[18 June 2014]
Daredevil #3 (or should I say Daredevil #39) is fantastic. Sure, the series was needlessly renumbered but that’s a minor quibble. The creative team stays intact in this latest All-New Marvel Now! run with the only major difference being a change in locale. Daredevil has left behind Hell’s Kitchen and is now operating out of San Francisco. While Daredevil adjusts to his new surroundings, new threats begin to emerge one by one. Turns out the city by the bay isn’t lacking in its fair share of villains to cause trouble for Matt Murdock. Lucky us!
Murdock, who has now gone public about his superhero alter ego, is being stalked by The Shroud, a vigilante with a backstory very closely resembling Batman’s. Oh, except for the part where he trades his eyes to some sorcerers for the ability to command shadows. Turns out The Shroud has a plan to take down the city’s biggest threat, The Owl, and that plan involves Daredevil. The two form an uneasy alliance to infiltrate The Owl’s fortress. While Daredevil laughs off Owl as a true threat, turns out he’s become more dangerous since relocating his empire to the west coast. This is made especially clear in the way Chris Samnee draws him, giving his owl-like eyes a menacing stare and keeping him in the shadows. In discovering that The Owl first appeared in Daredevil #3 back in 1964, it’s quite fitting that he shows up here, while Daredevil is celebrating his 50th anniversary.
Mark Waid’s love of pulp heroes shines through here, where Daredevil can find himself in some pretty dicey circumstances, but it doesn’t rely on being dark and gritty to generate excitement. Keeping things light seems to suit Daredevil just fine, so that when evil does raise its ugly head, the shift in tone has weight to it. In addition to the stories being topnotch, Waid’s dialogue has never been sharper. Between his work on Hulk, The Rocketeer and The Fox, you’d think he’d run out of snappy quips for heroes under his pen to spout off but the hits just keep on coming. I’m particularly fond of his sly pop culture references he’ll slip in from time to time and I was overjoyed when Waid referenced another one of my favorite comics, Saga. For the casual comic fan, it no doubt sailed right over many a head, but for me it was a “did that just happen” moment. Comics referencing comics! Waid is getting all meta on us.
I am a big fan of Samnee’s work in general and particularly on this title. Daredevil has been blessed with many great artists since Waid began his current run and with Samnee on board, the quality of the art has yet to dip. The pair recently collaborated on a Rocketeer story and make for a solid writer/artist team. Samnee is the perfect fit to accentuate Waid’s pulpy writing and is quickly becoming one of my favorite artists. His heroes always look heroic and the gangsters truly menacing. The guy is a master of facial expressions, ensuring we know exactly what tone the dialog should be read in, oh so important in some of the more subtle exchanges. It’s the difference between a good and a bad actor where you either buy the performance or you don’t. Here, you totally buy it as Samnee’s renditions never fall flat. And while we’re on the art, Javier Rodriguez’s colors make Samnee’s pencils sing. I’ve said it before but colors can make or break the art. In this case, not only do they work here, they really pop without being distracting, a fine line for any colorist to ride.
Despite his superpower, Daredevil very much resembles those early golden age heroes in many ways. It’s easy to forget sometimes that Daredevil is blind but Waid subtly reminds us every now and then, balancing out his heightened senses as a strength while playing up his loss of sight as a weakness as needed to tell the story and keep things grounded. The issue concludes with a classic cliffhanger worthy of a 1940s serial. I definitely feel the Will Eisner influence all over this and you half expect to see The Spirit drop in if he inhabited the same universe.
The upcoming Netflix Daredevil series would majorly benefit from paying attention to what is being done here because this is how to do the character right. Let’s hope this creative teams sticks around for another 36 issues and beyond because this is a classic run in the making.