By: Mark Waid (story), Chris Samnee (art), Javier Rodriguez (colors)
The Story: This town ain’t big enough for two blind superheroes.
The Review: The exciting thing about moving Daredevil out of New York, where he and several dozen superhero pals are taking down the same army of villains day in and day out, is the chance of encountering new enemies—or, at least, not the usual suspects. For San Fran, this could be a mixed blessing. On the plus side, their ordinary crime rate is sinking fast. The minus is that now all of the city’s exotic threats are coming out of the woodwork.
The one that’s weight most heavily on Deputy Mayor Charlotte Hastert’s mind is actually not a villain, but a vigilante. Unlike the sunny Matt, Maximillian Coleridge (a.k.a. the Shroud) embodies all the worst qualities of the modern superhero, “[v]iolent, sociopathic, defiantly uncooperative with the law.” Not coincidentally, he’s modeled in no small part after Batman (“Saw his parents gunned down by a mugger when he was a boy…”), although in other respects, his skills and strengths parallel Matt’s.
If not for the similarities between the two, maybe Coleridge wouldn’t be so rankled by Matt’s presence in the city. But Matt’s public popularity and success—a beautiful home, a beautiful girlfriend, and a burgeoning career—starkly contrasts with Coleridge’s ramshackle apartment, in which he nostalgically caresses a portrait of an old flame and gets his morning coffee by fishing an old filter out of the trash and pouring bottled water through it directly into his mug. Naturally, he resents that both do the same work, yet only one has reaped all the rewards and credit, and in much less time.
But there are also deeper psychological forces behind Coleridge’s jealousy, which Waid carefully broadcasts between the lines of the story. It’s important to note that Kirsten takes a few moments to dwell on Coleridge’s traumatic face-scarring, the price he paid for his powers, and that in his wishful dreaming, he sees himself with an unmarred face. When he spits at Matt, “You can’t imagine what I’ve sacrificed to do my job,” he’s talking about that scar. He can’t have the life Matt has; his face makes it impossible. This vigilante thing really is, in essence, his “job,” except without the pay and benefits.
You have to keep these things in mind in order to have any sympathy for a Coleridge, especially after he reveals himself as the new mob boss in town. This twist would’ve been disappointingly nonsensical if Waid had planned to leave it there, but a quick Wiki clarifies that this is just another part of the Shroud’s controversial methods, a way for him to destroy the criminal underworld from within. Matt thus presents another threat to Coleridge aside from invading his “turf”: Daredevil’s direct approach to crimefighting interferes with Shroud’s carefully constructed sabotage, not to mention that it’ll most likely deflect all the credit to Matt once again.
While Matt’s new life in San Fran is going along pretty swimmingly, you can feel the tug of darker undercurrents in this issue. The mystery of what exactly happened to Foggy deepens as Hastert remarks, “You would have thought it was the cancer that would have gotten him.” There’s also rumors that Leland Owlsley (a.k.a. the Owl) might have followed Matt out west. Matt might laugh and consider Owlsley a “manageable” threat, but that almost guarantees that the Owl will be anything but.
It’s become a bit vogue these days to credit the artist as co-storyteller with the writer, but Samnee is one of the few artists who deserves that credit. There are certainly details in the story that you can only get through the visuals, which spares Waid from having to spell everything out. Indeed, Coleridge’s inner conflict and outer suffering come through almost entirely through Samnee’s art rather than Waid’s text, so any dimension to his character is more than half due to Samnee.
Conclusion: Our latest antagonist is a bit derivative and easy to read, but he reveals enough layers to make him a formidable challenge.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: – Notice that Matt still refers to Kirsten as his “law partner” as opposed to, say, his girlfriend. I sense a disturbance in the Force.