Mark Waid and Chris Samnee open “Daredevil” #23 with what appears to be a lengthy retelling of the origin of the Man Without Fear. As Waid has done all along with this volume of “Daredevil,” this issue is so much more than apparent at first glance. While the narrative mirrors Daredevil’s origin with narrative-supporting visuals, everything changes on the page-turn.
It’s odd, perhaps, that the comic book starring a blind superhero is also the one each and every month with the most over-the-top coloring, thanks to Javier Rodriguez. This issue is exceptional in that regard, given the splashing day-glo green toxic waste, test subjects in orange jumpsuits and Daredevil’s scarlet uniform cast against the dusky winter sky. Even the scene of Matt’s radar sense seems outstandingly bold in this issue. Amazingly enough, however, the colors don’t detract from the story, but enhance it considerably, adding buoyancy to Chris Samnee’s heavily-shadowed, but lively artwork. Letterer Joe Caramagna bestows similar grace to Waid’s story, as the letters fade back and size down whispers between Matt and Foggy and casts Murdock’s thought captions in mixed case to contrast against the capitalization that dominates the word balloons.
Mark Waid writes Matt Murdock with a sharp sense of humor, like the description of Foggy Nelson being “made of gravity.” The writer also illuminates the willingness of Matt as a true friend, able to put anger and uneasiness aside to calm the mind of a pal awaiting medical results. Waid’s “Daredevil” isn’t just superheroics, it’s life. It’s melodrama wrapped in spandex and decorated with bright colors. “Daredevil” #23 has enough humor and wit to balance out the fighting and depression. It’s a comic where the title character can scrap with a half dozen cheap knockoffs of himself, worry about his love life, rack his mind trying to figure out who masterminds the recent attacks on his character and abruptly cast that all aside to take his friend out for a swing over the rooftops of New York. It’s a balance that’s extremely difficult to pull off, but Waid does it extremely well here due to his skill at writing people, regardless of power set or costume.
The wide array of subject matter and events gives Waid a chance to test his artist’s skills, but Samnee proves he can easily handle everything that Waid throws at him. Most notably, a haunting diagnosis adjusts the perspective of this comic and dictates scenes that are best left without dialog. Samnee’s art is enough to deliver every emotion, broadcast thoughts and bring the reader to the verge of tears — no easy task after nearly a full issue of adventure and excitement.
“Daredevil” #23 is the intersection of Marvel NOW! and Daredevil that describes the scarlet-suited hero for new readers, reaffirms his character and motivation, leaving a mark for long-time readers. This is the type of comic that continues to have an effect after the cover is closed. Like the snowbound Christmas issue in “Daredevil” #7, this issue has it all, from story to art to emotional highs and lows. This is one comic that I can give anyone and they’ll just get it, because at its core, this is a human story that requires no prerequisite and leaves no follow-up course. This is an issue of “Daredevil” about Matt Murdock and his best friend, Foggy Nelson, who is having the worst day of his life. Emotional beats like those that Waid lays down in “Daredevil” #23 run the risk of becoming less impactful if abused, but when done right, the reader cannot help but feel as though what they’ve just read happened to a pair of close personal friends. Bravo, Mark Waid, Chris Samnee, Javier Rodriguez, Joe Caramagna, Ellie Pyle and Steve Wacker: this is a great comic book issue.