Daredevil punched me in the feelings and I cried with joy.
That is a true sentence. A truer sentence has never been uttered – or written and if Matt Murdock a.k.a. Daredevil were to exist he’d listen to my heartbeat and know that I was speaking truth.
For those who don’t know Matt Murdock has had a rough few years thanks to Brian Michael Bendis, Ed Brubaker and Andy Diggle. Lost love, exposed secret identities and being possessed by demons can really bring a guy down, you know? While these writers were bringing compelling stories to Murdock’s world, they were getting progressively grim and dark. It was a book that I looked forward to reading with dread. When ol’ horn head couldn’t get any lower, Mark Waid was there to pull him out. Since then, Matt has a little more pep in his step with fun lighter adventures, but the past still lurks in the corners of his brain. Depression is the ultimate enemy it appears.
Depression has always been a theme in comics and Daredevil is no exception. In the hands of Waid this element feels different – powerful, dark and painfully real. It is the most honest and compelling pages I have read in a long time, not just in comics but in storytelling. Waid describes perfectly what a real life battle with depression is like. He discusses how it weighs you down, attacking everything that is good in your life. A lifetime time battle is summed up appropriately in only a few pages. While this sinister force has no cape, mask or even a human form it makes the comic feel more grounded in reality – even in a fictional world filled with capes and masks.
By now we are used to bright and energetic images from artist Chris Samnee and colorist Matthew Wilson but the early panels are limited in color and are often just black soul sucking squares on the page. All that breaks the darkness are Matt’s thoughts:
“Depression is a living thing. It exists by feeding on your darkest moods. And it is always hungry. Anything that challenges it—anything—It wants that thing to stop. Anything that makes you feel good, anyone who brings joy, it will drive away so it can grow with out interference. Its primary goal is to isolate you. At its worst, it will literally paralyze you rather than allow you to feel anything at all. At it’s worst you are numb. You are drained. You are immobilized.”
Daredevil slowly appears from that darkness. Engulfed in it, laying in the fetal position. Lost.
“I am utterly alone.”
We then see a clear shot of this story’s villain, Killgrave about to take a swing at Matt with a piece of wood. I couldn’t help but feel that in that panel Killgrave was a personification of depression-hitting us while we’re down.
That’s a hell of a way to start a comic and it is the right way. His inner monologue is directed to the reader, obviously when is it not? However there is something utterly captivating in the dark simplicity of the story telling and it is interesting to note that the “you” shifts to “I”. “Feeding on YOUR darkness”. “Isolate YOU”. “Paralyze YOU” then switches to “I am utterly alone.” It is a powerful story telling tool. What Matt Murdock is saying is that I am you. You are me. The costume, the barriers of the panel in the comic are meaningless; that it shouldn’t separate the shared human experience of feeling “utterly alone.” As some one who has suffered from depression all I could think of was “Yes.”
Yes! This is how I always wanted to describe depression but could never come up with the right words in the right arrangement!
Matt Murdock becomes instantly relatable and available in ways that no protagonist has in my recent memory. I feel as though he knows my struggle and therefore I can feel his struggle against villains such as ‘Purple Man’, that guy with the stilts? Stilt Man?(Yup that’s the name…that guy’s got problems), and Bullseye. Why? Because my villain is depression. This is something that comics lack now a day. In order for these dimensions to feel real they need human elements. After all comics are a form of communication, knowledge and life experiences shared by humans.
As I stated on Episode 2 of WGI last Friday, I felt a powerful connection with this story. I am not alone. And not because Daredevil echoed my feelings but it made me realize that he echoes the feelings of others who suffer from depression. Best of all, this comic raises awareness for depression. In a recent story that was a tie in to Original Sin, Matt learns more of his mother’s past; what drove her away was postpartum depression. We learned of the hardship of bearing a child and the struggles of parenthood and how that can lead to the feeling of isolation and loss of power. Depression doesn’t care about your sex or age. Many share this burden and we are not alone.
By the end of issue 10 we are presented with the notion that Matt while he has ultimately won the day as DD he still has a cloud over his head and he does his best to keep his chin up for his love, Kristen McDuffie. He calls her because he needs to talk, “You don’t have to come over or anything…”
She replies while waiting outside his door,“Of course, I don’t. I never left.”
After reading this issue, neither will I.