By: Mark Waid (story), Chris Samnee (art), Javier Rodriguez (colors)

The Story: Hm.  “The man with fear!” just doesn’t have the same inspiring ring to it.

The Review: I’ve never really reflected on the tagline attached to this title before, but with this issue, it feels appropriate to think about what Daredevil’s nickname really means.  “The man without fear!”  That’s a challenge if I ever heard one.  It’s a cocky kind of declaration, the kind you’d associate with people who love to cheat death, as if doing so proves their invulnerability.  Essentially, the man who fears nothing is the man who isn’t concerned about loss of any kind.

So what can drive such a man to be afraid?  By neutralizing the things that gave him courage.  For Daredevil, that would be both his fighting skills and prodigious senses.  In his flashbacks to training under Stick, we see him face a sudden freefall with first surprise, then total command of himself, making a perfect landing with the help of his internal radar.  But if he can’t depend on these senses to help him in a pinch, would he have that same conviction and confidence?

His battle with one Ikari (translated: “Fury”) essentially captures that challenge.  His opponent is patently designed to counter his particular abilities, matching him blow-for-blow, radar sense-for-radar sense.  Even so, Matt remains a little conceited in the edge his experience gives him, both overestimating his skills and underestimating those of his foe.  Despite the fact that Ikari surprises him at every turn, he keeps holding onto a conviction that he can end this easily: “He won’t fare near as well outside.  This is my battleground.  The only thing he has going for him out here—is dumb luck.”

It’s as much his own cockiness as Ikari’s power which leads to his undoing.  Believing that if he can negate his opponent’s additional powers he can level the playing ground, he succeeds only in shutting off his own senses.  He’s laid completely bare the moment he realizes this is the biggest miscalculation of all (“He’s not blghhgh–*–blind—”), and only by Ikari’s sadistic sense of mercy does our hero survive the beatdown that follows.

Speaking of sadism, it’s become very apparent that whoever enlisted Ikari to go after Daredevil, he’s doing with a lot of personal venom.  In light of how all of Matt’s recent troubles have borne some connection to his past, and especially given how Ikari first appears in the garb of Matt’s father, there’s a heavily psychological component to this attack.  Ikari’s master doesn’t just want to defeat Daredevil; he wants to break him down completely, in mind, body and spirit.  Ikari assures that Matt will certainly die by his hand.  “What we don’t want you to know is the when.  …I promise you, you will never see it coming.  And that scares you.”  Waid ends the issue by showing that Ikari has at least partially succeeded: “Next: Man With Fear!”  It’ll be great to see how the core of Matt’s courage will rise to the occasion.

It’s difficult to generate real suspense in a superhero comic, since the threat of actual death by and large remains nonexistent.  But Samnee definitely knows how to deliver in this respect.  Timing is key to building any kind of tension, and Samnee has it down pat.  Consider the scene of Matt crouched and hidden behind a display stand in an abandoned sporting goods store, a broken sprinkler system raining about him, Ikari stepping ever closer.  Notice how Samnee uses three panels to show Matt’s hand moving toward a baseball bat, each narrow panel shifting it ever closer to its object, each representing another breathless moment—just before our view widens again to Ikari staring straight down on us, revealing that he’s been watching Daredevil all along.  Rodriguez is a colorist without fear, juxtaposing neon and electric hues in unexpectedly wonderful combinations to make each panel pop.

Conclusion: It’s not often that a hero gets driven to the breaking point without any fancy superpowers involved, which makes this issue a superb showing by Waid and Samnee on any level.

Grade: A-

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – It must be pretty handy for an attorney to have a built-in lie detector, even if you can’t give it any legal significance whatsoever.