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We know that big changes are coming for Daredevil since this is the penultimate issue of the current volume of the series. There was a lot of teeth-gnashing about what would happen after Mark Waid’s excellent run, but it turns out that both Waid and artist Chris Samnee are going to continue creating tales for Matt Murdock, after all. As is their current trend with the “Marvel Now” platform, Marvel Comics is resetting the odometer after Daredevil #36, back to a #1, which will feature both Waid and Samnee (and, less enjoyably, a new price tag). However, the creators have smartly decided to use the occasion to make major changes to Murdock’s life.
For a while now, Matt Murdock in both his lawyer role and Daredevil altar ego has been trying to defeat the underground white supremacist group The Sons of the Serpent. However, they are very powerful in New York, especially in law enforcement. In the beginning of Daredevil #35, two gentlemen meet Matt Murdock in the hospital room of Foggy Nelson, who is struggling in his battle with cancer. The men reveal that they’ve uncovered thorough evidence that Murdock is Daredevil and that they will use it to hurt everyone in Murdock’s life if he doesn’t represent a member of the Sons of the Serpent in court as Matt Murdock. Matt struggles with the decision and ultimately comes, after some advice from old flame/ally Elektra, to a radical conclusion.
A fundamental part of this issue’s storyline is related to the 2003 story arc “Out” by long-time writer Brian Michael Bendis, in which he revealed to the public that Daredevil was Matt Murdock. Later, writer Ed Brubaker put the genie back in the bottle, sort of. Brubaker didn’t use and magic or deals with the devil (ahem, Spider-Man), he just supplied reasonable doubt that Daredevil was Murdock. So now many people think or assume that Murdock is the hero, but it’s not publicly acknowledged or universally believed. Considering how frequently major changes to superheroes come and go at the big two publishers, I really like that a fundamental-changed element of the Daredevil mythos has stuck around and is still informing stories over a decade later.
Since the initial reveal of his identity, Murdock has attempted, through chicanery and lawsuits, to fool people into believing he is not Daredevil, though an increasing number know this to be fact. The end of Daredevil #35 and the promise of a future relocation to San Francisco seem to indicate that Murdock might now be changing tact. The Sons of the Serpent think they have Murdock in a corner because he either helps a member go free or they destroy Murdock. However, what if Murdock destroys himself first?
Another nod to Daredevil’s past is his encounter with Elektra. A creation of Frank Miller when he was writing the series in the 1980’s, Elektra has been dead and resurrection in many senses of the word. Their scene is this issue touches on much of Daredevil’s past with her without being thick with confusing detail. If you’ve never read Daredevil before Waid started, you can still follow their conversation. However, if you know the background, it’s even more enjoyable.
The art of Chris Samnee is often lauded. He’s won an Eisner and other accolades. For the most part, he does another great job on this issue (especially the cover and the origin montage). The scene in Nelson’s hospital room is dramatic, emotional, and sinister. As much credit should go to Samnee as Waid for this. However, I’ve sang Samnee’s praises before, so I don’t think it’s unreasonable to offer a small criticism about his art in this issue. I found his rendition of Elektra to feel off. I know that Samnee’s style is more “cartoony.” That works great for Silver Surfer, but here it makes Elektra look like a slight teenager rather than the powerful woman that she is. I also don’t especially like when he shows figures’ faces in the background but draws no features on them. It’s a little distracting. On the whole, though, the art is still quite good.
It remains to be seen if Foggy Nelson will survive the change coming. In recent issues, Foggy’s health has become worse. We know that the cover of the next issue shows the door of the Nelson & Murdock law firm closed for business. I’d like to see Foggy make it through, but it looks far from certain. In any case, I think that Waid has earned the trust of Daredevil readers. Nearly all of the storytelling choices he’s made in this series have been outstanding, so we’ll soon see what happens in Daredevil #36, the last issue of the series (for a few months).