“Daredevil” #17 is a sweet story. Mark Waid crafts a flashback full of vibrant heart and nostalgic energy that seamlessly feels like an actual aside within a Stan Lee tale from the ’60s. The old school feel permeates every panel and Michael Allred’s art is perfectly positioned to make this issue come to life. The story is full of style and emotion but relatively thin on narrative, which is a shame. Waid writes this issue well to fit Allred’s style as a standalone instalment to take advantage of the one-off artist fill-in. However, on the flip-side, it diminishes the importance of the issue in the overall “Daredevil” narrative.
Stilt-Man is one of the main obvious draws for this issue. He’s such a ridiculous rogue, it’s impossible for readers to resist discovering how Waid brings him some street cred. Having Stilt-Man in a flashback is the first smart move considering his shtick doesn’t stack up well for modern comics. Stilt-Man smashes through the Nelson & Murdock window and trots off at quite a pace. He crushes a taxi and even manages to flick a helicopter into a building — surprising, considering it’s actually Daredevil’s fault. Finally, Waid delivers his grand moment — something he teased in most interviews: the terror of being under one of those legs at the bottom of a river. It’s a great sequence that makes you feel the power and possible presence Stilt-Man could have.
The remainder of the issue deals with a young Matt and Foggy going through some troubles in the past as in the present. It’s an interesting concept that mirrors their current rift in Waid’s “Daredevil” run. We see a case Foggy took in the past that deals with some new radical new science placing his life in danger, hence Stilt-Man’s thieving presence, but also offers a unique opportunity for Matt Murdock. This sequence is where the heart of the tale really comes to the fore. It’s a sweet moment, but when retroactively inserted into Matt’s past, it manages to dull a few edges that have been wielded since the character’s earliest days. It doesn’t necessarily negate anything, but it certainly makes a difference.
Allred’s art is superb when he gets a page layout or panel composition just right. He brings a delicate erudition to his craft that matches Waid’s intelligent scripts and concepts. The action sequences are the highlight as Allred, with the expert aid of Laura Allred on colors, brings a heightened sense of reality and thus pressure and tension to the moments. Every time Allred uses a panel with multiple figures of Daredevil representing movement is admirable. Allred draws nearly the perfect Matt Murdock physique, a mixture of “tennis fit” and nothing overly special.
“Daredevil” #17 is another issue where nothing is technically wrong, but it doesn’t quite hit the highs of the series’ launch. Most of this comes from the lack of narrative traction — it’s not a plus to go back a number of months to the last time things were really happening in the title. The slow crawl opens up opportunities for exciting and well-crafted personal moments, but they aren’t enough to hold together what should be a serialized narrative. This issue is a great fight and one nice moment and there’s nothing wrong with that.