I’ve been a huge fan of all that Mark Waid has done to reinvigorate all of the B, C and even D-List villains that he’s written for in the pages of Daredevil. From new interpretations to new methods, these villains have never looked better, but in point of fact there’s a long, storied tradition of villains getting second (or third...fourth) leases on life in the pages of Daredevil. During the legendary Brian Bendis era, for example, we became reacquainted with the Purple Man, who’d previously made a terrifying appearance in the OTHER Bendis book ALIAS. Purple Man became notorious for using his mind control in about the sleaziest way imaginable and those actions have borne bizarre, purple fruit. This story is exactly what it sounds like and it is bookended by some of the most unsettling stuff I’ve read in a long time in a mainstream superhero comic. Waid never uses this plot device simply to shock, however. Everything that happens in the B plot of this issue serves the story and establishes characters, both old and new. We also get a main story of Matt Murdock becoming acquainted with his new girlfriend’s parents. While things are humorously embarrassing for a bit, it quickly becomes more serious as an offer that will be truly difficult to refuse is made. This makes up the lion’s share of the book, and it’s an absolute delight. The characters are so compatible and Waid writes them with such an effortless wit that one is actually entertained watching them on a fairly normal date. No action, no world-shattering stakes, just two people having a good time getting to know each other and us being hooked on every panel. The way Kirsten embraces Murdock's superpowered side is especially endearing. All of this makes the moment that things take a turn all the more poignant and even a little tragic.
Chris Samnee, as always sharing a storytelling credit with Mark Waid, also provides the line work and gets put through his paces this time. While the book is extremely light on action, it’s very, very heavy on character moments and intense emotional swings, which I’d imagine is harder in some ways. The way that characters emote is never more important and it’s all communicated clearly, but also very, very subtly. He also never reuses panels, even in dialog-heavy scenes (which is almost all of them) and the characters tell a story even without the word balloons. Matthew Wilson provides the colors and does a great job juxtaposing the light and dark scenes to match the light and dark tones of the story. When night falls, things get more sinister and serious and the palette changes to suit both setting and subject. I get that declaring “the comic gets darker at night!” isn’t exactly a revelatory statement, but the colors are still so bold and bright while the tone and overall feel gets darker, it’s worth mentioning.
If you don’t have any kind of history with Purple Man, a large chunk of this issue will lose a large part of its oomph and impact. It does an alright job of establishing him in fairly short order, but knowing his reputation definitely helps.
Another arc begins, another villain returns with an even more awful, terrifying form. The end of the issue especially lets you know what you’re in for in the rest and does an even better job of tension-building with an eye toward future issues. Purple Man became one of my favorite under-the-radar villains under the eye of Brian Bendis, but when I heard that Mark Waid was going to take a swing at the character, I knew there could be a new champion of one of the most sinister villains in the Marvel U. So far, so good.