Today, Spencer and Michael are discussing Daredevil 12, originally released October 12th, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
Spencer: What is art? I suppose if I had to answer that question, I’d say that art is something one creates that’s intended to elicit some sort of emotional reaction, but even that incredibly broad statement doesn’t cover the full spectrum of what art is, or isn’t, what it can or can’t do. What truly is or isn’t art is subjective, yet the debate rages on; in a way, it even defines the conflict between Daredevil and his new villain, Muse. Muse just wants Daredevil to like his work, while, of course, Matt doesn’t because his work is murder. Can murder be art? Muse certainly seems to think so, and in his mind, that justifies everything he does.
I don’t want to linger too long on the “can murder be art” question because it’s irrelevant; whether it is or isn’t, it’s still wrong. Still, the question is important to Muse, who believes that art justifies anything and requires no explanation.
It’s a chilling mind-set, made all the more terrifying by how resolute and unshakable Muse is. Daredevil is likewise resolute in his belief that Muse’s work is simply murder, and while I, at least, certainly believe Matt’s in the right here, his stubbornness, in a way, seems to drive Muse. Muse wants Daredevil to like his work so badly that he’ll keep on killing until he does; I can definitely see this becoming an obsession.
The similarities in Daredevil and Muse’s conviction — even if their actual beliefs couldn’t be more different — is reflected by the similarities in their designs. Both are colored almost entirely in black and white, with only a few red accents. The first two panels of the image I posted above especially highlight this — artist Ron Garney chooses to focus solely on their faces, which colorist Matt Milla depicts in solely black and white except for red highlights in each of their eyes. This doesn’t just emphasize their similarities, but that both have somewhat black and white views of the world. Of course they’re going to clash.
Garney and Milla’s work is similarly strong throughout the rest of the issue. The “red highlights” motif becomes especially striking once Medusa, Queen of the Inhumans, enters the picture, and Garney’s tight framing of the Daredevil vs. Karnak fight creates a particularly tense and thrilling sequence. My favorite moment, though, is one that’s far more subtle.
I actually had to pull a Highlights for Children on this one and study the two panels to spot the differences, because for a moment I was convinced that the second panel was just a copy of the first, yet it had an entirely different feeling to it. The differences are there, but they’re subtle; in the second panel Matt’s mouth opens ever so slightly as he speaks, his eyebrows arch, and his head angles more towards the left side of the panel. The first panel is Matt’s shock over being told “no” by Medusa, while in the second he transitions to disbelief, barking back at the Queen with a cocked head and definite anger in his voice. It’s an incredibly effective moment, made all the more astounding by the sheer subtlety of it.
In her own way, Queen Medusa is just as stubborn as Daredevil or Muse. Matt thinks she should help his investigation, and she disagrees, and nothing is going to change their minds. In the confrontation with Muse, a grenade ended their stand-off; in this case, things escalate to violence, with Karnak — whose convictions are infamously unshakeable in their own right — acting as an extension of Medusa’s will. It’s only Frank McGee who can de-escalate things, and he does so by making a compromise.
McGee doesn’t agree with Medusa in this instance, but he can understand where she’s coming from, which allows him to intervene in a positive, constructive manner. The idea seems to be that everybody generally believes they’re in the right and can justify their actions if they so choose, and thus, blindly arguing your own viewpoint without considering anyone else’s leads nowhere. It takes empathy and compromise to move forward.
Writer Charles Soule is particularly qualified to lay out this particular lesson, since he also writes Medusa’s monthly adventures over in Uncanny Inhumans and can thus present her perspective with just as much authority as he can Matt’s.
It stands to reason that there’s some overlap in readership between the two titles, and any readers of Uncanny Inhumans checking out this issue have already seen Medusa make similar decisions for similar, if not identical, reasons. If we can accept her as being in the right in those instances, we can at least give her the benefit of the doubt this time, right?
Of course, Muse represents the limits of this kind of thinking. There are some people who are just in the wrong, period, no matter how much they think they’re in the right, and reasoning with them is about as useful as slamming your head into a wall. Whether facing a murderous artist or dealing with a racist Twitter egg, sometimes action is required, whether it’s of the superheroic variety or more in the blocking, reporting, and ignoring vein.
Michael, I really appreciate the conflicts Soule, Garney, and Milla lay out this month, but there’s plenty more to love here too — how about that Daredevil vs. Karnak fight, eh? What’s your take on all this?
Michael: Spencer, we seem to be at an ideological impasse because I DO think murder is art and that’s all I have to say about that.
Before I talk about the Karnak vs. Daredevil fight I wanted to talk about Muse himself for a spell. First off, let me just say what a delightfully creepy looking villain he is. We’re not yet clear on the nature of his murder-art powers but it’s safe to say that he’s not wearing a mask and costume. Ron Garney draws Muses’ face as a frightening piece of artwork that makes me think of the Court of Owls and Van Gogh’s The Scream, perhaps because I don’t know art from art. His face looks like it’s been drawn on by Muse himself – hair-like lines swirling around his eyeballs like he’s going mad. Let’s not forget that he’s got that whole “bleeding from the eyes” thing going for him as well.
I’ve found “Dark Art” very enjoyable thus far and to meet the creepy, kind of funny man behind the murders makes it even more so. Charles Soule gives Muse this self-awareness that made him stand out in his brief confrontation with Daredevil at the beginning of the issue. I hesitate to call him Muse because the man himself wasn’t too sure if he’d stick with it. He’s so committed to the artist bit that he’s having fun with the clichés involved, saying that his name might change. I feel like saying this might not get as much mileage as it once did but in a way Muse reminds me of The Joker: the performance artist killer whose M.O. may change down the road.
Muse talks about his role as an artist when he says “reinvention is one of the keys to a long career,” but he could also very well be talking about comic books, superheroes, and specifically Daredevil himself. In the past ten years Daredevil has gone from dark and brooding to happy and care-free and now somewhere in between. Whether or not Muse knows Matt’s secrets, Matt knows all too well about the importance of reinvention – namely his mysterious mystical mind wipe. I’m not trying to put Muse in the arch nemesis spot or anything, I just think that he’s a fun foil for Daredevil. One of the great ironies and/or yings/yangs of their relationship is that Daredevil is physically incapable of seeing the artwork that Muse so desperately wants him to see. Muse will never truly be vindicated because Daredevil can’t react to his artwork the way he wants.
I think I mention this any time I cover Daredevil but man oh man do I love the black suit with the red gloves and boots. When he’s chasing bad guys in the dark of night he’s part of that darkness himself; distinguished only by those reds and highlights of white. When Garney draws Daredevil in New Attilan – a place foreign from those rooftops of Hell’s Kitchen – he still has those white highlights, as if he brings his aesthetic with him wherever he goes. It’s not something that carries over to other characters either, as evidenced by Frank McGee’s jet black suit. In truth it is a couple of things: 1) It’s the cool new look Daredevil has been sporting, 2) it’s a reminder that Daredevil is on unfamiliar territory and 3) his suit just might be really shiny. I’m just fond of the idea that when Daredevil enters the world of the Inhumans, he’s not homogenized into their style. It’s a small visual note that vibes well with the Daredevil vs. Inhumans fight.
The actual fight between Karnak and Daredevil is over pretty quick but there’s nothing wrong with that. During the fight with Muse Garney removed the background from the panels and replaced it with a red background – perhaps to both highlight the action and lend itself to Daredevil’s radar sense. The Daredevil/Karnak fight is nothing but this, with a trading of orange and yellow backgrounds as the two trained fighters block and attack blow for blow. While Karnak can pinpoint DD’s weak point (his blindness), it seems that he can’t detect that it’s also his secret strength – which allows Matt to win the fight.
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