THE END! But of what? A life? A love? A marriage? Matt Murdock's time as Daredevil? Or the latest and greatest run in one of Marvel's most celebrated sagas? All of the above?
The Fist and the Hand are destroyed. Matt Murdock is in hell, having saved his friends’ souls. Elektra carries on in his name. It’s time for the last issue in a long run and the obligatory tying up of everything into a neat bow. Or is it? Daredevil #14 has very different ideas.
Daredevil #14 is a collection of character vignettes that aren’t adequately done justice by a detailed recap. A man walks past a bookstore called The Sleeping Giant. Foggy and North take a client whose husband died as a result of corporate pollution. Daredevil intercepts a shipment of guns and tracks them back to a crime boss. Foggy gives Matt’s chessboard to Reed Richards. Elektra walks through Hell’s Kitchen, beats up some street thugs threatening a shop owner, and finds herself at a church, speaking to a priest.
The plot of “The Red Fist Saga” is essentially over. Daredevil #14 replaces that plot with a general theme of rebirth. It’s on display throughout the issue. From Elektra’s new determination not to kill to a clock shop owner buying a party store so it stays open to Foggy’s new law firm being named Nelson and North. This story arc saw Matt Murdock descend, over and over again, until he finally entered hell itself to save his friends–and in Daredevil #13, stayed there. It’s been a non-stop build of tension, and a long intake of breath that couldn’t be released. Daredevil #14 is a release of all of that. The descent is over, and it’s time to rise.
This kind of issue has the potential to go badly. It’s the final one of Zdarsky’s run, so surely Matt can’t stay in hell no matter how well the story’s arc justified it. He has to return to reset the status quo and largely sidestep the consequences the series demanded. Thankfully, Zdarsky goes in a different direction. Rather than explicitly resurrect Matt, Zdarsky approaches resurrection as an idea. Matt is resurrected in spirit by those who knew him directly (Elektra and Foggy) or indirectly (people in Hell’s Kitchen). This loosely ties back to Matt’s Catholic heritage (as Zdarsky has done repeatedly in this run). The Catholic tradition holds that all people will be literally resurrected on the last day. Maybe a literal resurrection happens in this issue and maybe it doesn’t (to confirm either way would be to spoil compelling moments and a very strong ending). But in place of a literal resurrection, Zdarsky spends the bulk of the issue giving the series and its characters an affecting spiritual resurrection.
Checchetto handles the art duties on this final issue (the series has gone back and forth between him and Rafael De La Torre). More than once, these reviews have addressed his ability to communicate emotion through the more intimate details of facial expressions. Daredevil #14 requires detailed work in that area if it’s to succeed. Zdarsky’s dialogue is strong, but it’s also purposefully vague at times. It gets close to the emotional core of some scenes but leaves the art to go the rest of the way. Checchetto succeeds wildly here, and his work in this area eclipses everything he accomplished in previous issues.
Checchetto’s depiction of Foggy throughout this issue is a testament to this success. Checchetto never draws him as overtly sad. Indeed, there are some small smiles when interacting with North and Reed. But the look in Foggy’s eyes never matches the smile he offers his friends. Foggy is a man putting on a brave front, and it’s communicated entirely through the art. Zdarsky never writes dialogue to this effect, so more neutral expressions would have suggested that Foggy is further along in his healing process, perhaps largely moved on from his friend. Checchetto makes us understand the level of loss he continues to feel.
The color red plays a definite role here. Certainly red is always key in Daredevil because of the costume. And Wilson limits additional uses of the color to sequences that are thematically tied to Daredevil. When Elektra is walking through Hell’s Kitchen in civilian attire, she’s wearing a red shirt and shoes. When she beats up a thug in that sequence, the natural colors of both characters are replaced by red as the distance from the panel’s center grows. During a later action sequence between another thug and a person off the street, the two characters are colored fully in red. The shouted dialogue in that scene is white letters against a red background. And the priest at the church Elektra goes to is wearing a black coat with a red interior lining. All of these appearances of the color red link directly back to Daredevil in one way or another. Whether specified entirely by Zdarsky’s script, or conceived primarily by Wilson, the execution is excellent and each time the color appears, Daredevil is subtly evoked.
Cowles’s lettering is effective, but for most of the issue is unremarkable. The sound effects are spare and stand out as a result. The use of black caption boxes with white text work especially well, never getting lost against darker backgrounds, thanks to Cowles giving them a red border. His work on the final two pages, though, is particularly significant. A key character hears a pounding–baDUM. The sound effect is used only once in the first panel it appears and is set against the character’s dark silhouette right where their heart is. The character’s heartbeat. The sound effect appears on the next panel–bigger and three times. Then the panel after that, bigger still and four times. It appears in one last panel–one instance right above the character’s head. This is followed by the character taking action. Chechetto’s art here is very effective, but the sequence’s power and emotional intensity is communicated via the heartbeat that Cowles establishes.
A fight in hell between Matt Murdock and demons is hard to top. And the expectation going into this issue is that despite what we saw happen at the end of that fight, Zdarsky has to resolve it so the series can move on. But that’s completely subverted here, and the issue goes for a thematic closure rather than a literal one. It succeeds. Daredevil #14 is a powerful and exceptional comic–the pinnacle of a short, but successful series.
Daredevil #14: Rise
- Writing - 10/1010/10
- Storyline - 10/1010/10
- Art - 10/1010/10
- Color - 10/1010/10
- Cover Art - 10/1010/10
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