Last issue left our hero seemingly at sea (figuratively) and without recourse as he’d been outmaneuvered by the Wakandan embassy and had his mother shipped off to the African nation. It was a real “I did it 30 minutes ago” moment and it was great cliffhanger to leave off on but, of course, a man like Matt Murdock is not without allies and this issue opens with him making the best use of them: parachuting into Wakanda courtesy of a dropship from S.H.I.E.L.D. Once there he begins his work of gaining entry to the royal palace, and events proceed handily from there. But this issue isn’t really about that. I mentioned before that Matt’s Original Sin moment that revealed, in fragments, that his father may not have been the ultimately kind-hearted palooka that he always remembered him as. Mark Waid makes this point, though it takes up less than half of the actual issue’s page count, the emotional center of the issue. And he absolutely nails it. I was worried that this retcon would change Matt’s essential sense of self and a large part of his motivation, which can be a horrible thing to do to a hero this late in the game (Spiderman 3, anyone?), but, without giving anything away, Matt’s relationship with his father comes away intact and his relationship with his mother fundamentally changes. We get a huge reveal of a huge secret and it actually explains, in a completely satisfying way, one of the most enduring mysteries of Murdock’s life. Mark Waid has, in no small part, redefined the character’s backstory for the better in a way that hasn't been done since Frank Miller's legendary run.
Javier Rodriguez shares a storyteller credit with Mark Waid as well as a credit as colorist, so I have to assume that, in addition to helping steer the plot, he’s also handling the pencils (we’ll get to inks in a moment) and this is a great issue for reminding the reader that Rodriguez helped relaunch the Man Without Fear with an incredible new take on how his powers are represented on the page. Anytime we shift to Daredevil’s “radar view,” it’s a highlight of the issue and the action, of which the issue is front-loaded with, looks fantastic. These are all experts at hand-to-hand combat all working at their peak and it feels like they’re moving so fast, we’re just catching glimpses of it. Alvaro Lopez handles inks, bringing a solid, dark defined look to the title. As much as Rodriguez is the choreographer of the moves, Lopez’s inks give them impact and and force. In the quieter moments of the issue, Lopez also brings the impact, but it’s the emotional kind, giving the facial features of the characters depth. Rodriguez also handles the colors, and I really can’t say enough good about those, particularly in the crazy diversity of locations we visit. From jungle to palace to plane to city, everything looks gorgeous and fully realized.
The Wakanda element of this whole thing feels incredibly half-baked. If Black Panther is going to show up later in the series, or if Queen Shuri is going to become a recurring character, that’s more of a justification. For the time being, it feels like a diversion until we get to the real meat of the matter. It’s by no means badly executed or rendered, it just doesn’t feel like it was necessary for Matt Murdock (and others) to travel to another continent for a story that could have taken place in New York or San Francisco.
This issue has its flaws, but it doesn’t let those override what is an amazing second half. And while the first half may falter, it falters beautifully with some great visuals and choreography and impressive action. Ultimately, though, the issue comes together when Waid gives us a twist on Matt thought he saw and takes the characters in a completely new, mostly unexplored, direction. It’s a difficult thing to answer questions THIS long-standing, but this issue manages to not only accomplish it, but make it well worth reading as an addition to Daredevil’s canon.