Today, Greg and Taylor are discussing Daredevil 10, originally released November 19th, 2014.
Greg: Like many folks who work in a creative field, I battle with depression. Now I know that this is a site that critiques comic books, not the critics’ psyches, so I won’t go into agonizing detail, but I will tell you that there are times when you feel like you’re drowning among loved ones, I’m currently feeling a lot better, and that feeling better is something you work on daily. I’ll also tell you the only reason I’m being this forward is because Daredevil 10 touches on depression in such a refreshingly accurate and harrowing way, that I can’t help but feel disappointed when it ultimately devolves into a hastily tidy wrap-up.
Daredevil, the now-public alter-ego of Matt Murdock, fights his way out of a bind both physically and emotionally, sending Kilgrave into a retreat. Later, when he arrives to Rough N Tumbles Arcade to save the mind-controlling children at risk, Kilgrave attacks again, leaving Daredevil in a tight spot — how can he use his heightened senses to find Kilgrave when his setting is jammed with sensory overloads? Ultimately, he finds an anxious kid, and after figuring out where the blaring music is coming from, stops Kilgrave with the help of some cops and a punch to the face. The children “revert” back to normal, and all’s well that ends well — so long as Matt can deal with any emotional traumas dredged up by the incident.
I’ll be blunt — the opening to this issue is beautiful. It’s devastatingly intense, both visceral and cerebral, and allows for artist Chris Samnee and colorist Matthew Wilson to play with extremes, particularly in the descent from abstract imagery representing Matt’s depression into sheer nothingness for four panels. It’s also ultimately triumphant — as Kilgrave beats Daredevil back into the physical world, his attempt to deliver a final verbal push by invoking fear results in Daredevil satisfyingly clobbering him. “Okay,” says Matt, a wry grin forming on his face. “That’s a start.” Damn! What a dope, almost self-contained short story to kick off what’s sure to be a rich and challenging issue!
Then, outta nowhere, we get what’s basically a Simpsons sight gag:
I’m not saying it’s not funny, because it is. I’m also not saying it’s out-of-character, because it in fact refreshes us of an important character dynamic, Kirsten’s growing resentment at the world being only interested in her legal/romantic partner because of his superhero identity. What I am saying is that it’s a tonal whiplash; with one page break, we move from bleak yet uplifting drama to wacky comedy with absolutely no transition. I complimented Samnee and Wilson for slowly transitioning us into nothingness; perhaps writer Mark Waid could’ve taken this approach before shoving such a silly joke at us after pages of darkness.
In fact, this micro-criticism could be expanded to represent my thoughts on the entire issue. By and large, I bristled at its lapse into over-simplicity after planting such tantalizingly complicated seeds. It felt like going to a fancy steakhouse, having the waiter go on and on about the gourmet spices and unorthodox preparations, then being presented with Hamburger Helper. Granted, there were a few moments that made good on the promise of psychological richness, particularly the ending’s descent into nothingness (hell yeah, book-ends!) and this panel, which portrays the face one must put on when battling depression publicly with sharp accuracy:
Yet when it came to the narratively necessary business of defeating Kilgrave and setting the mind-controlled children free… well, there’s a reason I’m choosing the words “narratively necessary business” rather than “joyous and surprising resolution”. The last time I covered Daredevil, at the beginning of this arc, I was enraptured by the villain, his child soldiers, their motivations and inner turmoils, the whole kit and kaboodle. This time, it felt like Waid knew he had to get through this stuff, and rushed it together with some particularly contrived coincidences (Kirsten just guesses correctly right off the bat that the kids would be at this arcade?) and brow-crinklingly silly solutions (all you have to do is play house music sorta loud and Kilgrave’s powers are useless?). Normally I’m all about that Occam’s razor — the idea that the simplest solution is often the best solution — but here, it feels frustratingly easy.
Taylor, am I being too hard on this issue? Did you enjoy the simplicity or did it frustrate you as well? And do you think we’ll see the grumblings between Matt, Kirsten, and Kirsten’s dad come to a head anytime soon?
Taylor: Greg, I had the same reaction you did when it comes to how quickly things were resolved in this issue. The kids being found out in an arcade seems hilariously out of touch with the reality of modern youth. More than likely your average kid is going to go home and play Xbox or watch Youtube videos of people playing harmful pranks on each other for hours on end. The defeat of Killgrave similarly, aside from being oversimplified, also borders on the ridiculous. It reminded me of the way and Adam West era Batman episode would end. Those of us who have seen any episode of the ’66 Batman series know that this is not a good thing.
Still, there are some things which weren’t tied up as nicely. At the initial ending of the issue, Matt tells Kristen that despite his earlier low, he’ll be alright. Only thing is, he’s not.
As this sequence shows, Matt is far from alright. Despite his recent triumph, he has returned to the exact same fetal position in which he opened the issue. This a wonderfully visual way of showing us that despite his recent triumphs, Matt is still suffering on the inside and right where he began the issue. While I can’t claim a close intimacy with depression, I do know that it can cause you to feel you’re never good enough, despite all of the incredible things you do in fact accomplish. This much seems true with Matt. Despite saving the lives of five children and defeating his arch-nemesis, he still feels inadequate.
I think this ultimately makes this a fairly compelling issue because the hero is compelling himself. While watching a hero struggle is part and parcel of any serious comic book, seeing them struggle in this way feels unique. Even when we examine heroes who have dealt with inner demons, these demons are almost made physically manifest by the public’s need for their hero to act. Here, instead of Matt being called to action by need, he does so out of some strong, inner force. This is to say, Matt doesn’t “solve” his depression by the end of the issue. However, in a heroic move, he’s able to overcome his depression for a moment to do what needs to be done. Again, the specifics of how that overcoming are achieved are trite, but the message behind those actions is pretty amazing. In that way, I find Waid’s writing more than adequate in this issue.
What keeps this issue from being really stellar truly are the mundane aspects interjected by Waid. These abound throughout the issue and in some cases detract from the narrative as a whole. When Daredevil is in the midst of rescuing the children from the arcade, he at first has trouble finding them because he can’t locate them with his radar because of too much noise from the video games.
However, a few pages later, Daredevil is able to triumph over evil because he’s blaring music so loud that Killgrave’s voice can’t be heard by the cops. How come that noise didn’t junk up his radar? In theory, shouldn’t loud music be just as disorientating to Matt as a bunch of loud arcade games? While these little missteps could be overlooked if they were few, there are just too many in the issue to dust off. However, sometimes arcs need to be wrapped and sometimes there’s no easy way to polish off a villain without a little deus ex machina I suppose.
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