The latest issue of Daredevil exposes two more weaknesses of the King in Black – and presents a potential problem in the overall story.
WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Daredevil #27 by Chip Zdarsky, Marco Checchetto, Mike Hawthorne, Adriano Di Benedetto, Marco Menyz, and VC’s Clayton Cowles, available now.
Daredevil comics frequently explore issues related to religion and mental illness, with Matt Murdock often struggling to reconcile his violent vigilante activities with his Catholic faith and to avoid succumbing to depression and other mental health problems in the wake of all the trauma he’s experienced. These topics are usually handled gracefully, which is part of the reason the Daredevil franchise is one of the most regularly acclaimed in superhero comics, but the latest issue of the current Daredevil ongoing makes a rare misstep with how it chooses to incorporate these themes into the “King in Black” crossover event.
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Daredevil #27 features Matt’s Catholicism and Typhoid Mary’s mental illness as key plot elements but it does so in ways that could be interpreted as offensive to other characters and religions.
The current Daredevil story arc “The Black Kitchen” is a tie-in to the King in Black event. In the previous issue, when Knull’s symbiote army invaded New York City, Elektra, the new Daredevil, began to fight against them. Typhoid Mary, who has been acting as a bodyguard to New York mayor Wilson Fisk, engaged several symbiotes before being possessed by one. Matt Murdock tried to protect the prison where he is incarcerated but also became possessed. But in Daredevil #27 both Matt and Mary were both able to resist Knull’s control by unexpected means.
Matt’s internal monologue shows Knull trying to undermine his belief in the Christian God and concepts like Heaven, but Matt remains steadfast. He does not bend to Knull’s will, and even uses the symbiote’s power to fight off two other possessed people, though he still feels Knull’s influence. Eventually, Matt is able to run to the prison’s electric chair and, with the help of another inmate, shocks himself, seemingly eradicating the symbiote. While taunting him in his mind, Knull told Matt, that no one can fight forever. Matt responds by telling him that forever is easy if you have faith.
Typhoid Mary became fixated on killing Elektra in service to Wilson Fisk, and until she believed she did so she was able to ignore Knull’s commands. After Elektra faked her death, Mary allowed herself to be fully consumed by Knull. It is implied that Mary is able to resist Knull because of her mental instability. Both Matt and Mary’s abilities to resist Knull are potentially problematic, given the implications they make about other characters.
The use of Matt’s Catholicism in this issue is potentially offensive as it risks putting that religion on a pedestal above others. After all, Matt is not the only religious superhero in the Marvel Universe and yet some of his peers who have similarly strong beliefs in their respective faiths have not been successful in resisting Knull. Both Ben Grimm/the Thing and Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel, who are devout practitioners of Judaism and Islam, respectively, have been possessed and have not yet been shown freeing themselves.
Likewise, Mary is not the only Marvel character with mental health problems but is the only one shown to be able to use her issues to control a symbiote. The implication could be that her specific condition, dissociative identity disorder, is responsible for her resilience but this would also be problematic. There is a long history of stories in many mediums, not just comics, attributing supernatural phenomena to DID, with the horror movie Split being a particularly well-known example. This leads to the creation of harmful stereotypes against real people who suffer from the condition that Marvel would do well to avoid perpetuating.
It’s entirely possible that future issues of Daredevil will reveal that Matt and Mary possess other attributes that allowed them to resist Knull. Hopefully this will be the case, because if not the arc risks denigrating other religions in favor of Catholicism and glorifying mental illness. Alternatively, if characters from other faiths start to show resistance to the symbiotes it could successfully be suggested that they have some kind of divine weakness, without being offensive. However, it’s probably best to avoid doing something similar with other mentally ill characters as it could play into harmful trends in media representation.
KEEP READING: Comic Legends: When Did We Learn Daredevil Was Catholic?
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