. I was lukewarm on that issue largely because I was too familiar with deconstructions of Batman, where here, I think I’m not familiar enough with deconstructions of Daredevil. I know there’s a sweet-spot somewhere (which is how I got burnt out on meta-Batman riffs in the first place), but familiarity with only one version of the character is clearly shy of it.

But maybe I’m over-thinking this. This issue successfully sketches out the limits of Daredevil-dom, from off-the-wall silliness to maybe-trying-too-hard seriousness to somewhere comfortably in between. It also features a charming introduction from Pyle, as well as extensive reflections from fans and creators. I can absolutely see how this issue might be a powerful emblem for longtime fans, but I fear I may be lacking the necessary foreknowledge to fully appreciate it myself. Were you getting any of that, Patrick?

Patrick: I think you pretty much nailed it: the anthology-ness of Daredevil 1.5 does more to highlight why I shouldn’t love “Daredevil” as much as I do. I’ve always been a little uncomfortable with Matt’s history with women and that Brian Michael Bendis story really reinforced how many of Matt’s flings have been fridged in an on-going cycle of Daredevil reinvention. To the best of my knowledge Stana Morgan isn’t an established character in Daredevil’s canon, which makes her marriage, pregnancy and implied murder at the hands of Bullseye all the more frustrating. Like, is she just representative of all the women Matt Murdock has profoundly failed? Tell you what that doesn’t do, is garner my excitement for the character. Right? I should be pumping my fist in the air, hooting and hollering that “Daredevil is the coolest!” (I still celebrate like I’m 14, what of it?), but instead I’m left with an icky, confused feeling – like stepping on something squishy on your way to the bathroom in the middle of the night.

Also, this is petty and makes me feel like an idiot, but why the hell is that second story set up that way? Each page has two-drawings, with a dense block of text in the middle. The story is far enough removed in both format and tone from all of its presumed influences that it doesn’t successfully evoke any of them. The format immediately made me think of an old LIFE magazine story, with the photographs prominently upstaging the copy. But the content of the copy is way to intimate for a magazine article, and when the final paragraph reveals that we’re reading Stana’s will, everything makes less sense, not more. What is this story? Drew very specifically used the word “illustrated” to describe Maleev’s work here, and that might be the most damning comment of all. It has less in common with the comic it’s celebrating than some weird illustrated confession / will. And “illustrated confession / will” isn’t even a phrase that makes sense.

Daredevil rescues Stana

Also, the less you think about the woman’s name, the better… “Stana” isn’t a sly/not-so-sly reference to Stan Lee, is it?

I’m similarly bummed out by the Kesel’s story. Daredevil comes off looking like such an arrogant asshole, and if that’s part of the character we’re bound and determined to celebrate, I’m not sure I want to come to any more of his parties.

Drew, you asked in your opening paragraph who this issue is for, and I’m afraid my only answers are filled with snark. Filled! The very final “story” in this anthology issue is a two-page splash of Elektra murdering some ninjas. My favorite / least favorite thing on this page is the “To be continued in Elektra #1.”

Catch all the action in Elektra #1

It’s a beautiful image, but like, we don’t have to pretend that the page is telling a story I need to see continued in Elektra #1. It’s an advertisement masquerading as a comic. That’s the most upsetting takeaway from Daredevil 1.5: rather than presenting some universal truths about Daredevil, or exploring the medium that spawned the character, this anthology seems more mired in the business that spawned him – right down to another crass pitch for a new series. The Kesels’ story suggests that this straightforward, cocky salesmanship was part Daredevil’s DNA, but that’s not the character Mark Waid has made me fall in love with over the course of the last couple years.

It’s not surprising, then, that for all of my gripes about the issue as a whole, I also really liked the first story. I wonder what the rest of the fan reaction is to this thing — are we drawing lines in the sand? WHO DO YOU LOVE? PRE-WAID DAREDEVIL OR POST-WAID DAREDEVIL? Or maybe we’re all just shrugging at this collection, waiting for issue 2 to come out.

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?

6 comments on “Daredevil 1.5

  1. As I was sitting down to write this piece, found myself thinking about the nature of my fandom. I’m a fairly recent comics fan, so there are few histories I’m even familiar with, let alone comfortable celebrating comprehensively. Like, I have enough fond memories of Batman’s campier days that I’m happy to see callbacks and homages to the TV show or giant props or whatever, but I decidedly don’t have those memories for a character like Daredevil. I’m a big fan of this current run, but I really don’t know the character otherwise, so these throwbacks were more uncomfortable than nostalgic for me.

    It also got me thinking that there are very few things I’m a true diehard fan for, that is, few things I’m willing to slog through the bad times with. I think my allegiance is to quality over anything. It’s easier for me to frame that as the superior attitude, but I actually wonder if I’m missing out on some kind of deeper appreciation for the characters and franchises that I enjoy. Batman is obviously the closest I come to diehard fandom, but even I avoided Schumacher’s Batman movies until very recently.

    To veer even further off-topic, I think my lack of diehard fandom may be related to the Star Wars prequels. I fucking loved Star Wars, and couldn’t have been more excited for the prequels (to date myself a bit, I was 12 years old when The Phantom Menace came out, the perfect age to want to see these things), but they were an utterly indefensible disappointment. Like, I could have chosen to love it unconditionally, but even I knew it was stupid that Darth Vader built C-3PO. I think that broke any faith I might have that a franchise I like is guaranteed to be good (and maybe made me gunshy about liking franchises), effectively drying up any chances of me becoming a diehard fan of anything.

    Again, I don’t want to make a value judgement about this — maybe I’m missing out on a lot of good stuff — but I think that Retcon Punch in general avoids that kind of diehardness. We’ll certainly defend things that we think are good, but “that we think are good” is really the important consideration. That may mean we’re immune to these kinds of “remember when Daredevil was bad?” nostalgia trips that might make this issue more successful to a longtime fan

    With all of that in mind, I do think this issue didn’t come off as quite the celebration of the character that Detective Comics 27 was (which we didn’t even like all that much). This issue largely aims to illuminate Daredevil by subtracting him from the story — one takes place after he retires, one form a perspective that isn’t is, one from a fake perspective that isn’t is. I appreciate the desire to do something different, but this might have worked better if we celebrated Daredevil by enjoying some of the kinds of stories we actually like seeing him in. (It’s the PBS pledge drive problem: let’s show you programming we never air in order to get you to pay money for the shows you actually like seeing.) I get that there are different things we like about the character, I’m not sure this issue represents that diversity particularly well.

  2. I had never heard of “Mike Murdock” before. Honestly, I don’t think anybody besides the writers of those original stories, the team behind this particular back-up, and probably Waid and Brevoot remember Mike Murdock. Nobody READ Daredevil before Frank Miller’s run — they could barely keep the book afloat, and it only printed a few times a year — and those who did didn’t particularly care for it. It wasn’t until Frank Miller took over that people cared about Daredevil, and that’s probably why Miller’s dark, women-killing interpretation stuck with the character for so long (until Waid took over, honestly).

    I haven’t read all of Miller and Bendis’ runs, but what I have read was pretty darn good, I thought. The first Bendis arc I read was a story told entirely from the view of Ben Urich, and it blew me away. But both those runs certainly had problems with women characters — Miller turned Daredevil’s original girlfriend, Karen, into a drug-addict prostitute (because Miller) and introduced Elektra only to kill her off, and Bendis’ dealt a lot with one of Matt’s wives who was driven insane and institutionalized by a supervillain (and I believe she’s still in there — her family divorced her from Matt in her stead and refuses to let him see her). There’s a lot of good things about Bendis’ run, but I can’t believe this is the aspect of it they decided to memorialize in this issue. I was enjoying the story until I got to the end and realized what it meant, then I just felt kind of sick.

    I loved Waid’s story, though. We’ll obviously never reach that point in his life, but I wouldn’t mind it being the final end of Daredevil.

  3. I broke my oath of not anymore buying issues that scream “SPECIAL”. This time, it was money well spent.

    Matt is an old friend, even if Batman is my favorite character since I was a kid.

    I’ve translated Daredevil in Brazil from the early Bendis days until the second volume of Waid stories (I stopped a few months ago, because life intervened in my available time to do so).

    This issue managed to be interesting for the reader, faithful to the legacy and somewhat special. Not special in the sense of making us eat living butterflies, but special in the sense of honorably breaking the routine.

    The panel with “Mike” saying however bad your life might be it’s always better than Spidey’s became my computer wallpaper.

  4. I enjoyed the first and last story in this book. The Bendis one did nothing for me and I admit it can be hard to tell if that is because I already see him as such a junk writer or because that middle story was so much less interesting then the first one in every way. It seemed like an odd fitting since the other two stories had a much greater sense of fun.

    Not surprising that Waid delivered the best of the stories here. I thought that exploring fatherhood through him was great. Matt’s dad was a big part of defining him so it was nice to see what kind of dad defines Matt’s kid. I wish I could spend more time with these folks but that won’t likely happen. It is sad that since Marvel and DC have to be frozen in time that we don’t get stories about these heroes raising kids of their own and trying to navigate the worlds of supers and parenthood. I guess I should be happy when we get the one shots that do address this as well as the mini series that let us look at the characters in their later years.

  5. Coming in to Daredevil for the first time as a new reader of the character with the Mark Waid series, I am with you on feeling a bit lost on where I stand with the character. However, I feel like both of you missed the introduction of the issue. It clearly states what this issue is. I feel like both of you deconstructed the issue to a pulp to only find exactly what it states in the issue. To me, the intro was appropriate enough to describe the anthology and I used that as a spring board in to the next (?) version (chapter?) of Mark Waid’s Daredevil.

    I would like to add is that Bendis’s story, although short was interesting to me and piqued my interest to go read some Miller runs and maybe some of Bendis’s work. I seriously enjoyed End Of Days, though that seems like an ode to hardcore fans anyway. But that’s just me. I enjoyed the food for thought guys!

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