Daredevil #36: Hell’s Kitchen No More
It’s never easy to reinvent a character, especially not one as iconic as Daredevil. For years, the Man Without Fear was the constant target of unending suffering, ending with a possession by a demon of The Hand and Daredevil’s near destruction of New York City. When all of that ended, Daredevil stepped into a new chapter, a lighter, more fun era penned by writer Mark Waid. For 36 issues, Waid told Daredevil stories in a way that stood completely apart from all that had come before it. Now, he and artist Chris Samnee are set to do it again.
Now, the next phase of Daredevil’s life begins. Fear not though, true believers, Waid and Samnee are setting up the next arc to be a doozy. Matt Murdock, aka Daredevil, is leaving New York. The man who has kept Hell’s Kitchen safe since the '60s is moving out to sunnier pastures in San Francisco. It’s really the only thing to do. If Daredevil is really to be reinvented, everything he knows must be stripped away, allowing him to rebuild.
Daredevil #36 is a wonderful book, one where our hero takes care of a lingering threat, and also rolls the dice with both his and Foggy Nelson’s future. Waid is able to get at the heart of what makes Daredevil such a lasting character. Integrity. If you look back over the breadth of what’s been done with a post-Frank Miller Daredevil, you see that the character’s level of personal integrity has always been both his best quality and his Achilles' heel. Even in this issue, he takes risks to defeat an enemy because his own sense of personal integrity demands it. Waid is smart by allowing Foggy to bring that idea into the light, especially because the scene between Murdock and Foggy is wonderfully written.
The final piece in all this is love. Daredevil has had his red-ass handed to him several times in the world of love. Now, with a beautiful, intelligent, and recently unemployed assistant DA at his side, Daredevil has another new part of his life to take to California. Waid balances the new ideas with some lasting questions. How will Matt’s public admission of being Daredevil effect his ability to be a hero, and his relationship with other heroes? Foggy is still battling cancer, and now doing it without medical insurance or a job. Both he and Murdock have been disbarred from the state of New York. There’s a slim chance both can practice in California, which is why they are heading out there. Issue #36 is the perfect way to end a run on a book.
Chris Samnee’s art is amazing as always. Just flipping through the issue you can see how well his pencils blended with Waid’s ideas. Past Daredevil books, as brilliantly drawn as they were, often remained dark and menacing. Samnee’s unique style let Daredevil breathe, and gave it an upbeat feel without the series becoming goofy. Samnee was also able to turn it all on a dime, and suddenly, those menacing shadows would return. Samnee understands the character, and always nails the panels.