Flying Blind Part 1 by Scott Lobdell and Cully Hamner
One Sentence Overview: An injured man called Laurent Levasseur recovering in a French hospital appears to be suffering from amnesia and has uncertainty about how he sees and senses other things
A good question any reader could consider about Daredevil (or any other hero for that matter) is what is a typical DD story? Doubtless there are different views on this. For most, I guess, one would associate the hero with gritty, quite realistic battles with the underworld against the backdrop of Hell's Kitchen. However, older fans might think back to how the hero was originally conceived during Stan Lee's run as a slightly more whimsical hero who battled low powered supervillains (reflected not only in Karl Kessel's and Joe Kelly's runs but also, to some extent, by Mark Waid in current continuity). I guess the thing is that we fans all have perceptions of what a Daredevil story should be and are maybe a little reluctant to buy into storylines that stray from that path, be that to a new law firm in San Francisco or, er, chumming up to the real Devil in Hell.
I say all this in partial response to Scott Lobdell's four issue storyline that opens with the unlikely premise of Daredevil as secret agent - a kind of French 007. Where did that come from? Well, given that we open with a strange black haired man recovering in a French hospital but with senses that appear awfully familiar to those of Matt Murdock it's not entirely clear from the get go.
I say that but actually editorial appear to have scored an own goal here. Whilst the initial introduction of this seemingly unfamiliar character is shrouded in mystery in the opening pages of the tale, a summary page, familiar now in Marvel comics but new back in the late 90s, basically gives the game away. Before jumping into our story, we're informed "Accepting an assignment from Shield, Matt Murdock has become Laurent Levasseur, a Shield operative in France". As in the last issue, the reader feels that they've accidentally missed something somewhere else and I think it might have been bolder to have with-held this information from the reader, who would have gradually arrived at the conclusion that Levasseur is Matt (which I think would have made for a more satisfying read). This is because Scott's very good at writing Levasseur's doubts - it's clear early on that Matt is suffering from some kind of amnesia and doesn't even recognise that he's blind. This aspect of Laurent's perceptions is particularly interesting because he obviously feels that his sense of 'sight' is the way everyone else sees and does not realise that his own vision is that which is being compensated for by his other enhanced senses.
There are also good scenes where Laurent, who has revealed himself as an 'artist', manages to take down a gunman so impressively that Dr Dubois ponders that he must have learned his craft from a "really tough art school" and where our hero wanders into the street and is shocked by the loudness of the traffic, not consciously filtering out sound the way Daredevil is used to doing.
Whilst that pesky background page reveals more information that it should, it's still unclear what exactly Matt is up to in France (or how he got there from the place he was in in DD375). At least this is held back. In fact, whenever we encounter his Shield handler, who reveals (with rather heavy handed exposition) that he is the only one who knows Matt's mission, Agent Harlan neglects to inform the reader what Murdock is up to. A page or two later it looks unlikely that he's ever going to let us in.
There's something ironic about Harlan's fate. If only there was a hero around that was capable of rescuing someone about to be run over by a truck! Oh, he's in France, is he? Well, not much use there...
As hinted above, the tale, to date, is very much Matt Murdock as spy and I guess your enjoyment of this scenario will be predicated on your willingness to go along with this despite the fact that Matt has never seemed this way inclined. If anything, perhaps the whole set up is indicative of the increasingly fluid nature of the Marvel universe, where heroes are bundled into each other's set ups, no matter the distinctiveness of their own worlds - this is especially pertinent in today's Daredevil, with his Avengers membership.
Still, it is what it is and Scott certainly writes a pacey little tale. Curious to see Matt pick up French so quickly (no doubt some Shield trick) and also apparently pick up a love interest (well, we are in faux James Bond territory, aren't we? Or maybe Frantic meets Memento might be a closer pitch). There are three more episodes to come and hints of what really might be going on are provided by cameos from the Kingpin and the Hand. As such, Flying Blind is a good title for the story and the whole thing, frankly, would have worked better if I hadn't read the recap page. But I did and that lessens the impact and mystery of the whole thing. I guess the lesson is to expect more from your readers to suss out what's actually happening.
(Incidentally, I looked up Levasseur thinking it might have something to do with blindness in French. Apparently not - it means a rich tenant, which doesn't really appear to have a subtextual meaning, does it? However there was a famous pirate by the same name and maybe that's the inspiration for Mr Lobdell.)
Daredevil/Matt Murdock/Laurent Levasseur
Dr Claudia DuBois
Rating: 5 out of 10