Ego is a double-edged sword.
In order to make something stand out, one needs to believe in oneself. In order for the work to have some merit, it requires someone with enough self-conviction for it to matter. However, there is also an amount of self-awareness required to promote the work without going overboard. That’s the measure of ego and why it can be a blade that cuts both ways. There’s a fine line in asserting one’s ego in the pursuit of excellence and that’s pretty much what I took away from Daredevil #18 by Chip Zdarsky, Jorge Fornes and Nolan Woodard.
Part Eight of Through Hell and the story so far: we have Matt Murdock redefining his role as Daredevil, trying to figure out how he can be of best service as either a lawyer or a superhero. There is also Detective Cole struggling with his own personal code as a law enforcement officer and when a child, albeit the grand-daughter of one of the most notorious crime families in Hell’s Kitchen, is kidnapped by her grandmother’s rival, The Owl, Cole has to ask his brother officers to check their moral obligations and do their job.
There’s definitely a suppression of ego at play here. Matt Murdock isn’t acting lie a traditional vigilante here. We saw two issues ago how he and Cole have managed to redefine their relationship t grudgingly accept each other’s part in the system. They have the same goals but both have misgivings about their abilities to pursue them. In this, there is an acceptance and acknowledgement of the other’s function and the transition they are both in, trying to figure themselves out.
With that suppression though, comes the freedom to explore new paths. Zdarsky has written two complex characters into this story whose abilities are tempered by their admission of this change and putting their own egos in check. That’s a difficult line to walk. Like I said earlier, the ability to stand out means that you have to have enough conviction of character to stand out and that’s what Cole does when he storms into the Detective Squadroom and forces his fellow police officers to remember their oaths. It’s character growth that isn’t just welcomed – it’s demanded.
We want heroes to act heroic. This is a type of growth that isn’t so much a deed but a statement of character. Acting heroically is one thing, but North is heroic in this moment. It’s a moment of character growth that shines forth and influences others to be heroic as well. Heroes don’t necessarily save people – they change them and that’s something that Zdarsky has done rather well in this book.
I’m really enjoying Jorge Fornes’ artwork in this book. The characters in this book aren’t about super-extremes. They may be in extreme moments, but despite their wealth, connections to organized crime, at the bottom of it, they are simply people with loved ones and their livelihoods in jeopardy. A mother is in terror over her missing child while the father reacts in the expected way a father would do so. The Libris Family may be a Mafia Family, but they’re still just a family. Fornes manages to covey that sentiment with his depiction of a distraught family in a moment of crisis.
We see the same thing with emotional realization of the detectives in the police station. When Cole North challenges the integrity of his fellow officers, their expressions are tacitly grim in their resolve to do the right thing in their moment of decision. Jornes captures the right degree of intensity needed to show the sense of these police officers’ expressions. As an aside, Cole North is a dead ringer for Idris Elba.
Likewise, the colouring from Nolan Woodard helps to reinforce the emotional mood. Gritty, rainy scenes communicate a film noir aspect to this book. The splashes of red and blue flashing lights of the police cars are a wonderful counterpoint to the shadowy backgrounds as Cole and Murdock track their quarries through the streets of Hell’s Kitchen. It’s definitely striking work.
Cole North is definitely the character who stands out the most in this story. Too much manifestation of his personality and his challenge to the detectives could go the other way. When we first met North in the beginning of this arc, he was a brash and bold cop, intent on doing the right thing in a new position, in an attempt to make up for his self-perceived failures. Vigilantes were an anathema to his work, yet by this episode, he and the Daredevil have come to an understanding. That takes a lot of character to accept and he demonstrates this ego-suppression in a way that makes us admire him.
As for Matt Murdock – his abilities are tempered by his willingness to submerge his ego and work more in line with the system, that, as a lawyer, he was likewise sworn to uphold. As a superhero, he readily flouted that system in pursuit of his own sense of ethics as dictated by the costume he wore. Not wearing the costume any more is an acknowledgement that he is a different person, and even though he may be a force for good, he allows himself to work within the system, rather than despite it. His identity is still masked but he employs his powers in partnership with North. Of course, it begs the question, is he Daredevil no more? If so, then gone is the ego that long-time readers of this character would associate with the “the man who knows no fear”.
Of course, that’s a question to put towards Zdarsky himself. I’m sticking around to see what Matt Murdoch will turn into, but in the mean-time I have other questions: will there be a new costume? Will there be new way in which Daredevil takes to the streets or dispenses justice? In fact, will there even be a Daredevil or just private citizen, Matt Murdoch, lending his exceptional talents to the New York Police Department? Lots of ways for this character to change, but will they change to the point where we will no longer this character or will be an evolution – a change for the better?
Zdarsky has some great storytelling and clearly a confidence in his own successful storytelling to even hint at some of these possibilities. There is a lot of enjoyment in this book and a reminder of the need to keep one’s ego in check, because it can cut both ways. For that reason, it’s the pick of the week.
May your own egos assert themselves in good measure! Until next time!