Comic Picks By The Glick

Daredevil by Mark Waid vol. 4

October 30, 2013

At this point there’s very little to say about this series beyond the familiar refrain that it continues to provide a great example of the minimum standard of quality a superhero title needs to have in order to survive in this market.  Waid and artist Chris Samnee (with guest artist Michael Allred in this volume) continue to keep that level of quality up here.  So if you’ve been buying this title in trade paperback form like I have, there’s no reason to stop reading it now.  In fact, this volume even throws in a little extra creepiness to keep things interesting here.

One of the mysteries left over from the previous volume was the matter of just what Franklin “Foggy” Nelson found in Matt Murdock’s desk that freaked him out so much.  We get our answer at the end of the opening story, where Hank Pym goes inside Daredevil’s head to take out the Doom-created nanobots that are continuing to mess with the hero’s brain.  While I don’t normally care for Pym one way or the other, he proves to be a surprisingly capable and sympathetic presence here.  The story establishes early on that Pym is picking up on Matt/Daredevil’s memories through a malfunction in his suit, but it isn’t until things get really bad for the hero when he realizes that he may be able to draw more from his host than he initially realized.  It’s a clever and even touching moment when the scientist comes to the realization of just how different Daredevil’s world is through actually experiencing it for himself.

Then Daredevil wakes up, changes back into Matt, goes to his office and is confronted by Foggy about why the bones of his father are in his desk.  Unable to trust his friend anymore, Foggy fires Matt and the title character is left to figure out who has it in for him.

This is only the tip of the iceberg, though, as Matt’s ex-wife Milla shows up in his apartment without any explanation.  As a result, he then gets dragged into Foggy’s latest case:  a locked-room mystery involving a nurse being accused of murder-by-exsanguination of a crimelord.  What should be an easy bit of investigation has the superhero questioning his sanity after he experiences a series of seemingly inexplicable events.  He’s soon led right into the path of a mysterious new supervillain known as Coyote.

Coyote has a certain kind of reality-warping power that’s very similar to another Marvel villain, only Waid finds some genuinely disturbing uses for this power.  It’s creepy enough to see what he does to Daredevil, and even worse when you see what has become of his victims.  (Though I will concede that some of the “uses” he has found for them push the boundaries of plausibility.)   Things get even stranger when his “power source” comes into play, and Samnee gets some really unsettling visuals out of the character and his “malfunctioning” powers.  Though Coyote’s storyline is wrapped up on a fairly positive note, other developments involving Matt’s current girlfriend, District Attorney Kirsten McDuffie, show that the drama in his life shows no sign of abating anytime soon.  In fact, the volume ends with the indication that we’ll be getting some “superior” drama next time.

Samnee shared the “Best Artist” Eisner award this year with “Hawkeye” artist David Aja, and it’s easy to see why.  Not only is his storytelling easy to follow in chaotic, reality-warping scenes like the fight in the warehouse, but his characters are wonderfully expressive too.  There’s a moment early on when Matt is crumpling against Foggy’s verbal assault and only manages to recover when his friend hits him with an ultimatum.  The “acting” Samnee imbues his characters with is nothing short of sterling and it helps sell every scene in the book.

His work even stands tall against Allred’s.  One of the few artists who can elevate a script through his art, he illustrates an interlude where Matt remembers the time that the offices of Nelson & Murdock were attacked by Stilt-Man which led to a reunion of sords with his father Battlin’ Jack.  Allred’s off-kilter style makes the battle more memorable than it would’ve been otherwise, and he also nails the big emotional moment that Waid sets up for Matt towards the end.  It’s good stuff, even if the coloring of his art here is more muted than usual and doesn’t allow his work to pop off the page.

Waid and Samnee have clearly found their groove with this title and are continuing to put out some of the most solid superhero action around.  If that’s your thing and you aren’t reading this, then you are only doing a disservice to yourself.  No, it’s not superlatively good enough to get me to buy these volumes in hardcover, but I keep checking Amazon regularly to find out when the next softcover is coming out.  It was recently announced that they’ll be leaving the title with issue #36, and I certainly don’t envy whoever has to follow in their footsteps.

Jason Glick

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