WRITER: Chip Zdarsky
ARTIST: Mike Hawthorne
RELEASE DATE: June 30th, 2021
REVIEWER: ROLLO TOMASSI
PREAMBLE: In Part One of a new storyline Matt decides he’s not going to take any more crap in prison, Elektra decides to be more her own kind of Daredevil, and for the 100th time, the Kingpin and organized crime in New York City look like they are reorganizing. Again.
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Daredevil #31 begins the “LOCKDOWN” storyline. There are already several different plots rotating in part one that hopefully will come together by the end of this story. Matt, who’s still in prison, is recovering from recently being attacked by several inmates. He’s also decided to take his war with the Warden of his prison directly to the man. Electra, while still trying to be the Daredevil of Hell Kitchen on Matt’s behalf, is starting to get frustrated at not being able to do things “her way”.
Wilson Fisk, despite being the Mayor of New York, is starting to act more Kingpin like when dealing with City Officials. Meanwhile, Mike Murdock, Matt’s “brother” (It’s complicated) is pretending to be Matt AND in with the criminal underworld. Not so much for altruistic purposes, but more to slowly try to take over organized crime. And finally, it wouldn’t really be a Daredevil comic without Bullseye making an appearance.
The storyline I’m finding least compelling. Matt in prison. There are two issues I have with it. I admit it’s not necessarily Zdarsky’s fault. But for starters, I realize this takes place in the Marvel Universe. It might sound odd that in a universe that I can suspend disbelief in so many crazy concepts, I still find it hard to believe that Matt would be allowed to serve his prison sentence without having to take off his Daredevil mask. I know in this current series, and the previous Charles Soule series, the legalese of secret identities in the Marvel Universe has been addressed. So they’ve explained why Matt can wear his mask in prison. But I still find it hard to believe. By that logic any criminal could make an argument they should not have to reveal their identity when convicted.
The other issue I have with the “Matt in prison” storyline is, to be honest, I enjoyed it more the first time it was done. Way back in Brubaker’s Daredevil run, Matt was in prison AND more compelling. Granted long-time superhero comic series do recycle plot points over time. And readers that haven’t followed Daredevil as long as I have might like this new version of the old plot. I wonder if it would have been better if Matt was just taken off the board soon after arriving in prison. Let the book focus more on Elektra as Daredevil. That way, it’s even more compelling when Matt makes his eventual return to being Daredevil.
Speaking of Elektra, previous issues felt like she was just going through the motions of acting as Daredevil. But in this issue, we get a more traditional version of the character. Elektra has a history of doing what she wants. She doesn’t debate with anyone. Even with Matt, she rarely let him stop her from doing what she wanted. One can argue Elektra is used to living rich and therefore while she might be trying to help the poor of Hell’s Kitchen, she doesn’t have the empathy Matt has for them. As she really has no connection to them in the way Matt does. She’s also not used to trying to dance around the law. If Elektra has an enemy, she just attacks them. With this issue, we get a small dose of that as she decides she’s had enough of the current Hell’s Kitchen Kingpin, Izzy Libris, especially now that Izzy has partnered up with Elektra’s mortal enemies the Hand.
Speaking of Kingpins, Wilson Fisk is starting to act more like the former ruler of the New York Underworld. His interaction with the Chief of Police is haunting. Fisk has always attempted to keep his more “thuggish” behavior out of the public spotlight. Here, readers are seeing a Fisk that is either starting to lose control or is feeling even more powerful these days and is less worried about any accusations.
Hawthorne’s art does a great job of displaying body language. From the great Elektra action sequences showing her kicking butt, they also exhibit her frustration with not being able to go “full Elektra” on her foes. Also, the brief appearance by Mike Murdock pretending to be Mat was fun. Hawthorne clearly shows that while he’s pretending to be Matt, his facial expressions clearly show this isn’t the Matt readers know.
Overall, while I’m not totally engaged in the prison storyline, Zdarsky does a good job of showing Matt still trying to help others. It would be nice if Elektra, as Daredevil, got more screen time as it feels like there’s potential there that hasn’t been allowed to come out yet. Fisk as the Mayor continues to be interesting. Honestly, he’s been Mayor for longer than I expected him to be. But that doesn’t mean he’s any less compelling in the role.
Additionally, I haven’t mentioned much of what Bullseye is up to this issue. To be honest, it’s because it’s not really that interesting yet. He’s come and gone from Daredevil so many times it’s just not that important when he returns. Yes, it looks like this might lead to a confrontation with Elektra (They have history. He killed her once). But she’s faceoffed with him several times since her return. So, if they meet up now, it seems less interesting.
Daredevil #31 is delicately balancing several plotlines at once. While Matt in prison does feel slightly like a retread, this issue begins to develop some urgency for Matt. It’s almost like he has something to do besides serving his time. Elektra and Fisk remain the most interesting parts of the comic. The series continues a more grounded Daredevil, not unlike the Netflix series. Furthermore, there are some good building blocks laid forth in this issue that should produce good fruits. Hopefully, they will pay off by the end of the Lockdown storyline.