Slugfest: Daredevil #2

A comic review article by: The Firing Squad

Issue #2 of the new Daredevil series continues, picking up right where #1 left off- with DD about to get bonked in the head by Captain America's shield. Fisticuffs ensue, then the bromance is ready to begin again (sort of) until some Z-list Iron Man foe pokes his head in.

Rafael Gaitan: 5 stars
Travis Walecka: 4 stars
Dave Wallace: 4 stars

:Rafael Gaitan

In an era where the entire Marvel Universe is in the grip of fear, the best ongoing published today focuses on a man without it. Much like the daring nature of Matt Murdock, comics readers were skeptical of Mark Waid-- a writer known more for his team books-- taking the plunge into a character whose books have nearly always been grim and gritty. Since the stellar first issue, Waid has demonstrated an awe-inspiring understanding of what defines Matt Murdock as a character, especially in the post- {Shawdowland} universe where he has a reputation to rebuild. As Waid himself has said, his Murdock is a man who has had all the bad things in the world happen to him twice and survived, so what more can be done?

One of Waid's most impressive talents on this title is his descriptions of Daredevil's power. In both issues, Matt has used his sensitive hearing to listen for heartbeat spikes, but this one in particular also has him notice the blood sugar rising in a person he's talking to, which he recognizes as pheromones. Of all the writers who have graced the pages of Daredevil, Waid has to be the most in-tune since Frank Miller, and while Miller's run was more about Murdock as a redemptive soul, Waid focuses on what makes Matt Murdock, both in his personal and private life. Waid's back-up story from #1 delves into it a bit more, but issue 2 jumps right in without any additional explanation. Waid has a talent for economic writing, usually coaxing exceptionally vivid art from his collaborators, and with the Riveras there is no exception.

This issue finds Daredevil and Captain America fighting on a rooftop, and includes one of the most brilliant switches- Daredevil and Cap trade weapons throughout their tussle, which is masterfully rendered by Paolo and Joe Rivera. The Riveras' gorgeous, clean linework is a highlight of the series on its own- the relationship between their pencils and Waid's scripting is synchronous perfection. Daredevil's commentary about the perfection of the design of Cap's shield is both characteristic Murdock as well as one of the great touches of humor that Waid has infused this book with. That's not to say it's light-hearted, however.

The overarching story still features Matt Murdock trying to represent a Mr. Jobrani, a Muslim man suing the city of New York for a beating he took at the hands of cops. Jobrani's case has been in and out of the system, and Daredevil discovers that several of New York's prominent lawyers have been harangued into not taking it. Paolo and Joe make great use out of the two-page spread several times through this issue, simultaneously conveying the scope of New York city as well as the detailed intimacy of the scenario. It's widescreen without being decompressed, and it is difficult to pull off, but the Riveras and Waid have that keen visual connection that makes them comic-book dynamite on the page.

The book's narrative set-up is quite inspiring as well. Waid is striking a delicate balance with street-level superheroism as well as the much welcome return of the "villain of the month" style that originally earned Daredevil his "Man Without Fear" moniker. Daredevil has tangled with the Spot, now Captain America and apparently the Living Laser! Waid's usage of Spider-Man nemeses in this title is a subtle nod to Miller's own work, but another step in indicating his own path with this world, one where we're reminded these characters all share the same space, like us non-powered people do.

Daredevil is the best title Marvel is putting out today. While some of their other stuff is on genius level shit, like Jason Aaron's Punisher MAX, this book is taking a previously maligned character and pushing him in yet another direction, an unexpected one, one that proves fruitful for sensational comics. In the age of crossovers, Daredevil is establishing itself as a singular piece of sequential art perfection, and Waid has in two issues started a track that will ensure his place as one of the Devil's signature storytellers. There's still time to take the leap of faith with Daredevil, and if you do, you'll be reading quite possibly the most unique take on the character in the last twenty years. Waid and Rivera more than give the Devil his due...

Rafael Gaitan was born in 1985, but he belongs to the '70s. He is a big fan of onomatopoeia, being profane and spelling words right on the first try. Rafael has a hilariously infrequent blog and writes love letters to inanimate objects as well as tweets of whiskey and the mysteries of the heart at @bearsurprise. He ain't got time to bleed.

Travis Walecka:

Many people were split on the Big Shots announcement that Mark Waid was dubbed the new creator of Daredevil. But after several years—if not decades—of Matt Murdock imperilled by endless doom and gloom, Waid’s optimistic approach to this “reborn” fella couldn’t be any better.

-“We don’t need another Spider-Man,” they cried! Well, don’t worry—this Matt’s far from it. He quips, he two-lines, he’s still a serious hero.

-“Klaw? You couldn’t come up with a cheesier Z-list villain, could you?” How about 26 virtual-demonic Klaws, who ignore Murdock’s every physical move, yet torture him mentally all the same?

-“Swash-buckling adventures? This just doesn’t sound right.” Dude, Daredevil goes toe-to-toe with Captain America.

Remember Shadowland? (Wipe those tears. I’ll give you a minute. Go ‘head…) There are repercussions from that atrocious event. And I don’t just mean Andy Diggle’s career. Steve Rogers wants Matt Murdock to pay for his sins; that’s if this newly rejuvenated deviled–mask man is even Matt. Thankfully, Waid does a great job acutely referencing Murdock’s brief–and all-too forgetful exorcism despite the matter being relegated to trivial at this point. It should be interesting to to see whether the writer delves into the recent announcement that Daredevil would be awarded induction into Bendis’ New Avengers. If not, the ongoing Jabroni case gives Matt and Foggy plenty to work with…

But, I find it ironic that Cap and ‘Devil would confront at this point anyway. Not only did both titles shift from espionage to all-out action comics, but I was granted the opportunity to review both this week. The connection I find between the two superior Marvel flagships is the introduction of pure artistic motion. In the latest volume of Captain America, panels seem to briskly tell the story without much shadowing. Steve McNiven’s sheer deftness with the pencils allows Brubaker to explore realms not seen on the title (i.e. dinosaurs, time portals), much akin to Paulo Rivera’s swift panel shifts, particularly during Daredevil #2’s opening scenes with Cap and basement metal-churning moments towards its backend.

And is anything more bad-ass than Rivera’s rendition of Murdock’s first-person radar sense? Not only are the bleeding, laser-zigzagging perspectives creepy, they place the reader involved in the moment. We’re so there dude.

And hopefully any doubting jabroni’s of Waid’s new reign as Daredevil's expert will soon be there, too.

Travis Walecka is Comic Bulletin's champion jabroni. His biceps are as big as your thighs and he beats up evildoers in his freetime.

Dave Wallace:

Although Daredevil #2 isn't quite as fantastic as Mark Waid and Paulo Rivera's excellent first issue, it's still a pretty good superhero comic.

Waid advances a reasonably complex plot capably, pausing only for occasional contrivances like the battle with Captain America that opens the issue. Even though the clash feels superfluous and out of place--given that it doesn't really hold any relevance for the rest of the issue--the writer makes things a little more interesting than your average run-of-the-mill hero-vs-hero fight through his smart handling of some of the smaller details.

There's a neat switch that sees the two characters fight using each other's weapons, leading to a perfectly-judged comment from Matt about the construction of Cap's shield. There's also an almost-immediate acknowledgement of the notion that Cap should know better than to blindly (no pun intended) arrest Daredevil for his crimes during the “Shadowland” story without finding out more about them first.

Undercutting the seriousness of the scene, there's an extended humourous riff on legal terminology, along with a lovely gag about Matt being a “Hand puppet” that almost makes the entire Shadowland saga worth it. Almost.

Paulo Rivera also takes the opportunity to produce some lovely art for the battle, interspersing some dense back-and-forth sequentials with one or two iconic standalone images.

The rest of the issue sees Waid and Rivera continue to set up their core mystery, showing us some of the detective work that Matt has to do if he's to get a better picture of what's going on. In between this, there's an amusing bit of business with Foggy Nelson that confounds the expectations that were set up by introducing a female Assistant D.A. in the first issue, and subverts the usual convention of Matt being the male character who gets all the action in this book.

It isn't long before the issue moves towards a final section that sets up a pleasing if traditional cliffhanger ending. As with the first issue, the development is something that's (hopefully) going to make sense once it's explained in the next chapter, because at the moment there's no real explanation for what's happening. Nevertheless, it gives Rivera the chance to again experiment with some freaky visual effects for DD's radar, giving the featured supervillain a weirdly incomplete aura that mirrors his intangibility in the real world.

If I have any real complaint about the issue, it's that it feels like it's over far too quickly. Whilst that's not the worst thing that you can say about a comic (as I've clearly been left wanting more), I do think it's indicative of the reduction in page count that we've seen lately at both Marvel and DC.

Given that creators now have only 20 pages of story to play with, I think we need to see them adapt their style of storytelling to really wring the best out of the space that they've been given. Because using seven full pages for a fight with Cap and eight pages for an atmospheric set-up of the next issue seems like overkill when that only leaves room for two pages with Foggy, and three pages of detective work to flesh out the plot. Still, that sense of slightly imbalanced pacing is a fairly minor complaint for an otherwise very competent and readable book.

Finally, I'd also like to commend Waid for his mature and unsensationalist approach to including a gay couple in his story,which occurs without any fanfare or contrivance. It's not an important part of the story, and it's barely even acknowledged--but by handling it as such an irrelevance rather than drawing attention to it, it actually makes the book and the wider Marvel Universe feel far more inclusive and diverse, and is to be applauded.

A journalist and sometime comics reviewer, Dave Wallace was raised on a traditional European diet of Beano comics, Asterix collections and Tintin books before growing up and discovering that sequential art could -- occasionally -- be even better than that. He has an unashamed soft spot for time-travel stories, Spider-Man, and anything by Alan Moore or Grant Morrison, and has been known to spend far too much on luxurious hardcover editions of his favorite books when it's something he really likes. Maybe one day he'll get around to writing down his own stories that have been knocking around his head for a while now.


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