by Mark Waid (writer), Paolo Rivera (pencils), Joe Rivera (inks), Javier Rodriguez (colors), and Joe Caramagna (letters)

The Story: Daredevil cuts Mole Man’s twisted romance short.

The Review: This issue is a key example of why I enjoy Mark Waid’s take on Daredevil and why it’s been so critically beloved in general.  It features Matt battling a gigantic subterranean monster and dueling Mole Man in a diamond mine.  It so happens that I’m currently re-reading Brian Bendis’ celebrated run and it’s amazing just how different Waid’s story is.  Quite simply, Mark Waid is turning pre-conceived notions of what constitutes a “Daredevil story” on its head and continues to challenge limits and expand the kinds of stories that can be told about old horn-head while still staying true to the character.

Fighting Mole Man and giant monsters in subterranean monsters seems totally contrary to the “street-level” Daredevil comic, and yet it works here simply because Waid imbues it with enough pure fun and daring-do to still make for an enjoyable read.  Morever, despite the crazy circumstances, Waid accompanies it with narration by Matt that keeps it tied to the character.  Even in these wild situations, the story remains tied to Matt’s psyche and character so, in this sense, this still feels like a “Daredevil comic” despite monsters and moloids subbing for thugs and hoods and giant caves standing in for the mean streets of Hell’s Kitchen.  While it’s refreshing and fun, it’s still the life of a superhero very much through Matt’s eyes and THAT is ultimately what makes it feel truly “Daredevil” above all else.

Waid also does a great job in his writing of Mole Man, who is perhaps surprisingly competent in physical combat, giving his fight with Daredevil a vaguely slapstick feel that fits Paolo Rivera’s style perfectly.  Waid’s depiction of Mole Man is very engaging as well – he’s pathetic and disturbed, but not “evil”.  Basically, Waid makes it much more nuanced than he’d necessarily have to.  He gives us a peak into a disturbed mind, which leads to a fully realized, three-dimensional villain.

Moreover, Waid even spends some time ruminating on the nature of death and corporeality – is Mole Man actually doing something “wrong?”  Of what worth are corpses, really, given that they’re dead and, if you believe in such things, their souls are departed?  It leads to a nice back and forth between Mole Man and Matt.  Ultimately, in Mole Man, Waid gives us a villain that is most definitely twisted, but also vaguely sympathetic, perhaps of how reduced and pathetic he really is.

Art-wise, it’s Paolo Rivera, so it’s gorgeous.  Rivera’s work may not be focused on pure artistic horsepower when it comes to detail, but in an action-heavy issue like this one, his layouts and fluidity are invaluable.  Everything feels organic and flows perfectly.  It also gives the issue the necessary feelings of old-school fun and energy that it thrives off of.  His illustration of the duel between Matt and Mole Man is also nothing less than pure entertainment.

Conclusion: Mark Waid and Paolo Rivera give us a perfect blend of fun  and characterization, all while continuing to challenge pre-conceived notions of Daredevil and “Daredevil comics.”

Grade: B+

-Alex Evans