By: Mark Waid (story) Javier Rodriguez (art), Alvaro Lopez (inks)
The Story: It’s a whole new low of villainy when nuns are your victims.
The Review: Even though I’ve picked up quite a few Marvel titles in the last year, I can’t say I’ve decamped altogether from my DC leanings. Case in point, I’m always up-to-date on the major going-ons in the DCU even if I’m not reading any of the relevant titles. Not so with Marvel. Lately, I’ve seen Original Sin stamped all over the place, but I still have almost no idea what it’s about. Something to do with somebody blabbing crucial secrets that makes everyone miserable?
Fortunately, Waid gives me just enough to understand the spark for this current arc, in which we reverse course from Matt’s bright, bouncy adventures in San Fran back to the grim, soul-sucking investigations of New York City. Actually, in terms of crossover premises, Original Sin is very promising in that it allows each participant to deal with the ramifications of their personal revelation on their own, no interference or collaboration with extraneous characters necessary. Now, that’s a crossover idea I can get behind.
Anyway, once the initial shock of Matt’s original sin—or, should I say, his father’s—is over, the story quickly shifts gears to become something more Daredevilish. The disproportionate penalization of Matt’s mother, Maggie/Grace, for a minor act of civil protest has all the paranoid mystery of Kafka, as Matt observes, but there’s also a Hitchcockian quality to the issue’s chaotic, unpredictable rhythm. One twist leads to another; the wrinkles pile on; what looks at first to be a simple case of excessive municipal authoritarianism soon turns into an international conspiracy.
And that’s quite an exciting prospect for a character who actually likes to stay close to the ground in his own little neighborhood. That’s a natural inclination for a blind person, but as Matt says as he recollects his part in the big hero-villain showdown that started Original Sin, “I’m lousy in these. My radar sense can only handle so much chaos, and any donnybrook wild enough to involve the Hulk and the Thing is, for me, like being caught in a hurricane.” So going after his mother, who’s being held captive by Wakanda at the allowance of the U.S. government, will be a challenge, needless to say.
For all that, the antagonists of this arc are hopelessly generic, ordered a la carte from the menu of corrupt political baddies. The Wakandan official practically cackles with egomania, while the U.S. general working with him demonstrates an almost mechanical cooperation only briefly interrupted with a bit of squeamishness at keeping his part secret from his superiors. Well, if their personalities have to be one-dimensional, at least their methods are fiendishly organized and foresighted.
Once the action gets going, you almost lose sight of the devastating truth that prompted the whole thing. I admit to knowing little of Matt’s early history, but #1.5 made it clear he worshipped his father, who now stands in an entirely different light once he’s revealed as a commonplace batterer. It’s an almost unforgivable crime; if I learned nothing else in my domestic violence clinic work, it’s that beating a woman—or anybody, for that matter—is never an appropriate response to anything. Redemption is unlikely; reconciliation (with Matt’s mother) may be the only good thing to come out of this, which makes Matt’s ability to rescue her that much more crucial.
Rodriguez knows his way around storytelling techniques nearly as well as Chris Samnee, making some rather inspired paneling choices in this issue. On one page, he forms a triptych in which the middle panel has Matt entering a church, small and insignificant beneath a massive glowing pane of the Holy Family. Bookending the panel on either side is his mother, staring up in fear, and his father, glaring down at her with clenched jaw. The contrast between heavenly grace and earthly sin, between the perfect family and a most imperfect one—it’s quite brilliant.
Conclusion: A crossover issue that doesn’t actually have to cross over into anything. It’s as good as it sounds.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: – Oh, yeah, Hawkeye. Seriously, where has that title been? How can it be winning so many Eisners when you barely have a chance to read the darn thing?