Purgatorio by JM DeMatteis and Ron Wagner
One Sentence Overview: Still troubled by the memory of having apparently killed a young girl, Matt slips into a depression and seeks consolation from his mother
I guess your opinion of this issue will depend somewhat on how introspective you like your Daredevil. If you're more keen on seeing Matt in the red threads tackling bad guys, whether they be lowly Hell's Kitchen thugs or the more outlandish supervillain, then this story's not going to appeal. For someone like me, who enjoys Matt's dark nights of the soul and the psychological insights gained from his travails, this should be much more satisfying. But despite the maudlin territory this story visits, it's a little unsatisfying.
One of the reasons for this is that it feels a little like treading over old ground that's been previously been covered more successfully by both Frank Miller and Ann Nocenti. This is perhaps most explicitly referenced in the title of our tale - Purgatorio, a reference to Dante's Divine Comedy, a significant literary allusion that played out in much of the second half of Ann's run. The opening scene, with Matt surrounded by whiteness, even recalls Daredevil's trip to his own personal Hell in DD280.
In the former writers' tales, Daredevil's madness appears to be stress induced, a result of being overwhelmed by his inability to eradicate the evil around him. Here, it feels more like John Marc, these past issues, had given Matt an almost schizophrenic character. I'm not sure I'm overly comfortable with that, though I guess one could argue that the divison of personalities is also down to anxiety. His most pressing concern, however, is his guilt from accidentally 'killing'* a prostitute whilst still forming his Daredevil identity (in Daredevil:The Man Without Fear, which I may review, as I notice a paucity of reviews of the series on the web).
As such, he's left in his melancholic state, with Foggy and Karen watching over him, concerned and uncertain about how to intervene. Or at least Karen is. When she discusses what to do with Foggy, our favourite rotund lawyer goes off his head (for once) and nearly knocks Karen's over with his tea cup. To be fair to Mr Nelson, given the secret both his best bud and his former secretary have kept from him for years, his sudden anger is forgiveable. Funny, though, to see Foggy so passionate.
Rising from his funk, Matt seeks out redemption in quite a literal sense, tracking down his mother in her place of employment - the local church. I mentioned before that I thought a great untold DD story is Maggie's and how she left Matt with Jack. In fact, I've often thought that Matt should be a little more ambivalent about his mother than he appears to be. Here, he seeks her out for forgiveness, when one might have thought there would be sufficient call for forgiveness to be granted in the opposite direction. Indeed, the brief scene between mother and son is a little disappointing, coming close to being mawkish, though at least Maggie doesn't let Matt off the hook - she tells him he must find his own road to atonement.
These crumbs of comfort aren't initially that effective as we next see Matt throwing himself to his death... before changing his mind halfway down the skyscraper and bailing out. Superheroes can do that kind of thing - don't copy it at home, kids.
How Matt overcomes this anxiety will continue next issue (with an old friend's help, as the last page clues us in). Elsewhere, there's a coda to the tale of 'Sir', who we find is locked away in some kind of institution. We learn that Sir is actually a "gentle, decent woman" called Martha Paterson (though Sir isn't too keen to learn that). His confidant is one Dr Kafta.
Well, of course it is. Kafta's Metamorphosis is a nice little relevant reference to throw into the mix here, not just for Sir but also the troubled Mr Murdock. And if that's not enough literary references for one issue, Karen even manages to namecheck 'Jane Eyre' halfway through.
Roy Thomas must have danced a jig of excitement when he read this issue.
Cool art from Cary Nord, guest penciller this issue. I always like Cary's clean, unfussy work.
Meanwhile on the letters page The latest annual circulation figures are in... and they're down! Paid circulation is now in the mid 60,000s, which is a considerable reduction from what it was a couple of years ago. Hmmm, now I wonder why that might be...?
Rating: 5 out of 10
*I say 'killing' as this is apparently retconned later in the Deadpool Daredevil annual - which I might read if I can ever find a copy cheap enough to buy on ebay (sheesh - that's one popular comic!).