Matt Murdock’s troubles began when Chip Zdarsky came to town. Well, kind of — it’s almost a running gag between the writers of Daredevil to put Matt Murdock in a horrible, dire situation and then hand the character off to the next writer. Brian Michael Bendis outed Matt’s secret identity and put him in prison before handing him off to Ed Brubaker, who in turn made Matt the leader of The Hand for Andy Diggle, and so the cycle continued. Most recently, Charles Soule “killed” Matt Murdock and then handed the reins off to Chip. There was a wonderful Man Without Fear five issue mini-series by Jed MacKay that bridged the space between Soule and Zdarsky that showed Matt Murdock having to relearn his skills and deal with a lifetime of mental and physical pain — great points for Chip to have Matt Murdock mess up as Daredevil.
In the current series, we’ve seen Matt Murdock go back to being Daredevil and protecting Hell’s Kitchen as always, but in issue #1 of the current series we see Matt drinking and taking his pain medication — not a good idea. Daredevil goes out on his usual patrol and hears a couple of thugs going for a liquor store robbery and takes them on, which leads to him not doing a great job of street fighting and causing the death of Leo Carraro. What is interesting about that scene is when Daredevil jumps into battle, we can read his thoughts and Matt is thinking, “I’ve missed it.” This leads to a crazy spiral in his life and Hell’s Kitchen. Wilson “Kingpin” Fisk is still the mayor of NY, the underground is warring for a new Kingpin with the Owl getting deadlier, Daredevil is fist fighting cops, and a twist of fate has led Matt Murdock to being the Parole Officer of Leo’s brother, Joey Carraro.
In turn, Matt Murdock has been confronted by several of Marvel’s heroes. The Punisher is all for his new Daredevil who embraces violence, but Matt doesn’t see it that way. In issue #5, the Defenders stop by to check on him and even let Matt know they are worried about what is happening. The best confrontation, though, was with Spider-Man. Now they don’t quip as Peter and Matt, since it looks like neither knows each other’s alter ego, but Spider-Man really goes to the heart of the matter and warns Daredevil that he is getting sloppy and crossing lines, no longer being a hero. Matt takes this to heart and Daredevil is gone.
Again, this was issue #5, the conclusion to the first story arc, “Know Fear” — as of this article’s release, we are currently on issue #17 so it has been a while since there’s been a Devil in Hell’s Kitchen.
Matt has tossed himself into his work as a Parole Officer to help escape his vigilante ways, but working on Joey Carraro’s case is making it hard to let go of the guilt. Matt has turned to his religion, but that seems to be a source of luring him back to being Daredevil as he considers his “gifts” a higher calling. This hasn’t exactly led to him being a good Catholic, as he is now running around in a black suit, similar to his Netflix/Man Without Fear costume, and sleeping with a married woman. These newer actions are weighing on Matt’s soul as he struggles with his faith and his actions. Issue #7 has a great moment of panic in which Matt finds out that he is working with the brother of the man’s whose death he is responsible for…and the man blames him, too. This causes Matt to have a panic attack along with a crisis of conscience and faith.
To add to the drama, Elektra has returned to Daredevil’s life. She tells him that she doesn’t know who the man under the mask is…but later, we find out differently. Thanks to Elektra’s return, we see Matt become a better “Man Without Fear” as he is in more control and confident of his actions; almost similar to his trainings with Stick and his earlier adventures. Matt is very happy to be working with Elektra as they steal money from the Stromwyn siblings and is feeling very “Robin Hood” about it, giving the bounty to the people of Hell’s Kitchen. As the pieces and people start to intersect, we see a need for a Daredevil in Hell’s Kitchen — even the people are starting to go out dressed as Daredevil in order to keep the streets safe.
Marvel has recently released a press statement talking about Daredevil returning to his classic red suit this upcoming May in issue #21. So how will Matt make that return? In issue #17, we have seen Matt go to Joey and Leo’s mom in a way to offer her his share of money, hoping to atone for his guilt. Yet she surprises Matt and lets him know that she knows all of it — the death of her son, Matt being Daredevil and his role in the death. Along with those revelations and surprises, she also can see how much this guilt is weighing on Matt and forgives him. Could this be the catalyst that helps Matt turn around? We do see him spring into action to confront the Stromwyns and let them know he is onto their actions and plans for Hell’s Kitchen, but the best part is reading Matt’s thoughts as he is fighting the guards. He knows how to strike again without wounding and he knows this is not a violent fight, but instead a matter of survival.
The overall series has been amazing and a great exploration of Matt Murdock’s faith and responsibility. Chip Zdarsky is just putting Matt deeper and deeper in the hole, but is also providing him with the tools to get out. Matt Murdock’s interactions with the people on the streets show that he is a respected member of the community, and with a new career as a Parole Officer, we can see Matt use the law in a different manner to help. So at least in some of Matt’s headspace we can see healing and confidence returning, but how will Matt restore his faith? I believe that the forgiveness will help, but Matt has to come to terms with his own inner demons, so maybe there might be more of an interaction with Matt and the Church? We also know that the Stromwyns are not happy with Matt’s involvement of their plans and finances — as a matter of fact, they are calling in a specialist who doesn’t miss, which looks like might be happening in issue #18.
It’s a fantastic time to be a Daredevil fan, and this series is no doubt going to be of historical significance for the character going forward. For younger fans, this would be like picking up and reading Born Again as it was coming out in stores. The artists on this series are delivering some amazing visuals and great concepts on Matt’s powers, along with the emotions he is projecting. I highly recommend going back and getting the last arc of Charles Soule’s Daredevil run, The Death of Daredevil, and Jed MacKay’s Man Without Fear miniseries in order to really strengthen the current volume.
For more, check out all of AIPT’s Daredevil coverage.