But I can't, because I'm stuck on Daredevil. Mark Waid and Chris Samnee finished up a two-year arc last week, and its ending made me rethink everything I've been praising about the series. In May, Waid revealed the person gaslighting Matt Murdock was none other than deadly assassin Bullseye, and I had to admit, I was a little sad to see the psychopath return, as I've been loving the cheerier version of Daredevil on display since 2011. The darkness continued this month, when Matt is forced to face his foe, whose last tango with our hero left him practically senseless.
Still, I felt icky about the way his disability was portrayed throughout this final showdown. Bullseye, once a terrifyingly imaginative marksman, is now trapped in some sort of sensory deprivation tank that's keeping him alive. His only remaining sense, sight, seems to torture him, as opposed to providing him an outlet. After twenty-six issues where Daredevil's vulnerabilities were explored with sensitivity and given their due tension (particularly when they rubbed up against his super-powers), here the creative team's opinion about disability seemed flat and total. Disability became nothing more than something everyone fears, something no one should wish on their worst enemy. It's what everybody always thinks when they're not disabled -- "I'm glad I'm not them."
In only twenty-two pages, everything I'd cherished about Matt's sunny approach to his limitations was shown to be wrong, in Bullseye's experience. I tried to believe that philosophical differences were being demonstrated here, except that given the chance to save Bullseye from getting acid in his eyes, Matt isn't fast enough. Stalwart friend Foggy asks Matt if he was too slow on purpose, if he didn't allow Bullseye to be blinded. Here's how Matt responds:
I reread this issue about five times, searching for some other way to look at things. I couldn't find myself and people like me cast to the side after all these months, I wouldn't accept it. Ironically, it was in peering deeply at the book that I truly understood Bullseye's perception of the world and his disadvantages. It came during his discussion with Daredevil about being built into his tank, where he describes how he handled being mostly senseless ...
Matt lost a sense, and became a champion of the little guy. Bullseye lost sense, and did everything he could to manipulate and destroy those around him. By showing the audience how single-minded and despairing Bullseye allows himself to be in new circumstances, Waid and Samnee demonstrate how outlook is formed by how you respond to your weaknesses. Truly, it is all in how you look at it. This idea is reinforced by the issue's ending, when Matt reminds Foggy that at one point in the arc, Mr. Nelson thought his law partner was crazy. Foggy responds, "I don't think you're crazy, Matt. I think you're fearless." Fearless, because Matt faces obstacles, and chooses to see them as opportunities. Fearless, because he is disabled, and uses the unique perspective that gives him to build a better life. Fearless, because he may be the only superhero out there right now whose limits are shown to be his strengths. (Though I was happy to see Brian Michael Bendis give Echo the non-death coda she deserved last month in Daredevil: End of Days.)
So here I sit, shaking my head at losing faith in Mark Waid and company for even a moment. If you're not reading Daredevil, you absolutely should be. It's not the flashiest book that Marvel's putting out at the moment, but it may be the most revolutionary. Daredevil takes everything you think you understand about the five senses, then proves how you can survive with or without them, an idea rarely posited by anyone in practical society. More importantly, in the book's view, those with disabilities are no more victims than anyone else struggling with something. It's how you approach that struggle that gives you strength. For me, that's something I can draw power from. That's a philosophy we could use more of in an age when it often seems to make more sense to sweep disability under the rug than examine it in the harsh light of day.