Written by Charles Soule
Art by Ron Garney and Matt Milla
Lettered by Clayton Cowles
Published by Marvel Comics
‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10
Over the years, Matt Murdock has been subject to a number of hardships, in both his civilian identity and as Daredevil. Ever since Frank Miller reinvented the character back at the end of the 1970s, gritty has been synonymous with the character and reinforced by Brian Michael Bendis and Ed Brubaker putting him through the wringer. However, by the end of Mark Waid and Chris Samnee’s bold run, he seemed to have figured out his life - he was far happier than he had been prior thanks to a strong relationship with Kirsten McDuffie, but that wasn’t a thing come the series’ "All-New All-Different" relaunch. Charles Soule has been hinting at what happened in between the two series since the start, but it’s here where we start to get answers.
That mystery has loomed over Soule’s run since the start and as the book has continued, he’s hit his stride on a book which seems tailor-made for him after his legal prowess was displayed in She-Hulk and his engagement with morality on Red Lanterns. So it feels like a smart play to nail down the voice of the book before trying to answer the questions so the reveals land as intended. Had Foggy Nelson not made a number of allusions to what had happened before this issue, it wouldn’t have had the benefit of gradually being built up until this point when it feels right for Soule and company to reveal what happened while they’re on a creative high and before it begins to feel too drawn out for the sake of artificially creating drama.
When dealing with a character that has been predominantly written by a single creative team, it’s noticeable if your depiction of them differs in some way. The past 16 issues have helped to demonstrate Soule’s handle on Matt’s voice which meant the most worrying thing going into this issue is how Kirsten would be portrayed beyond Waid and Samnee created such a defined character. So it’s a relief to report that not only does her and Matt’s relationship appear to be the emotional core of this arc, but Kirsten’s action and choices all feel true to her previous appearances. As of this issue, the pair are attempting to adjust to life after Matt’s dispatching of the Kingpin and in a world where Matt’s two identities are openly linked. While they’d ideally like this to be a peaceful life, of course there are now villains who know the civilian identity of Daredevil and are dead set on creating trouble in the suburbia of San Francisco where Matt and Kirsten reside.
As you might expect this means the book doesn’t take place in just San Francisco, splitting the page count between there and New York and while the latter of those locations is something which Ron Garney and Matt Milla have already become accustomed to, it’s vastly different to their imagining of Chinatown. To start with the Golden City, which gets the show-stopping moment of the issue, it feels like a crisp summer day as the sun slowly sets over the Golden Gate Bridge thanks to the lighter shade of blue and interspersed clouds. As a result, it’s keeping in the style that Samnee set, without being a direct copy which is the best to deal with continuations. Their version of New York’s rooftop maze feels sprawling and dense even when it’s broken up by panels instead of a spread and they make the classic red suit feel at home. There’s also some night time and interior scenes, and they’ve demonstrated throughout their tenure so far how well they handle those, but one beat here is done extremely well, nailing the emotions present in the scene much like Manchester by the Sea did with a similar beat recently. What makes this truly impressive is that the character’s faces are obscured in the moonlit air and when compared to other faces in the issue, they feel more defined and expressive in this backlit profile than others do head-on.
This arc had a lot resting on it going in. Not only did it need to feel like a continuation of sorts of Waid and Samnee’s run, but also bridge the timeline between their’s and Soule’s in addition to fitting in tonally with the rest of Soule’s tenure on the title until this point. That’s a lot of balls to juggle, but thanks to the creative team’s work up until this point, they’re able to make it look easy. Having done a couple of arcs prior, they’ve clearly worked out the best way to work with one another and they’ve been waiting to tell this story for a while. Much like Samnee and Waid’s work, it feels mature and serious without an overbearing darkness and due to the respectful way that Kirsten is handled in addition to a late reveal, this feels like an arc that will be mindful of what’s come before.