Images & Words – Daredevil #506

Daredevil 506

[images & words is the comic book pick-of-the-week at OL. equal parts review and diatribe, the post highlights the most memorable/infuriating/entertaining book released that wednesday]

Spoilers Ahead. Forreal.

Shit’s late. I know. Normally I pump out Images & Words for Thursday consumption, sometimes even Wednesday. But this week I’ve been fighting the worst sickness I’ve had in years. This battle has included two trips to my primary care physician, a visit to the Emergency Room that lasted until 2:30 AM, and another voyage to Infectious Diseases. All in all, I stumped somewhere around eleven doctors. Huzzah? Oh wait, shit…

But despite feeling physically and mentally broken, I managed to read this week’s comic books. As they tend to, the comics lifted my spirits and helped me forget, if only for a few moments, just how miserable I was. It’s a magical gift, and truly part of the reason I will always return to the medium.

The comic book pick-of-this-week is Daredevil #506, which is hardly a surprise to me. Daredevil is easily the most underappreciated title of the last couple of years, even after Ed Brubaker departed with issue five-hundred. It feels like the only book from either of the Big Two Publishers that isn’t afraid to actually develop its characters rather than reeling in every progressive line cast. Matt Murdock is no longer a New York City attorney, but the leader of the global crime syndicate The Hand. He’s been trying to use The Hand for good — with mixed results. The one consistency, however, has been a refreshing and captivating monthly release.

This issue centers around Murdock’s attempts to bring together the Daimyos of The Hand’s various regions, despite their distaste for one another. The book opens with Daredevil and Bakuto, an outspoken critic of The Hand’s new leader, fighting off a pack of ninja assassins. Which, as you probably know, is a simple enough task — except that they’ve both been drugged. The result is a battle filled with all sorts of trippy visuals; Murdock looks like Satan, the ninjas look like ghouls, and the flashes of reality are grim & striking.

This sort of layered quality is present throughout the rest of the issue. There’s plenty of action in Daredevil, but it’s tempered with a story that keeps the reader guessing. Which of the Daimyos can Murdock trust? Is Bakuto really a villain? Was Elektra really on that page or was she just a vision? Writers Diggle & Johnston succeed in leading us to these questions while not instantly offering answers. There is a definite mystery to Daredevil and the title is the better for it.

The art provided by Marco Checchetto and colors by Matt Hollingsworth are simply perfect for this book. There is a real darkness to the imagery, conveying the sense that Matt Murdock is wondering through his own internal confusion. In fact, the brightest page of the whole book comes in the aforementioned opening scene, as a hallucinatory-moon shines onto the battle. Leaving a bit of a shroud around the characters really fits the tone at hand. Murdock is trying to sort out the mess in front of him and the reader has to occasionally strain an eye to do the same.

The other important visual characteristic worth mentioning is the range of subjects. Checchetto and Hollingsworth deftly work their way through crowded fights, evaporating skeletons, two-person conversations, dream sequences, and a slew of other varied scenarios. It’s always nice to have artists who can handle a variety of narrative styles within a single issue. And this is part of the wonder of Daredevil – we get to see the titular character travel through a number of different worlds. This isn’t just the rough urban environment Daredevil has become synonymous with, but a sort of mystical Japanese realm that harkens back to the days of feudal lords.

If you enjoy superhero comics, go snag Daredevil #506. It’s a worthy read, with writers and artists who know what they’re doing. Trust me. After all, I’m not an expert.