This review contains minor spoilers.
It’s often joked (and even depicted as being a reality in “Daredevil: End of Days”) that Matt Murdock should have a lot of secret lovechilds running around. For the latest era of “Daredevil,” Saladin Ahmed and Aaron Kuder are keeping the ball rolling after Chip Zdarsky and Marco Checchetto concluded their run with Matt returning to life as an amnesiac priest, by asking, “What if Matt was even more of a Father to his community?” The result is the most unique status quo Matt’s had in years.
Written by Saladin Ahmed
Art by Aaron Kuder
Colored by Jesus Aburtov
Lettered by VC’s Clayton Cowles
BORN AGAIN! The new era of Daredevil starts here! Industry stars SALADIN AHMED and AARON KUDER have laced up and entered the ring, ready to take Matt Murdock on a knockout of an adventure! Where does Elektra fit into all of this? What is the future of Hell’s Kitchen? Romance! Intrigue! And, of course, ACTION! All delivered in the Mighty Marvel Manner!
Matt’s new day job is not only a fun callback to his upbringing in Saint Agnes’s Orphanage, but a meta way of asking what kind of example grown-up superheroes like Daredevil set for youngsters. Granted, Daredevil’s generally been one of the more adult-aimed heroes in the Marvel staple, but I imagine many like myself became fans as teenagers because of how dark and edgy his greatest adventures have been, offering a fresh and authentic but not too graphic alternative to more kid-friendly heroes, at just the right age for many of us. The dissonance between Matt’s job upholding the law, and his illegal nighttime activities, offered a similarly winning degree of complexity, and this status quo maintains that with Matt’s portrayal as a priest who’s not afraid to engage in fisticuffs to defend his parish – via the character’s trademark narration, Ahmed gets to explicitly raise the question of the unintended consequences of Matt’s recklessly heroic behavior.
The new status quo also allows Ahmed to emphasize the supernatural side of the Marvel Universe more naturally: priests like Matt are meant to stand against all evil, but their beliefs also mean literally demonic evil is more palpable for them, and so it is that Ahmed has essentially reconceived Daredevil as one of the protagonists from The Exorcist films, teasing a whole series of hellish enemies to come. Matt is forced back into action here after Elektra is attacked by a sloth demon, and it raises all kinds of uncomfortable questions about our hero’s return: he assumes God sent him back because He must’ve had, yet you can’t help but wonder if something far more sinister is going on.
Replacing Foggy Nelson as Matt Murdock’s colleague and best friend is a tall order, but Father Javi just about manages in his brief appearances here. We don’t learn all that much about him, though we see he’s got a bit of sweet tooth, dipping a lollipop in his coffee mug, and refreshingly, despite his piety, that he’s not afraid to cuss when he panics for Matt’s safety. Likewise, we only briefly meet the kids in their care, but they seem like a lively and diverse bunch. It’s a little surprising given this is a double-sized issue, but the second half of this comic is very Matt and Elektra-centric, and it thankfully wraps up their reunion on a satisfying note before leaving us until next month.
Going in, Kuder’s art was the biggest question mark, since his work is much more wide-eyed and cartoonish than most “Daredevil” artists. It’s certainly brighter, especially with the white gutter spaces, although Aburtov’s colors lend it a glow reflecting Manhattan’s bright lights, meaning it’s still realistic. Kuder noticeably renders the noses on Matt and Elektra’s masks with a more subtle outline, adding to the glossier look. Regardless, his art’s full of character, and the action is very dynamic, especially with how he angles the panels during those sequences; he also throws paneling to the wind during moments emphasizing Matt’s radar vision, which Aburtov colors in black and red, reminding us of how he really sees the world.Continued below
The trademark “Daredevil” bleakness shines through with Kuder’s unsettling portrayal of the demon who targets Elektra: the way he constantly looms over her, invading her personal space by dipping his beard over her face, and the serpentine way his oversized body crawls around every environment, as well as his homeless appearance — long, gnatty beard, uncut nails, and craggy skin — really conveys how disgusting and lazy he is. There’s an especially memorable panel of his jaw unhinging over her face, which bodes well for any nightmarish imagery we’ll probably see in later issues. Cowles’s lettering is solid, ensuring Matt’s red-and-white narration, and Elektra’s black-and-white one, remains readable, while the sound effects aren’t distracting.
Before we conclude, I want to acknowledge that while Matt is Catholic, he’s never been celibate – until now. I don’t want to get into the discourse about Marvel stories becoming sexless, especially as Matt’s duty to his flock means it makes sense for him to reject Elektra’s advances, but it’s especially interesting as we’re approaching the 15th anniversary of Disney’s acquisition of Marvel. In any case, it’d be weird if Ahmed and Kuder didn’t use the pleasures of the flesh as another temptation for Matt in a later issue, so let’s reserve judgment for now.
All in all, this is a solid start to what will likely be another absorbing “Daredevil” run, and it’s great that the emphasis on Matt’s faith isn’t going away after Zdarsky and Checchetto’s run (not that I expected it to though, seeing as Ahmed is the series’ first Muslim writer.) Welcome back Matt!
Final Verdict: 8.0