Matt Murdock has been through hell his entire life. Yet for the last year and a half he’s fought the most human struggle he could- his own mortality. Daredevil #21 finds Matt face to face with the next stage of that battle.
The next big arc of this acclaimed series is sure to be a game changer for Matt Murdock. He’s possibly killed a man. He’s hung up the cowl. He’s defended his neighborhood. But now he has to face the consequences, thanks to Chip Zdarsky, Marco Checchetto, Mattia Iacono, and Clayton Cowles.
The Battle of Hell’s Kitchen is won. Daredevil, the Kingpin and their allies have defeated the mercenaries hired by the Stromwyn siblings to destabilize the Kitchen. However Matt Murdock knows what he needs to do. He needs to face the consequences, and it’s only a desperate gambit by Foggy Nelson that could ensure he’s safe.
Zdarsky continues to prove that he’s an absolute master in this issue. He combines plot, continuity and excellent characterization to create a captivating issue with Matt and his mistakes right in the middle of it all. The brilliant use of Foggy, a character who’s been an important but infrequent presence in the volume so far, drives the issue over the top, not just showing what a great supporting cast Daredevil has but also that Matt needs the people around him. The issue also includes a great use of Spider-Man, an interpretation that others have followed, with Peter acting as a street level Captain America, a moral compass for other heroes in New York to look up to. Cowles brings the script to life, using small, sparse balloons that pace the script across the issue perfectly.
Checchetto is able to bring Hell’s Kitchen to vivid life. His style is extremely realistic, but he adds flourishes to that realism that makes his pages feel very cinematic. His Matt has a quiet dignity with a sense of tension that feels like a big cat about to pounce. That’s combined with excellent composition and layouts that drive the story forward as strongly as the script. Iacono’s color art is vibrant while also being somewhat subdued. He uses mostly dull and earthy colors, so when the bright red of Matt’s costume bursts onto the page- for the first time in around 18 issues- it’s an explosive, fist-pumping moment of excitement, and a perfect synthesis of both artists.
That’s not to say it’s a perfect comic. The issue was complete months ago, before the civil unrest over police brutality and violence in the US became so prominent, but it does lean into a trope that is even more glaring today that it was before. Though good cops do exist, the “one good cop” trope is tired, and stands out in an issue that’s otherwise full of commentary about the broken and corrupt system that exists in the United States today. I’d love to see Zdarsky lean more into that commentary, without relying on Detective North so heavily as a balance.
That said, Daredevil continues to be one of the best books in comics, and this run is not slowing down. I can’t wait to see what’s next for the Man Without Fear.
Daredevil #21 is available now from Marvel Comics.