For those of you who don’t know, I work in the dependency system as minors’ counsel—yes, my actual day job—so I have a soft spot for abused, neglected, or otherwise troubled kids. A lot of people say it’s hard work I’m doing, dealing with such emotionally trying issues from day to day, but in some ways, I find the job easy because unlike many attorneys, I rarely have difficulty feeling sympathy for my clients. It doesn’t take much for a kid to pull your heartstrings.
Fictional children get similar benefits, which sort of makes up for their lack of substance. Not like there aren’t any young characters as complex and memorable as adults (e.g., Huckleberry Finn, Scout Finch), but they just don’t have the same richness of experience. They see things simpler and more intensely than grown-ups, which is exactly the power exerted by the Purple Kids (which is what I’m calling them until Waid tells me otherwise) over the people around them. They have no agenda beyond fulfilling their immediate impulses, and no motivation besides subconsciously inflicting the pain they’ve suffered on others.
Given their numbers and age, I wonder if we’ll ever get to know them beyond the one-panel glimpses into their lives. Collectively, they’ve known abuse, trauma, injustice, and death, but Waid doesn’t get into the particulars. That makes it difficult to figure out who’s driving the bus here, though Joe seems the likeliest suspect. As the oldest and angriest among them, and with a delinquency background, he has what it takes to cow the others and spit in the face of restriction of any kind.*
That’s about as deep as it gets where our antagonists are concerned, at least until a mangled Zed comes back into the picture. In spite of that, they do push Matt to an emotional limit that we haven’t seen since he was hounded by a crippled Bullseye. As he approaches his breaking point, he confesses that “Happy Matt is just an act,” veering dangerously close to old ghosts, just as Foggy fears could happen. But the storytelling potential of Unhappy Matt has nearly been drained; I’m not sure this arc will get much more from that particular direction.
If anything, this encounter should be telling Matt that he really has moved past his darkest days and to embrace the new life he’s forging in San Fran. For sure, Daredevil hasn’t had this much sustained cheerfulness in forever. The issue even turns into a comedy at one point, as Matt, Kirsten, and Foggy exchange quips and good-natured barbs. Matt’s girlfriend is more than capable of puncturing his ego by herself (“You have the punctuation and spelling skills of someone who was dropped at an early age… Your style isn’t terse. It’s trs [sic]. It’s t [sic].”), but it’s good to have his best friend flinging his own missiles (“If you had written Moby Dick, it would fit on a Snapple cap[.]“).
All this only encourages Matt to new levels of confidence: “Ha! Funny you should ask, formerly fat man! Here’s the advance check! Read it and weep!” While the move backfires on him (“…’Your dry cleaning will be ready Monday by 5:00,’” reads Foggy), it proves that Matt is finally in a place where he can take such risks towards happiness.
I’m sure the more visually astute can give Samnee his due praise better than I ever can, but what I admire most about his work is how, without any flourish or spectacle, he can deliver powerful storytelling. Some artists make their impact with ever more radical perspectives and chaotic activity, but Samnee can achieve just as much impact by elongating the height of a panel to give more room for Matt to helplessly fall. Samnee also hits his emotional targets every time, drawing out Matt’s crumpling expression as he succumbs to the Purple Kids’ influence, or punching up his smirk as he whips out the supposed advance (read: dry-cleaning receipt).**
The proportions of fun and drama are reversed, but are no less potent and satisfying.Some Musings: * I have to say it, though: really? A black kid resisting the law and a criminal background? Talk about cliché.** The question is if Matt will ever find the money. “Wait. I know I still have it somewhere…”