REVIEW: ‘Daredevil,’ Issue #21

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Daredevil 21 cover

Daredevil #21 is a Marvel published comic, written by Chip Zdarsky and art by Marco Checchetto. The color artist is Mattia Iacono and the letterer is VC’s, Clayton Cowles. In the previous issue, Daredevil defeated an onslaught of villains unleashed on Hell’s Kitchen, assisted by Mayor Wilson Fisk and Typhoid Mary. On the last page, Daredevil handed himself in to the police for the murder of robber that he had fought back in the first issue of the series.

Within the actual issue, the plot actually overlaps with what came before, actually having a few of the last pages that are lifted from issue 20 used at the beginning. From there, Daredevil considers the decision he’s just made. While those around him scramble to protect his identity, Murdock has a fraught discussion with a fellow superhero. And at the end of the tale, he makes a second, potentially even worse decision.

The plot isn’t as action-packed and rapid as the last two editions of the series, but it’s very much needed considering what both the readers and Daredevil went through. The issue switches between Murdock and the district attorney, as both process what has just happened. The overlap between the issues was initially jarring, but it’s a powerful emotional moment that benefits the scene that directly follows it.

While the plot does not have action, that definitely doesn’t mean that this issue isn’t exciting. The showdown between Daredevil and the other superhero is seconds away from erupting into trading fists and is filled with tension. It is a sign of an old friendship being strained and signals the potential for it to get even worse. And the meeting between Daredevil and the DA is brilliantly written by Zdarsky. At the end of this issue is a reveal that I definitely didn’t see coming. This revelation is sure to become very important as Daredevil’s trial intensifies.

Daredevil #21 really shines a spotlight on who Matt Murdock is, but particularly who he is at the end of a long ordeal. The most impressive thing about this comic is that Zdarsky brilliantly conveys Murdock’s exhaustion. Daredevil throughout this issue moves and acts like a person running on empty. This results in him making decisions very quickly, between picking fights or turning himself in general. This felt warranted as this entire issue carries the feeling of the last 20 catching up, and it’s important to show the burnout the character struggles with.

Daredevil 21 panel

At the same time, the principles that make the character strong, such as his faith combined with his stubbornness, are ever-present, stopping those around him from preventing his decision. His devotion to justice and his horror that he took a life has been a dark cloud that has hovered over him since the premier issue of Zdarsky’s run.

Checchetto’s art remains to be exquisite. As mentioned before, a lot of this issue is dialogue-heavy and action light, but the artist beautifully captures the tone of the comic. After his conversation with the guest hero, Daredevil visibly slumps, revealing how little energy he has left. A small feature of Checchetto’s illustrations that are always welcome when I read it is his facial detail. At the start of the comic, during the aftermath of the battle, the main combatants all have scratches and dirt on their faces. And the stubble on Daredevil’s chin is realized down to individual strands of hair, even in shadow. These may seem trivial, but it gives their faces substance. And the fantastically crafted facial expressions make the scenes where it is only two characters so much more powerful. 

The colors by Iacono continue to be jaw-dropping in their beauty. His tones and shades seamlessly blend with Checchetto’s shadows and pencils. The best example of this is that conversation with the superhero, who has made their way into Murdock’s apartment. Daredevil, mid-talk, changes out of his ruined civilian clothes that he’s been fighting in and into his full, scarlet regalia. The splash page that follows is stunning, showing the title character ready for a fight. The shading, the line-work, and the red that Iacono bestows upon it make it awesome to behold.

Iacono is adept at capturing and projecting light within the panels as well. There is a panel where the Man Without Fear swan dives from the top of a building. Below him is Hell’s Kitchen in all it’s glory, but what is most striking is the lights. They twinkle below him on a really beautiful page. It’s an example of how, even in a darkly comic, light can still be utilized brilliantly.

The dialogue is incredible in most of the scenes, and Cowles is influential in getting that across. The placing of the word balloons is superb, uncluttered and easy to read. The use of SFX is rare within this comic, but when they are they are small and understated. 

Daredevil #21 is a fantastic issue that beautifully bookends one arc before unleashing the readers on another. The writing by Zdarsky is among his best of his run, and his understanding of the character Matt Murdock is evident in every page. Both Checchetto and Iacono fill this issue with emotion and atmosphere. So many of the panels are achingly sad, but they are so well crafted that you can’t help but be in awe of it. Daredevil’s ordeal is far from over.

Daredevil #21 is available where comics are sold.

'Daredevil,' Issue #21
5

TL;DR

Daredevil #21 is a fantastic issue that beautifully bookends one arc before unleashing the readers on another. The writing by Zdarsky is among his best of his run, and his understanding of the character Matt Murdock is evident in every page. Both Checchetto and Iacono fill this issue with emotion and atmosphere. So many of the panels are achingly sad, but they are so well crafted that you can’t help but be in awe of it. Daredevil’s ordeal is far from over.