Daredevil 7

daredevil 7Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing Daredevil 7, originally released August 20th, 2014. 

Drew: Last month, in our discussion of Daredevil 6, I was struck by the darker, distinctly Miller-esque tone of that issue, wondering “is it a sign of respect to that era of Daredevil history, or an assertion that a return to that style would only bring pain?” I don’t know what would compel me to apply such a simple binary to this series, but true to form, Mark Waid and Javier Rodriguez manage to deliver an answer that is somehow both and neither option. Waid’s run has been all about pulling that darkness into the light (with a twist), and this issue distills that theme into a charming bite-sized little adventure.

Fresh from his beating at the Wakandan embassy, Daredevil has called in a favor from S.H.I.E.L.D. to airdrop him at the Wakandan border. Predictably, he’s captured and brought before Shuri, who apparently already knows all about the detained nuns and isn’t about to second guess her Defense Minister. Only, Matt hasn’t really left her much of a choice, as he’s left a mighty trail of breadcrumbs for the US Military to lead them directly to Wakanda (or at least, Eaglemore, who Matt has cleverly brought with him). It’s a clever bit of misdirection, which Waid plays masterfully, giving us just enough information about Matt’s plan to totally assume the wrong things, giving us a surprise “I wanted to be captured all along” moment before he hits us with one of those great Daredevil turns:

Matt Murdock, Super-LawyerOf course, even that isn’t the last of Matt’s surprises, as he saves that Eaglemore reveal for the end.

That’s enough surprises for most comics (heck, that’s enough surprises for about a half dozen issues of most series), but Waid burns through that entire thing, straight through to the departure from Wakanda, in 13 pages. That leaves us plenty of time to get into the emotional meat of the issue: Maggie’s explanation for why she left, including those hints about domestic abuse we saw last month. Once again, we go in expecting a fight, and Waid turns the whole thing on us, explaining that the memory Matt saw was an accident caused when Maggie attempted to hurt Matt in a cloud of postpartum depression. She was so ashamed of herself that she left and never came back.

Maggie once was lost, but now is foundIt’s a simple, clean explanation for her absence that I think answers any lingering questions about her existence. Perhaps more importantly, it turns that darkness into a positive. Sure, depression, delusions, and child abuse (or threat thereof) are dark subjects, but Waid manages to turn her absence into something borne of protection and love. It’s certainly more positive than I had imagined for an explanation of why a mother would abandon her child.

For me, that’s really what makes this issue so impressive. Waid doesn’t shy away from Daredevil’s dark, depressing past, but instead manages to pull something uplifting out of it.

Matt fails all the time. Remember that Daredevil movie?That’s exactly what Waid has done at the series at large, turning the perennially crushed Daredevil into one of the more upbeat heroes in Marvel’s lineup. It’s even allowed him to tackle taboo topics like human trafficking, cancer, racism, and now depression without ever getting lost in a morass of bummers.

I was going to add that it never feels preachy, but something about Matt pulling out postpartum depression stats off the top of his head felt a little forced to me. It’s only a single panel, but it feels distinctly like it was written by Postpartum Support International, the organization Editor Ellie Pyle gives space to in this issue’s letters column only a few pages later. The openness with which the creative team is trying to send this message definitely makes the awkwardness more palatable, but it’s still strange to have such an on-the-nose moment in the middle of a subtle and emotional scene between an estranged mother and son.

Actually, that forced nature may echo my feelings about this tie-in generally. This was a great issue, taking Matt to some interesting emotional territory, and addressing some lingering questions about his past, but it really does feel removed from the series at large. That didn’t bother me last month, when a little handwaving could dismiss an awkward setup, but something about the closing reunion here rings false when we know Matt will be returning to California next month. Maybe I’m again assuming too much about what will happen, but it’s hard for me to imagine that Maggie will play a significant role going forward.

Okay, I’ll stop myself before I put my foot in my mouth — I really did enjoy this issue, no matter where it stands in terms of defining this series going forward. Patrick, did you enjoy Matt’s jaunt to Wakanda? Were you okay being left in the dark on Matt’s plans just so we could be surprised as he reveals them? Did Matt’s speech about having “defended clients with perinatal issues” feel a little preachy to you? Oh, and say something nice about Rodriguez’s art — apparently this is the last time we’ll see him on this title!

Patrick: I saw that little bit about Rodriguez! Not only is this the last issue he’s going to draw, but he’s done coloring the series to boot! Rodriguez has laid down such a distinctive color scheme for this series — super flat, but still dynamic — that his stamp is sure to have an impact on Daredevil for years to come. This issue sends him off in style — it’s a showcase of ultra-saturated colors and eye-poppingly clean lines right from the jump (here meaning both a literal jump and the first page).

Daredevil jumps out of a planeIn no way is that the most accurate color palette, but that neon green is such a beautiful contrast to the deep reds in Daredevil’s costume. And that’s to say nothing of the perspective Rodriguez depicts here; look how well it compliments the copy that Waid has written for the panel. The camera stays with Maria Hill while Matt’s launched off into what is literally a wild green yonder. And then, as if to really emphasize the surprise-we-should-have-seen-coming, Rodriguez places that mysterious crate right in the fucking middle of the panel. That’s some efficient storytelling, right there.

Y’know, it’s interesting: Mark Waid was also tweeting today that, as of the printing of issue 7, he’s the longest running Daredevil writer. Drew, I think that’s why this little diversion away from Matt’s new life in San Francisco is so successful: this is a team so unbelievably comfortable with the character that any story they’re going to tell can move with a confidence few creators are able to affect. I too was a caught slightly off guard when Matt started spewing Postpartum Depression statistics, but Waid is right there to backup Matt’s expertise with an explanation that makes just enough sense to me that it didn’t feel shoehorned in. And actually, an issue about depression and mental illness and the disastrous consequences thereof couldn’t be much more timely, with Robin Williams’ recent suicide still fresh in our collective consciousness. Then, to tie it all together in one wonderfully cohesive knot, Matt’s loving acceptance of his mother is maybe the most effective character moment this side of “I am Daredevil.”

But I want to get back to your first question, Drew: did I enjoy Matt’s jaunt to Wakanda. It is a strange choice for a story that is ultimately about the relationship between Matt and his mother. Not just that, it forces a lot of weirdly irrelevant voice over about T’Challa not being in charge of the country anymore. We get to have a little fun with Matt’s lawyerin’ skillz, but that’s more diplomatic blackmail than it is legal trickery, so it’s not even like the international angle highlights a core Daredevil trait. Honestly, I think it just goes back to Rodriguez. I’m basically in love with the coloring on the Wakandans’ war paint. It looks like its stippled with white, and the effect makes the warriors appear to glimmer on the page.

Wakandan warriorsWaid knows the tools his artists bring to the table and he milks the hell out of it. Notice how little of this issue is presented in radar sense — just the odd panel here and there, and always to emphasize that we’re being momentarily dropped into Matt’s perspective. The bright colors of both the jungle and the Wakandan palace are allowed to explode in marvelously bold panels. The one panel that really caught my eye — and which leads me to believe that Waid was simply giving Rodriguez room to flex is muscles — is this one from the throne room:

Wakanda throne roomThat amazing mural doesn’t accomplish much in the way of storytelling, but holy cow does it make for an amazing image.

Maybe you’re right, Drew — maybe we won’t get much more in terms of Matt and Maggie’s relationship, and the issue-iness of this issue may stand out as a smidge awkward. I was reading the letter section of Secret Avengers 7 today and, in it, a reader begs writer Ales Kot to tread carefully and thoughtfully with Coulson’s PTSD. Kot assures the reader that he’s not half-assing the PTSD issue, and he’s well aware of the common pitfalls of writing about metal illness. Daredevil might not come back around to Maggie any time soon, but the foundation is honest enough and earnest enough, that when it does, I’m confident it’ll be treated with the same level of respect.

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?

2 comments on “Daredevil 7

  1. Yeah, losing Javier Rodriguez is a huge blow to this title. I’m sure Matt Wilson will do an excellent job (he and Jordie Bellaire are probably the best known colorists in the biz right now), but Rodriguez had created such a distinctive and vital color scheme for Daredevil. It really is an essential part of the formula and while I know this title will be excellent with Waid and Samnee on board and while I know Wilson will do an excellent job, I still worry about what the book might be like without him. I never thought I’d mourn or even notice the change of a colorist like this but man did my heart sink when I saw the announcement on the letters page. I’m really glad colorists are getting more attention nowadays.

  2. “That amazing mural doesn’t accomplish much in the way of storytelling…”

    I’m gonna disagree with you on that, Patrick — I actually think it really drives home Shuri’s perception of herself generally, and in this situation in particular. Like, a character having a giant portrait of themselves over the mantle tells us something, but what if that portrait casts them as an actual black panther? And what if that black panther happens to be taking down a horned animal as prey? Like, I think it would tell us a lot about how she thinks of herself even if it didn’t apply very specifically to this situation. That she expected to get what she wanted here might not need clarification, but I think it’s a clever piece of set-dressing, either way.

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