Charles Soule’s Daredevil: ‘The man without fear’ done right

Daredevil 5

Marvel is a strange company. On any given week readers might find themselves subjected to something as cringeworthy as The Amazing Spider-Man 1.4, or as spectacular as writer Charles Soule’s Daredevil. Your friendly neighborhood blogger is late to Soule’s ballgame, but it appears as though he and artist Ron Garney are in the middle of something truly special.

Blindspot

For those who haven’t purchased issues 1-4 of Daredevil, the story goes something like this:

  • Matt Murdock is now a New York City prosecutor (it’s about time!).
  • A Chinese illegal immigrant named Samuel Chung has become Daredevil’s protege.
  • A criminal named Tenfingers split from The Hand, stole some mystical power on his way out the door, and started his own cult.
  • The Hand sent a zombie-like being known as The Fist to exact revenge.
  • Tenfingers orders the assassination of everyone inside his church because they are witnesses to his failure. He cannot be seen as a savior if there is evidence of a setback.
  • Chung’s mom works for Tenfingers.

DD Blindspot

I haven’t followed Daredevil in years, but it appears as though the last time the book looked this cool — coupled with solid writing — was the 1980s. I tried to get into Daredevil on and off over the years, but this is the first time the title appears to have that “pop” that the defender of Hell’s Kitchen deserves.

If Mr. Soule doesn’t get too weirdly political with Chung’s immigration status, then I can certainly envision myself investing in this title for the long haul. Well done, Messrs. Soule and Garney.

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Daredevil Season 2: Hold onto your principles — at any price

Daredevil

The second season of Marvel’s Daredevil is finally on Netflix — and it is good. Correction: It is great. The writing is so strong, in fact, that it is hard to fathom how the creative team will be able to live up to expectations going forward. It is rare to find a show that is about friendship, family, honesty and the importance of holding fast to core principles, but Daredevil delivers on all counts.

Frank Castle

This is a spoiler-free review, so I will try to only address the overall themes going forward.

In short, Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox), Frank Castle (Jon Bernthal), Elektra Natchios (Elodie Yung), Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll), Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson), Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson) and pretty much every actor with decent screen time fires on all cylinders. What makes the series so good is that each character has a clear idea of his or her ideal self, but the fierce pursuit of those ideals put them at odds with friends, family, co-workers, fellow citizens, and even the rule of law.

Matt Murdock

What would you do for your core principles?

  • Would you be willing to quit a job?
  • Would you walk away from someone you love?
  • Would you be willing to shed blood and die?
  • Would you kill?
  • Would you be willing to be hated by society?

Over and over again the writers of Daredevil look at the cast and say, “Okay, what defines these characters and how do we put them in situations where their fidelity to core principles is tested?” 

The series explores big questions about life, death, truth, justice, loyalty, honesty, integrity, redemption and friendship in every episode — but it does so with intelligence and grace.

Finally, without a doubt, Jon Bernthal nails his performance as Frank Castle (aka: The Punisher). He was given a tough role, and he crushed it. There are not really enough good things to say about his take on the character other than to tell the man to take a bow. One can only hope he makes an appearance in Luke Cage.

If you do not have a Netflix account, then you may want to consider getting one to watch Daredevil. At this point the only question is: When will Charlie Cox’s version of Matt Murdoch make an appearance on the big screen? He certainly deserves it.

 

 

Daredevil Season 2 trailer: Good men grapple with rotten culture

Daredevil

The second season of Dardevil is one month away, so Netflix and Marvel treated fans to a trailer on Monday. Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) will now go up against Frank Castle (Jon Bernthal), and the result looks incredibly promising.

In one corner we have the vigilante who clings to the hope that his actions are needed for criminal outliers — evil the justice system is ill-equipped to handle.

In the other corner we have The Punisher, who wages a total war on crime because he has lost all hope in its sanctioned officers and foot soldiers. The battle came to his front doorstep and took those closest to him.

The philosophical difference is displayed during a rooftop confrontation:

Daredevil: “People don’t have to die!”

Punisher: “You hit them and they get back up. I hit them and they stay down!”

“The Daredevil Dilemma” is what one would expect from the cultural breakdown I talked about just days ago: “America, like ant infected with phorid fly, faces decapitation.”

I will once again cite Saint Augustine’s “City of God”:

“If the prince is unjust, or a tyrant (to use the Greek word), or if the aristocrats are unjust (in which case their group  is merely a faction), or if the people themselves are unjust (and must be called, for lack of a better word, a tyrant also), then the commonwealth is not merely bad … but is no commonwealth at all. The reason for that is that there is no longer the welfare of the people, once a tyrant or a faction seizes it; nor would the people, if unjust, be any longer a people, because they would not then be regarded as a multitude bound together by a common recognition of rights, and a mutual cooperation for the common good, as the standard definition of a people demands.

When, therefore, the Roman republic was such as Sallust describes it, it was not only ‘very wicked and corrupt’ — ‘a sink of iniquity,’ as he puts it — it was no republic at all, if measured by the criterion established by its ablest representatives when they met to debate the nature of the republic.” — Saint Augustine, City of God.

Punisher

What do good men do in a city that has been infected with cultural rotgut? The politicians are corrupt. Media are corrupt. The justice system and law enforcement are corrupt — and it’s all because the underlying culture is diseased.

Matt Murdock and Frank Castle are two good men who are fighting the tide towards Gomorrah. No matter how many bad guys Daredevil beats up, the evil within remains unharmed. No matter how many bad men Frank Castle kills, there are always new recruits ready to take their place.

The problems facing Hell’s Kitchen are bigger than both men because it is a collective spiritual bankruptcy that needs to be addressed. No predetermined body count of drug dealers or funding for bigger prisons will solve the problem. On some level both men know this, which is probably why they essentially go out on suicide missions every night: They have determined that it is better to die an honorable death fighting evil — literally coming to blows with bad men — then to succumb to a sense of powerlessness as the cancer metastasizes throughout the culture.

Daredevil: Season 2 looks like it will be another winner for Marvel and Netflix. I look forward to reviewing it shortly after its March 18 release.

Daredevil: Charlie Cox and crew give fans a winning Marvel crime drama

Daredevil Cast

At some point in time an executive at ABC Studios said, “I think Daredevil would be perfect for Netflix.” That man or woman should be given a raise, because all 13 episodes of the show’s first season come together to form an incredibly entertaining product. Charlie Cox in the starring role does a commendable job as Matt Murdock, and most of his supporting cast delivers solid performances (particularly Vondie Curtis-Hall as Ben Urich).

One of the best scenes that sums up what Daredevil is all about involves courtroom closing arguments in the third episode. Matt and his law partner, Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson), must give an honest defense for a dubious client.

Mr. Murdock says:

“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, forgive me if I seem distracted. I’ve been preoccupied as of late with questions of morality. Of right and wrong, good and evil. Sometimes the delineation between the two is a sharp line. Sometimes it’s a blur. And often it’s like pornography — you just know it when you see it.

A man is dead. I don’t mean to make light of that. But these questions — these questions — are vital because they tether us to each other, to humanity. Not everyone feels this way. Not everyone sees the sharp line, only the blur. A man is dead. A man is dead, and my client, John Healy, took his life. This is not in dispute. It is a matter of record. Of fact. And facts have no moral judgment. They merely state what is. Not what we think of them. Not what we feel. They just are. What was in my client’s heart when he took Mr. Prohaszka’s life — whether he is a good man or something else entirely — is irrelevant. These questions of good and evil, as important as they are, have no place in a court of law. Only the facts matter.

My client claimed he acted in self defense. Mr. Prohaszka’s associates have refused to make a statement regarding the incident. The only other witness, a frightened young woman, has stated that my client was pleasant and friendly, and that she only saw the struggle with Mr. Prohaszka after it had started. Those are the facts. Based on these — and these alone — the prosecution has failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that my client wasn’t acting solely in self-defense.  And those, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, are the facts. My client, based purely on the sanctity of the law, which we’ve all sworn to uphold, must be acquitted of these charges. Now, beyond that, beyond these walls, he may well face a  judgment of his own making. But here, in this courtroom, the judgment is yours and yours alone.” — Daredevil: Episode 3: Rabbit in a Snowstorm.

The fascinating thing about Daredevil is that each character has their own cross to bear, and over the course of the first season viewers get to see how they stumble, fall, get back up again, and continue moving forward while trying to find the righteous path. For Matt that means figuring out how to bring criminals to justice when the system designed to do just that has been corrupted.

Matt Murdock court

Matt Murdock is aided in that task by his Catholicism and a priest he speaks to for guidance. He even jokes with Claire during an exchange in “Cut Man” from Episode 2:

Claire: I find a guy in a dumpster who turns out to be some kind of blind vigilante who can do all sorts of weird shit — like smell cologne through walls and sense whether someone is unconscious or faking it. Slap on top of that he can take an unbelievable amount of punishment without one damn complaint.

Matt Murdock: That last part is the Catholicism.

Daredevil’s writers strike a fine balance throughout the season in terms of addressing Murdock’s faith. It is very much a part of who he is, but it never becomes preachy, nor is it denigrated. This is a welcome surprise; covering themes found in Hubert Van Zeller’s “Suffering, The Cross of Christ and Its Meaning For You,” will only make Daredevil a better show.

While Mr. Murdock draws strength from his spirituality, it is also stressed that all of us need friends and family to lean on in tough times. The crosses we carry can be heavy, and the body is often weak. Without trusted allies, many of us would not be long in this world.

Matt delivers this message during Episode 11’s “The Ones We Leave Behind.”:

Matt Murdock: I had a really shitty night. The kind where you think you’ve seen the bottom of humanity, but the pit keeps on getting deeper. You know? I can’t do this alone. I can’t. I can’t take another step.

Karen: You’re not alone. You never were.

In short, Daredevil is a great fusion of crime drama and superhero fare. If you have Netflix, then it’s worth checking out. If you don’t have Netflix, then you may want to consider getting it when Daredevil’s second season arrives.

Chen Guangcheng: Real-world Daredevil

Blind lawyer Matt Murdock scales walls at night and takes on villains as Daredevil. Blind lawyer Chen Guangcheng scales walls at night and takes on Communist China. The difference? Chen is a real hero whose story needs to be told.

It’s the story of a blind lawyer, one who fights for the rights of those less fortunate. He’s hunted by his powerful enemies. He’s been forced into hiding. His heroism puts his family in danger. He scales massive walls in the middle of the night to secure his freedom. Sounds like we’re talking about the Marvel Comics hero Daredevil, right? Wrong. Instead, we’re talking about Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng.

The dramatic nighttime escape of a blind rights lawyer from extralegal house arrest in his village dealt a major embarrassment to the Chinese government and left the United States, which may be sheltering him, with a new diplomatic quandary as it seeks to improve its fraught relationship with Beijing. …

[With] Mr. Chen now believed to be on the grounds of the American Embassy in Beijing, administration officials are likely to be far more cautious in handling his case. His advocacy for the handicapped and for families subject to forced abortions and other coercive population control methods is widely known in the West. He also became a symbol of the deficiencies of China’s legal system after he was convicted of criminal charges in 2006 in a prosecution that Chinese lawyers — and even some officials in Beijing — felt made a mockery of China’s claims to be developing better legal norms.

We all love our fictional heroes. Millions will see The Avengers on May 4th, and millions will see The Dark Knight Rises on July 20th. But there are real heroes among us, and their stories are often times more exciting than what you see on the big screen. Since Hollywood types couldn’t even manage Red Dawn remake featuring China (they apparently went with North Korea to avoid annoying China), something tells me Chen’s story won’t be given the green light anytime soon. Add in his activism in opposition to China’s forced-abortion policy (the one Joe Biden “understands”) and it’s hard to imagine Hollywood investment in such an amazing story.

Chen Guangcheng may be blind, but he’s opening the eyes of millions of people to what Communist China really stands for. Like Shin In Geun, who somehow managed to escape from a North Korean gulag, the free world needs to familiarize itself with the story. We need to see what Chen sees. Tiny sparks can often create big flames, and fires are not always a bad thing—particularly if they’re burning oppressive regimes.