I always say that a good comic book leaves you feeling that you cannot believe that you were only reading a single issue. Whenever I turn that final page and those thoughts enter my mind, I automatically have to review it. Daredevil thirty-one is one such comic and continues to receive high acclaim from all round. Mark Waid’s pedigree is far from question as he is an award winning creator with exceptional books under his belt, including Kingdom Come, Birthright, The Flash and more recently Incorruptible and Irredeemable. However it is his transformation of Daredevil that has taken the field by storm. He did this quite simply; made him less miserable. Chris Samnee garners equivalent acclaim as this years Eisner winning peniciller. They have taken Murdock through a number of misadventures and we join them as he tries to hunt down another seemingly unknown villain. The mood is set around a muggy and sweaty inner city with the temperature increasing from the decision to acquit a racist murderer. The lawyers are out and the classic courtroom steps interview riles emotions and sparks violence, as we begin the summer of Matt.
One of the most understated appeals of this book is Waid’s ability to tell a classic good guy, bad guy story. There is no flamboyant overly complicated plot with near omniscient antagonists, it is a tale told well. We experience the small effects of the villain that make them a threat and difficult to capture, and in this case it is the Jester who has the ability to manipulate media. Waid does not even elaborate on this skill but demonstrates it in action and effects with adeptness. He does not emphasize on dialogue and keeps it succinct and simple during conversations. The thought boxes are numerous and Daredevil’s internal monologue is always running through the book. This is because the dialogue is not interested in the bigger picture but how a man like Murdock reacts and responds to the situation. The bigger picture is provided by Chris Samnee in his wonderful artwork. The city is alive with mob rule and violence in the larger panels but there are lovely subtle displays of action in the smaller ones. This delicate balance is well maintained throughout and the single shot fight sequences are well structured and emphatic. The scenes of rain outside the courtroom are beautifully rendered with phenomenal colouring by Javier Rodriguez. I have always said that Samnee’s pencils are on the thick side but each stroke is purposeful and it never feels clustered, even in the crowd scenes. His use of shading really brings out the emotion with exceptional colouring accompaniment. Most importantly it is the small panels that depict Matt using his hyper senses such as hearing and ultrasonic vision, which truly show him in action, as opposed to the actual fight scenes.
This is an incredibly clever book and so brilliantly expressed as you take a relatively straightforward plot but provide uniqueness through the minutiae. There are always moments which highlight Daredevil’s vulnerabilities, such as the fact he is actually blind and cannot read a notepad. This is important because of the long-term secret identity issues Matt has had, he cannot show his blindness as Daredevil. The running thought processes combined with the small panels of soundwaves and heartbeats allow us to understand Matt’s deductive process. It is intimate and personal. Amongst all of the above shenanigans we also spend time with Foggy, who has set up a cancer support group using the Daredevil motif as a symbol of strength. The relationship between Murdock and Nelson is essential to the book, as well as Matt, especially considering the women that seem to come and go from his life. He does seem to have a more cheerful outlook on life, but its probably because we are beginning to understand him more. This is a book about Matt Murdock’s journey and how he navigates through the villains committing crimes and the relationships that are affected by them. It covers all the classic comic bases without spreading itself thinly or disappointing in any way. Waid and Samnee are completely in tune and running along Daredevil’s wavelength and it is a joy to read. Oh, I almost forget, there are giant wasps too.
“How do I stop pandemonium on a hell-humid day….”