By Mark Waid & Chris Samnee
When the real world meets fantasy, we approach a strange impasse: we are reading something that doesn’t exist, yet if presented in such a way that it ties the story to a believable reality it becomes grounded, more accessible. Otherwise it relies on our suspension of disbelief to succeed and has a greater chance of failing. This juggling act between connecting reality and fantasy makes alluding to real live events and analogizing them into an artistic representation easily capable of diminishing any intended message, the overall fantasy, and the work as a whole. However, Mark Waid and Chris Samnee’s social commentary in this month’s Daredevil firmly establishes this connection and elevates an already fantastic read to a whole new level.
Offered with a defined partisan bias, Murdock views the allegorical trial with a sense of predisposed guilt; he has unabashedly condemned the accused to a sentence of deserved guilt. Murdock follows his condemnation with a profound qualification: his opinion on the case, guilt, and sentencing have absolutely no bearing on the wonderful nature of the American justice system. Even with its flaws and inconsistencies the imposition of individual opinion is cast aside in favor of evidence and due process. Herein lies the core of the bridge between fantasy and reality. Matt Murdock, a fictional lawyer in the same position of those defending the very person he condemns, acknowledges the right to be judged fairly under the eye of the law.
This connection is taken one step further through stressing the in-panel mood of the characters. What starts with an uplifting and hopeful scene very quickly pivots with dramatic tension when focusing on the allegorical trial. Smiles turn to concerned gazes, and the weight of the situation becomes inescapable.
Then in a secondary pivot, the tone gets even heavier. Sudden riots, anger, and an outbreak of violent justice takes to the streets; Matt Murdock’s position turns against his own beliefs. Embracing the idea that justice is blind, Daredevil by his own admission is unable to stop the violent outcry for justice. Waid and Samnee ask us to consider the ambiguous nature of Daredevil’s available options: his mission is to help those in need, but due to the commotion he is unable to see (literally and figuratively) the difference between those in peril and those who are instigating. What can he truly do to protect the innocent?
Daredevil has received critical acclaim, awards from just about every corner of the industry, and positive responses from fans across the board. But this praise needs to be taken a step further. Daredevil is not just a really good comic; it is a really important comic.
It’s not very often that comic creators are able to tactfully and skillfully approach real life problems and break them down through the eyes of fantasy. To attempt this and incorporate a message so seamlessly into an already established story, as if it had been planned from the beginning, shows that Waid and Samnee are doing more than just telling compelling super hero stories, they’re using the medium to get us thinking. And maybe this element was present all along, and maybe it was all building up to an issue like this to get us to really open our eyes.