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The first issue of the re-launched Daredevil, by new writer Charles Soule and new artist Ron Garney, was solid if a little underwhelming, especially contrasted to the standard set by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee. Daredevil #2 is an improvement, as more texture is added to the characters and more elements of the new Daredevil world are established. There are some things here to indicate that Soule and Garney can give a new and interesting take on Daredevil, though it’s not quite at that level yet.
The first issue of Daredevil established two new major characters – the villain Ten Fingers and Daredevil’s ally/protégée Blindspot. At first Ten Fingers did not come across impressively, but Daredevil #2 gives more background and context on the characters, and it does help make him more compelling. Ten Fingers is clever, having established his base of operations as a religion, though it comes across more as a mystical cult when we see inside. He seeks official church status, which would grant him legitimacy in New York City, especially in his neighborhood of Chinatown. However, it turns out that his power, which he confers to some of his minions, is stolen from The Hand, an organization of powerful ninjas, who by the end of Daredevil #2 have come to Ten Fingers looking for the power stolen from them.
The standard antagonist structure for comic books (and most action/adventure stories) is good guy versus bad guy, even if the degrees of good and bad are variable. Essentially, it’s main character versus nemesis. So I think it’s very clever move when writers create a three or more sided conflict. It’s not all that rare, but it’s still not how most comics operate. In Daredevil #2, the introduction of The Hand is a great twist. However, it’s not only that The Hand are present, but that they are not going after Daredevil but rather his enemy, Ten Fingers. So that creates a really fascinating plot dynamic in which two of Daredevil’s enemies are against each other. Obviously, Daredevil will be involved, but it’s not predictable how. So this is a really smart shift by Soule in the second issue.
He’s also given Ten Fingers a bit more shading. He still doesn’t quite seem like a three-dimensional character, but it’s an improvement on his stiff introduction in the first issue of the series. Ten Fingers professes to want to help the people of his community. It’s possible it’s just bluster. However, if he is a bad man with some semi-good intentions, it will go a long way towards making Ten Fingers a character that can be interesting over the long haul, especially compared to Daredevil and some of his main adversaries.
Ron Garney makes significant contributions to the feel and themes of Daredevil #2 through his art. One of the main elements that Soule and Garney seem to be pushing is that Matt Murdock/Daredevil and Ten Fingers are not polar opposites but rather two sides of the same coin. It’s not an entirely original idea, but it does work here because it darkens Murdock and possibly raises Ten Fingers from evil to questionable. Garney seems to be going for a purposefully rough and dark look, similar to a later John Romita Jr. The pencils of Garney are still strong and fluid, even with the roughness. Although the look of Daredevil #2 (and the first issue) are not my favorite art style, it is a distinctive look for the series that adds to the overall feel. So I think that’s a credit to the art team.
I wouldn’t say that the new Daredevil is hitting on all cylinders yet, but Daredevil #2 is an improvement in a lot of ways from what I found to be an okay first issue. There are still some areas of concern, such as occasionally clunky or cheesy dialog. Also, it might be hard for longtime readers of Daredevil to accept that his identity is now a secret again post-Secret Wars because it feels like a backwards move. Still, there is enough in Daredevil #2 to hint that this could turn into a strong crime/suspense story with elements of the supernatural.