Sometimes I’m fine with crying before 9 AM. If that crying is in any way related to a commute, then no — for those tears flow directly from an internal river of torment. But if my emotions have been let loose because of something like, say, the last issue of Mark Waid and Chris Samnee’s “Daredevil,” then that’s a memorable — and welcome — cry, right there.
So yeah, I got emotional this morning while reading “Daredevil” volume four #18. I’m fighting back emotions right now, just typing out the words “last issue.” Last. Issue. What am I going to do now?
Well, right now I’m going to write one last bit about this “Daredevil” run — a run that pulled me back into Matt Murdock’s world, a run that made me fall head over heels for the adorable Foggy Nelson, a run that cemented DD as my favorite solo superhero and a run that made me sweat from fighting back so many tears. To me, this run isn’t just the best “Daredevil” run of all time (and that’s saying a lot) — it’s also one of the best comics, ever.
I’ve written before about my general “DD” feelings. Is it tacky to quote yourself? While thinking about that finale, I’ve realized that it hits on things I’ve written before — so, here goes. First one from April’s “I Love Daredevil”:
Over the past decade I’ve grown from a college junior working at a Payless ShoeSource in Tennessee to a working professional adult in New York City who fights back the forces of depression and financial calamity. I’m very much an adult, and I’ve grown into my Daredevil fandom. Every time Daredevil picks himself up and gets eye-level with a bad guy, or Foggy Nelson makes a tough love move to further help his best friend, I feel a bit more empowered. Daredevil occupies a very specific, small space on the superhero spectrum, and I’m glad that more people will get to meet the Man Without Fear. May he inspire you to fight every metaphorical super-skilled assassin that gets in your way.
And even further back to what is maybe my signature piece, April 2014’s “The Marvel Cinematic Universe Needs Foggy Nelson”:
[T]he love that defines Daredevil as a character is the non-romantic love he has for his best friend Foggy Nelson. Comics are absolutely overwhelmingly filled with male characters, but almost all of those guys are most closely tied to the women they are romantically linked to. This does an incredible disservice to female characters, as it limits them to traditional romantic roles. This also does a disservice to male characters, as it perpetuates the stereotype that bros don’t know how to be honest about their feelings with other bros. The vulnerability that comes with pure friendship has been deemed not masculine enough for pop culture men to engage in… Foggy Nelson and Mutt Murdock cut through all of that business and they’re just straight up, flat-out best friends, with all of the highs and lows that go along with that.
To be perfectly honest about my emotional state, reading both of those passages has caused me to choke up. Tearing up over things I wrote — I’m the worst.
But that’s what I’ve loved about this run of “Daredevil.” Mark Waid’s stories have pulled those themes — themes of friendship, depression and perseverance — to the forefront in a way that resonated with me to a ridiculous degree. And that’s not saying that dude’s the first writer to do that; Frank Miller, Brian Michael Bendis and Ed Brubaker put Matt and his supporting cast through their paces as well. I mean, you can’t read Miller’s “Born Again” and tell me that story stars a happy-go-lucky protagonist. And while people have often used the term “happy-go-lucky” to describe the recent “DD,” this era was often as depressing as all the great “Daredevil” runs of yesteryear.
But it’s that bait and switch that speaks to me, that the happy-go-lucky exterior Waid writes that’s paired with brightly colored (by Javier Rodriguez and Matt Wilson) cartooning (from Samnee, Rodriguez, Marcos Martin and Paolo Rivera, among others) covers up a true human darkness. Man, that sounds bleak! But I personally, while loving previous “DD” runs, couldn’t relate as much to the ones that were just straight up dramatic — all filled with assassins and crime and junkies. I have darkness that I fight (depression, anxiety, etc.) but I do it like a good l’il extrovert, with varying levels of cheer and self-deprecating jokes. A Daredevil that’s a swashbuckling charmer on the outside that’s doubling over inside from overwhelming stress? That’s a character for me. That was Waid’s mission statement from the get-go: forcing Matt out of his decades of darkness and into the light while never pretending that the character’s depression was resolved.
Since the release of “Daredevil” volume 3 #1 (from Waid, Paolo and Joe Rivera, Rodriguez and letterer Joe Caramagna) on July 20, 2011, my life has changed a lot. I’ve changed jobs three times, been dramatically unemployed, upgraded out of a basement apartment, lost loved ones, gotten engaged, and done more than my fair share of wallowing. This run has been in my life through a lot; I can remember where I was when I first saw Rivera’s derring-do in the first issue, or Marcos Martin’s jubilantly choreographed action sequences; I can still feel Foggy’s cancer diagnosis in the pit of my stomach, the acting captured in Samnee’s linework clear in my mind. On the flip side, I can still feel the excitement upon opening up “Daredevil” #31 almost two years ago and seeing my face in the issue, realizing that Samnee had drawn me into the pages of my favorite comic book.
I was already all-in on “Daredevil,” Chris, but becoming even a minuscule part of this book — it didn’t make me love the book more, because the work had me by the heart. It did make me feel, though — it made me feel happy, excited, like I was a part of something and, while the adventures of my character (Zachary S. Tudameyer) will never be told, I’m still a tiny part of the Marvel Universe. Tears happened during this paragraph.
The older I’ve gotten, the harder it is for me to keep track of comic book plots in-between issues. Let that frame the fact that I’ve been anxious about “Daredevil” #18 since July 29, when #17 dropped. The issue ended — oh, spoilers for “DD” #17 and #18 from here on out — with a big cliffhanger: since the Shroud killed Ikari (a totally aces addition to DD’s rogues), either Kirsten McDuffie (a totally welcome and seamless addition to DD’s supporting cast) or my beloved Foggy would surely die at the Kingpin’s hand.
I have spent. So. Much. Time. Over the past weeks’ worth of swimming contemplating my reaction to Foggy Nelson’s inevitable demise. I was sure it was going to happen. I tried to get okay with it during this morning’s 6 AM swim (since this “DD” run began, I’ve also become the kind of monster that’s okay with getting out of bed before 8 AM!) and I even tried to act like I wasn’t going to write about this today. It was like a subconscious defense mechanism; I tried to brush off the last issue of the most important comic run of my adult life because I didn’t want to feel those feels.
When I got to page six of “Daredevil” #18, though, I lost it.
Waid and Samnee operate on a Lennon/McCartney, “Rubber Soul”-level of pop perfection. That one page, things are at their worst; Daredevil’s masquerading as Ikari in a last ditch rescue attempt and Kirsten and Foggy are in handcuffs with guns to their heads. Matt-as-Ikari is antagonizing Foggy, which causes him to leap into action, which is a fist-pumping swoon moment for sure, but also — don’t die, Foggy. And on top of that, Matt smells something about Foggy, something that makes him think, “Oh, my God.” Not only are you worried that Foggy’s physical actions will get him killed, you can now be worried that even if he survives, there’s something killer inside of him.
The next few pages feature the kind of underdog, go-for-broke fight scene that Samnee excels at, culminating in the kind of well-paced and well-earned twist reveal that Waid always delivers. Matt was just killing time, waiting for the feds to show up in helicopters after the Kingpin’s dirty secrets went viral. The scene is cathartic. And, turns out Matt smelled a change in Foggy’s body chemistry, one that meant his cancer had gone into remission.
But well-played action aside, that’s not what this run was about; this run was about people. The end scene between Matt, Kirsten and Foggy…
I try to be funny and weird and irreverent and optimistic on the stage that is social media, or in my day-to-day, face-to-face interactions. But real talk: that performance is hard to maintain in the face of harshest critic around — yourself. Matt’s depressive, anxiety-filled stress freakout so close to the end of this issue was exactly…it was the next-to-last thing this series needed to close out right. This scene is so important. It’s so important, to me, to see a legit superhero succumb to the devious tricks brains can play. That “everything is horrible” rant he gives to Kirsten and Foggy, I’ve made similar ones to my fiance at least, I dunno, a dozen times so far this year? It rings true is what I’m saying, and it’s a specific type of breakdown I don’t see — maybe couldn’t see — in any other superhero comic.
But then the issue did what I knew it needed to do right at the end, and I was too engrossed to see it coming. After Matt’s dramatics:
Foggy: Permission to cross-examine.
Kirsten: No objection.
Foggy does what Foggy does best: he’s there for Matt. He gives him the right type of tough love. He calls him on his self-destructive thinking, and there’s a big hug — that’s the moment of the series, for me. This all fit right in with those passages I quoted from previous JAMs, like I was writing about this ending long before I’d read it. After that hug, there’s a smile, there’s hope and there’s an end.
I never expected to love “Daredevil” this much, especially because I was already a pretty big fan of ol’ hornhead himself. But here I am, a guy that has had to blow his nose a couple times while writing an op-ed about the last issue (for now) of a superhero comic. To everyone that made this run happen, I cannot thank you enough.
And now, it’s time for a reread.
Brett White is a writer and comedian living in New York City. He made videos for the Upright Citizens Brigade as a member of UCB1 and writes for the podcast Left Handed Radio. His opinions can be consumed in bite-sized morsels on Twitter (@brettwhite).
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