It's hard to find footing in the All New All Different Marvel. Most of the books are, unfortunately, not as captivating as one would hope. A few of the books, like Black Panther and the Vision, are so damn good one has trouble not judging the rest of the catalogue by those lofty standards.
And yet, flying pleasantly under the radar, is Charles Soule's Daredevil series, which has been revelatory - Soule and artist Ron Garney have redesigned the Man Without Fear's costume (wonderful), given him a sidekick (Blindspot who is also fantastic), and found a nice balance between the forced care-free attitude that Mark Waid and Chris Samnee developed and the back-breaking angst of the Brian Bendis and Alex Maleev run.
This most recent arc takes what could be a joke of a premise and makes it compelling: Daredevil plays poker.
Following a tip, DD ends up in Macau playing in a poker tournament for the extremely wealthy. One of the participants of this tourney is a man named Apex, who we learn excels at poker due to his mental powers - he can get inside a person's head and soon learn to see through their eyes.
Of course, Daredevil takes a skill like that and turns it into a lost cause.
Seems easy for ol' Matty, right? Well, the cards are so glossed that he can't read them with his fingertips. He can't use his radar sense to discover what cards he's holding either. He really is playing blind, and he's playing off the idiosyncrasies of his opponents to learn whether or not he can trick them. Daredevil is essentially playing with a pair of 20-pound cannonballs.
This issue focuses on the mental fight between Daredevil and Apex, where Matt realizes that if he lets Apex any further into his mind the villain will discover not just Matt's secret identity, but all of Matt's knowledge about his fellow superheroes. This is all happening while playing cards with some of the most rich and/or dangerous people in the world.
The art, but Goran Sudzuka, is fantastic - it has that simple, not-too-fancy linework that Samnee used to such great effect, His action sequences are wonderful, and just as effective are his scenes around a poker table where every participant is wholly aware of his or her physical reactions. He makes great use of people's facial expressions, and he makes the switch from Garney an easy one.
We also have to throw some flowers in the direction of colorist Matt Milla. His minimalist color usage is genius - he uses red as an effective eye-catcher on nearly every page, uses a lavish palate to capture cityscapes, and his earth tones in the poker scenes keeps the action on the table. He makes Sudzuka's pencils and inks explode off the page, and enables a terse aesthetic in the overall narrative.
And then there's Charles Soule. This dude is one of Marvel's top talents in their depleted stable of creators, and it seems like he gets minimal attention for the poignant and innovative stories he tells. In this issue, the dialogue of Murdock alone is incredible, as he sidesteps every question the lovely Adhira tosses his way in so elegant a fashion the reader can help but feel his charm radiating. Also DD's internal dialogue dealing with the fiscal repercussions of this mission are as funny as they are frustrating.
This issue is a real treat, as the story goes in unexpected places with so simple a premise. This is a great jumping-on point for new readers, especially with the surprise splash on the last page. I'm giving this issue
9 out of 10 sloppy poker tells