“Daredevil: Blood of the Tarantula” #1, a one-shot issue, reads like an homage to Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli. Or at least a comic that’s in dialogue with the work Miller and Mazzucchelli did in the mid-1980s. That certainly doesn’t make it a bad comic and, in fact, this one-shot is a pretty good example of Ed Brubaker’s take on the Daredevil universe, even though the script was actually written by Ande Parks. But the Miller/Mazzucchelli influence is unmistakable here as we get caption boxes full of internal monologue like “I’ll heal. I always do,” and “His buddy reeks of cordite and gunpowder. My foot crushes his nose,” along with Chris Samnee’s best Michael Lark-by-way-of-David Mazzucchelli artwork.
But Ande Parks pulls off the Frank Miller style admirably (as does Brubaker, when he wants to), and Samnee’s work here is excellent. This issue feels brutal and gritty, as it should, and the close-ups of gruesome violence contrast with the rigid and formal panel layouts. It’s good work built on classic Daredevil stories of the past.
Beneath the surface, there’s a real sense of humanity here, as Parks and Samnee present the story of Carlos LaMuerto, the would-be barrio Robin Hood who goes by the name “Black Tarantula.” Black Tarantula, a relatively obscure Spider-Man supporting character, was resurrected by Brubaker and Parks in previous Daredevil outings. The character appeared during Matt Murdoch’s stint in Ryker’s Island, and last year’s “Daredevil Annual” #1 brought Black Tarantula more closely into Daredevil’s orbit.
In “Daredevil: Blood of the Tarantula” we see Carlos LaMuerto trying to do the right thing, cleaning up the streets with his fists and his feet, but his past has come back to haunt him. Using the illusion of LaMuerto’s wife and child to lure him into a trap, his own cousin Luis tries to kill him and take the Black Tarantula powers for himself. Parks plays it for all its worth, showing the fine line between sadism and vigilantism, exploring the intersection between violence and justice.
The climactic moment of the issue features a Black Tarantula whose costume has been completely burned away by an explosion. It’s a fitting image, as the fiery LaMuerto, stripped of superhero pretension, destroys his tormentors. Black Tarantula, hardly a traditional hero, does not hesitate to kill. “He deserved what he got,” says LaMuerto. When Daredevil questions his methods, Black Tarantula says, “This is my burden, Murdock. Mine.” Parks sets up Black Tarantula as a foil for Daredevil, as a funhouse mirror version of what Matt Murdock has almost become: violent, self-righteous, stubborn.
Perhaps this one-shot is meant to set up future Black Tarantula episodes, or maybe it will lead into some major Daredevil events a year from now, but it stands on its own as a story about a tormented man trying to do what needs to be done. Sure, it owes more than a little to Miller and Mazzucchelli, but there are far worse creators to emulate.