Last issue, Mark Waid had put Daredevil into quite the precarious predicament, and not just because a C-lister like the Shroud had gotten the better of him, but because of Shroud’s new, nefarious ends. This issue recasts the forgotten vigilante and quickly shines new light upon his motives and methods, but it doesn’t mean that everything’s hunky-dory. The Owl is in San Francisco and he’s become, seemingly, even more devious and ruthless. Waid manages to herd an awful lot of cats in this issue, having a team-up that actually has a great, central motivation both for the initial fight and the joining of forces against a greater threat as well as a startling revelation and some great law office scenes. None of the team-up seems contrived nor by-the-book, but this is, through-and-through an incredible, well-paced story. Waid is taking a classic formula and, rather than change all the rules, shows exactly how much variety and character development can come through strict adherence to those rules. He doesn’t think outside the box, he makes the box BETTER.
Chris Samnee handles the linework and shares a “storyteller” credit with Waid, so it seems only fair I credit him with some of the character development as well as giving Waid kudos for his role in the art. Samnee’s linework compliments Waid’s writing in that they’re both classically-styled and top-of-the-line. Samnee’s action is effortlessly fluid, his characters and designs are simple, but able to do complex things, both in terms of their emotional weight and the action they communicate. Javier Rodriguez’s colors are sharp and crisp, but still muted and moody. Even when things are bright, the colors are mellow and border on realistic, which establishes the tone of the book even more strongly.
There is an incredible revelation in this issue that I won’t spoil but that feels like it lacks any of the fanfare and drama it should have had. It was something that’s been hinted at for the reader, but it turns out that the core characters already knew it and that seems to be the source of the problem. The revelation is presented to the reader as though they were always in on it, like the characters are. It’s very matter-of-fact, when I feel like it should have been framed more shockingly.
This is not the first time the Owl has returned “more vicious than ever,” and I wish I knew a crimeboss character who could’ve gotten their moment to shine instead. As much as I love it when Waid takes a forgotten or underappreciated character and reimagines them as being AWESOME, and I love how he writes Owl, I feel like Bendis already did that with Owl in his Daredevil story. Having him return even MORE brutal and MORE ruthless feels like worn territory.
This is a superhero book for people who love superhero books. It is one of the purest examples of the traditional kind of story done exactly right, and while it may not be breaking new ground, it’s instead building a palatial estate on the ground that’s already there. Don't mistake thinking you've read this story before, even if you're experienced in the genre, Waid and Samnee are teaching old dogs incredible new tricks.