Desperate to find an ally against the Shroud and the Owl, Daredevil makes a surprising offer to the Kingpin, who already has a plan in motion against our hero…
While much attention was given to the shift of tone in this latest volume of Daredevil’s series, this issue brings us back to the tense, moody, and downright dark aspects to the Daredevil corner of the Marvel universe. Matt Murdock cannot display his cheerful bravado when he’s making a last-ditch effort to save his friends— something that he feels would require resetting his secret identity and, essentially, putting a genie back into a bottle.
The tension of such high stakes is enhanced, as always, by some stellar artwork. The colors are all muted in nearly every scene, like a pall has been cast over this San Francisco night. Heavy shadows dominate nearly every panel, creating large areas of black to enfold the scenes. The Kingpin’s face, in particular, is nearly always enshrouded. It lends to some heavy emoting; with scant dialogue from him, our reading relies more on the art than words. Interestingly, the shift into Daredevil’s POV, the radar sense purple lines, adds even more tension. There’s no need for heavy exposition; we realize that Kingpin is giving Daredevil no “tells” during this conversation, meaning there’s no indication of how it will play out.
Another brilliant visual and quiet moment happens when Kingpin pauses in the art gallery to regard Daredevil’s question if he’s interested in the death of Matt Murdock. We know that Daredevil can’t see the art around him, but suddenly the reader is aware that every piece of art features some gruesome demise of a Daredevil figure, with the showdown between the characters silhouetted in bold color in the center of the page. The visual metaphor of the piranha is chilling.
The other players all have similar struggles. They all have decisions to make, but are all forced into sharing those decisions or outcomes with others, and often undesirable others. The only player without a chance to be fully introduced is Julia Carpenter. It’s been a while, so even my Marvel Handbook-style encyclopedic knowledge nearly forgot there was a connection between her (Madame Web/Arachne/Spider-Woman II) and the Shroud. In this issue, this one-time prominent character (and a personal favorite of mine back in the day) becomes simply a MacGuffin to be literally tossed around by the various players in the current scenario. Perhaps there’s simply not enough room for this, or the storytelling would have to be jumbled to shoehorn in some of this exposition, so I trust that the next issue will have Julia more of a central figure.
Both the writing and the art work together to tell a tense and moody story that might be Daredevil’s most last-ditch effort of all time. The weight of the villains’ plots start pressing heavily into the lives of our heroes (and not that’s not really a Kingpin pun) which means we get to see (in words and pictures) our characters acting out of desperation, a very suspenseful reading, indeed.