The two halves of Matt Murdock’s identity have often been at odds with one another in the past, but in Charles Soule’s latest Daredevil arc, they have come together to fight a battle in the Supreme Court that’s going to change how the world sees superheroes.
Daredevil is the blunt instrument that Matt Murdock wields with a deft hand when the legal mechanisms to enact justice fail to work properly. By that same token, Matt Murdock is the avatar of a kind of clean, systematised justice that Daredevil could never hope to spread through the world on his own.
In all the years that he’s spent living his double life as a superhero and an attorney, Matt Murdock has saved countless lives using both his fists and his legal acumen. For every one criminal that he’s ever wrecked on the streets, there are two that he’s put away through the criminal justice system and, for the most part, he’s been OK with that ratio. Matt’s understood that there’s only so much good he can do in the world as a generally street-level superhero, and that he’s much more capable of fighting for the kind of long-lasting justice he wants to see in the world from the courtroom.
But at the same time, there’s always been a part of Matt that’s known how much more that he and every other superhero in Marvel’s comics could be doing to make the world a better place were it not for the fact that, in the eyes of the law, they themselves are criminals.
Soule’s “Supreme” storyline is chiefly focused on a plan that Matt has to fundamentally change the relationship between official law enforcement and vigilantes who do hero work.
(It should be noted that Matt Murdock recently managed to regain his secret identity with the help of the Purple Man’s children, who used their powers to wipe Matt’s identity from the minds of everyone who learned it. People know that Matt and Daredevil are close friends, but not that they’re the same person. All of this is ridiculous, but we’re talking comics here, people.)
Working as part of the New York County District Attorney’s office, Matt plots the takedown of a the Clip, a small, gun-obsessed doomsday cult that’s planning to set off a number of bombs meant to trigger the fall of society.
As Daredevil, Matt foils the cult’s plot and decides to name one of the group’s members officially in court. Matt’s legal case is built around the idea that Daredevil (and all costumed heroes) should be allowed to testify in court without revealing their secret identities. If Matt were able to successfully argue his case, the court’s decision would set a new legal precedent allowing for any and all costumed heroes to actively participate in the legal aspect of the criminal justice system.
What plays out over the next four issues included in “Supreme” is the type of Daredevil story that both captures the character’s quintessentially cerebral nature and the kind of beautifully stylised action that’s come to define Netflix’s live action Daredevil adaptation.
The sheer novelty of Matt’s plan and the larger legal ramifications of the case’s outcome are enough to convince a judge to hear the case with Daredevil testifying as its star witness. From his position on the stand in his full Daredevil getup, Matt’s able — for one of the few times in his history as a character — to fully demonstrate the breadth and depth of his legal talents while acting as his superhero self, and it’s an absolute joy to see.
Soule is a fantastic writer aside from his work on Daredevil, but his background as a lawyer brings an immediately apparent understanding of how to bring the comic’s court scenes to life. The voice that Soule slips into when scripting Matt’s interactions with the judge and the opposing legal team is that of an attorney who knows what it’s like to spar, fighting others who perceive the law as a set of weapons with which to fight intricate battles.
Soule is deeply in his element in these scenes and, as ludicrous as this proposition is, you find yourself buying into Matt’s argument. It isn’t just because because Matt’s the protagonist of the story, but because his success would make for the kind of world-changing event that you don’t necessarily expect from a Daredevil book.
But there are plenty of classic Daredevil moments scattered all throughout “Supreme” that are necessary respite from the arc’s denser, more intellectual scenes. Daredevil’s testimony is interrupted, for example, when the other members of the Clip storm the courtroom in an attempt to shoot the place up, free their comrade, and avoid the possibility of being brought up on charges themselves. Daredevil springs into action to dispatch the terrorists, but not before the judge himself throws his gavel at one of them and strikes him squarely in the face.
All of this is pure, unadulterated madness, and it’s an exactly the kind of story that underscores what a compelling character Daredevil can be in the right hands.
Though Matt wins his initial case and a subsequent challenge from the defence at the appellate level, he meets the true big bad of “Supreme” when Wilson Fisk takes note of the court decision and realises what a precarious position it puts him in as a noted crime lord.
Fearing what might happen to him the next time a costumed hero crosses his path, Fisk brings an attorney of his own into the fold — a man who only goes by Legal — who once worked as the head of Tony Stark’s legal department. Though Legal isn’t an enhanced person (as far as we know), his command of legal knowledge turns him into the sort of menacing super villain that you want to see Daredevil fighting with in court. If Bullseye is Daredevil’s most physically intimidating adversary, it’s Legal who can be considered the true foil of lawyer Matt Murdock.
Fisk brings Legal in to begin building a rock solid case against Matt and the DA’s office, and because Legal’s literally never lost a case before, the men are convinced that the new era of superheroes working with police to stop crime will be over before it’s even begun. Just in case, though, Fisk has a nearly indestructible hitman prowling the streets looking to murder Matt in his civilian identity.
As “Supreme” builds to its climactic end, there are brief cameos and returns of classic characters such as She-Hulk and Foggy Nelson that give the arc duelling, yet complimentary senses of being deeply grounded in Daredevil‘s chunk of Marvel’s books and the larger world beyond.
“Supreme” is about a man who only feels like he’s being his whole self when he’s able to live as both a vigilante and a lawyer, but it’s also about the functional ways in which power flows through our society. The law, as Legal explains to Matt, is neither a benevolent nor malevolent force, but rather a neutral construct that can be manipulated to various ends by those with the means and resources to do so.
Power, in this sense, is not a fixed idea, but a shifting concept. Fisk is powerful because he is rich and smart enough to pay to attack Matt Murdock on multiple fronts. Matt is powerful both because and in spite of his bifurcated identities. Legal is powerful because of the multitudes of knowledge he contains. There is a strength to all of the players here and “Supreme” is chiefly concerned with illustrating what a power struggle between them all looks like.
Though we already have a solid sense of what to expect from Netflix’s Daredevil offerings in the future, “Supreme” is a story that, despite its relatively newness to Marvel’s canon, deserves a spot within the MCU. Not only would it finally give Netflix an “incident” that would have a profound impact on the larger MCU in a truly novel way, it’d also make for a damned good Daredevil story.