Patrick: If every issue is someone’s first issue, then every series must be someone’s first series. That’s precisely why Daredevil has kicked back to number one in the first place — to act as an easy access point for new readers. Mark Waid and Chris Samnee seem to be both embracing the possible newness of their readers while playing against the expectations of old readers with the character of Max Coleridge, The Shroud. Part Batman-homage, part Dardevil-mirror-match, part call-back to the scariest villain of the previous series, The Shroud is an interesting indicator of what we can expect from Matt Murdock’s adventures in San Francisco.
On that note, let’s all say hello to The Shroud.
We’re introduced to Max Coleridge through his own anxiety dream. In the dream, Max believes he is being interviewed because of his fearless efforts defending San Francisco from criminals, but at the last moment, Matt Murdock appears, usurping both his role and his glory. When Max bolts awake — still in his costume from the night before — we see that his waking life isn’t much better. He’s living in squalor and has four local bad guys chained up in his tiny apartment.
By contrast, Matt Murdock’s current life is charmed as hell. Money is evidently good, and he and Kirsten are able to comfortably entertain guests at their spacious, modern apartment. Their dinner guest for the evening is Deputy Mayor Charlotte Hastert, decidedly more pleasant and powerful company than Max is keeping. Waid and Samnee immediately establish a harsh have / have-not dichotomy between our hero and our villain, such that even their sameness — the ability to perceive, and fight, the world around them despite a lack of eyesight — cannot bridge the gap between their differences. Notice how each scene gives the readers a glimpse into each characters’ food rituals. Matt makes a delicious meal, from scratch (even if it’s not flavorful enough for Kirsten), and he serves it to friends that augment the meal with a nice bottle of wine and dessert. Max, meanwhile, digs a used coffee filter out of the trash, complete with cigarette butts, and pours tepid water through it.
Max is in a bad way, right? The last thing he needs is some hotshot Daredevil running around being a better version of him. So he decides to ask Matt Murdock to leave town. Yet again, Daredevil asserts his superiority: first Matt’s better at getting drop on Max, then moments later he’s better at punching. At this point, The Shroud is simply desperate not to be arrested, so he uses those four goon-hostages as leverage. Matt agrees to those terms — he can’t just let four men die — and then something happens…
I’m not trying to be mysterious; I’m dancing around the reveal at the end of the issue because I’m not sure I understood it. Matt deduces that Max was referring to himself as the new Crime Boss in San Francisco, but this only comes on the heels of some kind of radar-sense dampening at Max’s apartment. The final page shows the Shroud wielding some kind of creeping black energy that seemed to accompany Matt’s loss of perception. Meanwhile, Kirsten has made an alarming discovery about the Owl — mind you, it’s not such an alarming discovery that the information wasn’t just straight-up listed in his Avengers profile. Shelby, if that scene read any clearer to you or if you found a link between the two sequences that I didn’t, I would love to hear about it. The rest of the issue so clearly sets up the different qualities of life of The Shroud and Daredevil that I’m convinced it’s my reading that’s coming up short in the final pages.
Maybe what’s happening is that Matt is finally able to witness what the readers have been privy to since the beginning of the issue. We’re not allowed to be horrified by the sight of four men languishing in a tiny, shitty apartment-prison because we’ve already seen it (and we know that The Shroud lives there voluntarily). But Matt’s bright, fun, blind superhero world is punctured by the harsh realities of his competitor. I love that we get a little extra context about Max’s origins, and the beats read almost exactly like Batman, but without the privilege and with a disability. So, y’know: “Batman, but sadder.”
It’s incredibly hard not to feel for Max. By comparison, Matt kinda comes off as a smug asshole. During his dinner with Charlie, Matt outright laughs off the threat posed by The Owl, a man that Charlie specifically brought up as menace the city could use help dealing with.
Shelby, how did you like this issue? Does it bother you at all to see Matt as a cocky motherfucker? Also, let’s pitch a few more “it’s like _____ but sadder” okay? How about a superhero with Hal Jordan’s origin, only his whole family was in the plane when it crashed, and Hal’s in a wheel chair. Or like, if Spider-Man’s organs slowly failed from radiation damage, so he has to swoop around the city with a colostomy bag webbed to his thigh? Or like the Phantom Stranger with Tourettes.
Shelby: Um…like Green Arrow, but the island is the one from LOST, and we’ve got more questions than answers? Wonder Woman, but she’s actually made of clay and one day forgets her umbrella and dissolves in the rain? This game is like the Cards Against Humanity version of superhero origin stories.
I did like this issue, even though Matt was being a little bit of a dick. It’s understandable, though; things are going well for him, he’s living and having dinner with a lovely gal that he, blindness aside, cannot keep his eyes off of all night.
Don’t think I didn’t see what you did there, Samnee. The first few panels of these two together has an almost unbroken eye contact; they can’t keep their eyes off each other! It’s sweet, and probably part of the reason why Matt was too distracted to see the trap The Shroud laid for him. I think Max meant to be heard up on the roof. He’s got the same sort of super-enhanced senses as Matt, right? He probably heard the crew talking about The Owl, and knew it wouldn’t be long before someone looked him up and realized he was dead (which is my guess for the big secret Kirsten discovered). Without the Owl as a cover, it wouldn’t be long before Max was discovered to be the new kingpin in town. I’m thinking he lured Matt away to his shitty lair to get home-field advantage; between Matt’s never having been there and Shroud’s ability to render Matt truly blind, he might be in some trouble here.
There really is a somewhat dicey question of privilege here. Max has sacrificed everything and gotten nothing back for it in return; he’s finally just taking what he feels he is owed by taking over the city’s underworld. Matt has it all, by comparison, and it was seemingly given to him on a silver platter, and yet he feels he can come in and tell Max he can’t take what he deserves. It sort of raises the question, if you put someone in a shitty situation to begin with, is it right for you to then punish them when they lash out against it? Now, I’m sure this isn’t nearly so simple; Matt surely has worked hard and suffered a lot to get to where he is today, and Max made his own choices which led him down this path.
What I’m really curious about, though, is Foggy. I understand from the previous volume of this book that Foggy had cancer. The first issue of the new run made it seem he was dead, though he appeared to be observing Matt from somewhere…mysterious. Now, not only does everyone thinks he’s dead (except Kristen, with that side eye she’s throwing), everyone thinks he died suddenly from something that wasn’t cancer?
I like the adventures Waid is taking us on with Matt; as he feels out his new city, so too do us new guys to this title feel out this character. But running though that is this thread of something very serious and deliciously mysterious, and I am dying to find out what it is.
Ooh, I thought of another one, like Damian but…um…dammit, now I’ve taken it too far.
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?