Review: Does Daredevil #25 Suffer From Being TOO Well Made?

When Daredevil jolted back to life in 2011 under the pen of Mark Waid, the series climbed out of a pit of cobwebs and into a bright, vibrant landscape which sought to put some fun back into Matt Murdock’s life. And, as should always be the case when a comic becomes about fun rather than woe, people responded to it in dazzling numbers, championing a book which finally decided to try something different.

Waid didn’t turn Daredevil into a Disney fantasy filled with kittens made out of clouds who rain candy, though – he simply equalised things out. He erased the despair one-upmanship which had defined the series, and did his best to turn his lead into a more balanced, fair-minded character. After 25 issues, however, the surprise of a fun Daredevil has died down, and quietly become status quo. So with the selling point of the series now settled into the background, what does Waid have next for readers?

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Issue #25 delivers another shock to the system for Matt Murdock – but this time as he’s comprehensively outmanoeuvred by an enemy and left beaten and scared. The man without fear suddenly has something to be scared about! Which, sure, is something we’ve seen in the past. 25 issues into this run, however, it’s an unexpected moment which reminds the reader that it’s perfectly possible to twist the knife somewhat and still keep the mood up. In order to get us to this point, though, Waid is tasked with the difficult job of deftly hiding an obvious surprise so readers don’t spring the trap before Daredevil’s opponent does.

He manages it, just about, although he has to pull a fair few tricks on the reader in order to keep their attention elsewhere. The final reveal falls into place neatly, perhaps not offering a major feeling of surprise and illusion for readers, but offering just enough of a flick of the wrist in order to make the ending fall into place. When Daredevil started this new run, all focus was on the artwork and the character, rather than just how much craft Waid puts into each page of his script – now that we’re all JUST starting to take Chris Samnee’s wonderful work here for granted, he delivers an issue which showcases off Samnee’s talent front-and-centre.

Having already shown off his ability as storyteller, artist, and collaborator, this issue sees Chris Samnee experiment wildly with his page breakdowns. Not content to break each page into a series of panels, on a number of occasions here he utilises the gutters as part of a page, creating black spaces between punches in a fight scene to bring a sense of momentum to the beating. He breaks some of his bigger panels apart, cutting around a large image of Daredevil’s head in order to showcase how the ears, brain, nose and mouth are all sensing the atmosphere simultaneously.

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And he’s backed by yet more startlingly vivid colours from Javier Rodriguez, who once more proves himself to be the heart of this book. His work emphasises bright shocking colour – but he swamps it with pitch blackness, offering the reader flashes of blindness amongst a sensory overload.

It’s business as usual, then. Daredevil hasn’t had as much attention this year as it did during it’s first, but that’s for a fairly clear reason – it’s utterly rock-solid. Reviewers get bored of saying “yep, still great” every month, which is why books like Fatale and Daredevil tend to experience a little critical fatigue the longer they go on. I’d argue that Daredevil does suffer a little from being so dependable – with readers already aware of what kind of experience they’re in for when they pick up an issue, there’s little sense of recklessness at stake here. With a comic which rolls from being good-to-great, there are more errors and slips in the work, and that can make for a more entertaining read than something which never puts a foot wrong.

The Empire Strikes Back is the best Star Wars film, but it also has some glaring mistakes in it. There’s fun and excitement in not knowing if something might collapse in on itself on the next page. If a creative work never appears to make any big mistakes in execution, then it can be very easy indeed to take it for granted and forget the work that goes into it.

But, I mean, let’s not get lost in it, guys. Every issue of Daredevil I’ve read has been a darned reliable comic, written sharply by Waid and with stunning creative work from Samnee, Rodriguez, and lettering from the irreplaceable Joe Caramagna. Take any one of those talents out of the series and you may start to see a more erratic quality come into the series. – but isn’t it nice that there’s at least one superhero book which you can rely on? Rather than getting bored at seeing high quality on a regular basis, this is a book we should continue to champion, even 25 issues in.

Comments

  1. I was a little surprised by the “twist.” I felt it but I didn’t buy it. It’s a classic Murdock f#ck up though. You’d hope Matt would be smarter (and less egotistical) by now.

  2. Katerade says:

    “What if we could only buy [X] monthly comics?” is a recurring game in our home. We decided last month that if it came down to two right now, they’d be Daredevil and Saga.

  3. Chris Hero says:

    My list of two books would look slightly different than yours, Katerade. (I *really enjoy Adventure Time.) However, Daredevil is the only monthly superhero book I buy. I’ve long had a soft spot for Waid’s writing and he seems to me to be one of the few “mainstream” writers who has put a real effort towards improving his skills. Waid’s pacing, use of panels, and dialog skills continue to get better and improve. (I should probably start buying Hulk, too, but I’m waiting for the trade due to the high price of single issues.)

    Samnee has really grown on me lately. His sense of panel composition is really strong and he spots blacks well. I really hope he continues to grow and I’ll be following him to see.

  4. I agree, Waid’s probably the best writer out there and certainly my favorite.

  5. Reality Check says:

    This is such a stupid article. It communicates nothing about Daredevil, except that it’s obviously a good comic, and everything about this generation’s rapid-fire news cycle, gnat-with-ADD short attention span, and thorough media saturation, where we have more blogs, tweets, and sources of commentary than we have actual news, to such an absurd degree that we have to sort of, kinda wish stuff would suck a little bit more just so we could have more to talk about. Is this article even a joke? Daredevil does not “suffer” from being too well-made, it’s just a reasonably entertaining comic and if people have grown bored watching it succeed as a good comic, they should find something better to do or just dispense with commentary. If it’s not obvious yet that we have too many comics blogs relative to content, it is now.

  6. I went to the comic book man and picked up this comic book. It’s a good comic book. I see what you mean about it not presenting a big change like spikes and drops in quality. That said, I have found that one can discuss so many things without being repetitive or boring.

    Daredevil doesn’t suffer from being too well made; it enjoys every minute of it. Reading through, I can feel the *glee* that Chris Samnee must have felt when he was devising the layouts. I can taste the 3am “eureka” moments in design and I can overhear the frantic phone calls between Waid and Samnee, both screaming “that’s what I mean” over each other.

    As for me, a reader, I have no end of praise for a job well done. I love when anybody does their job well. Be they comic book storytellers, or athletes or lawyers. Watching people at the height of their craft or trade, doing well what they do best–that’s my thrill.

    But it does make for repetitive reading I suppose to issue the same praise in the same way to the same pair of people. The problem with comic book art is that once people talk about it once, they don’t know what to talk about next. They talk about the art in overview, seeing the broad strokes but then focus on the plot–the part of the story that changes in particular details. There’s a lot of plot particularities that shifted from the previous issue of Daredevil to this one. The previous issue had more casual talking and this one has much more fighting. The second half (or slightly more) is an extended fight scene. But in order to talk with a more visual mind about Daredevil, we assume that the major weight-shifting of fighting to conversation likely lies more with Mark Waid’s story decisions as the “writer.” That said we don’t want to start rattling off plot events and essentially make “book reports” or plot summaries.

    I don’t think Daredevil is too well-made. I think it’s just enough for us to start talking. I don’t think that many of us are used to talking about contrast: this was bad but now it’s good and here’s why. This was good and now it’s bad and here’s why. Or: this is why this why this book is better/worse than most other books. The next thing we look for is the overview: talking about one project in broad strokes. Chris Samnee is a good example of the kind of person who gets talked about in broad strokes. His “Thor the Mighty Avenger,” “Adventures of Superman” and “Daredevil” all are crafted with the same care, same graphic sensibility (although Daredevil has all of those micro-panels; this is a project-specific storytelling tendency). So it easy to link Samnee to Samnee and see a continuum of Samnee; one great Samnee project divided into differently-named comic books. And in some ways, this is completely correct! But in other ways, treating his visual work as “business as usual” will eventually rob the work of the appreciation that it is due.

    But no critic needs to tackle every aspect every time. What we might do is zero in on a detail. One thing that might not be the “most exceptional” aspect of the book in question, but interesting enough to talk about nonetheless. I had an experience with the previous issue, Daredevil number 24, where I found myself drawn to a scene that wasn’t particularly “flashy” but pulled me in completely.

    Additionally, when a serial is stable as Daredevil is, we probably can do it some good by not reviewing every issue. Just checking in with it, here and again. Put a series in rotation and let it circulate.

    Anyway, I’m just rambling, have a good day!

  7. Chuckles says:

    I know this: a readership that demands endless tricks and twists and rhapsodizes about which Star Wars is the best Star Wars barely deserves this comic.

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