Posted by Don MacPherson on December 8th, 2011
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist/Cover artist: Marcos Martin
Colors: Muntsa Vicente
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy
Editor: Stephen Wacker
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $2.99 US
I wrote last week Invincible Iron Man might be the best super-hero title Marvel is publishing these days, but it’s difficult to bestow the title of Marvel’s best when one has an issue of Mark Waid and Marcos Martin’s Daredevil in front of you. It’s also the cream of the Marvel crop, but for completely different reasons than Iron Man. Whereas that title derives strength from its real-world political and economic elements, Daredevil is firmly entrenched in the wonder and kitsch of the Marvel Universe. Whereas Iron Man boasts photorealistic, detailed visuals, DD is more about style, simplicity and design. That’s not to say DD isn’t as sharp or inventive. Waid’s script is smart and compelling, and Martin’s innovative layouts and Ditko-esque figures are among the finest examples of comic art being published today. Another advantage to Daredevil (to which its armored-hero brother can’t lay claim) is it’s unfolding quietly in its own isolated corner of the Marvel Universe, untouched by events and sales-driven plotting.
Daredevil has to rush to the rescue of a crooked attorney and his young, innocent protege, as they’ve been targeted for execution by not one, not two, but five criminal empires. Doing their dirty work is Bruiser, a super-strong, up-and-coming villain looking to impress his new employers, and he’s proven to be an immovable, dangerous foe. Daredevil soon discovers the two targets are wanted dead not only for what they know and have overheard, but to protect an item of great value the corrupt organizations don’t want falling into the right hands.
Martin’s artwork is deceptive in its simplicity. He brings together basic shapes to convey fantastic figures, and it’s almost like he’s assembled bits of iconography to tell the story at times. I was particularly taken with his portrayal of Daredevil’s senses underwater, his detection of his opponent’s weakness and the unusual perspectives he employs in the hero’s showdown with the representatives of the five criminal organizations with which he must contend at the end of the issue. The Steve Ditko influence in his work remains apparent, but I was also put in mind of the style of David (Batman: Year One, Asterios Polyp) Mazzuchuelli. I also enjoyed his depiction of the five terrorists/criminals Bruiser tries to impress. Martin makes the most of their hidden faces and uses body language to make them seem even more cold and inhuman.
Some of the least interesting characters in comics are muscle-bound, super-strong costumed goons, but Waid has managed to dress up Bruiser with some extra adornments, both literally and figuratively, to make him much more interesting, and even believable. He’s presented as something of the Booster Gold or Captain Amazing (see Mystery Men) of the super-villain world. I love that he’s sponsored and correspondingly wears patches promoting his backers all over his costume. Furthermore, the notion he has a website with a running tally of the heroes and villains he’s defeated and a ranking of who’s tougher is a logical extension of a self-promoting villain/braggart such as Bruiser. Waid and Martin’s depiction of his unconventional power was clever and original as well.
While I’ve been reading this new series from the start, it occurred to me Waid has offered up a thoroughly accessible script. This issue is the culmination of a short story arc (and serves as the launching pad for a larger new plotline), but the script contains everything one needs to know to understand and appreciate what’s going on. Waid also adds to the supporting cast with a more youthful presence, and it should add an interesting new dynamic. Another strength of Waid’s writing is the fact the title hero overcomes impossible odds not due to his fighting skills but his intellect. Sure, he uses his radar sense to determine how to take out Bruiser, but it’s his appreciation of physics and physiology that points him to the answer. And his solution to the Mexican standoff at the end of the issue stems from his experience and ability to get inside other people’s heads. It’s a thoroughly entertaining scene that maintains the title character’s intensity but somehow brings a subtle sense of fun to the mix.
For years (and some would argue decades), Daredevil’s adventures seemed to take place in a dark place, almost separate from the rest of the Marvel Universe. Sure, he encountered other Marvel heroes, but the New York in which Matt Murdock was tormented by the Kingpin wasn’t the same city in which the Fantastic Four fought Galactus. Now, while DD’s exploits seem immune from crossovers such as Fear Itself, he’s definitely ventured back into the Marvel Universe. In keeping with the lighter tone Waid has instilled in the property, more super-science, wondrous elements have turned up in this title. Daredevil isn’t just fighting mob enforcers and skilled assassins anymore. He’s having to contend with masters of evil, mutant monsters and mad scientists. It’s a dramatic shift, but one that works — probably because it’s been a long time in coming. 9/10
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