By: Mark Waid (writer), Paolo Rivera (penciller), Joe Rivera (inker), Javier Rodriguez (color artist)

The Story: It’s Christmas and Matt is struggling to turn a corner in his life, away from the tortured, guilt-ridden man he has been for so long. A group of kids he is mentoring gives him a kick in the pants. Before you stop reading, this issue was totally cheese-free!

The Review: This was a little gem of an issue, containing a complete disaster story. Waid starts us in media res, with Matt (as a blind adult, and arguably uncertain about himself) taking a bunch of low-confidence blind kids on a Christmas field trip, when an accident occurs. The bus driver is dead, and DD’s radar sense is pretty much useless in a snowstorm in the forest. So, it’s back to basics and character. It’s a beautiful dramatic set-up that carries honest peril, and forces different people to draw on what makes them heroes in the first place, powers or not. DD, while super-heroic, is shown some common heroism, which is a pretty strong kick in the pants to his own personal problems. Although Waid doesn’t show if Matt changes his life outlook, there is no doubt that what happens in this issue can be a platform for helping him get back on an even keel. Waid does this all with an economy of honest dialogue and monologue narrative, although the key elements of the character change can not be said to be hidden.

Artwise, Rivera, Rivera and Rodriguez laid down some attractively stylized story that was heavy on atmosphere, sound, including graphic glimpses into Matt’s radar-sense and heightened hearing, showing both their strengths and limitations. I loved the heartbeats in silhouettes, the contour lines of the external world and the desolation the artists found in what most of us would consider a buccolic Christmas exterior. The hand-shaped visual at the climax was pretty evocative and throughout the issue, the children were depicted, in the writing and in the art, with understated authenticity (no cutesy kids, smarmy kids, no Welsey Crushers, etc). Nice stuff.

Conclusion: Quite a satisfying issue that shone a bit of a light on DD’s heart, much in the same way as Jenkins recently did with some powerfully simple and effective stories with Thor.

Grade: B

-DS Arsenault

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