Daredevil #38-40 – The Trial of the Century

[19 March 2003]

By Michael David Sims

Hero Worship

Five pages.

Let me recount that; yup, five pages. Daredevil 38-40 has a total of 66 pages, and yet Daredevil himself is only in costume for five of those pages. Three pages in issue 38, none in 39, and two in 40.

Well I’ll be damned! Brian Michael Bendis has done it again. He’s proven me wrong.

Not too long ago, I reminisced about the days when I thought all comics had to be superhero comics. Books like Box Office Poison, Beg the Question, Ghost World, Shutterbug Follies, and Schizo were foreign to me. And though I was slowly but surely being introduced to the DC/VERTIGO library, nothing seemed capable of changing my opinion.

Then along came Brian Michael Bendis, he who spun my world upside down.

Thanks to Powers and Ultimate Spider-Man, I was already familiar with Brian’s work before he jumped over to Daredevil. My stack of Daredevil comics was growing taller and taller month after month, but I found that I wasn’t reading them. I use the same excuses for not keeping up with my comic book readings as I do for not writing as much as I should: “I’m busy.” “I’ve gotta prep for my class.” “I’m tired.” “I just wanna relax tonight.” Blah! Blah! Blah!

So when I finally dug into the stack, I couldn’t believe what I had been missing. Yeah, the book was good, to say the least. But that’s not what I’m talking about. Brian was writing a superhero comic with Tarantino-like dialog. You know, that so-real-it-hurts type of dialog. The kind you’d swear you heard on the street just the other day. That kind. And I was like, “Whoa! I didn’t know a comic could be written like this!” It was a shock to say the least.

So by having superheroes talk like you and me, Bendis proved me wrong for the first time. I couldn’t believe that heroes could talk about other things than what superpowers they have and how their powers work.

The second time he did, however, was a bit more shocking. I mean, the title character only appearing in costume for five pages over three issues is unheard of! Then again, Matt Murdock (aka Daredevil) surely couldn’t defend a client while wearing his trademarked red tights, now could he.

But that’s what everyone in the Marvel Universe wants to see.

After being outted as Daredevil in a local tabloid, Matt’s struggles have been nothing but uphill. Things are tough enough with villains attacking his office, the media camped out in his front lawn, friends either with him or against him in his decision to deny the truth, a legal battle against said tabloid. On top of all that, Luke Cage (aka Cage, aka Power Man) has asked Murdock to defend a fellow outted superhero: accused cop killer Hector Ayala (aka The White Tiger).

Because everyone wants Matt’s head on a spike, Matt knows full well that Hector will be found guilty despite his innocence.

Here’s where Bendis proves me right: we are a sick, demented, sadistic lot. And so are the people inside these three comics he’s scripted. They’re written so closely to us that they even lust for the moment when they can destroy their heroes. We love nothing more than to see them fall from grace. As a collective we raise them up on a pedestal—be it celebrities, police officers, athletes, Presidents, whoever—and when the time is right (after our use for them has run out), we yank the rug out from under them.

A white police officer shoots and kills an armed African-American suspect that (unbeknownst to him) is also a college-bound honor student. Now, for the next three, four weeks all cops are likened to the Nazis. No matter that these are the same police officers that, just the day before, busted-up a multi-million dollar drug ring. Now, we say with no proof but tons of false confidence, “They must be on the take.”

Michael Jordan, arguably the greatest basketball player to ever live, would lead the Chicago Bulls to six championships in only eight years. He would retire and come back twice, and some would say he betrayed Chicago when he not only became part owner of the Washington Wizards but eventually he would don their uniform and play for a team that was not the Bulls. As if this “betrayal” were not enough for us, an affair would come out. Michael—Mister Nike, Mister Gatorade, Mister Haynes, seemingly perfect father to his three children, seemingly perfect husband to his wife—was now a philanderer. Everything #23 had accomplished on those hard wood floors was tarnished.

Two words: Bill Clinton. Need I say more?

So why should it be a surprise that superheroes, at some point in their careers, would have their star fall? And when you’re that high up, when people see you as a god, as a protector, untouchable, you can bet your last dollar that your star is going to fall hard. And for what reason? Simple: our enjoyment.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/daredevil-38/