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

The Story: Matt learns not to include a known backstabber as part of his big plan.

The Review: For a superhero writer, I imagine that there can be no greater, more joyful challenge than reinvigorating a character that everyone else already considers a lost cause. This particular task does embody the very essence of creative power, doesn’t it? Taking something that seems dry and infertile and giving it new life just with one good idea? But writers claim to deconstruct characters all the time; very seldom do they actually manage to do so.

Even for a writer as gifted as Waid, finding new dimensions to neglected or exhausted characters is no easy task. At best, what he’s done with the Shroud and what he’s currently doing with the Owl is strip them down to find what makes them, if not original, then at least unique. As far as the Owl goes, his physical alterations and more bestial presence make him campier, if anything (watch him swoop from tree bough to tree bough as he demands to know “Who” is in charge). It’s his unflappable—pun intended—reaction to having his life threatened that gives him street cred.

That’s not to say the Owl has suddenly turned into the West Coast Kingpin. Despite the refrains from Kristin and Charlotte that he’s “different…and a lot more dangerous than Matt remembers him being,” he’s anything but when he allows Matt to walk right into his place of power and corner him. His subsequent manipulation of Coleridge is well-played of course, but ransoming a secret about a loved one is Villainy 101, as Matt vainly tries to warn Coleridge. Waid has made Owlsley more comfortable in his own skin, but that’s not the same as making him more threatening.

The same kind of goes for Coleridge. His powers are formidable, but he’s an emotional mess, which both Matt and Owlsley play on. Just when he reveals that his attack on Matt is another way to get deeper inside the Owl’s inner circle and you think he might have more of his act together than last issue led us to believe, he loses it all again with a truly cheesy plan (“Why don’t we swap costumes while we’re at it, too, just to really throw [Owlsley] off,” Matt says sarcastically) and a callous betrayal. I suspect, however, that there’s another upturn for the Shroud coming, if he reveals that his latest bit of treachery is yet another play, one that incidentally embarrasses Matt a bit.

Matt can stand a little cutting down, frankly. It’s great to see him so confident after harrowing year he’s been through, but now he’s just cocky, sidling right into the Owl’s base and pranking him with a Chinese takeout menu in disguise as a subpoena. If the Shroud and Owl don’t push back now, there’ll be no living with our hero, especially once he’s learned to adjust his powers to a new environment. The last thing he needs is to get back in the habit of thinking he doesn’t need anyone.

Which is why it’s reassuring to see Waid making sure Kristen and Foggy get their time in the spotlight even without Matt to share it. Daredevil has always had a small supporting cast, yet despite this we don’t see them interacting with each other very much. Kristin’s angry exchange with a resentful Foggy is a nice change, but it also makes you question if there’s some best friend/girlfriend animosity powering their confrontation. As Kristin berates him for risking his cover in coming to the office, he offers, “Look, I wore a disguise…”

“I’ve seen ventriloquist dummies with more convincing wigs. And you sounded like Foghorn Leghorn.”

I hope I never get to the point where I start taking Samnee’s work for granted, but I don’t think I’m completely out of line in saying that this issue looks to be the more straightforward of his efforts. His storytelling is still rock-solid, with clean, crisp panels that somehow manage to convey a lot of information without slowing down the pace, and characters engaged in a wide variety of emotions that Samnee can capture with both humor and compassion. The issue looks great; it just doesn’t have anything outstanding to offer.

Conclusion: Even a relatively uneventful issue of Daredevil is a sight better than most comics out there.

Grade: B+

-Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – Kristin’s designation for Matt on her phone: “Not Daredevil.” Genius.

– “That is either the God’s honest truth…or a ridiculous line of crap to cover an idiot lapse of judgment on my part. Hard to tell. I am a lawyer, after all.” As a recent law school graduate, I don’t know whether to appreciate or resent that sentiment.