I’ve been meaning to write about Mark Waid’s Daredevil series for a long time now. I feel like I shouldn’t even have to say this, but if you don’t already read Daredevil, you need to start right now. You can find people saying the exact same thing here, here, here, and here. Honestly, if you love comic books, there’s really no reason for you not to pick up this book. It easily competes with Thor: God of Thunder for Marvel’s powerhouse series. Issue #22 has all the elements that have made the series great so far, and it’s a perfect jumping-on point for anyone not already reading the book. This issue is also one of the first appearances of the highly controversial Superior Spider-Man, as well as the return of Daredevil’s most ridiculous enemy, Stilt-Man. And in true Mark Waid fashion, he manages to do the seemingly impossible by making Superior Spider-Man likeable and Stilt-Man menacing.
Before Daredevil’s promised encounter with Superior Spider-Man, we’re treated to some of Matt Murdock’s everyday struggles, specifically how a blind man deals with money. Matt’s description of his folding system of paper money and his use of audio on an ATM gives us a fascinating bit of insight Matt’s daily life outside of his rocky relationships and double life as a masked vigilante. It’s also a way for Waid to remind us that since Matt and Foggy’s falling out, Matt is broke. This leads into a great scene in which Matt gets a free lunch at an Italian restaurant because the chef thinks he’s Daredevil (Matt was outed a long time ago, then acquitted, but rumors still circle.) Chris Samnee’s art shines here, particularly when the chef grabs Matt for a picture and shouts “Formaggio!” Matt’s head is pressed up against the chef, his glasses askew, and an awkward smile on his face. Samnee pays as much attention to small moments like this as he does to the big fight scenes. And it’s this kind of brief interaction that so humanizes Matt and makes his private life as interesting as his adventures as Daredevil.
Then the much-maligned Superior Spider-Man shows up, demanding that Matt “surrender or prepare for battle!” In Superior Spider-Man #1, I thought that Doc Ock Spidey’s rhetoric was forced and unnatural. And it wasn’t so much that he uses archaic, overly-formal language; that’s Ock’s schtick. The problem was that Dan Slott is an awful writer, and he shows it by making Ock Spidey’s dialogue sound like he just threw open a thesaurus and started pulling out SAT words, not letting the stilted language seem natural (if that makes sense.) Slott even repeated words, which made the dialogue seem even more phony. But here, Waid nails the language, and makes Ock Spidey seem quaint, even funny. There’s a great line in this book that gets a callback later. Once Daredevil refuses to surrender, Superior Spidey shouts, “Then the die is cast!” It’s such a corny, Golden Age of Comics line, but it fits so well here. Daredevil says to Spidey, “Who talks like that?” And then later we get a hilarious callback to this line when Stilt-Man shows up, and his first declaration is, “THE DIE IS CAST!” I literally laughed out loud. It was such perfect comedic timing. Many critics have called this new Daredevil “swashbuckling,” and it’s this kind of scene between DD, Superior, and Stilt-Man that exemplify that adjective.
I look forward to reading Daredevil every month because it is just so damn fun. Comics these days have a tendency to lean towards the grim and gritty, because the guys in the big offices think that’s all readers want. Well, they’re wrong. I love Daredevil because it knows it’s a comic book and embraces the medium rather than trying to pretend it’s a storyboard for a dark movie adaptation. Every single page has at least one line or one panel which is surprising, unexpected, or novel. Take, for example, when Stilt-Man gets a hold on Spider-Man and pops his arm out of its socket, which Chris Samnee renders with a fantastic “POP!” in bone font. Bone font. This is a comic book lover’s comic book.