By: Mark Waid (story), Chris Samnee (art), Javier Rodriguez (colors)
The Story: Hot town, summer in the city, bad verdict out—not looking pretty.
The Review: A couple months ago, I voiced my suspicion that by using the bigoted Sons of the Serpent to manipulate the courts Daredevil holds so dear, Waid was picking at the overtones of racial injustice underpinning the Trayvon Martin case. Clearly, I spoke too soon. The real-world connections in that arc were painted with broad strokes, reflecting more subtle and pervasive problems in our justice system. Here, we get far more specific references:
“[The defendant] stands accused of following and shooting a ‘suspicious-looking’ Black teenager in her building.” If Waid wanted to be any more obvious, he’d have to name the young man “Trey.” Fortunately, he realized that for his story’s purposes, he couldn’t credibly make the facts too close to the bone. To provoke the reaction he needs from the fictional public, Waid has to drive up the motivating injustice a bit: the defendant has a “long and recorded history of bigotry” and the victim “was an honor-student tutor visiting a neighbor’s kid.”* That said, Waid may push too far once he has cops shouting, “He’s resisting, Charlie! Get the taser ready!”
With circumstances like that, how can anyone resist the urge to lash out in protest, especially once a major figure of the case presses everyone’s buttons with incisive language? Or so it seems. I don’t have much familiarity with an apparently old-school Marvel villain like the Jester, but I have a feeling this media manipulation master plan of his goes a step beyond any antics he’s ever done before. Sowing chaos is one thing, but using it to lead Daredevil towards a trap customized to strike at Matt’s very heart—that’s ambition of a very different order.
But Waid has never shied away from the challenge of revising what a conventional comic book should look like. As serious as the subject-matter and tone of Daredevil can often be, it never strives for grimness for its own sake. Even in the midst of these race riots—and you can hardly call them anything else—which have absolutely nothing funny about them, Waid still finds ways to make you laugh with sheer delight. No other writer has so convincingly added sci-fi elements to a street-level hero’s world with such fantastic results. Hank Pym sending his ants to seed a rain cloud and douse the tempers of the raging crowd below is pure comic book wonder, through and through, and several times more imaginative than many purportedly sci-fi comics.*
Amazingly enough, no matter how much care Waid puts into the plot, he never takes the character work for granted. While not quite as psychologically complex as Pete Tomasi’s writing, Waid is no less subtle and attentive. Even the extras which populate the offices of Nelson and Murdock have lives of their own, an invaluable way for Waid to show how important the stakes are of any given conflict. Daredevil may not experience the earth-shattering crises that plague his more superpowered contemporaries, but even the relatively mundane problems he encounters have dire consequences for the truly ordinary folk: “My sister lives in one of those neighborhoods…!” “My husband’s a cop! They weren’t prepared for this–!” “Hello, Ma? Listen, leave the house—”
Samnee has become the face of Daredevil, or at least his art has, and for good reason. He has such a firm grasp on good storytelling principles that even a series of talking-heads can seem lively and tense. But once the action gets going, Samnee produces energy on an entirely different level, full of activity from all different quarters, yet all driven to a purpose. Like Waid, Samnee does nothing as a throwaway; every detail is full of care, down to the pet-like friendliness of Hank’s worker ants. Rodriquez’s colors are as bold and classic as the figures they cover, occasionally broken with a well-timed radar-sense panel.
Conclusion: For anyone who questions your attachment to reading superhero comics, say nothing, and simply give them a copy of this issue. The work speaks for itself.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: * Although with those kinds of facts, the self-defense argument doesn’t really hold much water, even without witnesses and with signs of struggle. “Beyond a reasonable doubt” doesn’t trump everything just because there are no witnesses.
* Given the palpable joy with which Waid writes nearly every Hank scene, don’t you think it’s well about time for Marvel to let him work on an Ant Man ongoing?