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Through the first three issues of the new volume of Daredevil, by Charles Soule and Ron Garney, I have been patiently waiting for things to come together. But Daredevil #4 is the first time in the new series in which I am concerned about the direction this comic is moving. Most of the problems here are characterization, even though the art is actually getting better with each issue. It’s possible that things will still pick up, but that will require some improvement from what’s happening in Daredevil #4.
The conflict of the first three issues pits Daredevil (Matt Murdock) against mystical religious leader Ten Fingers. Meanwhile, Ten Fingers is challenged by The Hand, from whom he stole power. Daredevil #4 takes a diversion from this main plot by having Daredevil help out Steve Rogers, who is aged and no longer Captain America, with some bomb makers. Daredevil barely succeeds in preventing a housing project from blowing up. Murdock and Ten Fingers then have a verbal confrontation in which Ten Fingers hints that he knows that Murdock is Daredevil. Meanwhile, Daredevil’s ally/protégé Blindspot confronts his mother, who is one of Ten Fingers’ minions.
This issue is unsatisfying, though it’s not really the plot that is the problem. It doesn’t really add all that much, but Daredevil tracking down some bomb makers is a decent action sequence. Instead, it’s how characters are portrayed that is bothersome. Murdock seems to be very one note – questioning his choices and bulling ahead anyway. He has made some weird decisions, such as siding with Ten Fingers against The Hand in order to protect Ten Fingers’ “congregation.” Ten Fingers is showing cleverness but not really any attributes that make his personality of character compelling at all. Blindspot is actually an intriguing character, a superhero who is an undocumented Asian immigrant. Yet even so, his mother is as one-dimensional as any Golden Age cackling villain.
There is also some strange storytelling decisions about making Murdock’s identity secret again. I don’t think making Murdock-as-Daredevil public knowledge is necessarily a right or wrong thing. Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Waid did some great stuff with Murdock’s identity public, but Ed Brubaker also had excellent issues when he cast doubt on Daredevil identity. So if Marvel and/or Soule want to put the genie back in the bottle in regards to making Daredevil’s identity secret, that’s fine, but it’s the method in this series that seems strange. I don’t know if the mechanism was explained in some tie-in to Secret Wars, but it has not been detailed in either the main Secret Wars or Daredevil. I don’t understand why a short scene couldn’t reveal what’s happened. Withholding this information is more confusing than mysterious.
The secret identity of Daredevil stands out during the scenes with Steve Rogers, who used to know Murdock’s identity, but now doesn’t. He knows that Daredevil was in San Francisco for a time, so there it seems that most of the public knowledge of Daredevil is still consistent, but not his identity. And yet the reveal that he was Daredevil was the major reason for Murdock’s move to California, as he couldn’t practice law in New York any longer. A lot of the identity stuff here feels like the mindwipe that was Spider-Man “One More Day.” That’s not a compliment.
So there are some problems with this new series that are especially apparent in Daredevil #4. At the same time, it feels like Ron Garney has worked out the art style for the series, as his work has gotten smoother and more consistent with each issue. The action sequences of Daredevil pursuing the bomb makers and Blindspot confronting his mother are very well handled from a visual standpoint. Also, there is a nice homage to David Mazzuchelli’s Daredevil #233 cover (part of the “Born Again” arc) on the cover of Daredevil #4.
It’s unfortunate that as the art on Daredevil improves, the story issues have become more prominent. It’s not that these things are unfixable. If Soule can add some nuance, depth and complexity to Matt Murdock’s personality, it will help a great deal. I don’t find Ten Fingers very compelling, but if we move on to a new foe in the next arc, that’s not a huge deal. The creators also need to settle the details of the world forgetting Daredevil’s identity. If those things get corrected, Daredevil can be a good series. For now, though, Daredevil #4 has problems that make it somewhat disappointing.