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Sunday, March 2, 2014

Daredevil: Visionaries

Daredevil: Visionaries



Marvel, 2000

Artist: Joe Quesada

Kevin Smith

Daredevil Vol. 2 #1-8


eight issues collected in Daredevil Visionaries: Kevin Smith are the first
eight of Daredevil vol. 2, and they serve less to reintroduce the Daredevil
character as to salute him with a sort of medley of fictional themes. Thus we
get writer Kevin Smith's twist on every ringer other Daredevil writers ever put
the long-suffering hero through, including woman trouble, suicidal urges,
lawyeristic mea culpa’s and, of course, a Secret Villain out to Ruin
Daredevil's Life. (Where would Daredevil be without the villains that obsess
about him enough to destroy him, over and over again?)

it's all fabulous, because Smith knows exactly what he's doing. The very clich
és he employs here in these eight issues are fodder
for commentary from him through the characters, and also serve as an
opportunity for him to shine by wringing freshness out of stale situations.
Often when a villain is out to ruin a hero's life, the hero acts as if it has
never happened before; unless continuity comes into play, the hero will exhibit
almost complete amnesia about similar situations. Smith is different; he allows
Daredevil to muse on the relative effectiveness of the villain at work in
Visionaries with the clear-sightedness of someone who remembers his past and
can critique it.

story arc found in Daredevil Visionaries: Kevin Smith spends much of its time
in and around the Catholic Church, as Daredevil deals with a mysterious baby who
has suddenly landed in his lap. The baby might be the returned savior, or might
be the old Son of the Morning, or might be none of these. But people seem
willing to kill on all sides, and soon the hero is teetering at the edge of his
sanity, tempted to slay a child that might be Satan himself.

a sort of star guest who came over to write Daredevil after writing and
directing Dogma, brings to this comic much the same irreverent humor and
genuinely loving keen eye for Catholic detail as that film. In his comic,
however, given more time and more characters, Smith provides a more layered and
human story. Smith is genuinely interested in questions of faith, and puts
meditations on faith in every character's mouth. Daredevil himself is a lapsed
Catholic who still inclines towards belief in the mysteries. His mother is a nun,
whose only shame is her son, a relationship Smith explores with expert
precision in a scene between the two, as mother and son tiptoe around one
another, dispensing equal parts rage, shame and adoration.

girlfriend, a DJ named Karen, has just broken up with him for one of those
delightfully meaningless reasons that I'm sad to report actually exist. Hers
goes something like: 'You love me even with all my faults, which is a very good
and generous thing, so I must leave you.' Or something. Anyway, she's outta there
and Matt Murdock, the attorney who is Daredevil, wastes about five seconds
before he's calling Natasha the Black Widow, an old girlfriend. (This is
another dead-level accurate Smith detail.) Natasha here is sexy, sarcastic and
not a little bit slutty, although she does have the decency to point out that
she'll drop Murdock for Tony Stark any day. Natasha, Smith tells us, has
'embraced the baggage that comes with being human.'

spends a little time with the other side of Daredevil's life, that of attorney
Matt Murdock. As someone who actually went through law school, I've always
enjoyed the idea of a lawyer so brazen as to go out and commit crimes every
night, as Daredevil certainly does with all his trespassing, destruction of
property, assaults and batteries. Technically an attorney is an officer of the
court, with a higher level of responsibility not to misbehave. I can assure you
Murdock flirts with disbarment every time he dons the little red horns.
(There's a story I'd love to see, if not write.)

Smith uses the attorney aspect well: Foggy Nelson, Murdock's partner, is
accused of murder, only to have the senior partner (Foggy's mom, no less) fire
him rather than bring shame on the firm. At first we can't imagine such a
horrible betrayal, but Smith has the senior partner point out that the firm
must represent many clients, and any shame Foggy brings on the firm may reflect
badly on their clients in court. And lest we think she's just being mean, we're
reminded that attorneys have taken a vow to zealously represent their client's
interests opposed to each other's. She has fired her son, and ethically, the
argument goes, she can do nothing else. There's a lot more to explore here, but
Smith has hit on the basic horror of the law: not that it forces you act to
like a monster, but like a machine.

so refreshing to read Smith's work on Daredevil, which invents little and yet
explores the places Daredevil has already been with such freshness and even
joy. There's a tongue-in-cheek feel to the whole work, as if Smith can't help
but give to his characters the sense that this story, this tragedy, this
villain, this fight, is exactly how life for them is supposed to be. Matt
Murdock will always be an attorney who feels sorry for himself despite being
surrounded by the most beautiful women in the Marvel Universe, and he will
always have arch-enemies who seek to destroy him in grand, operatic gestures.
In fact, the whole plot of this story arc is actually a comment on one of Frank
Miller's. This is a thoroughly post-modern Daredevil.

Daredevil Visionaries: Kevin Smith reminds me of The Insider in its use of
visuals to punch up a story that often stays far clear of action. Most of the
action here is strictly dialogue, as characters stand around in various spots
across the city. Consequently Joe Quesada and Jimmy Palmiotti give us the most
fluid, dynamic dialogue scenes ever, from as many angles as possible, always
with the suggestion of breezes to keep tiny parts of the art, hair, clothing, etc.
Moving. It's an exciting style.

Visionaries: Kevin Smith is a work by a writer who knows his comics and also
knows how to drag the world beyond them back into the Marvel Universe. The
result is a post-modern treat, and not one to be missed.

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