Comforting Hallucinations: Daredevil #18 Reviewon September 21, 2012 at 9:16 am
First of all, no matter how you feel about Daredevil #18, you’ve gotta admit: that is one hell of a cover. If the goal of a comic book cover is to get someone not already predisposed to the book to buy it (and that is the goal of a cover, no matter what the prevailing wisdom of “What can I get for the original art on the collector’s market” might say), then this one by Paolo Rivera succeeds. If you’re in a comic store and you see this cover and you’re not interested? Just ask the guy at the counter if you can use his bathroom, because clearly you didn’t go into the comic store because you like comics.
Trouble is, you put a cover like that on a comic book, particularly when the cover is hyping that the creative team just won an Eisner Award for making Daredevil the best continuing series of the year, and you are writing a check that the book itself had better Goddamned cash. So does the story, by writer Mark Waid with interior art by Chris Samnee, deliver the goods?
In general, yes it does. This issue continues Waid’s examination of Matt Murdock’s long relationship with, shall we say, “stress-related personality issues.” It was a trait that dominated the character for so long that Waid has been almost required to address – if you’re gonna decide that a character has simply decided to be less intense and crazy, you almost have to put him in a situation where he would once, well, go bugfuck nuts to see if he can stay less intense and crazy. And Waid is doing that, in a methodical and well-built way… with a couple of nitpicks. Because Matt Murdock might have decided to be less apeshit crazy, but I have promised no such thing.
Daredevil #18 continues last month’s storyline, with Foggy having fired Matt from the law firm after finding what appears to be Matt’s father’s bones stuffed in his desk drawer. Foggy is approached by a man looking for a lawyer for his sister, who is accused of the unique murder of a gangster, which is setting up an old-school locked room mystery. Meanwhile, Matt is bringing new flame Kirsten back to his apartment for a little game of Hide-The-Billy-Club, when he suddenly feigns illness and sends her on her way. My guess was because he suddenly realized that Kirsten didn’t have a big enough set of sais, or plans to murder him (we’re talking about someone Daredevil’s attracted to; let’s just say I’m betting a scan of Matt’s browser will show multiple cookies from heroesonmurderousskanks.com), but instead, it’s Matt’s ex-wife Milla, apparently escaped from the insane asylum (see? Matt sure can pick ‘em) and acting like nothing’s wrong. So Matt and Foggy reach a temporary truce, with Matt investigating the locked room mystery while Foggy digs for how Milla escaped, and we learn that Daredevil’s perception of reality might not be as strong as one would hope from an Avenger…
Look, let’s talk about the elephant in the room: this is clearly another Let’s Drive Matt Murdock Crazy story. The history of Daredevil’s full of them, from The Kingpin’s destruction of Matt’s personal life in Frank Miller’s Born Again to Mysterio trying to convince Matt he was seeing angels in Kevin Smith’s Guardian Devil to Andy Diggle possessing him with a demon in Shadowland. You can’t swing a dead cat in the Marvel Universe without hitting some costumed villain with a lifelong dream of making Murdock less Matt and more Howling Mad; on an infinite timeline, we’ll get a five-issue arc of Klaw surreptitiously beaming Carly Rae Jepson songs into Matt’s head all day and replacing his billy clubs with rubber chickens every night.
So the idea of this kind of story isn’t anything new, and neither is how Waid is setting up the ongoing psychological attacks. So far, at least, Matt is not succumbing to the warfare… at least not by too much. Waid has Daredevil accepting that what he’s sensing is real, but not that he might be responsible for any of it, with the exception of a small moment where he questions if he’s the one who actually did put his father’s remains in the desk. Which is a moment that makes complete and total sense; hell, if I could look back on my past and see a several month stretch of paranoid delusions and homelessness, I’d probably question anything weird that I’d seen, too.
So what we have here is continuing set-up; by the end of this issue, Matt is clearly meant to believe that he is unable to trust his senses or his memory, and his closest friend thinks he’s nuttier than gay porn. And Waid has set this situation up deliberately and methodically, while still maintaining the dogged and generally positive personality that Waid has instilled in Daredevil since he started his run of issues – hell, after Foggy threw him out, Matt went out on a date, rather than choosing his historic course of action in the face of personal adversity of beating on strangers and attempting to murder infants. We’ll have to wait and see the payoff in upcoming issues, but the setup feels well-built, logical, and damn interesting to read.
But there are some problems, the first being how the ”escape” of Milla is handled. So Matt comes home with a woman and senses his psychotic ex-wife, who has been committed to a mental institution and who has a restraining order against him, in his apartment. This is a woman with a history of violence, and who being found with means a stretch in the pokey. So Matt decides to send the woman he’s with – sorry, the Assistant District Attorney, who could act as an alibi and arrange for authorities to deal with this psycho who broke into your house that he’s with – home? And then he calls Foggy and demands that Foggy immediately go to the mental hospital from where Milla escaped to find out what happened… and Foggy just goes? He doesn’t stop and say, “Jesus, it’s late, and Matt’s pissed me off. And now I have to go all the way across town to the nuthatch and ask simple questions! If only I had some kind of device that I could use to talk to the mental hospital without getting off my fat ass!” Granted, these are nitpicks, but in a story that is inevitably going to turn out to be an intricate conspiracy to drive Matt nuts, all the details matter.
The art by Chris Samnee is a really good match for Daredevil, particularly with the pulpy story that Waid is telling. He works with a generally thick line, his figures are simple but effective, and his faces pretty expressive given his economy of detail. The storytelling is clear, with simple, no-nonsense panel layouts, and well-choreographed action. While I don’t think Samnee is a great match on everything he does – his stuff just hasn’t been working well for me on Rocketeer: Cargo of Doom – I’m liking it a lot in this issue.
Overall, Daredevil #18 is a solid continuation of a story that’s been told a few times over the history of the character. But other than a few minor character and story points, the road toward Matt Murdock having to question his sanity has been paved by Waid in a way that is logical and generally earned. It does things well enough that I’m really looking forward to the next chapter to see how this plays out, and more importantly: who’s behind it? Give it a day in court.