Hey guys, welcome to B’s Views and Reviews, the podcast that promotes faith-based, family-friendly comics and the creators that make them, brought to you by Geek Devotions, a show by devoted geeks devoted to letting you know that you are loved. I’m B, and today we’ll be talking about a mainstream comic book, the series Daredevil: Dark Nights. We’re going to be looking at the very first story arc of this series, “Angels Unaware.”
In “Angels Unaware,” a blizzard has blanketed New York City in an apocalyptic-level snowfall. Through happenstance, Matt Murdock, AKA Daredevil, finds himself in a hospital where he learns of a young girl who is awaiting the arrival of a heart for a life-saving transplant surgery. The issue is that the stormy weather has taken down the helicopter transporting the heart. With the roads covered in snow and ice, no one can get to the downed helicopter. Daredevil, refusing to let this little girl die, takes on the mission to retrieve the heart. He fights his way through freezing temperatures, opportunistic goons capitalizing on the tragedy, and even some of Kingpin’s minions, to bring a new heart to the little girl and give her a chance at life.
One of the things I always love about Daredevil stories is the creative ways that the authors use his heightened senses and the unique situations that he gets in because of them. An interesting occurrence in this story is that Matt Murdock ends up in a hospital with a head injury that makes him forget who he is for a few pages. He wakes screaming about hearing voices and how loud they are. Of course, he’s referring to the voices of nearly everyone in the hospital, his heightened hearing on overdrive without him being able to focus it and block out what he doesn’t want to hear. Unfortunately, though, the nurses attending him think he’s referring to voices in his head and actually give him a sedative, thinking he is crazy. I can’t blame the nurses. If a John Doe wakes up suddenly screaming about how the voices are too loud, thinking the guy has really good hearing wouldn’t be my first guess either. Also, it’s interesting that the story takes time to point out how constantly falling snow affects Daredevil’s senses. The snow actually acts as radar chaff, making it difficult for him to operate at his best in the weather. He actually makes a reference to it being his version of being “Snow-blind.”
Another very cool thing that stands out to me is the prioritization that Daredevil has to do in deciding how to handle his situations. His goal is to get the heart from the crashed helicopter back to the hospital. Time is of the essence. The little girl desperately needs a new heart, and that heart gets closer to no longer being viable with every moment that passes. In order to get to that heart on time, Daredevil willingly ignores burglaries, muggings, men getting beaten by loan shark enforcers, and other instances that would normally warrant his attention. He makes a note of them, makes plans to return to these people and dispense justice when he can, but for now, they are ignored. All that matters is getting the heart for the little girl. It speaks to the heavy decisions that superheroes, and in real life, actual heroes like policemen and firemen, have to make in a moment’s notice. It’s sometimes about triaging the circumstances. If you only have enough time to put out one fire, and there are seven, how do you choose which fire to put out? Daredevil has to deal with circumstances like that here.
One of the men that Daredevil ignores is a former junkie named Johnny Cruz. He fell off the wagon and, to feed his addictions, borrowed money from a man that he should never have borrowed from. When Daredevil hears him being beaten by the loan shark’s men, he passes him by, focused only on getting to the heart to save the little girl. Daredevil doesn’t like the choice but feels it is necessary given the circumstances. What’s interesting is that later in the story, when Daredevil is nearly frozen to death by the cold, Johnny is there. He sees that Daredevil is taken care of by a local shelter and goes to take heart the rest of the way to the hospital. Later, when the Kingpin’s men capture him, wanting to use the heart as bait to trap Daredevil, Johnny refuses to give the superhero up. He takes on beating after beating to protect Daredevil’s weakened state and location. Daredevil shows up, still weak but able to fight, and this time rescues him, getting both Johnny and the new heart to the hospital in the nick of time.
The Deeper Conversation
So, why is a podcast about faith-based comics taking a look at a mainstream story arc? This is where you find out why I love this story arc so much. First of all, Lee Weeks, who is very open about his faith on social media, sprinkles Scriptures from the Bible throughout the story, using them as a narrative device to highlight Daredevil’s choices and his refusal to stay down when he faces hardships. It is worked within the framework of Daredevil being a devout Catholic, so the Scriptures don’t feel preachy. But it’s very cool to read one of the big heroes reading and quoting Scripture in the story.
My favorite part of the whole story happens at the very end. Johnny is receiving medical attention from the wounds he’s taken on Daredevil’s behalf. Daredevil is about to leave when Johnny asks to speak with him. He tells Daredevil that at the shelter when he was unconscious, he kept saying how saving the little girl would be in some way repaying a debt. Listen to what Johnny says. “If you can hear anything from an ex-junkie, today’s good never outruns past sin. You can’t earn what’s already been paid for, so don’t try. It’s His gift, even to a junkie like me. We can only turn to Him to receive it.” That’s right, folks. A mainstream comic book about a highly popular superhero has the message of the Gospel. An ex-junkie is telling Daredevil about the fact that we can never earn the salvation Jesus gives us. No good we do will ever blot out the sins we have. That is something only Jesus does, and all that we can do is receive that gift. This story was an emotional roller coaster ride, but that moment right there took the top for me.
As far as artwork, one of the things I like most about Lee Weeks artwork is that his style has a lot of realism in it. Daredevil is drawn fit, yes, but he doesn’t look like he could go toe to toe with the Hulk. He looks like a real man that you might bump into in the street. This, combined with his attention to the background, provides an immersive experience. Even panels that are zoomed in on character faces have small details around them that give you a sense of place. Overall, Weeks has an art style that definitely hearkens back to the styles of the classical artists, like George Bridgman and Andrew Loomis. His pages could be works hung in a fine arts museum.
Lee Loughridge, the colorist for the story, is a testimony to the idea that less is more. Throughout this entire story, only three colors stand out: blue, golden yellow, and red. Every scene, every moment, is dominated by one of those three colors. It heightens the contrast between scenes taking place outside in the frozen apocalypse that the blizzard has brought to New York and the warm interiors of the hospital where people have gathered to wait out the cold. And, of course, that iconic red of Daredevil’s suit helps us to keep track of the hero through the falling snow. I have never before seen so much done with so little as far as color goes.
Is it Family Friendly?
As far as content goes, subject matter and blood level leads me to put this one at least preteen age, 10-11+. There’s no crude language, but there are some intense moments that might not be ideal for younger audiences. The most violent it gets is in the last issue when Johnny is taking his beating, but leading up to that, the gore level is actually pretty tame. There is one scene where Daredevil stops an attempted rape. Nothing inappropriate is ever shown, and Daredevil does stop it from happening, but it does present a situation that parents will need to be aware of before letting their kids read it.
Angels Unaware is written and drawn by Lee Weeks and is published by Marvel Comics. This is an older story arc (2013), so you’ll need to get your copy from wherever you get your back issues. I read this story via digital purchase at comixology.com.
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Peace and Love.