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

The Story: To defeat his opponent, Daredevil will need to make a change of heart.

The Review: I imagine that for any person, one of the lowest moments of his life has to be the moment when he runs away from a problem.  Wrapped up in that decision are all the feelings which eat away at your dignity: humiliation, cowardice, inferiority, etc.  Under those conditions, the maxim, “Discretion is the better part of valor,” proves to be of little comfort.  It’s hard to tell if survival is worth the cost of your peace of mind.

Matt is certainly learning that lesson in this issue.  His complete ownage at the hands of Ikari last month leaves him on edge and downright paranoid.  Everything, from the buzz of his cellphone to the appearance of strangers, visibly sets off his nerves: he’s jumpy and sweaty; he’s constantly looking over his shoulder; even his physicality has been affected, leaving him clumsy and unbalanced.  In short, he has become the opposite of his persona.

The transformation is so drastic that you can’t help questioning if it’s entirely earned.  Can one beatdown really change him that much?  Even he questions this alteration to his personality: “I’ve faced death before, but not in a cold sweat.  So why is this time different? Why am I scared out of my mind?

The answer Waid gives us is rational, but slightly problematic in a broader context.  As he explains his troubles to Foggy, he realizes the reason why this time, the fear of death has become so crippling: “If he kills me, where does that leave you?”  This response sort of overlooks the fact that from the moment his identity became public, all his loved ones were at risk; his death is no requirement for their endangerment.  Frankly, Foggy has faced that kind of danger long before he ever contracted cancer.

Another slight downside to Matt’s realization is how soon it comes.  Call me a sadist, but I would’ve liked to see him in this hyper-alert state a little longer before he inevitably makes his comeback.  After all, how often do you see the Man Without Fear freaked out?  Such a rarity should be savored a little, forcing our hero to engage in some real soul-searching.  Instead, he spends about half a day in a panicked state before he brings the fight to his enemy.*  Let’s hope this experience inspires some kind of long-term change to his character.

It does seem like Waid is in some kind of hurry to wrap up this storyline.  He definitely rushes Matt and Foggy in their deduction of who the mastermind behind this whole vendetta is, taking a couple logical liberties in the process.  It’s only by chance that Foggy latches onto Matt’s choice of metaphor (“[T]hat was only the first circle of this hell…  Circles within circles.”), in the process realizing who put Matt at the center of his target.  Nonetheless, it’s an effective revelation, and seeing Daredevil gather his wits about him once more to face his nemesis is, true to Waid’s strengths, full of exciting suspense.

Where Samnee really separates himself from the other retro-cartoon artists out there is his sense of action.  He manages to convey some wonderfully free-flowing movement to the characters so that they don’t looked posed or suspended in air.  Fight sequences look convincingly painful, with clear indicia of damage (e.g., the angle of a broken nose, a clenched jaw, spatters of background energy).  Rodriguez’s colors are equally brilliant.  As Matt walks through the busy, active hospital, he remains in your eye’s focus not only because of his red hair, but also from the way Rodriguez places the most light upon him, leaving everyone else in shadow.

Conclusion: Waid delivers another solid issue, although he rushes through some of the more interesting developments of his story, leaving them ever so slightly underdeveloped.

Grade: B+

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: * It reminds me of how, in the Thor movie, Thor basically gets exiled from Asgard from two days and somehow that was long enough for him to re-earn his hammer, even though all he did during that time was fall in love with Natalie Portman.

– I always think it must be quite uncomfortable, going through the day with your costume underneath your regular clothes.

– There’s a Lady Bullseye.  Boy, that is an interesting level of lame.