Drew: The realization that there are other people with feelings and motivations separate from our own is a key moment in child brain development. As early (and often) as that lesson comes, we’re still pretty bad at understanding that people have different perspectives. We want different things, value different things, and believe in different methods for how to achieve our goals, yet it’s still hard to understand why someone would disagree with you. It’s obvious they’re wrong! Why can’t they see it? Those differences of perspective tend to correlate to differences of experience — middle aged Russians are likely going to agree with each other more than either would with a teenaged Australian — but it’s the differences within those groups that can lead to the biggest failures of understanding. That’s exactly the kind of failure Matt is confronted with in Daredevil 4, where Kirsten needs to remind him that not everyone is quite as resilient (or noble) as ol’ horn-head.
The issue opens with the conclusion of last month’s thrilling cliffhanger, allowing Max a moment of heroism before he makes off with the Owl. It’s a bravura sequence — artist Chris Samnee devotes two entire pages to the time between the moment the trapdoor yanks out from under Matt to the moment he lands back on solid ground, but every single panel feels entirely necessary. It’s also slick as hell, brimming with visual rhymes you only half pick up as your eye zooms around the page.
I’m particularly enamored of the way the staff leaving Max’s hand directs your eye right to the panel of it approaching Matt’s hands. It’s a clever piece of symmetry in a layout that’s downright full of them. Beyond the clever pencils, colorist Javier Rodriguez is keeping track of the space with segregated warm and cold palettes. Without any other cues, we can tell how close any panel is to the pit by how much orange is present. Daredevil? Overlapped with orange until the very last panel. The Owl? Couldn’t be further from the action.
That opening scene is clearly the provenance of the art team, but writer Mark Waid more than earns his keep once Matt has an opportunity to collect himself. After beating a hasty escape, he finds Max’s trail cold, so heads home to debrief Kirsten over some spicy scampi. Waid has always written Kirsten with such a strong voice, but her new role as Matt’s information central has provided all kinds of opportunities for her to one-up Matt. She’s able to effortlessly conclude what the Owl might ask of Max in exchange for information about Max’s girlfriend: some kind of new tech from a fiberoptic company Owlsley has been unable to procure through legitimate means.
While Owlsly’s motives are easy enough to parse, Kirsten warns Matt that Max’s may be a bit more complicated. Matt, with all the tone-deaf confidence of the man without fear, had just assumed Max was out for justice, and its not until their big showdown that Matt realizes Max’s true motive: suicide by supervillain. It’s a devastating moment — a kind of loss of innocence as Matt realizes that Max’s intentions may not be as noble as he had assumed.
He’s too confident in his read of the situation to question himself initially, but that same confidence is also how he comes to realize the truth. That is: nobody would fight Daredevil like this unless he wanted to lose. Waid’s emphasis on Daredevil’s confidence was one of my favorite aspects of the previous volume, and it thrills me that he’s still able to find surprising new ways to mine that trait.
Matt is able to talk down Max — and subdue Owlsley — declaring the adventure a kind of win, though he may have just committed himself to track down Max’s girlfriend. I’m always a fan of whenever this series gets sidetracked, so I’ll call that a win, but it’s intriguing how ambiguous Waid leaves this ending. Max invites Matt’s help, but then disappears into the ether, as if to remind Matt just how powerful he really is. The Shroud can render Daredevil truly blind — a device that is often used for Daredevil, but one that has fascinating thematic resonance when it comes to this issue. For all Matt’s bluster, he really doesn’t know what’s going on inside Max’s head, and it may be even more complicated than the reveal in this issue.
As usual, I absolutely loved this issue. With a creative team like this one, it’s little wonder that this series so consistently fantastic, but I still find myself blown away every single issue. Scott! We’re you as pleased with this issue as I was? It’s okay if you weren’t — I’m ready to practice understanding others, even if I think you’d be crazy not to love this issue.
Scott: I’m sorry we can’t assist each other with some long-overdue personal growth, Drew, but I have to agree with you — this is a fantastic issue. Like you, I found Matt’s big revelation to be somewhat childlike, but moreso in the sense that he comes off seeming completely innocent. “Good” and “bad” are two of first principles we learn as children, which is a big part of why superheroes — embodiments of “good” — appeal to us at a young age. Fighting bad guys simply because being bad is wrong makes perfect sense when you think in the black and white terms of a little kid. It’s only as we age that we understand the many shades of gray in between good and bad. When we start sneaking out of the house and doing naughty things, we start relating to rebels, bad boys, antiheroes. Our quest for individuality leads us astray of those early moral ideals.
Reading about superheroes takes us back to a simpler time. What are superheroes if not adults who never outgrew their childhood devotion to “good”? Matt never considered that the Shroud might be motivated by anything else, and that’s admirable, in a way. Most people we think of as heroes in real life — from fire fighters to presidents, star athletes to astronauts — are those who see their childhood dreams to fruition. Dedicating your life to one goal shows a certain strength of character, and people connect to that. Foolish or not, Matt is dedicated to ridding the world of bad guys. There’s just something so comforting about that.
The real reason I’d be crazy not to love this issue is because the art is so darn good. Samnee’s ability to depict action sequences with such clarity is impeccable. Forgive me, I know Drew one two-page action sequence above, but I feel compelled to include the other (which Drew also included a part of (look, I’m sorry ok?!)).
Matt’s fight with Max is emotionally resonant and all, but it’s really a distraction from the actual objective: stopping Owlsley before he does whatever bad guy thing he’s trying to do. Samnee manages the scene brilliantly. The focus is on Matt and Max, but Owlsley pops into frame just often enough to keep us aware of where he is and how much progress he’s making. He’s basically a timer, counting down how long Matt has to dispatch Max be fore his plan is foiled. To ratchet up suspense even more, the panels are framed so that Matt never seems to be making any progress towards stopping Owlsley. He generally seems to be moving in the wrong direction. There’s a lot going on on these two pages, but Samnee makes it super easy to follow. Plus, it’s so much fun to read, I can’t wait to get to the next page; which is how I felt throughout this issue. I may not be a kid anymore, but I know that’s a good thing.
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