SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for "Daredevil" #18, on sale now.
Matt Murdock’s post-"Secret Wars” status quo has been been shrouded in mystery for a while now. Somehow, during the 8-month “time skip” that occurred between the end of Chris Samnee and Mark Waid’s run on the series and the start of Charles Soule and Ron Garney’s, the entire world forgot that Matt was Daredevil.
The transition between runs was jarring to say the least -- especially considering how front-and-center Murdock’s public identity had been to the books, and for how long. (Seriously, he even started to introduce himself in court as “Daredevil” and fight crime in a suit. He and Foggy were working on a book about his life. It was a whole thing.)
Luckily, it looks like readers won’t have to keep scratching their heads for much longer. “Daredevil” #18 took some major steps into clearing the whole debacle up.
And it’s looking pretty dark, even by “Daredevil” standards.
Purple People Eater
This arc, starting in issue #17 and ominously titled “Purple,” ties directly into one of the most brutal stories told in Waid and Samnee’s run. Zebediah Killgrave, aka the Purple Man, had been secretly “breeding” children with women in different parts of the country. He used his powers to ensure that the mothers would raise the children for as long as he saw fit before he came to collect -- killing the parents if they were still in the picture and abducting the children.
Killgrave’s thought process on the matter was that children -- hypnotically, non-consensually conceived and kidnapped or otherwise -- would be the one thing in the world that would love him unconditionally and without his command.
Shockingly enough, after having been ripped from their lives in the most traumatic way possible, the kids weren't too into that whole idea.
With all five of his unwitting proteges collected, something strange happened. Contact with their biological father awakened the nascent influence abilities within each of them, turning their skin purple -- but contact with each other prompted another reaction. The children formed something of a hive mind, able to perform the same pheromonal influence as their father with much stronger effect. They proved their power by immediately overtaking the will of good ol' dad and forcing him to walk into traffic.
The children then did what all all-powerful, unsupervised, unstoppable children would do: They went on a morally unchecked, no-holds-barred spree through San Francisco, racking up a ton of collateral damage. Naturally, Matt gets involved and is eventually able to talk the children down and separate them to nullify their powers, but not before some exceedingly close calls with his own mental health care of their influence on his brain.
Since then, the Purple Children have been off the map, presumedly living out as close to normal lives as they could in different foster homes.
That is, until now.
“Daredevil” #18 establishes that Killgrave eventually recovered from his offspring’s betrayal and, of course, escaped from prison -- at which point he immediately set to work plotting his revenge like the terrifying sociopath he is.
Inspired by his own defeat at the hands of the Purple Children’s combined power, he built a machine. It would use each of the kids like a battery, siphoning off their power and feeding it into him to assert his influence stronger, further, and for longer periods of time. All he had to do then was track down the kids -- an easy task after they had been split up, subsequently nullifying their own abilities.
Matt wasn't made aware of Killgrave’s plan until he’s already got three of the five kids in his possession. The remaining two -- pursued by a mob of mind controlled civilians, care of their father -- ran to him for help, informed him of theirs sibling’s abductions and eventually lead him back to Killgrave’s lair.
It’s then that things begin to get dicey.
As Matt points out, it is possible to resist Killgrave’s abilities. It’s incredibly difficult, sure, but not impossible. You just have to be centered enough within your own head to know which thoughts are yours.
And it turns out? This time around, Matt is not. He has walked right into the lair of the beast and he's completely unprepared to stand up against it.
Killgrave uses Matt to subdue the final two children and add them to the machine.
From this point, it’s clear to see just how Matt was able to make the world forget him. With all five of the children powering Killgrave’s machine, it’s heavily implied that the Purple Man’s influence could sweep, if not the globe, then at least entire countries at a time. Also, it’s more than likely his abilities would last indefinitely rather than fading away. With this much power at his disposal, Zebediah’s control would be essentially without limits.
In short: If Killgrave were to use his machine to tell the planet to forget that Matt Murdock is Daredevil? It would work.
Apparently, it did work.
The moral implications are pretty staggering. The mass mind control element notwithstanding, the machine functions on the forced imprisonment of children, and it’s never made clear what the cost (physically, emotionally, or otherwise) is for them. It is, however, abundantly apparent that the Purple Children want no part in their father's scheme.
In fairness, it’s also not made clear (yet, at least) whether or not the identity erasure is actually Matt’s idea, or something proposed to him by Killgrave. Matt's obviously got some guilt about it, regardless, but who is Matt Murdock without a considerable amount of guilt? And either way, while the origin of the idea is still ambiguous, the method with which the entire thing was executed is now abundantly clear. Whether Matt cut a deal with the Purple Man or the Purple Man forced his hand, it’s an incredibly bleak turn of events.
It's really no wonder Foggy has spent the last year or so barely on speaking terms with his best friend.