Daredevil #16 Review: Soule gets ‘subversive’ with Catholic priest

It wasn’t too long that I was informed that Matt Murdock would be returning to the Catholic church. I was thrilled that such a logical move would happen to the Marvel character after years in creative purgatory, but at the same time I couldn’t help wonder what catch the company had in mind. We now know with the introduction of Father Jordan.

Brace yourself, Catholic Daredevil fans. Once again Marvel (like Hollywood) has shown that it cannot simply show a man who honestly lives his Christian faith. There must always be some sort of weird warped take on the faith — or the man must have some underlying fetish or perversion.

Check out my latest YouTube review for the full details. As always, I’m looking forward to your thoughts in the comments section below.

 

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Daredevil #15: Soule hits creative bullseye — again

It wasn’t too long ago that your friendly neighborhood blogger was lamenting the decision by Marvel in recent years to ignore Daredevil’s Catholicism. Writer Charles Soule assured me on Twitter that I would “love” DD #15, and he was not lying. Finally — finally — Matt Murdock returns to the Church to discuss good and evil with men who tackle such issues for a living.

Check out my latest YouTube review of Mr. Soule’s work and let me know what you think in the comments section below. As always, I’m eager to hear your thoughts.

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Daredevil #14: Charles Soule’s inspired run continues

This blog has been a consistent supporter of Charles Soule’s work on Daredevil since the series started, and nothing changes in that respect with Dark Art Part V. Any comic book fan who has gotten to know and love Blindspot over the past year needs to prepare for some pain with DD #14, because the villain Muse changes the character’s life forever.

Check out my latest YouTube review on the series and then let me know what you think in the comments section below. And, as always, be sure to subscribe if you want to see new videos on a weekly basis.

Civil War II: The Accused #1: Guggenheim does Daredevil well despite flimsy ‘SRA II’ set-up

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This blog asked the following question roughly four months ago: Did Marvel learn from the mistakes of Civil War I? The answer to that question is a resounding “no,” and Civil War II: The Accused #1 further highlights that unfortunate point. As was the case with Christos Gage’s work on The Amazing Spider-Man and even Brian Michael Bendis’ on Spider-Man, fairly impressive writing is undermined by the story’s weak foundation.

Marc Guggenheim does an admirable job showing Matt Murdock’s role in the project, but editorial mandates will give many readers heartburn. In short, Marvel has planted the seeds for Civil War III. Sigh.

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Here is what you need to know for CWII: The Accused #1:

  • The Department of Justice has asked Matt Murdock to join its case against Hawkeye, aka Clint Barton, who killed Bruce Banner. The ace lawyer accepts the challenge.
  • Barton asserts that Bruce Banner gave him the means to the Hulk if he returned. He says he does not know if he did the right thing, but that he had “a reason and it was a good one.”
  • The trial starts and the judge seems to have her thumb (actually, her entire fist) on the scale in favor of Murdock and his team of federal prosecutors. Hawkeye’s legal team meets with Murdock and tells him there is a conspiracy to make sure the superhero winds up in prison. Matt is told that if he looks for the truth then he will find out that he is being manipulated like a puppet.
  • Daredevil breaks into the Department of Justice and comes across a meeting between a military general and federal prosecutor Evelyn Stanzler. The government wants Hawkeye in prison to give officials “political cover” to introduce Superhuman Registration Act II. A murder conviction will give them what they need.
  • Murdock shows up in court and withdraws the government’s motion to exclude Bruce Banner’s video diary from the case. He knows the move damages his case, but does so because he believes it will give Barton a fair trial.
  • Barton is ultimately acquitted. Most people believe Hawkeye did the world a favor.

The key bullet point here is the last one because people in the Marvel Universe would believe that a living and highly unpredictable nuclear weapon should be dead — especially after years of witnessing his destructive capabilities firsthand.

The government does not need to execute a successful conspiracy to launch Superhuman Registration Act II because the sound rationale for it never disappeared after it failed the first time.

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CWII: The Accused #1 makes the case (no pun intended), that nefarious forces need a conviction to persuade the public that it is time for SRA II, which is laughable. The only reason why some readers do not get the absurdity is because Marvel turned Tony Stark into a psychotic warmonger in Civil War I.

If you want to see Mr. Guggenheim do the best he can with the shoddy hand he has been dealt, then check out CWII: The Accused. If you are tired of seeing heroes fighting heroes — and one side always being portrayed as cartoonish goons — then hold onto your cash. Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows is looking like a must-read.

Charles Soule’s ‘Dark Art’ continues slow burn in Daredevil #11

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New York City is home to the Museum of Modern Art and scores of creators who would do just about anything to get into its exhibits. Therefore, it makes sense that on a long enough timeline Marvel would have a Banksy-esque villain running around the city who would literally kill to get name recognition. The question on this blogger’s mind however, is this: Can a villain ever truly be cool if he wears suspenders?

All joking aside, Charles Soule’s “Dark Art” continues its slow burn in Daredevil #11. When readers last left off, Blindspot had been lured to a Bronx building that contained a mural painted in blood. Daredevil concluded that over 100 people likely died during the project’s creation. DD #11 furthers the plot along and reveals the individual deemed “Vincent Van Gore” by the city’s tabloids.

Here is what you need to know about DD #11:

  • The owner of the building where the blood mural was found decides to charge people to see it. A powerful city councilwoman threatens to shut him down because her niece’s blood is on the evidence.
  • Owner Freedy Durnin tells the city official to take a hike because he knows his First Amendment rights and the painting is on private property. (Question: Wouldn’t the cops immediately take the mural as evidence for an ongoing missing persons case? It makes no sense that Mr. Durnin is allowed to keep it just because it was found inside his building.)
  • Matt Murdock’s boss calls him into his office and says the “wheels of justice have been greased” for him to shut down Mr. Durnin’s grotesque “exhibit.”
  • Matt meets with Foggy for coffee (the two have a chilled relationship), and they talk about what the D.A.’s office wants Matt to do. Matt says it isn’t right that government stooge’s are looking for ways to take a man down for political reasons instead focusing on their job — ensuring justice for all. Foggy says, “You wanted to be a D.A., Matt. All your wishes came true. So now…you do what they tell you to do.”
  • Opening night at Durnin’s exhibit is thrown into chaos when the mural is defaced with a new message: “You’re only as good as your last performance. 1602 East 171st.” Investigators find a murderous “tableau” with dead Inhumans inside an apartment. Matt Murdock interprets the “artist’s” work as, “Inhumans are humans, too.”
  • Matt picks up a racing heartbeat on a nearby roof. He finds and excuse to leave Samuel Cheung (aka, Blindspot), and their police escort, and soon confronts the individual as Daredevil.
  • “Did you like my work?” the killer asks.

Mr. Soule packs a lot of material into DD #11, but the slower pacing never hampers the book. If this were a story by Brian Michael Bendis, for example, it would be reasonable to believe that the payoff would come about 12 months from now — or never. But it’s Charles Soule, and up until this point his writing has been solid.

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Perhaps one of the most impressive things about DD #11 isn’t the David Fincher-like murder mystery (think Se7en), but the fact that he is working a politically motivated D.A.’s office into the tale. The last thing I expected to see in a Marvel book in 2016 was an author who makes the case that city officials use a never-ending maze of laws and regulations to attack everyday citizens. In this instance the target of their rage happens to be a shameless jerk, but the underlying point is incredibly important. It is nice to see that Mr. Soule, unlike many of his peers, is capable of thinking outside petty partisan boxes.

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While it is a bit silly to think a man would not be forced to turn over a blood mural to the police, there really is not too much to complain about at this point. My wife says it sounds like Mr. Soule was inspired by an old episode of Criminal Minds, but until he reaches Slottian levels of “homage” (i.e., Dr. Who), I will forgive him.

Conclusion: Daredevil continues to roll as it nears one dozen issues. It’s just a huge shame that Mr. Soule continues to go with Bendis’ stupid decision to turn Matt Murdock into a “lapsed Catholic.”  That move fundamentally changes the character — in a negative way — for reasons I will cover in an upcoming blog post.

Editor’s note: A primer on my upcoming Daredevil post can be found here: ‘Daredevil Season 2 trailer: Good men grapple with rotten culture.’

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Related:

Daredevil #10: ‘Dark Art’ starts strong, but Soule drops ball on basic Catholicism

Daredevil #10: ‘Dark Art’ starts strong, but Soule drops ball on basic Catholicism

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Charles Soule’s Daredevil #10 is out, which means that Matt Murdock fans once again get their fix of solid storytelling. “Dart Art: Part 1” is nearly pitch perfect except for the writer’s big whiff on basic Catholicism. It’s a minor complaint, but still very important considering the fact that Daredevil Season 2 on Netflix covered the same territory without any problems.

Before we address the religious issue, here is what you need to know for DD#2:

  • Daredevil tracks a common street thug across the NYC’s Upper East Side to familiarize himself with any changes in the terrain since his last visit.
  • Blindspot’s arm has healed after being broken by Elektra one month earlier. He’s ready to get back into the superhero game and continue his training.
  • Blindspot receives an strange invitation that references a “battle,” but when he arrives at the location on the card he only finds a dead man —and a mural painted in blood.
  • Daredevil receives an emergency call to help out, which puts him in an awkward position. Matt Murdock, who know works as a prosecutor for the state, is swamped with cases and needs to call in favors he doesn’t really possess as the low man on the totem pole.
  • Blindspot worries that if he goes to the police about his invitation it will put him at risk for deportation since he is an illegal immigrant.
  • Daredevil takes the invite and says “if we ever need to surrender it, I’ll pass it along, say it was sent to me. Okay?” Blindspot agrees and thanks him.
  • Daredevil touches the painting and concludes that it was made with “at least one hundred and thirteen” different kinds of blood. When Blindspot says, “I thought you said I couldn’t touch anything” because they are at a crime scene, Daredevil replies, “It is. Mine.”

Again, as was said earlier, Charles Soule is on his game. Aside from a seemingly rushed issue with Daredevil #1 Annual, the man has been consistently good for months. Daredevil fans are experiencing an inspired run that, years from now, will be well-regarded by a new generation of readers.

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This issue’s one problem, as Christian readers may have picked up on by the first panel, is Daredevil’s decision to refer to a common thug as a “no hoper.”

The one thing any Catholic man understands — as demonstrated in the Netflix series — is that no one is without hope. Everyone is capable of redemption. That theme was hammered home over and over and over again in scenes that pitted Daredevil against Frank Castle, aka The Punisher.

All Christians know that there is always hope for redemption through Jesus Christ.

Luke 23:39-43 says:

39 One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, “Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!” 40 But the other answered, and rebuking him said, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” 43 And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”

Charles Soule, a trained attorney, makes sure that Matt Murdock is never ignorant of something a first-year law student would know, but yet in this case a Catholic superhero says something that children making their First Communion would recognize as incorrect.

It isn’t a large gripe, but it is somewhat bothersome that Marvel cares enough about Kamala Khan to literally have it written by a practicing Muslim to make sure there are no hiccups, while Daredevil’s Catholicism is downplayed, ignored, and generally just treated (these days) with a “go ahead and fake it” mentality.

Marvel’s decision to give Mr. Murdock a generic Catholicism in 2016 is a shame because there are great tales to be told by any writer who is familiar with Hubert Van Zeller’s Suffering: The Cross of Christ and Its Meaning For You; G.K. Chesterton’s The Everlasting Man; Dom L. Scupoli Apulia’s The Spiritual Combat and a Treatise on Peace of Soul; and many, many others.

I will continue to read Daredevil, but I will also continue to be disappointed that there hasn’t been a writer in ages who is willing to mine the character’s faith to unearth amazing tales hidden just beneath the surface.

Daredevil #9: Charles Soule writes modern classic with Spidey-DD team-up

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Charles Soule’s Daredevil #9 should be assigned in every “Superhero Team-up 101” class for the next century. “Blind Man’s Bluff: Part II” brings the Man Without Fear and Spider-Man together in a pitch-perfect issue. It is flawless, and therefore should be mandatory reading for all Marvel employees.

Here is what you need to know for Daredevil #9:

  • Spider-Man meets Daredevil in Macau for a casino heist. Although DD offers scant details, the web-slinger agrees to help him snag a briefcase from heavily armed guards.
  • The heroes’ ambush does not go as planned and a man carrying the suitcase escapes onto a helicopter headed for Hong Kong.
  • Daredevil and Spider-Man hitch a hydrofoil ride to the city after Spider-Man reveals that he tagged the suitcase with a spider-tracer.
  • The two track down the suitcase to an apartment building, a massive fight ensues, and Spider-Man makes off with the prize. He agrees to meet up with DD later.
  • The two men convene at the top of a building looking over the entire city. Spider-Man refuses to give up the suitcase until DD explains why he needs it — in addition to why the memories of their friendship is hazy.
  • Matt Murdock debates lying to his friend, but then comes clean: He did something to wipe everyone’s memory of his secret identity. He also needs the suitcase because it has Black Cat’s files on the entire NYC criminal underworld. He wants to take down all the major players in one fell swoop.
  • Spider-Man hands over the suitcase and warns, “Watch out for those black-costume phases. They can really do a number on you.”

Mystery. Action. Humor. Intelligence. Wit. This issue had it all. There is hope for Marvel, and Daredevil #9 proves it.

How is this for a novel idea: Two characters with a rich history actually act in character while using the superpowers that helped make them famous to keep the other guy safe.

There were no “arachno-rockets” needed, and the moment of truth — when Matt takes a leap of faith on a good man and then his decision is reciprocated — was incredibly poignant. In short, Mr. Soule demonstrated that there is still a place in the world for good storytelling.

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Perhaps the best way to describe Blind Man’s Bluff: Part II is “timeless.” The story feels like something I could have read in the 1980s as a kid, but at the same time it feels relevant now. It is a tale that I might reopen ten or twenty years from now and still enjoy. That is the sign of a good writer. That is why I continue to buy comic books, and that is why I pray to God that Mr. Soule does not get weirdly political in the future like so many of his industry peers.

Buy this book. Reward good writing. This is a comic book gem and everything about it is even sweeter because it comes from a writer who does not tell people to “eat a bag of d***s” over partisan politics.

Thank you, Mr. Soule. It has been a long, long time since a book has made me this happy, and for that I am deeply grateful.

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Daredevil #8: ‘Blind Man’s Bluff’ starts strong, teases Spider-Man team-up

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It is fitting that Daredevil #8 takes place inside a Macau casino because readers must be wondering how long Charles Soule’s creative hot streak is going to last. “Blind Man’s Bluff” kicks off a new tale for Matt Murdock, and as far as stage-setters go the writer churns out another solid performance.

Is Mr. Soule just a lucky guy, or is his good fortune on the book positively correlated with his preparation and work ethic? This reviewer is inclined to go with the latter option.

Here is what you need to know about Daredevil #8 before we move on:

  • Matt Murdock has traveled to Macau for a winner-take-all poker tournament. He plays Texas Hold ‘Em because its rules are best suited for … a blind man with enhanced senses.
  • Daredevil is looking for an item that Black Cat sent to China.
  • A mysterious woman named Adhira latches onto Matt after he dominates his competitors.
  • The final round of the tournament features a telepath named Apex who is employed by the casino to make sure it never loses money. Matt’s telepathic defenses are pushed to the limits, but he ultimately holds out and wins a check for $10 million — made out to the alias Laurent Levasseur. (Note: He can’t cash the check.)
  • The casino gives Matt a complimentary stay in its best suite to keep him in town. Adhira also appears and asks to talk about his poker skills. He reminds her that he has a “friend” to meet, and the last page ends with Spider-Man telling Daredevil, “Took you long enough.”

One of the best things about Mr. Soule’s work on The Man Without Fear is that everything he does feels natural. Whether Matt Murdock is in a courtroom, battling ninjas, on a date with a beautiful woman, or in a high-stakes gambling tournament … everything feels right.

Ask yourself the following questions:

The answer (for many readers) is “No.”

With Daredevil, however, fans get stories that respect the character’s past while clearly charting a path forward. It says something about the quality of the title that Daredevil #8’s worst element is Goran Sudžuka’s artwork, which even isn’t bad; he just didn’t perform at Matteo Buffagni’s level with this particular issue.

“Why do I do this? Why do I always have to roll the dice?” Matt Murdock says at one point. “I’m always chasing. Trying to make up my losses. Betting everything I have to get back in the game. My identity, Kirsten, Foggy, my happiness…my life. On some level, I now it’s foolish. A compulsion. But if I don’t play…”

Readers take note: Charles Soule put more introspection into a single page of Daredevil than The Amazing Spider-Man writer Dan Slott has done in years with Peter Parker — a hero who was resurrected from the dead after a megalomaniac took over his body.

The point is this: If you have been unhappy with ASM for years but are still buying it out of sheer love for the character, then you owe it to yourself to purchase a book that consistently performs. There is no reason to give Marvel Comics money for dreck like Hydra-Cap (and an author who says all Republicans are “evil”), when someone like Mr. Soule is firing on all cylinders with Daredevil.

With that said, I will end this review with two points:

  1. I am not in Mr. Soule’s payroll, even if it seems like it at the moment.
  2. I look forward to seeing what the writer does with Spider-Man. That will be a true test of his creative prowess. If he hits a home run with the wall crawler, then I may have to announce a Charles Soule prize for one of the many Douglas Ernst C.R.O.N.I.E.S. (Comics Reconnaissance Operator, Negotiator, Intelligence Expert, and Soldier) around the globe.

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Daredevil #7: Charles Soule running laps around Marvel peers

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The seventh issue of Charles Soule’s Daredevil came out on May 25, and once again the man has churned out a solid piece of work. If writing comic books were a race, then it is safe to say that Mr. Soul would be lapping most of his Marvel peers at this point. His writing is crisp, he isn’t forcing weirdly partisan stories down readers’ throats, his pacing is consistently smooth, and he seems to inherently get what makes for a cool Daredevil story.

If there is one Marvel book worth getting each month, then it belongs to Team Soule.

Here is what you need to know for Daredevil #7:

  • The “man without fear”convinces Elektra to let him help unravel the mystery behind her daughter’s disappearance.
  • Elektra gives Daredevil a cell phone that purportedly shows him training her daughter.
  • Matt Murdoch takes the phone to Foggy Nelson despite the “rough patch” they’re going through, and Foggy says there is no video on the phone.
  • Matt, thinking the child might be his, inadvertently destroys the phone in a fit of rage when he can’t figure out what is going on.
  • Daredevil meets with Elektra and tells her there is nothing on the phone, but that he accidentally destroyed it. She is upset, but takes off to find answers on her own.
  • Elektra (with Daredevil tailing her) confronts the man who gave her the phone after killing his partner. The man says “The tangled web we weave!” and she realizes someone took control of her mind. Someone wanted her to feel the pain of losing a child.
  • Daredevil realizes that he knows the identify of the person who took control of Elektra’s mind, but does not disclose that information to her. She leaves with the intention of finding and killing the man who psychically abused her.

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Complimenting Mr. Soule’s writing nicely is artist Matteo Buffagni, whose eye for awesome is incredibly keen. Besides the noir-perfect pitch, little details — like having Daredevil’s hand slightly hang out over the panel as he clings to a ledge in Hell’s Kitchen — indicate a creative team that is running on all cylinders. It is a shame that others within the company aren’t taking notes on what is clearly a winning formula.

In short, if you aren’t buying Daredevil then you should be. It’s only a matter of time before Mr. Soule steps aside and the next writer decides to come up with the “bold” **cough** twist that Matt Murdock has never been blind…

Daredevil, Elektra sizzle under Soule’s and Buffagni’s direction

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I never thought a modern Daredevil writer would make me bust into cheesy clichés, but here it is: It’s hot in Hell Kitchen under Charles Soules’ and Matteo Buffagni’s direction! Heck, kudos to color artist Matt Milla as well. Daredevil #6 kicks off “Elektric Connection” and the return of Elektra. The entire issue crackles with sexual tension, fisticuffs, and one very broken arm (sorry, Blindspot).

Here is what readers need to know: Soule keeps it simple and sweet:

  • Daredevil’s secret identity has been restored and no-one is the wiser — including Elektra.
  • The famous assassin shows up at a New York City bond hearing as Murdock is trying to work. She knows he has a connection to Daredevil and wants a meeting ASAP.
  • The “meeting” (or rather, beating) commences in short order.
  • Elektra wants to know what Daredevil has done with her daughter, and vows to “cut away every lie” in his body if he doesn’t give her answers.

Perhaps the best way to describe Soules’ writing is “efficient.” Words are not wasted. Each word means something. Each sentence is important. There is a plan. Both he and Buffagni know exactly what they need to do. They execute their respective jobs to the hilt. It is a welcome reprieve after digesting Marvel fare like The Amazing Spider-Man # 11.

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In one brief interaction between Matt Murdock and Elektra at a “lawyer bar,” one can see why Daredevil is one of the strongest titles on the market at the moment. In addition to Buffagni’s gorgeous art, it is obvious that Mr. Soule is a man who has had complex, mature relationships with the fairer sex.

Take, for instance, Murdock’s decision to meet with Elektra for a drink after she shows up at a bond hearing. His head is separated into an upper and lower half by Buffagni’s panels. Yes, he is “split” between being Daredevil and a New York City prosecutor, but he also spars between his logical  self and his bodily passions. Matt does not want to tell Elektra where Daredevil is, but he also would really like to sleep with her again.

Needless to say, our Catholic superhero will have some explaining to do in the confession booth on Sunday. Murdock sets up a meeting between Daredevil and Elektra, and things get ugly fast. At one point Blindspot shows up and within seconds his arm is broken and he is off to see Night Nurse. Murdock finally has enough pussyfooting around and channels his inner Michael Keaton as Batman (i.e., “You wanna get nuts? Let’s get nuts!”).

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The issue ends, as mentioned earlier, with Elektra demanding to know the location of her daughter. Whatever Daredevil did to essentially mind-wipe the world of his secret identity has a great upside, but it also appears as though it will come with painful consequences.

If you’re looking for a top-notch Marvel book, then go with Daredevil. The protector of Hell’s Kitchen has not been this cool in a long time.

Bonus: Michael Keaton getting “nuts” as Bruce Wayne never gets old.