“Daredevil” #10 wraps up Mark Waid and Chris Samnee’s three-part story matching up Daredevil against the Purple Man and the purple children. Strictly as a superhero story, it’s perfectly fine. What makes this comic stand out a bit more is that it feels like Waid and Samnee would be happier telling comic book stories about people’s emotional makeups.
After an initially tense (and more than a bit creepy) opening chapter in “Daredevil” #8, “Daredevil” #10 has settled into more familiar territory: Daredevil and the Purple Man both trying to find the purple children; Daredevil trying to neutralize their threat, the Purple Man trying to destroy them in revenge. There’s a fight, a regroup and a chase; there’s a method used to stop the Purple Man’s powers against the good guys. It’s standard fare that’s elevated by strong storytelling on the part of Waid and Samnee, who can tell good superhero comics in their sleep.
What makes “Daredevil” #10 stand out above all else is their depiction of depression. It’s a slightly roundabout way of getting there — an attack the previous issue by the Purple Man’s children upon Daredevil, whose powers are more emotion-based than simple phrases — but for whatever the reason, it works. The page of Daredevil’s body being a tiny speck of red in a page of black panels works remarkably well because the duo understand how to sell the concept. Waid’s words are strong, bringing to mind the emotional emptiness and isolation that true depression can bring. But what makes it work is how they’re splayed across the page. By dividing the page into four panels (rather than a single black splash), Waid and Samnee can take those words and stagger them from one to the next, each placement of the text by Joe Caramagna moving across the page so that your eye tracks them down and to the right with each step. It’s a progression, making your mind stop and start with each one. And with that progression comes the feeling of descending, as the path of the words on the page lead you down and down to the bottom of the proverbial pit, where the tiny crumpled body of Daredevil lies. Scott McCloud’s “Understanding Comics” talks about how the usage of panels can help illustrate the passage of time or of distance, and that’s exactly what Waid and Samnee do here so effectively. You get the impression that this plunge into depression is one that isn’t easy to climb out of, because it feels like getting there takes effort and that there’s a real distance between the rest of the world and where Daredevil now is. That’s good storytelling.
None of this is to denigrate everything else Waid and Samnee do here. They’re both very strong comic creators, and there’s a lot to look at and enjoy here. They understand how to tell a story, even adding in little nods to the comic book single issue format and using it add in an extra little punch that will probably be lost in a collected format. The art is great, the script is sound. But it’s nice to see them telling a story that’s about far more than just fighting bad guys. While it would sadly sell a lot less than an issue of “Daredevil,” I’d love to see Waid and Samnee collaborate on a non-superhero, creator-owned title down the line that continues to explore these sort of issues and ideas. They’re talented, and they’ve shown us yet again what they’re capable of. Until then, though, I’m more than happy to continue to read strong issue after strong issue of “Daredevil” every month. This book is, once again, a keeper.