Last issue of “Daredevil,” the Spot’s return was revealed to be something… more. Do Mark Waid and Chris Samnee continue to surprise us with #21, or does this otherwise hyped book gain a spotty reputation with the arc’s conclusion?
I know, that was bad and I apologize.
Written by Mark Waid
Illustrated by Chris Samnee
* The final showdown with Coyote!
* Big clues to a mystery building since issue 3!
* Daredevil — wanted by the NYPD!
This issue’s biggest hindrance is in its inevitability — and not in a good sense, like you’d expect from a claustrophobic horror book (As a note, I will try to speak in general terms, but what follows may be considered spoilers by some) As the Coyote begins to spill the beans on who hired him, the reader knows exactly what is going to happen, particularly considering we have hitherto not had any hint of this mysterious cabal. That isn’t an inherent problem, though; just because a story has a few standard tropes or cliches doesn’t mean they cannot be executed well. The problem here is that the standard plot device in question is delayed: we know what is going to happen before Coyote gets to his point, but the scene is extended to a point where it drags. We know how the situation is going to end, and an experienced and generally talented writer like Mark Waid should assume we know, but instead he continues his attempts to prolong the suspense, even though no sense of suspense is present. It’s a minor detail, but one that makes this issue seem more like the falling action of the arc rather than the climax it was supposed to be, especailly compared to the intensity that was issue #20.
The choice cut of the issue, though, is the scene where we see how recent events have affected Matt and Foggy’s friendship. When Waid first joined the book, there was much talk about how this was going to be a departure from iconic runs such as Frank Miller’s and Brian Michael Bendis’s — Matt was actually going to smile for once! While the run so far hasn’t been all rainbows and sunshine, it definitely has parted from the heavy tone typically associated with the Daredevil name, especially when it comes to Matt’s character. In superhero comics, you can just do that; these characters have been written and rewritten so much that a sudden change of character will elicit merely a shrug from most fans. That isn’t enough for Waid, though. People don’t just turn their lives around and start being “happy,” and both he and Foggy Nelson know it. This dialogue manages to be both a shot to the heart and a device that ties this seemingly separate chapter in Daredevil’s life to the whole of the mythos, hinting that things might not be as chipper as Waid would have us believe. The man has been working in ongoing superhero comics for decades, and segments like this prove he knows how to play the game better than almost anyone else around.
Chris Samnee was given the difficult task of following up two incredible artists on this book, namely Paolo Rivera and Marcos Martin, but he has certainly proven himself up to the challenge. This issue had two particularly noticeable instances of Samnee’s draftsmanship, the first being the Spot’s disappearing act. This four panel sequence is the kind of thing you would expect to see in film or animation more than you would on the comic page, due to its subtlety of motion, and yet Samnee very impressively pulls it off. In comics, motion is usually conveyed solely by the subject object, but these panels by Samnee ask “Well, do we have to?” While those panels showcase his ability as a sequential illustrator, his depiction of the Spot after his return gives the reader a good clue as to just how strong of a grasp he has over anatomy. This kind of figure is one that would murder someone whose anatomy was merely “good enough” — the result would be merely a tangle of limbs. Sure, what we see instead isn’t a far cry from that, but there is a level of structure in the Spot’s shape that must have been maddening for Samnee to achieve; it’s unreal and nothing that we would ever see in our life, but if we could, then by god that would be precisely what it would look like. Multiple artists have had fun with the Spot since Waid reintroduced him in “Amazing Spider-Man,” but what Samnee gets to do in this issue takes the cake.
“Daredevil” hasn’t been quite as good this year as it was in its previous one, and this issue is kind of indicative of its whole year. “Hawkeye” has taken its place as the book that anti-big two readers make sure they aren’t caught reading — now it’s just another pretty good superhero book. The issue’s end, though, hints that things could be getting back on track, which can hopefully restore the series to its former glory. On the plus side, though, at least Chris Samnee has been proven to be more than an adequate follow-up to this book’s stellar launching artists!
Final Verdict: 7.5 – It’s good, but not what one would call Eisner-level.