Judd Winick could learn a thing or two about writing sexuality in cape comics. This issue of Daredevil is just as upfront about it as the New 52’s Catwoman, right down to Paulo Rivera’s teasing cover; but the key difference between what Mark Waid, new artist Chris Samnee, and Rivera are doing, and the unmitigated disaster Winick, Gillem March, and Adriana Melo have unleashed is a little thing called characterization. Aside from that, this is strictly fill-in issue material– competently written and drawn fill-in material, but that’s all– which doesn’t carry the high standard the series had built up to this point.
The developing relationship between Matt Murdock and ADA Kirsten McDuffie takes another step this issue, as they go on their first date. Though the ever-present threat of Mega Crime, the alliance of Marvel’s criminal organizations, hangs in the backdrop (including one great moment that shows Murdock’s radar sense and super senses have limitations), Murdock is determined to show her a good time. Thus far, the two have had a playful, teasing flirtation: Kirsten tries to provoke Murdock into admitting he’s Daredevil (after his tabloid-outing in the Brian Bendis/Alex Maleev run) by testing his blindness in a hilarious, escalating montage on page five. For the actual date, she wears a blindfold to experience “how Matt Murdock enjoys the world.”
The two things that have made this volume of Daredevil so enjoyable thus far have been its levity, in defiance of the darkness the title had since Frank Miller’s legendary run, and the art. Under Paulo Rivera and previous artist Marcos Martin, Daredevil has been nothing short of eye-candy, with its topographical renderings of the radar sense, creative use of negative space, varied body-types and sizes (a rarity in modern mainstream comic art), and Javier Rodriguez’s warm, sensual colors. Samnee doesn’t quite hit that level of greatness. Sure, his art is nice, and Rodriguez keeps it aesthetically similar to Rivera and Martin, but Samnee doesn’t do anything to make his work pop. There’s nothing as glorious as Rivera’s depiction of Daredevil escaping an underground horror in #10, or the battle between Daredevil and Bruiser that Martin delivers in #6. This is Daredevil on cruise control. It probably doesn’t help that Marvel has decided, like with much of their other acclaimed and/or highest-selling comics, to ship more issues of Daredevil this year–requiring either rushed work or more and more fill-ins–a decision that reeks of
cash grab, er, a desire to give the fans what they want.
There’s also a lengthy flashback tale about Matt and his slouchy friend Foggy Nelson dealing with a bullying professor at Colombia University, which is, like the dating sequences, competently written and drawn, and gives Samnee a chance to show off Matt’s cockiness (“I was a little smug back then,” he tells Kirsten, to which she replies, “Yes. Back then.”) and Foggy’s anxiety, but it’s an awkward, lightweight tale that seems odd to insert into this issue. Especially with that Omega Drive/Mega Crime subplot that really should have ended with the title’s Punisher/Avenging Spider-Man crossover The Omega Effect still lingering at the corner of the issue. There’s a tease of a big finale next issue, but I have to wonder how long Marvel and Waid might want to stretch this one plot out.
This isn’t a bad issue, it’s one of my two best comics for this week and runs circles around garbage like Winick’s fake-sexy Catwoman or Geoff Johns’ Silver Age-only-angry Aquaman, but this is a comic that has been so much better at balancing capes, romance, and subplots, that it’s disappointing to read such nervous fumbling from a skilled creative team.