By: Mark Waid (story), Peter Krause (art), John Kalisz (colors)

The Story: If you can get in trouble in winter Milwaukee, you can get in trouble anywhere.

The Review: Because we all love to discuss writing technique on this site, let’s talk about first-person narrative. Frankly, outside pure prose fiction, the first-person very rarely works. As a delivery mechanism for exposition, it’s largely unnecessary in any medium with visuals, and as commentary, it’s mostly redundant and distracting if the dialogue and acting is good enough. The only reason you’d keep a first-person narrative in these cases is because the audience really, really wants to hear it.

As Waid proves with Matt Murdock, you can only get that if the narrator himself is just that charismatic. Matt’s internal voice is crafted with such natural, likable care and he blends humor and sensitivity in near perfect measure. Best of all, Waid uses it to capture things that the spoken word and visuals can’t, which is saying a lot when you consider how strong his dialogue and artistic collaborators are. The joy of Matt’s narration is he only grows richer in character rather than wearisome over time, and his personality always comes through even when he’s essentially just dropping essential information:

“[I]f I could see the things that come at me in this job the way sighted people see them…they’d probably stop calling me, ‘The Man Without Fear.’ Or even ‘Daredevil.’ They’d probably go with ‘Matt Murdock, the idiot who keeps picking fights in really dumb places.'”

Delightful as Matt can be on his own, he’s perhaps even better when interacting with a decent foil, and Kirsten is just that, even if she proves relatively useless in the issue. Good rom-com banter is hard to come by, with most of the results (especially in comics) either artificially sappy, overly complicated, or just plain smutty. Matt and Kirsten’s exchanges flow smoothly, revealing both the sexually and emotionally intimate sides of their relationship without forcing it out. As Matt makes some sarcastic remarks about the confines of economy-class flying to a flight attendant, Kirsten mutters, “Oh, good. Six hours of passive-aggressiveness to look forward to…”

“I’m fine,” he insists.

“You’re impossible…I’m here if you need me. Looking at job listings. Meditate. Think happy thoughts.”

“Okay,” he replies, settling back in his chair.

“Clean ones.”

“Killjoy.”

And to top it all off, Waid throws in a solid plot as well, although one blatantly derived from a classic premise. We’ve seen the story of the robot who simply wishes to become human before, and Waid doesn’t necessarily deviate from the slightly disturbing, mostly tragic course of such tales. In fact, you can easily compare the fate of the Super-Adaptoid* (whom Matt takes to calling Frank) to HAL in 2001: Space Odyssey. Both are programmed to emulate humanity to the highest degree possible, yet are ultimately crippled in that respect by the strictures their creators place upon them. The sad part is, and Waid plays on this lavishly, even though Frank falls deadly short of true humanity, he comes close enough for you to feel his pain and despair.

Krause is a very worthy artist, a little darker in tone than Chris Samnee and with a thinner, sharper line that some might call edgy. Waid’s Daredevil often reads like a mystery-thriller in which some of the characters just happen to wear costumes, and that’s the way Krause draws it. His sense of action isn’t very dramatic—when Matt directs a police car through an open freight car, Krause makes it look like it’s plopping, rather than plunging, into the snow—but it’s tense enough to be convincing.

Conclusion: With strong plotting, character work, and art, this issue is just an embarrassment of riches.

Grade: A-

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: * A kind of daft name, actually. Makes you think of a generic brand of universal power supplies.

– Let’s stop being impressed with Kirsten’s ability to find an exotic auto rental company and figure out how the hell she can afford the fee and insurance on that thing, which is expected to sell at $1.35 million. Gorgeous car, though. Kind of makes one rethink working for the public interest, no?

Grade

Conclusion