(+++ WARNING: this review contains spoilers for Daredevil Annual #1 +++)
Retcons seem to happen every month. Some stick, others are ignored immediately. Daredevil Annual #1 centers on changing the title character forward, unlike any other.
This is a change I didn’t see coming. It’s taking a dangling plot thread, and twisting it in an unexpected way. It all comes to us from Chip Zdarsky, Manuel Garcia, Le Beau Underwood, Chris Mooneyham, Rachelle Rosenberg, and Clayton Cowles.
Mike Murdock doesn’t exist. He’s a psychic construct created when an Inhuman’s powers tried to reconcile Matt Murdock’s past charade with reality. However, Mike Murdock still exists, and he’s going to do everything in his power to become real.
Coming into this story blind, I was a bit stunned. I remembered Charles Soule’s reintroduction of “Mike” with a twist, but I had no idea it was still a plot thread left hanging. Zdarsky takes that plot thread, something that many other writers would ignore, and does something astonishing and audacious with it-
He makes Mike a real person.
I cannot think of a bit of retroactive continuity this game changing outside of the X-Men’s recent Moira X retcon, and it’s even more stunning because we see the character re-write history with his magical spell right in front of us. Zdarsky jumps through hoops, makes the magical set-up believable, and then tells Mike’s life story for the next twenty pages. It takes a literal cipher and makes him a fascinating character, and integrates him into Daredevil’s history in a way that he’s absolutely essential from this point on. It’s positively stunning how well this works, and the storytelling avenues this issue opens up for years to come.
However, this wouldn’t have worked without the art. Garcia and Underwood in the present and Mooneyham in the flashbacks all give the subject the appropriate weight, allowing Mike to feel like a fully formed human being right away. Garcia and Underwood’s style is very clean and curved, with very expressive character work. When Mike wakes up after his spell works, you feel both the weight of his actions and the full range of emotions he’s battling.
Mooneyham has a bit of grit to his line, which makes Mike’s new magically constructed history feel real. He focuses a lot of Jack Murdock, and uses his point of view and panel composition to make the old fighter feel like a demanding, commanding presence. He also reuses panels in a way that makes the retelling of Mike’s life feel authentic, rather than just an artistic and stylistic trick.
This is easily the most daring comic to come from Marvel this year. It’s smart, it’s bold and it could have failed horribly. But it didn’t. There isn’t a single thing about this comic that didn’t work. It’s not absolutely perfect, but it’s a masterwork of showing how a change like this can be done and done well. I’m thrilled to see where Zdarsky goes from here.
Daredevil Annual #1 is available now from Marvel Comics.