It would be impossible to talk about the end of writer Mark Waid and artist Chris Samnee’s four-year run on Daredevil (the longest unbroken run ever on the book) without talking about how it actually ends. So, this review won’t be spoiler free.
The last few issues put Matt Murdock in a difficult place. Thanks to the machinations of fellow vigilante, The Shroud, he was forced to ask his greatest enemy Wilson Fisk for help. Unsurprisingly, the Kingpin of Crime double-crossed Matt and held his girlfriend Kirsten McDuffie and best friend Foggy Nelson at gunpoint. Faced with the impossible task of beating a highly-skilled assassin who has all of his powers and still has his sight too, Matt had figured out a way to save everyone when The Shroud stepped in and ruined everything. Going into this issue, the prospects of the story getting a happy ending were at rock bottom. And yet, it happened.
At first, I was disappointed. I spent so long waiting for things to go wrong that when they didn’t, it felt like being cheated of a stronger story. Why not take a risk and make Matt suffer a big loss? That’s what would have happened in the past and what we’d been building to for months. Hell, we didn’t even get to see how Kirsten and Matt’s relationship ended, something we definitively know will happen thanks to the flash-forward in the 50th Anniversary issue. But then I realized, a tragic or risky ending doesn’t necessarily mean better.
Matt Murdock is a traditionally dark character, a guy who tries his hardest and loses everything anyway. Waid caught flack throughout his run for moving the character away from that history and giving readers something more light-hearted, but that’s precisely what’s made his take on the character so remarkable.
Matt has experienced so much sadness and hurt that he started to believe that was the only way to live. That’s what the final (admittedly maybe a little abrupt and heavy-handed) panels of this issue are about. Even after scoring an almost unqualified win, Matt is too afraid of future pain to enjoy it. He’s already punishing himself for the day he can’t save the people he loves. Luckily, those same people are there to remind him that sometimes in life, you get to win. Just because he’s an unmasked vigilante doesn’t mean he doesn’t get to be happy. That’s precisely why he does. He can actually do something to make life better for himself and others. That may not be a difficult message, but it’s mature and that’s not always easy to find.