By: Too many to list—check out the review.

The Story: Daredevil narrowly avoids having a mid-life crisis.

The Review: It’s good thing to be fifty years old and still popular enough for people to notice. If you can get an actual commemorative issue out of it, even better! There may have been other peaks for Daredevil in earlier years, but right now he’s in one of that rare, enviable position of being both critically acclaimed and commercially successful. There’s greater joy to celebrating his longevity at a time when it looks like his greatest years are still to come.

That feeling of confidence is in no small part due to Mark Waid’s fabulous work with Daredevil for the last few years, which is why it’s so fitting that he kick off this showcase issue with “The King in Red,” a look at the life of Matt Murdock literally at age fifty. These future glimpses are tricky things because you’re projecting how certain beloved characters will end up, which is always a volatile thing to do—anyone seen the series finale of How I Met Your Mother lately?* Fortunately, with comics, readers know better than to take these future stories as anything more than potential.

Though we can’t take anything we see here as canon, we can see outlines of plans Waid has for Matt’s near future: his continued residence in San Fran, Foggy’s recovery,** new enemies, a possible political run, and the continued expansion of his powers. Some things Waid keeps deliberately ambiguous to keep the future pliable, like the fact he never mentions the mother of Matt’s son by name, which means Matt’s relationship with Kirsten isn’t quite set in stone just yet.

What’s great about having one of these things written by the current writer of the ongoing series is you get a consistency of tone and quality that you almost never get with showcase issues. “The King in Red” reads like a typical Waid Daredevil issue, transplanted decades later. In a fairly short amount of time, Waid carries out one of his trademark premises, fully-formed, inspired, touched with a bit of social commentary and personal drama. Our chosen antagonist isn’t quite as well-conceived or developed; Jubela Pride basically channels Joker in Death of the Family, inflicting pain on the people he loves just to show how they’ve made him vulnerable and to restore him to his former glory. Waid could have inserted anyone into Jubela’s place and still reached the same result.

It’s a shame that Chris Samnee couldn’t be spared to draw the feature himself, for even greater consistency, but longtime collaborate Javier Rodriguez does a more than fine job, though his finer lines (and Alvaro Lopez’s similarly fine inks) don’t quite have Samnee’s boldness. Rodriguez’s control over the story’s pace is what brings him closest to Samnee. He just has impeccable timing. I love the tight focus on Matt sitting on a bench, musing on his near-vision senses, and then the instant wide shot of the surrounding city populated with the blind. Impacting, to say the least.

With Waid in charge of the longest and most relevant feature of the issue, the material contributed by Brian Michael Bendis and the Kesels (Karl and Kurt) are purely supplemental. In fact, Bendis’ entirely prose tale feels nearly irrelevant, as it introduces a completely new character whose life and love with Matt flares for an interesting (“He said he just liked me for me. On a chemical level.”) but placid four or five pages, then fades out, leaving no lasting effect on the Daredevil mythos whatsoever. Getting mere slices of illustrations from Alex Maleev and Matt Hollingsworth only make you think Bendis got crowded out of space this time around.

As for the Kesels’ brief revival of “Mike Murdock,” the twin-brother persona Matt made up just to throw people off his true secret identity, it’s amusing in parts, but really is just an excuse for the Kesels to make oversimplify who Daredevil is: “Be fearless!” Between the weak jokes and straightforward art (looking as close to DC’s house style as Marvel can get) from the Kesels, inker Tom Palmer, and colorist Grace Allison, the feature is more wiseass than wise

Conclusion: Waid’s contribution is by itself worth the cover price, and the other two features are generally solid, if not nearly as admirable.

Grade: B+

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: * I love how the show spent all season trapping us at Barney and Robin’s weekend wedding, forcing us to acknowledge the legitimacy of that coupling, then ends up breaking them up and reverting them back to normal anyway. Not cool. Oh, and killing the Mother? I can’t even.

** The Bay air (and the vegan diet) must be working wonders for Foggy’s health. He’s practically glowing with vitality. Perhaps all those cheese curls were to blame after all.

– “No matter how bad things get, Spider-Man’s life is always worse! Always!” A little cruel, coming from one of Spidey’s good friends, and not entirely true, either. What about Jean Grey? Don’t tell me her life hasn’t sucked more.