Saturday, June 08, 2013

Daredevil: Dark Nights #001 – A Review

I eagerly encourage you to go out and get this issue and experience it for yourself.  But if you need to hear my lavish praise to convince you, please continue.  Or if you've already read it, see if you agree with me.


Daredevil: Dark Nights #001
Writer & Artist: Lee Weeks
Color Artist: Lee Loughridge
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Publisher: Marvel
Price: $2.99

Lee Weeks has long been one of my favorite artists and he’s certainly in the Top 10 (or Top 5) for drawing Daredevil. He’s also doubling as the writer here (not his first time I think) and he’s created a wonderful story that is the very definition of excellence.  The pacing, setting, characterization, mood, conflict, drama, dialogue, etc. could all be used to teach a class on how to make a great comic book.  The art is stupendous.  It not only looks fantastic, but it conveys scenes like an Academy Award winning movie.  “Angels Unaware” could very well be my favorite thing he’s ever done and it’s a textbook Daredevil tale that reveals the essence of the character (sans Ninjas).  All this praise and I’ve only read the first chapter (“Whiteout”) of the three-part arc.

I know some of us prefer linear stories and they certainly have their place.  And they’re definitely better than most Pulp Fiction mix-em-up tales.  However, Lee Weeks uses flashbacks to great effect here to control the emotional momentum.


First panel: Blood on the snow and an appropriate Bible verse from Isaiah.  It’s Daredevil’s blood and as we pan out for the rest of the page, we see that he’s sunk deep into the falling snow, lying spread-eagle and unconscious.  We know the Who and the Where, but the Why, What, and How are still a mystery.  End prologue and the first page.

Credit Page

This page features a nice repurposed Chris Samnee graphic of a red DD silhouette with a back drop of large snowflakes.  I normally wouldn’t comment on it except that the defining paragraph contains a typo (“foru” instead of “four”), a plural noun mistake (“sense” instead of “senses”), and adjective error (“fight” instead of “fighting”).  I hope they correct this when they compile the eventual trade.  I suppose they normally don’t include the original comic credits, but I think they should because it serves as a transition page.


One page and five panels echo the sentiments of Alanis Morissette’s song Ironic.  A father and mother with two young children pack up in the mini-van to begin a long awaited vacation from Eastern Pennsylvania.  There’s old snow on the ground, but the pavement is clear.  The mother falls asleep in the passenger chair, content that her husband finally kept his promise to make this trip.  Tragedy only takes a moment as the mini-van collides with a tractor trailer on the now snow-covered interstate.  The narration is the cherry on top for this gut-wrenching sequence: “This year, next year finally came – if only for a moment. What she wouldn’t give for one more broken promise.”


Four pages with five, eight, five, and seven panels, respectively introduce us to our main character, but not right away.  The blizzard sets into Manhattan and the only things open are the coffee houses and hospitals.  Outside of one of them two paramedics bring in an unconscious and semi-frozen Matt Murdock dressed in his “civvies”, not his costume.  But wasn’t it Daredevil that was stuck in the snow at the beginning of the story?  It’s a natural question that the reader is supposed to ask.  There’s no time for answers yet though, because we just need to see how Matt responds to treatment first.  He came in with a contusion to the head, so when he awakes he doesn’t remember who he is and his senses are mute.  Then they jump start again and he’s bombarded with voices.  The medical staff must think he’s on drugs or something as he lashes out.  “What voices do you hear?” a nurse asks (I wasn’t going to stereotypically call her a nurse, not in this day and age, but she does refer to the man as doctor) as she administers a sedative in his IV.  “ALL OF THEM!”  Matt shouts.  Just before he passes out he notices her perfume.  The lettering throughout this issue and this sequence in particular is prominent and definitely part of the visuals.


This seven page sequence provides the answers to the lingering questions.  We see that Matt has fallen asleep at his desk while “getting lost in a good book”.   That book is in fact the Good Book a.k.a. the Word of God a.k.a. the Holy Bible.  The passage he was reading is partially obscured by his cross, but it’s Psalm 144:

144 Blessed be the Lord, my rock,
Who trains my hands for war,
And my fingers for battle;
My lovingkindness and my fortress,

My stronghold and my deliverer,
My shield and He in whom I take refuge,
Who subdues [a]my people under me.
O Lord, what is man, that You take knowledge of him?
Or the son of man, that You think of him?
Man is like a mere breath;
His days are like a passing shadow.

That’s just the first stanza; click the link above for the whole passage.  The warrior imagery, the fleetingness of man’s life, and the faith in God’s protection are all appropriate in the context of the story.  The accompanying Proverb is also significant, because it illustrates that Matt really does take stock in the Scriptures. 

The time frame of the story is not entirely clear.  We only are informed that Matt and Foggy are working together, so it could be the Marvel past during one of Matt’s more lucid and sane times.  The only clue that it might be more current is a reference to a better DD outfit for the cold designed by Stark.  This could suggest that it’s today (or NOW) and he’s an Avenger.  I actually would have preferred that it remain more timeless, but the point of telling us at all is to explain why Matt chooses to walk home, rather than swing around on his billy club line.  It’s getting to be near whiteout conditions, hence the title.

Next we shift to another hospital scene in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.  The page is masterfully laid out.  The panels primarily run on the right side and are “silent” devoid of word balloons, except for one narration box at the top.  The rest of the text runs down a wide white strip on the left like a poem.  It’s really a shame that original art today contains no lettering, because the pictures are less effective without the words.  Together though, it’s a heart stopper.  It’s that family from the van.  The Dad has a broken arm; the daughter was unscathed which is deemed “a miracle”, and the bereft mother prays beside her brain dead son.  It makes me tear up even to write it.  They are keeping him alive until his organs can be harvested for a transplant back in NYC where a little girl needs a new heart.  The reader knows that it’s Matt’s hospital, because we already “heard” about her in a passing phrase.  The parents, obviously portrayed as people of faith, see the transplant as a possible good that can come out of their tragedy.  The boy’s name was Nathan, a Biblical name.

I guess this scene is particularly emotional to me, because I’ve been present when someone “pulled the plug” on a brain-dead child.  Fifteen years ago, my wife’s step-sister was murdered while eight month’s pregnant.  They tried to save the mother first, but when the baby was taken out, it was alive, but with little to no brain function.  The whole family gathered around together in the hospital to send this little soul to Heaven.  To this day their killer has not been clearly identified and certainly hasn’t seen justice yet.

Meanwhile, Matt becomes the target of some muggers.  The snow is damping his senses, but he still manages to overcome the two thieves.  Too bad there were three!  A “WHUKK” to the head that would’ve made Al Capone proud sends him down hard into the snow.   These two pages from the crack of the bat to the fade out in the snow is a modern retelling of Jesus’ Good Samaritan parable.  People pass Matt by thinking he’s “just a drunk”, but it’s a homeless man (likely an actual alcoholic) that has compassion on him and takes him to the hospital.  Again the words are just as vital as the pictures.  There’s even a comparison to the Born Again saga.  Also visually we see Matt’s ID card sink into the snow, which parallels his amnesia.

Back in Bethlehem…I just figured out why Lee Weeks picked that particular town as his setting…the organ donor helicopter takes off trying to get to New York before the storm “blows up in about 30 minutes”.  “But, it’s 40 minutes to New York!” one of the St. Luke’s crew cries. “I know…and so do they.” The size of the WHUP-WHUP WHUP-WHUP WHUP-WHUP sound effects vary based on the volume and distance of the chopper.   By the last panel you can barely see its outline in the snow and the reader understands that they’re not going to quite make it.


There was another significant reason for Matt losing his wallet; they don’t know who he is at St. Jude’s hospital and the nurse asks an aid to break into his locked briefcase to find out anything on his identity.  The exchange between the man and woman speaks volumes and enriches their characters in just a few short panels.  While Matt rests in his hospital bed, he takes in the sounds.  He learns more specifics about the girl and her impending transplant, and in an eerily silent city, he hears a helicopter sputter in the distance.

Elsewhere in the ER, the muggers who took down Matt try to rob people in the waiting room.  They utilize the third guy in the wings strategy again and confiscate the guard’s gun.  A flying reflex testing instrument dislodges the revolver from one of the thug’s hand and in three starkly red panels; Matt goes all “Jackie Chan” on them. 
I really like the way Lee Weeks uses the floating “insert” panels and overlapping panels.  There is a lot of variety in the layout and point of view -- nothing is wasted. It’s almost like Weeks realizes that this will be known as his most powerful work.

This all takes place as the guy gets through the third of four tumblers on the briefcase.  Matt still isn’t completely sure who he is yet, but he “almost know[s]”. He asks the nurse about the little girl (her name is Hannah, another Biblical name) and he mentions the helicopter crash too.  The nurse can’t believe he has this information.  He tells her he heard her doctors, but that was five floors above.  “Bingo!” the man opens the case and Matt’s self-identity comes back simultaneously. 

Oh wow, you’ve just got to see it for yourself; I mean it’s like seeing the top NCC-1701A at the end of Star Trek IV – the thrill of knowing what’s going to happen and the excitement to see it play out, because it makes your heart soar.

“Kate…I can help.” Matt says calmly.

“KATE!” yells the Paco who just looked into the briefcase.  Who then starts to blather, “Oh. Man. Oh. Man. Kate…John Doe…He’s…”

“I can help Hannah.” Matt repeats.

[Inside the case are Matt’s Daredevil costume and his billy clubs.  Now, I know why Stark was cited.  It’s just like his old Iron Man armor case – maybe the story can still be set in the past.]

“What’s the quickest way to the roof?”

Up on the roof, Kate and Paco tell Daredevil that he has two to three hours to retrieve the organ.  Paco asks if they can do anything and DD responds in the best way possible, “Yes. Pray.”  And before their disbelieving eyes he jumps off the roof.  The “man without fear” -- the man who “never misses” slips off a water tower and falls six stories, hitting a few fire escapes on his way down to the packed snow below.  Present is now Prologue and we come full circle.  Only now we see the next moment.  DD spits out some snow and struggles to rise, repeating the mantra his boxing father taught him, “Never give up.  Never.”  The full page final splash shows a very determined hero that’s going to find that helicopter.  We also get one more passage from the Bible to go with the sequence.

You know, the only thing other than the credit boo-boo that bothers me is the decision to place this three-issue story in an unrelated eight-part anthology.  So, the trade will eventually have three separate stories.  They may all be good, but they won’t all be by Weeks and this epic needs to stand alone.

It’s also quite refreshing to see Christian themes portrayed so well in a comic.  I would love to own some of the art from this issue.

GRADE A++:  PERFECTION!!! The most emotionally moving comic I've read ALL year!  Lee Weeks has crafted a SIGNATURE Daredevil story.  It’s a MASTERPIECE that will be remembered for YEARS to come as one of the BEST EVER!!!

BUY THREE and give two to friends: one who doesn't read comics and one who does.


  1. Damn - now I will have to buy this. For the record, if the linear comment was directed at me, I done mind the jumping around method of telling a story, when the story is improved by it. I just feel too many writers use it as an artificial gimmick to try and amp up a so-so story. As a device, when done well it is great, as a crutch it gets old.

  2. Hopefully, there's still a few copies. I asked for two more to be put in my box. It was partially directed at you, since you've mentioned it before, put it was open to all that might feel that way. This was no crutch.