The Responsibility of the Witness in Daredevil 605

by Patrick Ehlers

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Charles Soule and Mike Henderson’s Daredevil 605 begins with Wilson Fisk raising from his hospital bed to attempt to regain control of New York City. Even dressed in a hospital gown and dragging an IV pole behind him, Fisk backs Foggy into a corner. It looks like Fisk is going to get his way, but ends up collapsing to the ground — it turns out that he wasn’t well enough to exert himself so much. But he made a choice to stop letting Matt Murdock run New York City, rather that simply witnessing it from the safety of his hospital room. While the sun sets on this Wilson Fisk story after three pages, the remainder of the issue plays out that same fundamental question over and over again: what responsibility does a witness have to interfere with whatever they are witnessing?

Soule and Henderson will end up applying that question to Daredevil and the Ordo Draconum, to Commissioner Karnik, and to the exiting-Mayor Matt Murdock. These are all heroic witness-to-participant turns, so they’re automatically feel sort of prescriptive, right? When Uncle Ben tells Peter Parker that “with great power comes great responsibility”, we can recognize that as a lesson for the reader as much as a lesson for Spider-Man. Henderson takes that a step further, explicitly putting the reader in the perspective of Father Jordan and his Dragon Order. We see out through the blinds of the bodega they’re holed up in, and the blinds end up creating a set of extra panel dividers.

It’s a cool effect, and it only takes a little bit of extrapolating to connect the thick black lines created by these blinds to the panel dividers on every page of the Hand’s raid on NYC. I’ve mentioned in previous write-ups of this arc how specifically Henderson and Soule set up the contrast between the white-guttered pages inside the Mayor’s Office and the black-guttered pages out on the street, and while I still think the contrast works on its own merit, the payoff with the blinds is absolutely incredible. It means that every time we see through thick black lines that we, the reader, are peering into a world we condemned to only witness. Of course our heroes can bust through that slitted barrier and actually put themselves in danger to protect the city. The reader cannot.

I mean, the reader also can’t really highjack a cavalry of police horses to fight an army of demon ninjas, but there’s always some part of the superhero-as-life-advice analogy that doesn’t hold up, right? That’s why we’ve got Karnik standing up to the Beast instead of giving him Blindspot. It is not so far fetched that you might have to stand up to protect someone who is being threatened by someone more powerful than both of you put together. The Beast even offers Karnik the easy out: inaction. “Give him up… and I will leave this city in peace.” That’s a legit choice: witness an attack or prevent it. Karnik choses prevent.

All of this perfectly sets up Daredevil for where the series is clearly headed: Mayor Fisk only won the election by cheating — what’s Matt Murdock going to do about it. But look out, because that’s also the position that Americans have been in for a year and a half. I was never really sure if we were supposed to see Fisk as a Trumpian figure, but this new revelation brings the mayoral crisis in Marvel’s New York City in line with the current presidential crisis in a way that seems too big and too obvious to ignore. That is a non-hypothetical scenario we all find ourselves in now, and most of us have not been shaken from the relative safety of our role of witness. Hell, I’m not even sure I know what it means to give that up.

The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?

3 comments on “The Responsibility of the Witness in Daredevil 605

  1. I think what’s really heartbreaking about that reveal is that Matt had just expressed is faith in the democratic system. He knew he was a better leader for the city than Fisk, but ultimately agreed to give him back power because that’s who the people of New York elected, and their opinion is the one that matters. He didn’t want to erode public trust in the vote, so let the elected leader remain in power…only to discover that he wasn’t elected. There’s obviously some pointed commentary in there, but I’m also feeling like “eroding trust in essential institutions” is a trend we’ve seen across all levels of our society over the past few years. Whether it’s trust in the police or the news media or our elected officials to hold one another accountable for their actions, people are suspicious of just about everything. I have no idea where that trend ends, but none of the strategies anyone has tried so far seem to be working at all.

  2. I think more non-horse type superheroes need more horses. I want Captain America on a horse. I want Spider-Man on a horse. I want Luke Cage on a horse! (I’m sure there are Spider-Man and Cap on horses somewhere in Marvel history. Not sure on Cage. Maybe)

    It wouldn’t work on tv or in a movie because it looks too ridiculous. But it’s comics perfect.

    • It’s weird because horses would hinder the mobility of a lot of heroes – Spider-Man and Daredevil in particular. But, like yeah, let’s get Punisher on a horse! (I guess I’m just pitching Jonah Hex…)

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