*Warning: Contains spoilers*
Let’s face it; the title to this post is frankly ridiculous. Using superlatives in any arena takes gall because of the subjectivity of the art form review. The reason why I am using the word BEST is because there is not a comic that I read today that moves me more emotionally or intellectually than this book here. It has remained consistently good since Waid and Samnee took over the strings of Matt Murdock, but its longevity is impressive. The latest issues revolving the Purple Man have been outstanding and I am compelled to spread the word. Hence why I have taken up the challenge of trying to tell you why it is the greatest comic, knowing full well that I will not be able to do it justice.
From the first glance on the shelves, Samnee goes to work in delivering the heart of the storyline. The cover sees Matt walking off the chin of, what appears to be, the Purple Man. As he smiles we notice that he is walking quite nonchalantly and non-purposefully whilst behind him are a group of children who clearly very sinister as they hold Matt’s staff. It becomes obvious they are controlling Murdock’s actions and naturally poses questions of how Matt will escape this sinister fate.
Chris Samnee’s ability to emphasis critical aspects of the story is never better demonstrated than in the opening pages. He gives a nod to the classic British terror movie Village of the Damned, by introducing us to the purple children in a very suspenseful way. He begins by a close up shot of trainers walking towards us and as the panels transition outwards, we see a group shot of five purple kids. The balance of purple skin, the night and street lighting is perfectly sinister, which is excellently rendered by Matt Wilson. The following pages take an angle from where they came, and as one of the girls throws a menacing glance behind her, it induces a slight chill down our spines. And then we see the terror of what lies in their wake. Contorted and tortured adults brightly lit contrasting the smaller silhouettes of their perpetrators. As one of the younger children begins to worry, the elders entice him with the idea of driving a police car. These pages capture such an incredible amount of detail by not only enticingly revealing the power of the enemy but also hinting at the vulnerability of juvenile innocence. And then we meet Matt.
Mark Waid’s Daredevil was a refreshing change to the depressing character we have all loved for a number of years. He lost his family, his friends, his religion, his mind and most tragically almost all of his romantic partners. It was a change in mind set more than anything else leading to an optimistic Matt taking on challenges with a fresh outlook. However this issue reminds us from whence he came for perhaps the first time since Waid started this run. Samnee portrays his versions of the classical Daredevil images, as Matt and his friends discuss the possibility of writing a biography. Murdock mentions that he can handle the emotional turbulence of self-reflection. Before this notion is elaborated upon further, those pesky kids cause alarm bells to ring as they power through in their stolen police car. In what is now classic Daredevil fashion, Samnee fashions a clever tactic in halting the danger.
I have always admired the way Samnee is able to portray the powers of Daredevil and utilise them so effectively in times of confrontation. In this case stopping a speeding car is definitely a momentous task. The usage of panel transitions, angulations and varying foci portray a clear plan of attack. The sequence moves fluidly and with clarity. Often Matt is posed in mid flow and the reflections of light on the dark red of his costume, always make him appear quite intimidating. As soon as the children are rescued we see the full extent of their power. As the crowd begin to turn on Matt, we are treated to some clever panels of smoke grenades in effect. It is at this juncture that the plot really knits together as we realise the kids have an evolved from the Purple Man’s powers. The emotional control that succumbs Murdock leads us to the most incredible page of the book.
The hardships of the children are tragically juxtaposed with those of Matt’s. Where a child was physically abused, we see Daredevil beaten brutally by a old villain. Where a child feels loneliness and despair, Samnee reflects upon those Matt has lost close to him. The balance and symmetry of the page is just wonderful. Not only are the emotions contrasted but the memories are coloured red for the purple children, and purple for the red Daredevil. Their expressions correlate with the memories and Matt is lead into an emotional breakdown, to the point where he begins to doubt his own strength and becomes paralysed with fear and insecurity. As he physically crumbles he falls into a heap full of doubt and devoid of hope. He is then confronted by the real enemy in a final reveal of anguish and misery.
When you have a writer with a clear direction and an artist who is able to not only convey the attributes of the character, but also focus on the flaws of his persona, then you have the perfect combination for a solo comic. Waid and Samnee have pulled together the central tenets of Daredevil in a single story arc. The plot development is quite clever, as the narrative has slowly built into a story about Matt’s life and how he has managed to overcome the despair of earlier years. Then we meet his adversary, the Purple Man who exerts control via suggestion but the children he manipulates turn on him, with the ability to control emotion. It is a clever tactic to utilise these evil powers in order to influence Daredevil, and allow some character exposition that puts his newly laid foundations at risk. To see Matt so dishevelled and upset resonates with us all and garners genuine concern. The key to this story is the personal development of Murdock to, yet again overcome an adversary and maintain his mental stability. This has almost become the mission statement of the Daredevil paradigm. If Waid and Samnee can continue to explore this part of Matt’s psyche in a unique way, then the story will end without imperfections. Not only is it a well-paced, classical and original plot with wonderful characterisation and amazing emotional conveyance, but it also takes the reader on an exciting and unsettling journey as it does it. I don’t think there is anything else you can ask for in a comic, and it is a joy to see true mastery of the art form.
“Happy Matt is just an act”