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

The Story: One devil gets tempted by another.

The Review: If there’s one area where the mainstream superhero genre falls short and will always fall short, it’s in achieving a sense of fatality.  Comic book resurrections are so ingrained in the business now that pretty much no one takes a superhero’s death (or, more accurately, the appearance of it) seriously anymore.*  Nowadays, you don’t encounter such occasions with emotional interest so much as curiosity as to how the inevitable recovery will come about.

Not even the apparent deaths of fully mortal heroes like Daredevil can elicit much reaction.  Indeed, if you were actually inclined to wait on tenterhooks to see his ultimate fate, you’ll only suffer a greater feeling of anticlimax as Matt’s chest wound gets magicked into submission within the first few pages.  It’s a funny thing when the protagonist’s near-death experience becomes the least important part of a story, but that’s the modern comic book for you.

His shooting is not entirely without long-term impact, however.  Drifting on the shoreline before the ocean of death, Matt sees a vision of Foggy Nelson (in the guise of a childhood acquaintance of Matt’s, for subconscious reasons) stepping and sinking into the water, despite Matt’s cries to stop.  Of course, such scenes always present two possibilities: a manifestation of the visionary’s secret fears or a portent of something real to come.  Nothing for us to do but wait and see.

Right now, Matt can’t concern himself with unsettling dreams; there’s a city that needs saving from itself, and to do that, he needs to finish his business in this monster-afflicted part of the South.  Speaking of which, for such a merry band of B-movie horrors, they don’t play much of a role in the issue aside from an info-dump.  It’s as if Waid couldn’t figure out what to do with them after he brought them in for last issue’s Halloween shout-out.

As with all ciphers, it’s the information in their possession that matters to us, not the characters themselves.  It’s questionable whether the Darkhold will have greater importance to Marvel’s magical universe than the story at hand, but the fact that the Sons of the Serpent are possibly linked to greater supernatural forces poses an interesting challenge for Daredevil’s latest mission—that is, if the occult is more pervasive in the Sons than just Lucien Sinclair, a Serpent wizard who guards several stolen pages of the Darkhold.

Honestly, the link Waid makes between a white supremacist group and the devil seems pretty outlandish until the scene where Matt experiences yet another vision (one of delusion this time) that is best described by our hero himself: “half Sunday school, half hallucination.”  Here, Satan, in the shape of a serpent, of course, explains, “[B]efore I came along, [man] was content to wallow among inferior beasts and creatures rather than master them as he should.”  It’s a reframing of original sin that has only the most tenuous connection to actual dogma—at no point does Waid make a connection between Adam and Eve and the source of man’s superiority complex—but it works well for the purposes of the story.

The only problem is that Matt sort of lucks his way through Sinclair’s gauntlet of prejudice; it’s his blindness that saves him from going mad as others might have done, and his ordeal ends only because he manages to outlast it.  Once he reaches the end of this disturbing path, his confrontation with Sinclair ends shortly and a little pathetically.  For someone who managed to ward off a mummy, zombie, Frankenstein,** demon, and werewolf (who wields magic), Sinclair flops like a sock-puppet within a few panels of Matt knocking down his door.

Copland’s art is in the same old-school category as Samnee’s, with the first few pages in particular very reminiscent of Samnee’s blocky style.  As the issue progresses, however, you notice that Copland’s linework is a little more rugged, rougher around the edges, and so a little less striking.  With Rodriquez’s funky colors, the differences are fairly slight, and Copland does produce a couple memorable pages out of the issue (see Daredevil baring his teeth at Sinclair amidst the flickering glow of flames).

Conclusion: Waid doesn’t make quite as good use of his presented characters and ideas as he usually does, resulting in an unusually uneven issue in a series that’s been regularly stellar.  The change of artist doesn’t help either, even if it doesn’t really harm the issue.

Grade: B-

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: * If you happen to be one of those people who still do, then rejoice!  There’ll be a lot of happy times ahead for you.

**I got to say, Marvel’s Frankenstein isn’t nearly as much fun as DC’s Frankenstein.