Comic Book Review – Daredevil: Truth/Dare and Doing Time

Daredevil: Truth/Dare (2021)
Reprints Daredevil #21-25, Annual #1
Written by Chip Zdarsky
Art by Marco Checchetto, Manuel Garcia, Francisco Mobili, Mike Hawthorne

Daredevil: Doing Time (2021)
Reprints Daredevil #26-30
Written by Chip Zdarsky
Art by Marco Checchetto and Mike Hawthorne

Chip Zdarsky has completely sold me on Daredevil, a character I previously was lukewarm towards. The Marvel street-level characters outside of Spider-Man never really caught my attention. For years, I’ve tried picking up a Daredevil issue here and there to see if a new creative team could garner my interest, but they’ve continuously sputtered out. Zdarsky’s take on Daredevil works so well for me because the title is basically a two-hander. The story being told is just as much about Matt Murdock as it is about Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin. Years prior, Fisk was elected mayor of NYC, a concept I don’t think any writer has done much interesting with until now. By spending so much time with Fisk, we have really understood and even empathized with the character. He’s undoubtedly a villain, but he’s also a person. 

Truth/Dare is about Matt going through a challenging moment while setting up pieces for the big showdown. A big part of the story is the reintroduction of Mike Murdock, Matt’s estranged brother. The thing is, Matt never had a brother. Early in the Daredevil series, Matt would pose as his fake brother Mike as part of a ruse to throw people off his true identity. During Charles Soule’s run on the title, he had an Inhuman accidentally manifesting Mike from Matt’s psyche as a material being complete with fake memories implanted in people who would have known Mike. Mike is brought back by Zdarksy to pose as Matt, while Daredevil is put on trial and will eventually serve time in prison. 

Zdarsky reincorporates another element from Soule’s run where the latter writer established a Supreme Court case in the MCU where masked vigilantes are allowed to supply evidence to the courts but maintain their secret identity. I’m always a sucker for this world-building where a writer thinks about how systems in our reality would have to be altered to work in a comic book universe. I was drawn to Geoff Johns’ previous work for this exact reason because it felt rewarding as a longtime reader. You get to see something that might have been a one-off plot element expanded into an essential piece of the world. It works best with these structural things, especially with Matt being a lawyer. The MCU has some of the best-developed fictional legal explanations between this and Dan Slott’s She-Hulk run.

There is little action here, but that’s okay because the character drama is engaging. My biggest complaint about Truth/Dare would probably be how, outside his reintroduction in the Annual, not much is done with Mike Murdock. He’s there as Matt in his law offices and the courtroom, but we don’t get much character growth from him. I think spending more time with the character and exploring what it means to not really exist would have been pretty interesting. But so many of Zdarsky’s characters make you want to spend more time with them, but maybe the broad strokes are the best way to tell this story.

One of the biggest worries I have while enjoying a good comic book run is when I see a crossover issue with a more significant event. Sometimes these are handled well; I always appreciated how Bendis’ Avengers books would serve as spotlights on characters while allowing the big story to play out in the event mini-series. Geoff Johns did something similar during Forever Evil. Zdarsky, in Doing Time, manages to let the Venom: King in Black event touch on his own book without ever feeling like we’ve gone off track. Not only that, but he still keeps his own narrative moving forward and develops Typhoid Mary by having the symbiote take control of her. Daredevil even has a showdown in his mind with the symbiote god Knull.

We also have two Daredevils at work in this collection. Matt can remain masked and unidentified as he serves his sentence. Outside, Elektra has donned a variation on the Daredevil costume and patrols Hell’s Kitchen. Elektra finds herself forced to discover middle ground between her inclinations to kill first & ask questions later with the more humane touch Matt typically employs. In prison, Matt is quickly learning everyone from prisoners to guards to even the warden has it in for him. I did enjoy the pushback from people like the prison doctor on Matt’s comfort with following laws when it’s convenient to him; a good critique of the masked superhero concept.

Lingering in the background is the budding friendship between Mike Murdock and Butch. Butch has so far seemed like no one that important to the story, but in Doing Time, we begin to see him rising up the ranks of the Libris crime family, especially now that the heir apparent is dead. Who Butch is and his personal connection to an essential character really start to play out here. There’s also the return of Bullseye as Fisk has him locked up in a laboratory to create a clone the mayor can completely control. I’m sure you can guess that won’t play out well for Fisk. We also get a spectacularly written and illustrated prison yard fight in the rain between Matt and a group of prisoners who hoped to ambush him.

Zdarsky has set the table quite well for the next act of his Daredevil run. Matt and Fisk thought they knew the score only for events to play out and remind them they were just players in the game like everyone else. Elektra also takes on a protege due to the circumstances of The King in Black, which leads her down a path we really haven’t seen before as a mentor. Next week, we’ll look at the next volume, Lockdown, and the main event Devil’s Reign.

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