"Daredevil" #3 escalates the conflict with Tenfingers as the gangster becomes a problem in both of Matt Murdock's "jobs." Charles Soule and Ron Garney give the Man Without Fear plenty of complications in his moody new world, and they're certainly differentiating this run from its predecessor. However, even as it goes deeper into the new status quo, "Daredevil" still hasn't quite coalesced by issue #3.
Garney and colorist Matt Milla give "Daredevil" a harsher, shadowy aesthetic that makes great use of a limited color palette. As out-of-fashion as "gritty" is becoming, creating an effective mood never goes out of style -- and this creative team immediately establishes their vision of Hell's Kitchen. Garney draws this world as though it were a classic hard-boiled detective story; with all the bold body language and dramatic panels of menacing ninja eyes, I was almost expecting a scene-setting lightning flash. This issue's melee between the Hand and Tenfingers' congregation provides a real showcase for Garney's action chops. It takes quite an eye to keep a massive ninja fight from looking cartoony, and Garney manages to keep the violence and energy of the fight in every panel.
I particularly love the way the artistic team uses black gutters and page backgrounds to create a mood. Transitioning from the final caption on the white-heavy first page -- "All of these people are going to die" -- to the black backgrounds of the second page gave that scene immediate tension. I could feel the drop in my belly.
That said, "Daredevil" doesn't feel like it's gotten to its interesting questions yet. I say this knowing the series is only three issues in, so perhaps that's unfair, but much of issue #3 still reads like setup. The plot is still moving, of course; Matt deals with the arrival of the Hand, his relationship with Blindspot and the fallout from issue #2, but there aren't any scenes that let the reader experience the consequences of these events. Matt's reactions are explained in captions more than demonstrated. While much of this is expected in an early issue, it did keep the story from rising to excellent. As a reader, I want a sense of what's coming, but I also want a sense of what that might mean -- what the stakes are. In future issues, the creative team should slow down and do a few scenes of stakes-setting.
There are other small issues. For instance, Matt's motivations for involving himself in the fight with the Hand are specious at best. His stated justification is "in my presence, if there's anything I can do about it, no one dies," but that read more like Soule's justification to the reader than a real character moment.
Despite my reservations, the new run of "Daredevil" really is off to a fine start. Soule and Garney have given their run a strong voice and an interesting hook. The bones of an excellent first arc are here, but the creative team will need to draw out some of the thornier elements of Matt's new life to really hook me.