Soule Haunts “Daredevil” with Old Foes, Flames — and Elektra

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Soule Haunts “Daredevil” with Old Foes, Flames — and Elektra

Marvel ComicsAll-New, All-Different volume of “Daredevil” from writer Charles Soule and artist Ron Garney finds Matt Murdock, the titular Man Without Fear, working to build a new life for himself after returning to New York City. Through yet-to-be-revealed means he made the Marvel Universe forget his secret identity, which allowed him to embark on a new career as an Assistant District Attorney. Now that he’s home he’s encountered new friends and foes in his vigilante guise as Daredevil including his young apprentice, a new costumed hero named Blindspot (AKA Samuel Chung), and the vicious cult leader known as Tenfingers.

That doesn’t mean Murdock has freed himself from the ghosts of his past, however. He quickly discovered Tenfingers was connected to his old foes, the demon-worshipping ninja cult known as the Hand, and soon he’ll cross paths with his former lover, Elektra. As if that weren’t enough, Murdock has started to feel guilt over robbing his friends and fellow heroes of the knowledge of his secret identity.

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CBR New spoke with Soule about how the Man Without Fear will tackle these various problems, returning to Elektra after writing her in “Thunderbolts,” Matt Murdock’s new Early Case Assessment Bureau assignment, and the next new villain that will challenge Daredevil and Blindspot later this summer.

CBR News: “Daredevil” #4 made it clear just how dark a place emotionally Matt is in. There was the inner monologue with Steve Rogers where he wrestled with his guilt over the mysterious thing he did that erased the knowledge of his secret identity, but what really struck me was the scene where Tenfingers asks him if he’s a person of faith and Matt responds that he used to be. Can you talk more about that? Just how demoralized is Matt feeling?

Charles Soule: Matt’s reference to his “loss of faith” was literal — it’s made clear in Brian Michael Bendis’ amazing run on the character that Matt stopped being a practicing Catholic as a reaction to the death of Karen Page in Kevin Smith’s “Guardian Devil story.” As far as I was able to determine (and I double-checked with Mark Waid, so I know I’m on safe ground here), that ball was never picked up — which means, as far as I’m concerned, that Murdock in the comics is what we call a lapsed Catholic. I was raised Catholic myself, and while I haven’t talked about it all that much, Matt’s relationship to his faith is and will be a running theme throughout the stories I’m trying to tell. The moment you mention is just the first part of the story there, but it’s no coincidence at all that the first arc involves a cult leader who gains deep power from the belief he inspires in his followers. More to come, let’s say.

Matt’s new apprentice Blindspot is also in a difficult place emotionally because he’s trying to rescue his mother from Tenfingers’ church. We saw more of Sam’s family situation in the “Point One” story you and Ron did. Will we meet more members of the Chung family in the next few months or is it just Sam, his sister and his mom?

At this point, I’m focused on the characters we’ve seen so far, because there are some interesting dynamics to work with, and the idea that Sam is sort of the person holding everything together for his family is important to his character. I know Sam’s backstory, obviously, and there’s quite a story to be told with respect to how he learned to fight (he came to the game with a certain set of skills even before Daredevil started to train him). In addition, there’s a big story with his mother and the choices she’s made to get where she is in the first arc. I would absolutely love to do a mini at some point to cover some of that, as it’s tricky to work it into the main series in the detail I’d like to give (the book’s not called “Blindspot,” after all). However, I know where I’ll put some of it — the third big arc, probably

Tenfingers is an interesting villain in that he reminds me of the type of underworld figures and organizations that have preyed upon, and in some instances supported, immigrants throughout our country’s history, yet you’ve also tied him to Daredevil’s long-time enemies, the Hand. What inspired
Tenfingers’ creation?

As I mentioned before, I really wanted to hit the religion/cult dichotomy, and I also wanted to explore a crime lord who wasn’t being a crime lord as his primary motivation. Tenfingers sees himself as the agent of a higher purpose, and literally anything he does in service of that purpose is therefore justified. He can steal, he can kill, and none of it matters because he will eventually become a savior in truth as well as in name. As far as why I tied him to the Hand — well, it seemed like low-hanging fruit to connect a dude with tons of extra fingers to Daredevil’s digit-based villains. I also knew I wanted and perhaps needed to get a ninja fight into the title as early as I could, and I wanted some supernatural powers for Tenfingers. The Hand was a perfect fit.

Your inaugural arc with Tenfingers comes to a close in issue #5. What kid of impact will it have on Matt and Sam as your run continues?

This is the arc where I really needed to establish Sam and Matt’s status quo — I needed to lock in the tone, develop Blindspot as a valid protege for Daredevil, as well as set up Matt as a prosecutor, deal with the secret identity thing — all of that. A lot of building to do, and ideally it needed to be a fun, exciting story as well. Thank god I had Ron Garney and [colorist] Matt Milla on board to establish the look so firmly from the jump. As far as where we go — well, issue #5 will be, hopefully, where I make my mission statement for the series very clear. This story has a definitive ending that opens up a lot of questions and lays seeds for future arcs — especially the second to last page.

I should say that I’m not going to answer everything here. It’s more of a slow burn, especially things like the secret identity beat. I can tell you that I will address it in a definitive way, but it’ll be a while yet.

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“Daredevil” #6 brings Elektra back into Matt’s orbit with a new arc titled “Practice to Deceive.” How does it feel to return to Elektra and get the chance to bounce her off of Matt, a character we haven’t seen her interact with for a while, if I recall correctly?

Oh, man, I’m super excited. I’m planning to mix up old characters and new ones in the first several stories — first we get Tenfingers, then Elektra, then another new villain, and then another established one that I’m also excited to try to crack. I’ve always loved Elektra — she’s one of my favorites. I haven’t written her for a few years, since my run ended on “Thunderbolts,” but it’s great to revisit her.

This Elektra is slightly different than the last time I wrote her — she’s very dark, driven. She has a particular mission in these two issues that I think should be fascinating for fans new and old, and again, I think it’s got an ending that should hit very hard. I might even get some people yelling at me for it — but it feels right for her character, and ultimately, I couldn’t see ending this particular story any other way.

Given their intimate history, does Elektra still know Matt is Daredevil? And what kind of dynamic will they have when they encounter one another after all this time? Anything you can share about how Sam will fit into that story?

Elektra does not know that Matt is Daredevil. The only person who knows is Foggy. As far as their initial dynamic — I really don’t want to spoil it too much. The questions you’re asking are central to the story. Samuel does have a central role, but again — read it and find out!

Fair enough. We’ve talked about the stuff keeping Matt busy as Daredevil, but what about the things keeping him busy as a prosecutor? In issue #3 we saw Matt’s boss assign him ECAB duties because of what happened with Tenfingers manipulating his witness in issue #2. Can you explain what ECAB is and how it impacts the book? Matt refers to it as night court…

ECAB stands for Early Case Assessment Bureau. When a case comes into the DA’s office via an arrest by a police officer, the first place it hits is ECAB, where some initial processing work is done by ADAs to get it into the system. They evaluate the case based on the information the arresting officers can offer, review the evidence they have, sometimes talk to witnesses and victims, and decide whether they’re going to proceed with a prosecution. While there are certainly some high level cases that show up in ECAB, generally it’s things like assaults, drug busts, things like that — I hesitate to call any case “boilerplate,” and of course every case is evaluated on its own merits, but they do sort of run along certain lines, most of the time. It runs for two full shifts, from early morning until quite late at night (I believe the second shift ends at 1 AM, although I could be wrong.) As an ADA working ECAB, you take whatever comes in, and you have to move through cases very quickly. It’s sort of a sprint, and it’s something more junior ADAs tend to work.

So, that’s ECAB. As far as it applies to Matt — while I’ve just alluded to this so far, there’s a story related to how Matt got assigned to the DA’s office in the first place. He came in with a reputation as a real shark, as a super lawyer, of sorts. The Tenfingers case was his first opportunity to really prove himself, and he tanked it. Wasn’t really his fault, but nevertheless, he didn’t succeed. And so, his boss — the Hawk, AKA the Manhattan DA — has put him back on the same track that all the ADAs go to when they start in the office, which includes a bunch of ECAB shifts. It should definitely be read as a punishment, kind of an “earn your place” moment for Matt. And as ECAB can work late into the night — well, you can see how that might cause some difficulties with his superhero alter ego.

As you mentioned earlier, Ron Garney and Matt Milla are doing some amazing work setting the tone of this new volume of “Daredevil” with their pencils and color palettes. What’s it like watching these two guys work together?

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it forever — Ron and Matt have made this book what it is. I’m fortunate that I live sort of near Ron, and we certainly email back and forth and talk on the phone all the time. The look they came up with for the book is a perfect mix of stylized and literal. Every beat is completely clear, every emotion is exactly where you want it to be, and every panel could hang on your wall.

One of my favorite art styles is Japanese brush painting, because of how much information is conveyed with so few strokes. While Ron and Matt aren’t copying that specific style on “Daredevil,” I feel like it’s analogous, and that could be why I like it so much. This book doesn’t look like anything else on the stands, and I see that as a huge plus. I start to gush when I talk about it, and it starts to run into a situation of too many superlatives dulling the impact of how good it actually is. Just pick up any issue — you’ll see.

Finally, can you hint or tease about your plans for “Daredevil” this summer? Will Matt and Sam find themselves thrust into the events of “Civil War II?” Or dealing with some of the fallout from the series?

Daredevil and Blindspot will be deep into their second big adventure this summer, which revolves around the appearance of another new villain. I don’t want to spoil his actual name yet, but I’ll tell you what the NYC tabloids call him — Vincent Van Gore. And he’s –well, no. Maybe we’ll leave it at that — you’ll all find out soon enough!

“Daredevil” #5 is scheduled for release March 30 from Marvel Comics.