Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Ever fallen in love with someone you shouldn't have fallen in love with?

Daredevil 11

Some couples are believable, some aren't. Alex Summers and Lorna Dane, for instance, were together for several decades without ever giving the impression they could stand each other's company. Reed and Sue Richards, on the other hand, are so obviously destined to be together that it seemed simply absurd when they were split up. Which happened, for those who are interested, somewhere around 1975.

That incompatibility should exist is curious, because they are all fictional characters. A good writer should be able to make any two characters into a couple, because that's what good writers do - they entertain, and they make things believable. Somehow, though, it doesn't work like that. Could anyone make Ororo and Ben Grimm look good? Thor and Betty Leeds? Captain America and Aunt May?

Looking at the procession of creative teams who had a crack at Alex and Lorna, you would have thought at least one or two of them would have made them seem like a loving couple. I can only think of two explanations: either none of the writers could be bothered with such a dull couple, or we have a set of preconceived ideas about which people are suitable for each other. Certain personalities go together, and if two people have unmatched personalities, then no writing in the world is going to convince us they should be together. But if they are compatible, the results can be wonderful.

Which brings us to Daredevil #11, with the meeting of a couple who fit perfectly. This issue is all about falling in love, a brief period of time characterised by excessive happiness, rampaging pheromones and obsessional behaviour. It usually ends around the time he discovers she puts labels on every item in the fridge, and she finds out he makes a contented grunt every time he farts.

Our two lovers are: Matt Murdock, blind, and fresh from the Accident and Emergency Ward after a heavier than average kicking; Maya Lopez, a dancer, Native American, deaf, and a protege of the Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin. She is also Echo, with the ability to mimic the fighting manoeuvres of anyone she sees. This being a comic book, she has an obsessive hatred of Daredevil, who she believes, erroneously, to be the murderer of her father.

The plot is simple - they meet and go on a date. They have a nightmare trying to understand a movie (blind man and deaf woman in the cinema?), ending with a bucket of popcorn tipped on their heads. They eat bloodied popcorn, after a laughing Matt bursts his stitches. They sit in a cafe. Interspersed are scenes of Maya training at home, watching a video of Daredevil fighting Bullseye, copying their moves. At the end, Daredevil and Echo fight, Echo not realising Daredevil is Matt. By the end, Matt is on the floor, with Maya sticking a pistol in the back of his head.

There's a great letter in this issue

"I can see the brainstorming session: Let's make the villain a girl who can copy any physical movement. But that's already been done! Not like this, we'll make her deaf, and the Kingpin's daughter! Isn't that great!!. No guys, it's not. This isn't worth waiting two months for an issue. As of now, I am out of collecting Daredevil." (Reed Little)

And he has a point (other than the just-plain-wrong Kingpin's daughter comment). It has been done before. I may be mistaken here, but I have a feeling that Matt and Maya's relationship is very similar to one between Batman and Catwoman in one of those old Adam West shows. But it hasn't often been done this well, or this tenderly.

Why do I like this issue so much? David Mack weaves formal narrative and informal speech beautifully together. Joe Quesada draws it all in a light, happy style, far removed from the noir which we usually see in Daredevil. It's different, and it's sweet. It makes me smile.

Sadly it doesn't last. Matt goes on to marry Milla Donovan. Which is odd, as they act as if they're allergic to one another. Maya, who you'll gather I'm rather smitten by, does return in an arc written by David Mack. But the affair is dead. Perhaps in the long-run the logistical problems of combining a blind man with a deaf woman make this pairing unviable. But if I was Quesada, I'd want Mack on Daredevil after Bendis goes. I guess it's unlikely Joe could find the time to draw it himself, given how much time he must spend organising year-spanning meta-crossovers. And if Mack ever wants to write an Echo mini-series, I'll be first in line.