Jean, 39, lover of sci-fi, horror and fantasy, reader of comic books, conqueror of genre fiction.
Oh boy. Sit back for this one, because I've got a lot to say. While it as eventual, in my great Daredevil reread, to come to this point, I'd even put off reading this, because I knew that I'd have to deal with this hot mess of a storyline.
And that storyline is how they deal with, or rather how they get rid of, Milla Donovan. Spoiler, poorly. The answer is, they deal with her poorly. I mean, it's not a surprise, at this point, since we've gone through two whole volumes of her barely being mentioned, and not by Matt, but by Foggy, begging Matt to contact her, and then one appearance as she inconveniently comes to Rikers Island when a riot is just about to break, allowing Matt to treat her like shit in order to save her. And then he fucks off to Europe without seemingly giving her a second thought. He even has a sexy adventure with a woman who reminds him of Karen, because let's not stop beating that dead horse!
The comic starts with Milla demonstrating that she no longer possesses any of the character traits she was established with in Bendis' run. No, seriously. Smart, capable, independent no more, she's a codependent mess, sitting by the window and moaning about Matt going out as Daredevil, because, even though that's the thing that attracted her at first, it has now become the sole source of her anguish.
She recounts their relationship from the beginning with some major retcon-colored glasses. First off, let's compare Matt's reaction in the original comic to Milla's accusation of having had a nervous breakdown after Karen's death, a painfully honest and defeated, "... Maybe," on Matt's behalf, to the new version:
"It's not true!" And this plays into something I'll address by the end of the review, and that's the really poor handling of mental health that dominates this storyline. The very idea that the heroic lead of the comic would have been so emotionally vulnerable by the death of his longtime lover that he'd have had a nervous breakdown that shifts his personality and impairs his judgment is obviously TOO MUCH for a comic about an emotionally vulnerable hero who consistently deals with damaging situation after damaging situation.
But it's okay! Because, turns out, she didn't leave him because she was confused by his admission, or worried about living in Karen's shadow, or the fact that she never would deal with Matt's shit unless it was on her own terms. Oh no. now...
Did you miss that? Let me highlight it for you:
IT WAS HER BLIND GIRL PRIDE. That wasn't at all written by a white, ablebodied man! Listen, sighs. I'm not saying that Bendis was perfect, but he tried. During his run, he introduced Milla, reintroduced Becky Blake, who is now a lawyer and new partner in the Nelson and Murdock firm, and, of course, my lady, Echo. Reading it now, there are so many cringe-worthy moments dealing with disability, but Bendis made an effort to address it, even when he failed.
It's not his problem alone! Daredevil was always plagued with this problem. Hell, even the Netflix show isn't immune to this.
Funnily enough, the Ben Affleck movie remains the most informed and sensitive portrayal of Matt's disability, and that was made and released during Bendis' run on the comic. (Seriously, despite what people say, the director's cut is a pretty good movie.)
So, Milla is apparently done struggling with her blind girl pride and is now simply wallowing in being so ridiculously incompetent and vulnerable, some of her scenes play out like bad horror movies containing people with disabilities. She's seen stumbling around her own apartment in her underwear, asking if that silent, threatening presence is, in fact, her husband.
This remake of Wait Until Dark looks really trippy...
Hell, maybe she doesn't know what Matt sounds like coming home. God knows, we're not shown anything of their relationship. When she is, in fact, kidnapped by Gladiator (and, oh, I promised a discussion on mental illness and we'll get to good ole Melvin Potter in a moment!) Matt's rage seemingly comes solely from the fact that they dared threaten Matt's WIFE. Like... if there is only one panel in this entire volume that shows both Karen and Elektra's deaths haunting Matt, I'd be surprised. There's at least one. And it comes across here as... that it doesn't really matter that it's Milla, simply that women are possessions in Matt's life and basically interchangeable as they continually, well, die. The women, mind you, because they killed Foggy off but, whoops NOT REALLY! Because dudes more often than not don't get permanently fridged.
And all the behavior I have described from Matt so far? This is why I am continuously defending the character from people on the internet who cannot tell bad writing on a fictional character from a genuinely toxic real person. Cough.
I take this quote from a wonderful character analysis on Daredevil-themed Tumblr blog redringsideseats:
In Brubaker’s run, a lot of Milla’s previously-established power and autonomy is taken away, and her strength and complexity as a character suffers as a result. The previous drawn-out suspense and drama of her relationship with Matt, the ebb and flow of their dynamic, gets smacked down by the harshness of reality. Milla becomes a victim and not much else; yet another of Matt’s loves to suffer a tragic fate at the hands of his enemies.
Oh, and Milla had now been poisoned by Dr. Fear, as the aforementioned Melvin Potter was, and is now totes bonkers because BLURB BLURB BLURB CRAZY PEOPLE! And responsible for the death of a completely innocent man who she secondhandedly shoves in front of a subway train. Because crazy people, phhffft, am I right? Not only can our hero character no longer admit to maybe having had a nervous breakdown, we descend into the dangerous, hysterical crazy people thing, and Milla is susceptible because... she went to see a psychiatrist? Seriously, like... that's the level of mental health shaming we're on here?
The building of Melvin's character, any sensitivity he'd been shown, is gone in an issue, and Milla, well... she's not only incompetent and blind, codependent, and suffering from a major case of OVARIES, but she's CAH-RAZY now, too. It should be noted that, when fans talk about this storyline, they talk about her being "poisoned," so as to avoid many of the troubling implications.
But I suppose we ought to save some of this for the next volume.
And still three stars? Hell, it was a suspenseful read and I couldn't put the fucking thing down. But the myriad issues, the ableism and sexism, come to the fore in Brubaker's run and was it any surprise to anyone that readers were so relieved when Waid took over? (Yes, I'm ignoring Andy Diggle.)