By: Mark Waid (story), Javier Rodriguez (art), Alvaro Lopez (inks)

The Story: Daredevil dips a toe into the world of radio broadcasting.

The Review: Superheroes, as we’ve seen, are best directed towards obvious, rampaging foes, the kind that present a visible target for them to punch/blast into submission.  It’s the covert, unseen threats that superheroes aren’t equipped to deal with.  Look at Batman trying to respond to the Leviathan invasion in Batman Inc. Despite a global network of master vigilantes and resources to beat the band, even he only managed to limp his way to victory.

Daredevil faces a similar scenario here.  True, it’s on a much smaller scale, but then he’s also more limited in his means and support network.  Nevertheless, he’s compelled to call upon their help, as the Sons of the Serpent have become too widespread and too well-concealed for one Daredevil to deal with.  While he doesn’t strike a mortal blow to the organization, he does sap a lot of their power, a feat made all the more impressive by his choice of allies.

As we’ve seen, Matt doesn’t hesitate to consult the likes of Ant-Man or Dr. Strange when he has need, and considering the Sons’ potentially supernatural origins, you’d think Strange would be put to more use than researcher on this case.  Instead, Matt brings in Kirsten McDuffie and former bully Nate Hackett to help him out, which shows that Waid is a writer who knows how to maximize the use of his inventory.

More than that, the contributions of Nate and Kirsten in particular make an important statement about the place of ordinary citizens in the superhero scheme.  Kirsten has previously rejected being shoehorned into the mere role of Daredevil’s girlfriend, and here, she insists on getting the last word to the people of New York City: “Daredevil’s declared war on a gang of racist scumbags because he’s pissed.  As am I.  Let that be our job.  To shoulder that rage.”  Rather than allow Daredevil to singlehandedly save the city, Kirsten calls on the city to save itself.

In that way, the people can finally channel their energies into something productive, rather than the impotent outrage that followed the Trayvon Martin-esque controversy in #31.  But it’s hard not to see this as Waid using the opportunity to attack certain conservative viewpoints: “They prey on us when we’re frightened.  They tell us our enemies are the immigrants down the street.  Or the food stamp family next door.”  Falling for these perceptions leads people to the same path that creates suicide bombers: “We don’t become ‘empowered.’  We become weaponized.”  Waid gets away with these cracks because he frames this toxic rhetoric as a kind of victimization, and he, like Kirsten, believes that people are generally better than that.

These points give the arc its importance, but the true source of its entertainment comes, as always, from the great character work.  Kirsten is only convincing as Waid’s voicebox because he built up her forthright, independent streak from the beginning, qualities that become even more prominent when Matt approaches her for help not as a lover’s favor, but as a hero’s challenge.  “[Y]ou’re my first and best choice.”

“Because…?”

“Because you’re fearless.”

That’s not to say their chemistry doesn’t also sing, however.  There’s definitely a Hepburn and Tracy quality to their deprecating banter (“Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do,” Matt warns; “A short enough list,” Kirsten deadpans) that highlights how much they enjoy their little spats.  Small wonder that Matt finds himself torn between anger and arousal when Kirsten endangers herself with an extra speech to the city.

Rodriguez has been an intimate collaborator from his coloring work with Chris Samnee, and it shows in his fill-in work.  Although his thin lines and dramatic, almost classical poses suggest Javier Pulido, his overall storytelling is very much in Samnee’s style: simple, unpretentious, and highly effective.  You can see this in the purse-snatching sequence in Central Park: three narrow panels, each representing a heartbeat of a moment, showing Matt gauging the situation and prepping himself to make his big, splashy move in the next panel, striking down the very middle of the two pages.  There’s nothing fancy or visually ambitious about the sequence, but it works amazingly well just the same.

Conclusion: The arc cries for a strong resolution to the enemies that have plagued our hero for so long, but this issue doesn’t quite provide it, though it offers so many other great qualities besides.

Grade: A-

-Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – Rodriguez’s depiction of Dr. Strange seems somewhat villain-esque, doesn’t it?  I don’t recall him being so thin, or his features being that angular, or his eyes that crazy.

Grade

Conclusion