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In the days before the direct market (i.e. dedicated comic book stores), distribution and availability of individual issues of a comic could vary widely. Consequently, writers often tried to tell a whole story in one issue, realizing that if readers couldn’t find part four of a five-part story, it would be frustrating. However, as the direct market developed, multiple-issues stories became more standard, ultimately leading to what’s called “decompression” storytelling. This is the norm in comics now – five or six issues to tell an arc. In Daredevil #12, Mark Waid and Chris Samnee buck the trend, taking two issues to tell a satisfying story.
In the first issue of the story involving the old DD foe Stunt-Master, it seemed to be setting up to be a standard four or five issue arc. The retired Stunt-Master had come to Daredevil to request help with a new, younger imitator who was using his name. Matt Murdock sensed he was telling the truth and went to investigate when he discovered that Smith was being using as a pawn. In Daredevil #12, there are a number of twists that show that neither the new or old Stunt-Master were what they seemed in issue #11. With the help of his law partner (and girlfriend) Kirsten McDuffie, Daredevil is able to stop all of the Stunt-Masters.
It’s pretty interesting how complex this story is considering it’s only two issues. The normal argument against modern one or two-issues arcs is that there is not enough space to tell an involved story with satisfying character moments and action. Daredevil #12, combined with issue #11, pretty much disproves that. It features a rather serpentine plot with multiple twists. There are engaging character moments for Murdock, McDuffie, and Smith. It doesn’t feel especially rushed either.
One might expect that a two-issue arc would feature panels that are top-to-bottom word balloons, trying to cram tons of dialog and exposition into a couple of issues. That’s not the case at all in Daredevil #12. There are long action sequences of Chris Samnee’s exquisite art (with colors from Matthew Wilson) with little or no dialog at all. Samnee creates some really cool action set pieces in this issue, too. Daredevil rides a motorcycle up one of the cables of the Golden Gate Bridge. That’s just the start of the issue.
I wondered in my review of issue #11 if the Stunt-Master was too obscure of a villain. However, both in Daredevil #12 and #11, Waid and Samnee give us everything we need. If you’re an old-school reader who remembers Stunt-Master, you’ll probably enjoy seeing him again. However, even if you’ve never heard of him, you can read these two issues and know all you need to know.
If there is any fault to Daredevil #12, it might be the explanation of George Smith’s actions. Without giving too much of the twists away, he is more involved in the new Stunt-Master’s plans than it seemed from issue #11. His motivations are given at the end of issue #12 in a confession that comes a little too easily, almost in a Scooby-Doo “I would’ve gotten away with it if it hadn’t been for you meddling kids” manner. However, Smith’s actual motivations – which involve aging, nostalgia, bitterness and revenge – are actually pretty complex and interesting.
We’re only a couple of months away from the Daredevil Netflix show, which should put Hornhead in the public eye more, at least with comic book fans. Waid and Samnee, the current creators of the Daredevil comic, are in great form as this spotlight approaches, offering excellent issues in both long and short arcs.