by Alex IrvineWhen I first read this collection in a single-issue format, I was a little disappointed, and definitely amused by the pointlessness of taking Marvel's most consistent noir character and trying to make him.. more noir, somehow. The whole thing seemed stupid, and while I love noir and I love Daredevil and don't pass up chances to read either type of story, I didn't get it. This seemed like a standard Daredevil story, but in the 1930s and with a more shadowy version of Bullseye who doesn't appear on panel for a while (a very effective way to build up the menace of the character, by the way).
Tonight, though, reading this collection in one sitting, I think I get it better. This isn't about making Matt Murdock more like Sam Spade. It's about challenging the classic noir story by making it more Daredevil.
Most of this story owes a great deal to Dashiell Hammett, as the framing sequence is a beautiful scene of a protagonist and an enormous antagonist having a controlled but furious conversation in an office, much like Spade's interactions with Gutman in The Maltese Falcon. We also get a nod to the Falcon with Eliza, a beautiful woman who hires our heroic private detectives, and we see a glimpse of Red Harvest when Murdock protecting Eliza leads to images of chaotic gang warfare.
For all the homages to classic noir, though, this story challenges them with the special abilities that make Matt Murdock unique. He's a human lie detector, which is a neat parlor trick in the regular Marvel Universe. In a noir story, though, where human interaction pulses with lies and a yearning to trust someone while knowing that this is impossible, a human lie detector has something of a disadvantage. He can't let himself be morally grey, he can't dance the conversational dances that his enemies have mastered, he can't plan for the scenarios in which he can be fooled and manipulated. Unless, of course, he wears a mask and pretends to be someone else. That's what makes this story so compelling; Sam Spade doesn't lose control, Philip Marlowe doesn't lose control.. but Daredevil exists here for the sole purpose of losing control, in a way that elevates both the noir story and the Daredevil story.
There are plenty of reasons to enjoy this book: the gorgeous art that evokes the 1930s and stays rainy and grim, the narrative that churns through plot points and keeps bringing us back to the framing conversation, the genuine surprises along the way... I encourage readers, though, to love this collection not as a Daredevil comic lost in a speakeasy. Please see it instead as a noir story challenged to live with a mask.
|eBook format||Kindle Edition, (torrent)|
|File size||7.6 Mb|
|Book rating||3.54 (259 votes)