Monday, August 8, 2016

Undermining Itself, Daredevil: West-Case Scenario Is A Mediocre Exploration Of Matt Murdock!

The Good: Killgrave story is interesting, Some of the artwork is good, Hints of character struggle
The Bad: Fractured storytelling, No real character development, Mediocre artwork
The Basics: Daredevil: West-Case Scenario packs in two stories and three vignettes for an anthology that is hardly as engaging as it ought to be!

As I worked through my anticipation and dread for the second season of Netflix and Marvel's Daredevil (reviewed here!), I figured that it was a good time to return to the books to catch up on some of the recent Daredevil storylines. The last book I read in the series, Volume 3 (reviewed here!) highlighted my concerns with what might happen with season two of the television show; the book featured The Punisher and was not nearly as much about Daredevil as I would have liked. So, when I picked up Daredevil: West-Case Scenario, I was hoping to be reminded why I fell in love with the character of Daredevil in the first place.

It failed.

Daredevil: West-Case Scenario is part of the Marvel Now! relaunch of Marvel Comics titles and in this iteration, Matt Murdock lives in San Francisco, where he has a nine year-old son (Jack, named after his father), a wife, and enemies who have followed him to the West Coast. The result feels almost more like an entirely new character than a continuation of the character's journey I was once invested in.

Opening with a one-shot, which was used to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Daredevil, Matt Murdock has an adventure in San Francisco with his son, wherein The Owl's demented daughter plagues the city with blindness by using a new technology she devised. Stana Morgan is then given a few pages to tell her son how much she loves him before she is, apparently, killed by Bullseye. The one-shot finishes to a flash back to Mike Murdock, Matt Murdock posing as his own twin brother to throw off people who suspected Matt was Daredevil. The net result of the fiftieth anniversary celebration is to remind viewers of very different eras and moods for Daredevil. It is not at all a cohesive story or a complex one that ties into the rest of the book. The flash back and, apparently, flash forward only serve to reduce the sense of menace readers might take with them into the rest of the book.

The bulk of Daredevil: West-Case Scenario is split into two stories, both involving some element of mind control and Matt Murdock at a crisis of perspective. Both stories also seem to occur before Matt had his son, Jonathan Murdock. In the first, Murdock is wrestling with new, possibly false, memories he had implanted in his mind as a result of his participation in the fight against The Orb. The new memories make him believe that his father was actually abusive and menaced his mother. So, he hunts down Sister Maggie to try to learn the truth. Unfortunately, in doing so, he stumbles into a conspiracy that finds his mother being used as a pawn by a corrupt U.S. General and the government of Wakanda. Sister Maggie is one of three nuns practicing civil disobedience against an illegal weapons lab who are then quietly extradited to Wakanda. Daredevil uses his S.H.I.E.L.D. contacts to go rescue them.

The initially interesting character aspects of the story quickly fall away to a series of predictable super hero confrontations that gloss over the emotional depth of Matt Murdock finally reconnecting with his mother. The only truly delightful aspect of the story is the reversal that comes during the climactic fight between Daredevil and the new ruler of Wakanda. Instead of yet another physical fight, Daredevil reverts to his lawyer mode and that works pretty well to resolve the situation.

The final story in Daredevil: West-Case Scenario marks the return of the Purple Man. Like many fans of the Marvel Universe, I fell in love with the character of Kilgrave on the Netflix series Jessica Jones (reviewed here!). Kilgrave was so distinctive in the show that I had forgotten that I read a story involving the Purple Man in The Essential Daredevil, Volume 1 (reviewed here!). The generic villain from that story left absolutely no impression. In Daredevil: West-Case Scenario, Kilgrave makes an impression.

While Matt Murdock is getting closer to his new law partner, former D.A. Kirsten McDuffie, Kilgrave pops up in San Francisco. He brings together his five children, whom he has kept tabs on over the years, and when they are together, he manages to unleash their power. So, while Matt Murdock is wrestling with an offer to write a book for McDuffie's father (who is a publisher), Kilgrave's children are learning how to exert their influence over people near them, simply by feeling the emotions of what they want to have happen. They team up to have Kilgrave walk in front of a train and then push Murdock into a crippling depression. Daredevil must then figure out how to stop both Kilgrave and his pusher children before they destroy all of San Francisco.

Daredevil: West-Case Scenario very quickly rushes toward resolution, which is why neither Kilgrave, nor his Purple Children, are able to develop into truly credible or compelling adversaries. That said, having seen Jessica Jones, I had a new appreciation for The Purple Man and the idea behind his offspring is a clever one.

That said, Kilgrave popping up is not enough to sell me on Daredevil: West-Case Scenario. The book feels like what it is; a loose assemblage of comic books instead of one cohesive, compelling story. A lot of information - much of it contradictory - is thrown at the readers and it works to undermine itself. Matt Murdock meets his mother (finally!), but she is gone by the next event in his life. Daredevil is menaced by Kilgrave and his children - who cares? . . . the reader already knows from the first story that Matt Murdock will survive and find some measure of happiness at least a decade in the future. Kirsten and Matt make a cute couple . . . but, don't get invested; they'll have a falling out, he'll marry someone else, but don't get invested in her, either, because even before she is introduced into the narrative, it sure looks like she'll meet an unfortunate end thanks to Bullseye.

Ultimately, Daredevil: West-Case Scenario is diverting, but not substantive, making is a harder book to recommend than it ought to be.


For other book reviews, please check out my Book Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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