The push and pull of maintaining a secret identity sits at the heart of so many superhero stories. However, recently it wasn't part of Matt Murdock's tale. For a few years, he lived his life having it all, letting the world know that he really is Daredevil — and then, suddenly, it was a secret again. Now we're about to learn why.
Last week's Daredevil #17 — written by Charles Soule, with art by Ron Garney and Mat Milla — kicked off an intriguing new story line for Daredevil, as Matt sits in confession telling the story of how he got his identity back. (And, in the process, telling his local priest that he is indeed Daredevil... so, bravo Matt!)
Many had pretty much assumed that the resetting of many elements of Marvel's universe after Secret Wars had simply rewound the clock on Matt's identity, but it turns out there was a reason for it — one that starts with Matt realising living the life the way he was wasn't quite as satisfying as he thought it would be at first.
When Matt first revealed himself as Daredevil in Mark Waid and Chris Samnee's seminal run on Daredevil, it felt like the excising of demons the character had been internally brawling with for decades. For the first time in a very long time, Matt Murdock — who had suffered through one hell of a miserable life as a masked hero — felt like he was getting to a level of emotional and personal wellbeing he'd hadn't been at for many, many years.
He had a successful relationship. He saved lives, both as a costumed hero and in the courtroom. And then when he could no longer practise law, his fame had brought him wealth and adoration that he could never have had swinging his way over the dank rooftops of Hell's Kitchen. Matt Murdock was living the life he'd seemingly always wanted. But that happiness couldn't last for too long. When the legal complications of being a masked vigilante forced him to become Daredevil full time, Matt realised that part of his life was missing. He might have found new stability in his life with Kirsten, but without the duality of Matt Murdock the Lawyer and Matt Murdock the Superhero, the Man Without Fear was without something else deep inside, too.
Being public enough that your supervillain arch nemeses could find you in the middle of the night probably didn't help, either.
At first, Matt tries to solve his crisis by returning to New York, re-donning his classic costume instead of the swanky suit he'd worn in San Francisco in an attempt to gain something of himself back. But even in his home, he was shut out of the part of him that existed beyond Daredevil. The fame robbed him of his private life, but it also robbed him of his ability to help people through his work as a lawyer — something that defined his actions in and out of the Daredevil costume for decades.
And that really is the crux of what makes Matt desperately want his secret put back in the bottle, as he tells his priest and the audience: The real problem is that everyone knows who Matt Murdock is except for Matt Murdock himself. The life he tried to chase wasn't the life that he'd carved out for himself for decades, and whatever he tried to replace it with didn't fit into the Matt Murdock-shaped hole.
So he did the only thing a comic book character could: He tried to alter the fabric of reality itself. Matt reached out to everyone from Doctor Strange, to the Silver Surfer, to Emma Frost, and to even Mephisto himself — who has quite the history with this sort of thing — but they all either can't help, refuse to help or, in Mephisto's case, are a step too far even for a desperate Matt.
For now, we don't know just what he did to gain his secret identity back, but we've started getting a hint of it — just as Matt seems consigned to having to live a half-life again, the final page of Daredevil #17 gives us a way that could give us the answer as to how it really happened.
The children of Killgrave — whose presence once threatened to tear Matt's then-newfound emotional stability asunder — are back in his life. Could their psychic powers of suggestion be the key to how Matt Murdock became a secret again? We'll have to wait and see.