As a long-time fan and collector of Daredevil, I have expressed my concern about the current storyline that has included Daredevil and Elektra as king and queen of The Fist as well as Daredevil announcing, “This is God’s plan.”
With Daredevil 6 (v.7), Chip Zdarsky appears to be shifting the trajectory of Daredevil away from the precipice of knowing the mind of God and toward a much more compelling characterization of the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen as a Christ figure—complete with human frailty and doubt (see more below):
With issue 6, I immediately thought of the recurring motif in literature that reveals the alienating consequences of putting Jesus’s plea for charity into real-world practice. Literature often portrays religiosity as false and dangerous, framed against a more humanistic and secular embracing of simply living one’s life with empathy without regard to punishments or rewards (in this life or in a claimed afterlife):
About belief or lack of belief in an afterlife: Some of you may know that I am neither Christian nor Jewish nor Buddhist, nor a conventionally religious person of any sort.
I am a humanist, which means, in part, that I have tried to behave decently without any expectation of rewards or punishments after I’m dead.God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian, Kurt Vonnegut
Daredevil finds himself struggling to communicate with a world disconnected from God/Jesus in a way that parallels John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany; John Wheelwright, narrator and friend of Owen, offers a key scene in Chapter 1:
We were in Rye, passing the First Church, and the breeze from the ocean was already strong. A man with a great stack of roofing shingles in a wheelbarrow was having difficulty keeping the shingles from blowing away; the ladder, leaning against the vestry roof, was also in danger of being blown over. The man seemed in need of a co-worker—or, at least, of another pair of hands.
“WE SHOULD STOP AND HELP THAT MAN,” Owen observed, but my mother was pursuing a theme, and therefore, she’d noticed nothing unusual out the window….
“WE MISSED DOING A GOOD DEED,” Owen said morosely. “THAT MAN SHINGLING THE CHURCH—HE NEEDED HELP.” (pp. 33-34, 35)A Prayer for Owen Meany
Owen sees a world that those around him appear either unwilling or incapable of seeing; Owen also is eager to act on his vision for empathy and compassion while those around him are paralyzed by their daily lives:
The world is too much with us; late and soon, Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;— Little we see in Nature that is ours; We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon! ("The World Is Too Much With Us," William Wordsworth
While issue 5 posed Daredevil at the boundary of zealotry, issue 6 presents a man seeking a way to balance his mission from God with a real-world restorative justice agenda.
The arc of issue 6 depends on creating some nuance to vigilanteism, a core problem in superhero narratives. That arc begins with Daredevil and ends with the Punisher, who has long provided a moral complication to Daredevil’s code of ethics.
Matt Murdock, lawyer, and Daredevil, superhero, have carried this tension as well throughout the long history of Daredevil:
Daredevil’s mission is grounded not in punishment but in a key tenet of restorative justice:
Criminals are a consequence of social forces, Daredevil argues, and thus, he seeks a way to use love and compassion to help those labeled “criminals” regain their humanity.
Daredevil’s commitment to restorative justice is dramatized in an exchange with Bullet:
Like Daredevil, Bullet is aware of the inherent flaws in the criminal justice system, built on punishment; however, Bullet is also a voice of blunt reality against Daredevil’s idealism:
Here, my concerns from issue 5 are greatly tempered although this exchange creates even more tension in the story itself. Similar to the powerful scenes between Frank Castle/The Punisher and Daredevil in S2 of Daredevil, here Bullet calls Daredevil on his idealism:
Alone, the weight of that reality on Daredevil is revealed, the pressure of being Christlike, leading by example:
The religious motif of issue 6 is made explicit once Daredevil confronts Goldy while Elektra serves the mission (and faces Iron Man*):
From issue 5—”This is God’s plan”—to issue 6—”The Lord knows the plans of man”—Psalm 94:11 pulls the reader back from Daredevil’s idealism, suggesting that despite his best intentions, his mission is “futile.”
And then, the narrative returns to something ominous, the motif of punishment:
Justice, we must acknowledge, is in the eye of the beholder, and issue 7 appears to be tracking toward a clash between the mission (Daredevil) and the cause (The Punisher).
And the question remains if that justice can be restorative or futile.
* A beautiful panel not to be ignored in issue 6: