One Sentence Overview: Matt's attempts to patch up his relationship with Karen are complicated by the Black Widow's desire to recommence her own relationship with Daredevil
One thing that any story thrives on is conflict. In recent days, Daredevil's been so upbeat that it's felt like nothing would get him down. However, this wonderfully soap-y issue focuses on an area of Matt's life that is genuinely troubled - his emotional life and, bravely eschewing the need for any bad guy to get int he way, writes a very fine (and worrying) tale.
I reported in the last review that the Black Widow seemed very keen to resume her relationship with Matt. This still seems to be on the cards here when she turns up after Matt finally receives some much needed medical attention. This is courtesy of Dr Cecilia Reyes, an X-Man who was quite prominent for about five minutes in the late 90s before disappearing somewhat the following decade (ironically, another such figure, Nate Grey, also pops up here). The story opens with a nice two piece between Matt and Dr Reyes. There's a nice line where Cecilia describes Daredevil's back as "a road map of scar tissue", which is a great detail, highlighting the war wounds that our hero has sustained over the years.
More poignantly, Cecilia, who appears to be a reluctant hero, challenges Daredevil to think about why he's in the hero business altogether, warning him that the next time he goes off to do some derring do, he needs to remember that, by not nurturing who he really is "there may not be anything left to come back to". Good words and ones very appropriate for this issue. Matt, however, is barely able to give up on the wisecracking - trying to impress the doctor, he even resorts to telling her, apropos recent events, "What if I told you a wrestled a bear?"
There are plenty more great lines this issue. Foggy picks up Matt from the downtown hospital where Dr Reyes works in a rather conspicuous limonsine and gives Matt a few home truths about how he's treating Karen. Matt, rather unconvincingly, informs his buddy that he had to go out and save Natasha because it was the right thing to do, not because he fancies her or anything. There was "no spark at all" between them, he quips. Hmmm. Really? Cue Tasha landing on the top of the motor.
In an attempt to clear the air, Matt follows the Black Widow to assure her that it's Karen he's interested in and doesn't want to recommence a relationship with her. That might be what his mouth says but his thoughts reveal that he's sorely tempted. "Feel body heat through leather... We're sitting too close".
Of course, what is admirable here is that Matt doesn't give in to temptation yet acknowledges his attraction to Natasha. This is a vulnerable area for Matt Murdock and I'm glad Joe Kelly doesn't try to wash over that fact. There's an even more revealing moment towards the end when Matt and Karen finally reunite... but we'll come onto that.
Whilst Matt is struggling to be honest about his emotions and do the right thing via Karen, his girlfriend is regretting last night's alcohol binge and seeks solace from a trusted, sensible friend. Er, well, maybe not but Rosalind Sharpe is possibly the next best thing. Realising that Karen is feeling somewhat betrayed by Matt, Rosalind advises getting him where it hurts - on his credit card balance - and takes Karen off shopping for diamonds (of all things). Rather crudely, Rosalind tells Ms Page that this is the way to take revenge - "Leave the sleeping around to the sluts". Are you allowed to say that in comics for kiddies?
Having managed to free himself from a rather seductive Black Widow, Matt resolves to go home and wait for Karen. No more superhero-ing today. Still there's more than a little sense of guilt as he takes a shower - "It takes two bars of Karen's raspberry soap to obliterate any trace of Natasha's scent from my skin" (which may highlight what a problem heightened senses are). I do like the way Ariel Olivetti illustrates Matt's resolve with a super macho pose.
Of course, when Matt hears a violent argument taking place elsewhere in a neighbourhood, he just can't ignore the threads and he's off to intervene. This leads to a rather silly but still quite charming little scene where Matt interrupts not an assault by a dangerous supervillain or underworld goon, but an argument between a middle aged couple that appears to have gotten out of hand. Cue then Daredevil the marriage counsellor.
Matt may have legal expertise but I'm not sure he would be a particularly good relationship advocate. Still, he is the man without fear.
Matters resolved, the couple are sufficiently grateful to send Daredevil away with a lovely carrot cake (no, I'm not making this up). This leads to a nicely tense and oddly humourous scene between Daredevil and Karen who has finally returned home.
If all that wasn't enough, there's another of Matt's old flames back in town though whether her intention is to do some serious Murdock flirting remains to be seen. Candace Nelson is back - her first appearance since a cameo in DD166. It's really Foggy she's aggravating here though - bringing a gang of ne'er do wells that she's just met back to her brother's apartment for a party (and accidentally setting in motion next issue's storyline, it would appear). Worst of all is that her affection greeting to her brother is accompanied with the endearment, "Lardball".
So an issue with very little superhero-ing yet plenty of narrative turmoil and all very well written by Joe, who appears to excel with inter character conflict. This is a real upturn after the recent Russian storyline. Very fine indeed.
Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff
Dr Cecilia Reyes
Rating: 8 out of 10