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

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Daredevil #7: Charles Soule running laps around Marvel peers

Daredevil Elektra 7

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 Season 2: Hold onto your principles — at any price

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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: 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.