Andy Diggle’s “Daredevil” swansong has drawn much criticism for being a thin read, and a story that many critics have maintained “could have been told in one issue.” Although I question the validity of that criticism (any story can be told in any amount of time, especially in comics), it’s easy to see why they might be upset when they pick up a superhero book and find an atmospheric and tense character study focusing on the lead’s indecision and inaction.
In fairness to the book’s detractors, the plot of “Daredevil Reborn” has been a fairly stock “outsider versus corrupt officials” one. The question you need to ask, however, is “Why did Diggle choose to use that plot?”. As well as the obvious balance at the heart of Daredevil’s character – that between what is just, and what is lawful – I suspect Diggle wanted to create a familiar framework that would free Daredevil from the more ambiguous morality he has operated under of late. Place in an obviously heroic role, we can see the character’s hesitance in a clear light. It may be a stock setting, but it serves a purpose.
That said, it’s the character work that impresses me more than the plot. The previous issues have focused on the events around Matt, leaving the things he doesn’t say and the actions he doesn’t take hanging in the air. That sort of comic isn’t going to be for everyone. Only now, in the third issue, do we finally get a glimpse of what’s going on under the surface, when Daredevil confronts the villain at the heart of this conspiracy.
The resultant ending leads directly into one of the most intense cliffhangers “Daredevil” has ever given us. It’s just a shame that the announcement of a new “Daredevil” series spoiled it, because there could have been a chance (if an admittedly slim one) that this was genuinely curtains for Murdock. What’s more, those asking where the “reborn” element of the series has been will presumably be satisfied by the end of the next issue.
Davide Gianfelice’s artwork is appropriately moody and sketchy, and perfectly evoke Murdock’s frame of mind. It’s a far cry from the look Daredevil has rigidly stuck to for many years, which stuck with grimy noir, rather than the more open, featureless approach Gianfelice has adopted.
Certainly, “Daredevil Reborn” is a return to form following “Shadowland”, which pulled back so far back to the wider picture that it lost sight of its heart, and a welcome reminder that Diggle has as good a grasp of Daredevil as any of his predecessors.