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

The Story: Daredevil refuses to engage in a monster mash.

The Review: By now, everyone’s heard the news that Waid’s run of Daredevil will all too soon come to an end, right?  It’s a bit unclear what brought about this dismaying change, and even Waid’s own remarks on the matter don’t enlighten us much.  Whatever the reasons, it’s a blow to anyone who’s been enjoying the back-to-basics approach Daredevil has been taking to superhero stories, traversing across a whole range of genres: mystery, sci-fi, adventure, and human drama.

Now you can add comedy to the list, as Waid subverts the rather dark ending of last issue into a farce, with the Jester being the appropriate butt of the joke.  It’s rather brilliant that the Jester does wind up making us laugh, though not, perhaps, in any way he intended.  His attempt to prank Matt in the most painful way possible results in nothing more than puzzled amusement (“What were you trying to accomplish here.  Fail.”), while Jester shrieks in fury, ignorant of his own arrogant presumptions:

React, damn you!  That’s your best friend hanging from a noose!  Anyone who’s ever seen Murdock in a fight knows the ‘Blind Lawyer’ gag is a put-on!  Open your eyes!

Ultimately, Jester’s fizzled trick is only a sideshow to his real performance, but just as he seems to take it up a notch, Waid moves Matt into a different direction entirely, taking him out of New York just as things are about to get real (“People of New York…effective immediately, I am rescinding all handgun regulations in Manhattan!”).  This issue gives us more than a set change; it shifts the whole tone and genre of the story, from street crime to magical mystery.

You’d think it’d be pretty hard to sell the idea that a mob of racists have occult origins, but as Foggy reminds us, many of your classic cults had more than a touch of the esoteric to them (“Remember, even President Lincoln used to hold séances.”).  Anyway, this twist in the plot definitely adds a new dimension to the Sons of the Serpent, who have been annoying but not all that interesting as antagonists.  Besides, it gives us a guest appearance by Dr. Strange and segueways smoothly into a surprise Halloween Special.

The moment Waid decides to drag Matt to a backwater called Stone Hills, Kentucky, a stubborn vestige of the Antebellum South that is just shy of Al Capp’s immortal Dogpatch, then adds in a gang of classic movie monsters for good measure, you realize that either Waid is the most confident writer alive or he’s just desperately hoping he can figure out a way to make this completely ludicrous scenario work.  And I’ll be damned, but he gets pretty darn close.  His melding of the supernatural with Southern prejudice is pretty novel, as far as superhero comics go, and once he amps up the stakes with—spoiler alert—a freak shot to the heart at the end of the issue, you’re left with no choice but to trust that Waid can pull everything together.

Combine Samnee’s retro style of art with old-school monsters and you have a guaranteed winner of a Halloween tale on your hands.  Samnee doesn’t bother modernizing the various ghouls one bit, relishing every formaldehyde-soaked spool of bandage on the mummy and every wrinkle in the zombie’s skin.  Samnee also makes excellent use of splashes this issue, giving big moments even bigger impact, without the distraction of a several dozen excess characters on the page.  Rodriguez takes no less pleasure in the whirlwind zaniness of the issue, and you can almost sense his glee as he casts the lady vampire in a grayish-white and the zombie in a teal-green that reminds you of your favorite Scooby-Doo adventure.

Conclusion: From almost any other writer, this issue would be the comic book version of jumping the shark, but Waid and Samnee blithely pull off the change in direction like it was meant to be.

Grade: A-

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – Can I just say, I love that Matt and Nelson use actual books for their research, instead of a computer or, as has become more common, some extraneous character created for the sole purpose of exposition.

– “I swear to God, you’re so full of preservatives, they’ll find your corpse in a thousand years and go, ‘Hey, look, it’s Foggy Nelson.’”  But at least people will apparently know Foggy’s name in a thousand years, so that’s something.