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I’ll say this up front: Daredevil #14 is a strange issue. It’s not especially unusual as far as the story, but it’s weird in that writer Charles Soule seems to go out of his way to undo elements of the series that he’d built up in the first thirteen issues. It’s the resolution to the “Dark Arts” arc, featuring the new villain Muse. The story overall was pretty solid, though I have mixed feelings about Muse. What Soule does here sets up some big changes for the series going forward.
The “Dark Arts” story set up the threat of Muse, a character who was making “art” out of Inhuman bodies and fluids. That frequently involved killing, so both Daredevil and the Inhuman police from Attilan are after Muse. At the end of the last issue, Daredevil’s apprentice Blindspot witnessed Muse attack a courthouse. In Daredevil #14, he tries to intercede but ends up getting kidnapped by Muse. Muse explains that he is tormented by the compulsion to create, even though he knows he is being hunted. Daredevil tracks them down and Muse makes his escape by plucking out Blindspot’s eyes. The Attilan police apprehend Muse and he unveils his face, which is scarred and not human, though it doesn’t tell us too much about the character.
I’ll give Soule credit in that Muse is an unpredictable and dangerous character. Those are great elements to have in a villain. The art gimmick was initially an interesting angle, but I don’t think it really went anywhere for a satisfying payoff. Plus, Muse’s spouting off about the importance of his work felt like the annoying college freshman who can’t shut up about their capital-A art. It does demonstrate that Muse is mentally unbalanced but it also makes him feel cartoony in a way that is detrimental to the character. Still, as a new antagonist for Daredevil, Muse was mostly intriguing.
The resolution of the “Dark Arts” was unusual in some ways. I actually like the way that Daredevil doesn’t really beat Muse. He just chases him until the large and well-equipped Antillan police arrest Muse. From Daredevil’s perspective, it must be unsatisfying. Muse just blinded his protégé. So while justice will be served, Daredevil must feel like he’s failed. That’s a somewhat unique way to bring together an arc.
What seems weird is how quickly Soule undoes much of what he’s been building. Blindspot is blinded, which probably means he is out of action. Where can the character goes from here? He could become a blind sidekick to the most prominent blind superhero, which feels pretty hokey. He could regain his sight from the Inhumans. That would be a cheap way to fix a major cliffhanger for Daredevil #14. Additionally, the big bad of Soule’s first arc, Ten Fingers, is unceremoniously killed off-panel by Muse. I didn’t particularly like Ten Fingers, but it feels like a waste to off him just to make Muse a bigger threat. Removing Ten Fingers and Blindspot from the board feels like the resetting that usually happens from a new writer. However, Soule himself dumped two of the three new characters he had introduced in his Daredevil run. I don’t really understand why.
The art by Ron Garney is again strong in Daredevil #14. He has expanded beyond the rigid and shadowy way that he started the series. That style of drawing was different and effective, but it also seemed limited. So I liked the way he evolved that style through the “Dark Arts” arc. Perhaps the most notable illustration in Daredevil #14 is the reveal of Muse’s face. I don’t know if this moment was supposed to be shocking or revelatory. It’s really neither. I’d assumed that Muse would be freaky looking and while I thought Garney’s design for Muse’s face looked interesting, I also don’t think it told us anything new about the character.
I don’t know if Soule is continuing on Daredevil after this issue. Regardless of whom the writer will be, there appears to be a somewhat new status quo. I would imagine that Daredevil will be back on his own. That’s not a bad thing but it still seems odd that we never really learned why he took on training Blindspot in the first place. Maybe that will come out eventually. We also don’t know how Daredevil made his identity a secret again, though Soule has been teasing that story, too. Soule’s run so far has been uneven, so I’m not opposed to him going in a different direction. Daredevil appears to be in for some changes.