Mark Waid and Chris Samnee are in the final throes of their instant-classic run on “Daredevil” and, as they approach the end, the creative team is pulling together the threads of everything that has happened in San Francisco. Rebirth, redemption and legacy — three themes that have permeated Waid’s time with the character — loom large across this comic book as Matt finally leans in to the idea that, for the first time in his adult life, he is a man with a single identity.
Daredevil transforms his look into a dapper legal crusader, a superhero in a three piece suit, still cocksure enough to parade around in violent red. This is Matt trying on a new facet of his identity as much as it is putting on a new outfit. For the first time, he exposes not only his face but his entire modus operandi for the world to see. Waid delivers an entertaining opening scene to underline this point as Murdock hops from crime scene to courtroom, slightly late but delivering an entrance like he’s walking out to deliver the monologue on “Saturday Night Live.” It’s a great distillation of where Matt is when we begin the story, finally tying together all the parts of his life in a way that leaves none of it behind a mask.
Samnee illustrates the reveal in a splash page that gives front-and-center attention to the Man Without Fear from the perspective of the gallery as he leans casually on the door, showing us how he will present himself from this point forward. It’s punctuated by a comedic inset of Kirsten’s facepalm reaction and her realization that Matt is fully committed to this idea. Though his moniker has always been the Man Without Fear, he has always tried to protect his own career and those around him by hiding behind a mask. This, for the first time, is a Daredevil who has accepted that nickname.
The rest of the story involves the Owl’s daughter, who is on the hunt for her missing father, leading to a classic Daredevil investigation across the city. Waid allows the hero the chance to show off to the public, stopping a crime at a drive and then loudly requesting a ride from a throng of adoring moviegoers. Samnee’s two page spread of Jubula Pride in action is stunning and leaves Murdock in complete awe as he zooms and radars in on her face. Daredevil is smitten and envious of the young woman and a man of his ego would never deny himself the chance to show off his vast skills and intellect. It’s hard not to love Samnee’s layouts and designs as he pioneers a new Marvel style, swinging from bright and fun to extreme danger and best displayed when Murdock and Pride discover the Owl’s current fate. Matthew Wilson continues to deliver gorgeous swaths of color across the book, giving rich sunset hues to the action that slowly darkens as the true plot of the story kicks into gear. By the end of the book, the characters are being swallowed by darkness, heavy blacks taking up most of the space on the page.
As longtime Daredevil fans will recognize, particularly with the Catholic themes that permeate the book, Waid is setting up Murdock for a long fall as he revels in his new status. This is a comic that has wallowed in guilt and responsibility and fear for decades and, though Waid has allowed the light into Murdock’s life, he understands that this is a character whose very instincts make him gorge on whatever he’s accepted; what was once an addiction to the darker parts of his own psyche has now become an addiction to the dopamine released by the acceptance that San Francisco has given to him. While it will be hard to watch this new reality fall around Daredevil, it will be breathtaking to watch him try to hold up the crumbling pieces.