Mark Waid is proving that the notion that major comic publishers aren’t doing anything new with their already established characters is a myth. Waid has taken Daredevil to places that are familiar to any longtime fan of ol’ Hornhead, but are still telling unique, interesting stories that have really never been seen. The names are all familiar, but the events are dynamic and bottomlessly interesting. Case-in-point: the return of the Owl. Waid had previously included him in an arc, but left it on a mysterious moment of Owl seemingly having come into powers of his own, but what they were weren’t clear. By the end of this issue, he not only shows us what they are, but lets us know that they have the potential to take the character to a completely unseen level of villainy. A lot of times when an unpowered villain gains powers, they’re not the most dynamic abilties, or they’re very 1:1 with the villain’s personality. This power makes sense, but it’s defintiely not the first thing one would think of with the Owl. The main storyline of the book focuses on Matt’s anxiety over his identity being public and it placing Kirsten McDuffie in danger, but as Waid does best: this also gets turned on its head in a way that is both brilliant and so utterly satisfying to read. McDuffie’s clearly being set up as not just an equal to Matt in terms of her wit and candor, but her ability to look after herself AND have a life outside of the fact that she’s dating Daredevil, and Waid is doing a great job making it feel organic and normal.
Chris Samnee, sharing a storyteller credit with Waid as he always does, has some phenomenal linework in this issue. There isn’t a lot of what could be called “action,” but there’s a ton of tension and a great intensity to the middle and end of the issue. Samnee is also amazing at using negative space in a way that feels like it’s serving the story rather than a way to cut corners. The darkness helps set the mood and the creative use of shadows helps reinforce that Murdock’s life is, even at its happiest, shrouded in shadow. Matthew Wilson provides colors and is also tremendous at establishing tone and tenor. Even when this book is bright, it STILL manages to have an air of sinister darkness, but it never becomes overbearing nor does it prevent the bright spots from having their own sense of whimsy.
There’s not much in here that isn’t great. There are SOME concerns over where this story, particularly as it relates to Kirsten is going based on where Daredevil’s romances usually go, but holding a possible future storyline against this issue isn’t fair, and the issue itself is incredible.
This is an issue that sets a lot up, but never feels like it’s either filler or getting overly expositional, and that has got to be a difficult job. Waid and Samnee seem more than up for the task though, and based on what they’ve started with this issue, it seems that there’s going to be a great deal of payoff here, particularly since the Owl has been a specter hanging over the title, and for him to finally come through is thrilling.