[12 April 2012]
PopMatters Comics Editor
I’m going to say this carefully. Remember why you read comics? Because every so often, about once a decade, there’s a book that entirely redefines a character. Daredevil #10.1 is exactly that book. Ok, here we go…
The high art of Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark’s run on Daredevil, the same run that same DD’s wife Milla driven permanently insane, the same run that saw DD driven to a point where he was ready to simply give up his alter ego as high-powered attorney Matt Murdock and embrace leadership of the Hand, an ancient ninja clan… The high art of that run lay in the fact that you never really wondered too much about the mystical stuff.
Daredevil’s pretty simple, but simple in a folded kind of way. Like a katana is folded out again and again from a solid block of steel. Here’s this kid from Hell’s Kitchen. He’s cocky, he’s brash. Knowing he can’t inhibit himself, the other kids tease him by calling him “Daredevil”. One day this kid dive tackles an old man right there on the streets of Manhattan. Dive tackles him to save him from an oncoming truck. The man is fine. But the kid is blinded. And because of some unique kind of radioactive material the truck was carrying, the kid is also gifted with hypersenses. And in place of his lost sight, he has a strange radar sense that allows him to “see” with great accuracy using his four remaining senses.
In those early days, the kid’s hypersenses overwhelm him. There’s too much new information flooding his brain, he might never again be able to even form a coherent thought. Then an old, blind master finds the boy. He trains the kid to focus by using ninja powers and secret meditation techniques. The boy goes on to graduate law school and become a high-powered attorney. And by night, he dons a devil mask and fake horns and torments criminals as Daredevil.
Daredevil’s brash and cocky and fearless. But only to hide his almost debilitating sense of self-recrimination, and an overwhelming sense of guilt. Daredevil’s a failed ninja. He was meant to fulfill a ninja prophecy in much the same way Anakin was meant to fulfill a Jedi prophecy. But rather than turn evil, DD simply failed a number of tests his master (the man called Stick) set for him. Stick never taught Matt what he needed to prepare himself for his Great Ninja Destiny.
So by the time Brubaker got to a point where Matt’s personal life was shattered, and just continuing to be Matt would be a risk for everyone he loved, and making the choice to lead his longtime enemies, the Hand, made perfect sense… by the time Brubaker had gotten DD there, it seemed like the DD we always knew we deserved. It was a DD who was on the cusp of evolving into his Greater Ninja Destiny, where fighting dirtbags on the streets of NYC was just too small, where that cocky fearlessness could be leveraged against hunting down and fighting real evils. Larger, older, more fearsome things that not only threatened our lives, but our promise of being better than we are.
That would have been a DD worth reading. But Brubaker and Lark had taken DD just about as far as they could. Beyond criminal and into the mystical, that wouldn’t be playing to their strengths. The events that followed, “The Devil’s Hand” and then Shadowland saw that promise carefully and systematically eroded. Although DD was about to be put through even greater trouble, the idea of DD would be lost. Shadowland in particular just read like a “bunch of stuff” that happened to DD, rather than a concerted DD story.
For the last year or so now, DD’s found a great return to the stage. Mark Waid has done a magnificent job in finding that brio and that fearlessness and that pure energy that powered DD through his darkest times. But now, with “#10.1”, just on the cusp of “Act Three”, Mark has surpassed himself. And given us the kind of DD we could scarcely have hoped for.
You need a little background for this issue, but not so much that you can’t piece together the story from just reading the issue. What happened is, DD uncovered a conspiracy by the five most powerful criminal organizations on the planet to pool their resources as MegaCrime. And fearless and brash as ever, DD stole their entire database, the so-called omega-drive.
Matt Murdock’s dealing with FireNut (the bad guy’s real name is “Pyromania”), inside his jail cell, and DD’s subsequent dealing with one of MegaCrime’s partners, Black Specter by “Julian Assange-ing” them is that same kind of fearless, taunting that we haven’t seen from DD in the longest time, but really should have.
This world that Mark has crafted. This finely-woven, richly-detailed world of encrypted information and blowing the whistle on that, of tilting at the world, of diving headlong into danger, of really just being fearless in the world is the world DD should inhabit, the world DD should speak to us of. It’s the allure of hackers who are ethically motivated by a desire to prevent large, anonymous corporations from owning our data, it’s the world of the Freedom of Information.
And when you think about it just for a second, it’s all the ways Julian Assange, when he first appeared, long before the sexual assault charges that might see him extradited to Sweden, originally reminded us of a kind of DD of cyberspace. And while personalities in the real world often fade with time or because of rooted in the real world of human foibles, icons are forever. For Mark to reclaim that original fire in DD himself, it’s just the Best. Easter. Ever.