Writer: David Hine
Artist: Michael Gaydos, Lee Loughridge (colours)
This final issue of David Hine’s excellent miniseries jumps ahead seven years to present what has become of Joel Flood, the wrongly accused teenager from the Redemption Valley murder case, who faces state execution seven years after his guilty verdict and a slew of failed appeals. When Matt Murdock arrives, he encounters his ex-intern Constance, now an appeal caseworker on Death Row, who acknowledges the new status quo of Matt’s recent public “outing,” and gives him her opinion on his role as a vigilante. Soon, however, events proceed to the execution chamber, and it becomes clear that there’s no neat happy ending in sight for this story, whether you’ve got a superhero for a lawyer or not.
It’s a strong, confident piece of writing from David Hine to sidestep a shallower, more obviously emotive conclusion which revolves around the trial verdict and instead concentrate on the impact of Joel’s sentence on his family and friends (and, crucially. on Matt), and it pays off in spades here. Through Hine’s writing, we see an older, more mature Joel Flood who has lost the rash emotion of his youth and seems to face his death sentence with a greater understanding of, and even resignation to, his fate. The impact of this scene is even greater for Joel’s continuing, dignified protests of innocence which, thanks to the extra-sensory powers of Daredevil, we know to be true. When Joel says “I want to see my son grow up, Matt… I don’t want to die,” you can feel the injustice and emotional weight far more keenly than any overblown courtroom showdown could have managed to provide. When the execution comes, it’s as chilling and realistic as possible, and, without wanting to get into too involved a debate about the death penalty, rams home the grim reality of capital punishment in as honest a way as possible, Matt’s enhanced senses only serving to capture every grisly nuance of the process. The ever-excellent artwork by Michael Gaydos is as intentionally mundane and grounded as possible, making it clear that although this is a fantasy book, the issues being dealt with are very real.
The stark Sienkiewicz cover also helps to capture the horrific, clinical atmosphere of the execution chamber, etching a nightmarish depression and despair on Daredevil’s mask and conveying his inability to intervene in an image of gut-wrenching helplessness. Matt certainly goes through some difficult soul-searching as a result of the execution this issue, with the expression of his feelings of Catholic guilt and impotence during the process heightened by visual nuances, whether in his crushed body language, or through the effective colouring work from Lee Loughridge which picks out Matt’s trademark red glasses among the crowd of spectators, encouraging the reader to identify with his complex feelings. The imaginary sequences which show Daredevil rescuing Joel at the last minute reflect not only Joel’s own desperate dreams of rescue at the hands of his lawyer, but also Matt’s burning desire to put things right himself. The cause of Matt’s inaction at this point is left ambiguous to the reader. Is it a conscious reaction to Constance’s advice early on in the issue to let the justice system take its course, whether it throws out the right result or not? Or is it a simple sense of self-preservation, knowing that to intervene here would mean that his secret was truly out once and for all? It’s another shade of grey that Hine happily leaves up to the reader to decide, making for a more sophisticated and satisfying read that a neat, pat conclusion would have provided.
Whilst there might be a couple of plot elements which seem a little too conveniently massaged into place to suit the story (especially when you consider the seven-year gap between the events of the first five issues and the majority of this final instalment), these nitpicks are minor at best. This is an excellent finale to a miniseries which has showed a very different take on Daredevil to the current direction of his core title, making the most of Matt Murdock the lawyer and restraining his presence as Daredevil to great effect. Daredevil: Redemption dares to show us a story about what happens when the system doesn’t work as it should, and even questions whether Matt’s actions as a vigilante really go far enough to make a difference this time. The series’ true villain may meet some sort of justice by the time events in this issue play out, but the justice that is delivered by Daredevil is after the event, and is ultimately too little too late. There’s a bittersweet quality to this climax which plays on the mind even after you’ve turned the final page, making for a far more relevant and satisfying read than most superhero comics manage, and gives the reader food for thought far beyond the usual slugfests and spandex that the genre usually provides. The new creative team of Brubaker and Lark (who follow Bendis and Maleev on the core title in a few months) should take note: this is what makes the character sophisticated; this is what makes the character unique; this is how to write a great Daredevil story.
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