Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing Daredevil 1, originally released December 2nd, 2015.
You might know me as Matt Murdock, defence attorney, here to help. That guy’s gone.
Matt Murdock, Daredevil 1
Drew: We’re living in the age of the comics auteur. We may not have yet settled exactly who the auteur is in a work that is written, drawn, colored, lettered, and edited by five (or more) different people, but so long as they work together in largely uninterrupted runs, we don’t really need to. That is to say, we may not be able to assign auteurship to one individual on, say, Mark Waid and Chris Samnee’s run on Daredevil, but we can appreciate that they brought a distinct set of sensibilities to the character that are unique to their collaboration. On the whole, I think this is a good thing — it allows creators to play to their own strengths and follow their own interests — but it makes the prospect of following a beloved run particularly daunting. What works for one creative team might not work for another, which means that anything from costumes and character designs to theme and overall tone might be subject to change. Indeed, with the freedom (and perhaps pressure) for each team to bring their own take on the character, those changes are unavoidable. Daredevil 1 features plenty of changes from its previous volume, but writer Charles Soule and artist Ron Garney quickly set about showing why those changes are going to work.
Seriously, though, this Matt Murdock is miles from where we last saw him, both literally and figuratively: he’s back in New York, he’s somehow magicked the genie of his secret identity back into the bottle, he’s working as an Assistant District Attorney, he’s alienated from Foggy, and is working with a new vigilante with battery-powered invisibility. All of these are accepted norms by the time the issue opens, so there’s little explanation as to how any of that came to pass, but it’s to the series’ benefit — this represents a clean break from Matt’s San Francisco adventures, and offers some intriguing mysteries about his new status quo. Actually, the changes are so accepted within the reality of the story that I almost regret bringing up the previous volume at all, but I think it can be instructive in revealing what makes this one work.
One of the most striking changes is the look of this series. Garney’s absorbing inks create a decidedly moodier Daredevil, aided in no small part by his black costume (with shocking red accents). Colorist Matt Milla accentuates this moodiness with his muted color palette, limiting himself to one or two key colors in each scene. It couldn’t really be more different from Samnee and his colorists’ (both Javier Rodriguez and Matt Wilson’s) bright, full-color approach — this Daredevil simply lives in a darker, murkier world.
That darkness is reflected in the writing. If Waid’s Daredevil was at least in part a celebration of what Matt can “see” with his other senses, Soule’s seems more interested in what he can see because he’s blind. Those may not sound like different things, but Matt’s perception of Blindspot offers a perfect example.
He’s invisible to everyone but the blind man. That he actually may represent a blindspot for Matt is an interesting thought (that I’ll get to in a moment), but here, he reveals Matt’s strength over everyone else.
Soule puts an even finer point on that in Matt’s pep-talk to Bobby Li, the State’s Witness Daredevil is protecting at the start of the issue. Matt suggests that his blindness taught him fear — that, if he let it, his blindness could drive him to a life of seclusion. We know things are a bit more complicated than he lets on, but the sentiment still rings true: he doesn’t know what’s coming, but that doesn’t stop him from barreling ahead, anyway.
Of course, what he doesn’t see coming might not be ahead of him at all. The final page of the issue reveals that Blindspot is also the right-hand-man of the crime boss Matt is hoping to (eventually) indict, but this might be another case of something being more complicated than it seems. If the henchmen know the man standing next to their boss is the same guy who beat them up earlier in the issue, they don’t let on, so his apparent double-agency my actually be by Matt’s design. There’s another wrinkle here, in that Blindspot may not know that Matt Murdock is Daredevil — they never address each other by name or see each other without their masks — which may put Matt at risk even if Blindspot is ultimately on Daredevil’s side.
So, anything could happen? One of the most exciting things about a new run is that the rules of the narrative have also changed. We don’t know enough about Blindspot’s relationship to Daredevil to not be surprised by whatever happens. It’s a strong opening for what promises to be a strong take on the character, twisting things just enough to keep me guessing. Patrick, I know you loved the previous volume just as much as I did, so I’m wondering how all of these changes are settling in for you. Which changes do you like, and what are you sorry to see go?
Patrick: I get that it’s like Charles Soule 101, but I had totally forgotten that dude is a lawyer, and is able to bring a level of realism to Matt’s day job that Waid and Samnee could only ever approximate, Hollywood-style. Not that they shied away from the court-room antics, but… well… are you guys watching The Grinder? It’s a great new sitcom on Fox about a retired television star that used to head up a massively successful legal drama. The show is amazingly sharp, and has a lot of teeth when it comes to criticizing the quality of narratives we accept on TV. We see episodes of the show-within-a-show, and the titular Grinder is always able to win a case through sheer theatrics. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that style of legal storytelling, it’s simply inauthentic. Soule’s experience working in law offices takes such inauthenticity off the table. That naturally makes for a much more grounded, dare I say “realistic,” representation of how a superhero may ply his trade as an attorney.
That simple shift, from Public Defender to New York City Prosecutor, informs everything else about the tone of the series. Drew pointed out the Soule and Garney’s new approach to expressing what Matt senses, and how there’s a stronger emphasis on his limitations. It seems as though he’s also maybe more focused on negative details. When he hears Eileen King approaching his shitty new office, he identifies the worn click from an old pair of heels, almost making a snarky little judgement about the wearer before he identifies her to us. Matt’s got a lot of little negative thoughts like that — he bemoans the lack of solid surfaces on the bottom of the east river when he’s trying to get his underwater sonar to work. Actually, it’s weird how much the character himself seems hellbent on reclaiming the past. Both in the river and later with Foggy, it’s like he’s actively trying to shake off the persona he’s carried forward the last five years.
And in my mind, that actually aligns this new version of Matt with the old one pretty well. Remember that early in Waid’s run, Matt’s change in attitude was intentional, almost put-upon by the character himself. Daredevil is a self-made man in every sense, including his ability to determine his own attitude and the tone of his own stories.
That tone is amazing, by the way. Somehow Garney achieves a hardboiled look without sacrificing warmth. I keep coming back to that scene in the river, because it’s so distinctive, and places the reader in Matt’s mostly-blind perspective. The pages are dark, the panels irregular, and the shapes that do come through aren’t very informative. We’re left with almost an impressionistic view of Daredevil.
There’s a real danger that these sorts of pages can come off feeling too design-y — especially with that Sin City-esque single splash of color that Drew referred to earlier. I’m struggling to identify what the quality is that keeps it from feeling too distant and cool, but I’m not sure I can put my finger on it. Perhaps its the newsprint effect that aggressively shades everything, granting the characters a real sense of shape that isn’t present in Miller’s work?
But if I had to narrow it down to one thing I’m most excited for? How about the simple, terrifying image of a man with ten fingers on each hand. Dear god, that’s a scary motherfucking villain. Point of clarification: does he just have that many fingers or has he been collecting them from his acolytes and attaching them to his hands?
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?