New Marvel Presents:
DAREDEVIL the Fearless
#13: "Genesis And Revelation: The Birth and Death of Daredevil"
The First and Final Tales of Daredevil, Guest-Written By: Ryan Jent & Ben Kaine
Editor: Ben Kaine
PART ONE: GENESIS
I hear her scream. In fact, I don't understand how the entire region doesn't. I should be in bed right now -- sleeping across the room from my roommate and close friend Foggy Nelson. Lucky for her, I can only take his snoring so long and I had to free myself from the restraints of that room.
I leap from one rooftop to another, following the gasps and screams. Finally, I find myself right above her. There are two people pushing her back -- not literally, yet -- into the alleyway. They're breathing heavily, and telling her to shut up. But she won't stop sceaming.
I really shouldn't complain. The screaming helped lead me to her, after all. But I would've done fine finding her by the perfume she's wearing. Well.. the perfume she took a bath in, really.
I leap down without a sound. It wasn't that far -- perhaps only a drop of thirty feet. I stay in the shadows, as I hear one of the girl's attackers forcefully tear her shirt. That's when I step out, instructing them to back away from their prey.
They laugh. Just like everyone's always done, dating back to my childhood back in elementary school. But why shouldn't they laugh? After all, I'm just a skinny guy wearing something someone would jog in and a face mask. I'm sure they'd find it comforting that I'm blind, too. I can't do any harm. I can't stop them from ravaging the young lady I'm here to save.
"Get 'em!" one of the men say, charging forward. I realize how close he is by his onion-caked breath. Causes me to practically taste the herb. My fist connects with his jaw, driving him back into the other man who was beginning to make his way towards me as well. The clanging of his already-loose belt made sure I knew that.
The one with the belt lands on the ground courtesy of his cohort in crime, the Onion-eater. It doesn't take them long until they're up again, but once they reach where I'm standing I leap to the side -- landing on the nearby dumpster sitting to my right. I flip off of it, landing in front of the girl.
I decide to try to comfort her, say: "Don't worry. You'll be fine."
Her heart's racing. She feels no more safe than she did before. The two men have turned, obviously, and are coming at us again. Once the one with the belt foolishly gets close enough, his chest meets the sole of my shoe. I can hear the gurgling of the spit that flies out of his mouth, and the loud thunk as his tail bone once again hits the ground.
"Get behind me," I say to the girl, turning my back to my attackers for only a second. My mistake.
I try not to pass out as the baseball bat slams into the side of my face, but it's hard. I have to stay conscious for the girl. I won't let anything happen to her -- I can't. The taste of my own blood is alarming, but if I let that distract me I'll just be tasting more of it. I question how well I am going to fair tonight, having let the baseball bat go undetected.. but I fight the thoughts back.
I have to stay focused.
I stumble back, my fists slamming into the man with the onion breath. Just as the one with the loose belt stands, my foot slams into his temple, and he falls. That's one down. Make that two, I notice, as I grab the man with the onion breath's shirt. But he's limp.
I release the shirt, and smile at the thud as he hits the ground. I can still hear the girl's breathing and smell her perfume, so that means she's still with me.
"Are you all right?" I ask, hiding the concern in my voice. I can show no emotion. Stick taught me that a long, long time ago.
"I'm fine," she says. "Now that you're here, that is. Are you some kind of superhero or something?"
Superhero? I'm certainly no superhero. I'm just a man who wants to make a difference with his life. I was trained in the use of all my other senses, honing them -- perfecting them -- because I was blinded years ago (the courtesy of radioactive waste). My life is full of loss, and there has always been a lack of justice.
My father was forced into a deal with the mob -- just to support me after my mother died. In the end, he made the right decision, I suppose. It was in the ring that he, the boxer known as Battlin' Jack Murdock, showed me (even though I'd already been blinded) one thing he'd always stressed in my life.
To never give up. Because he didn't take a dive and let the other boxer win, he was killed that night. I made his murderers pay -- something I'm not that proud of. It lead to the death of a hooker.
That's why I'll always follow the rules. The rules I've studied since I was just a child.
I'm not a child anymore. I'm a man. A man with a purpose -- to make my father proud, and to preserve justice.
"I asked you a question," the woman says in an annoyed tone.
I finally answer. "No, I'm no superhero, Miss. Just a man who wants to make a difference."
"Do you have a name?"
Matt Murdock, college student at Columbia University. That's who I am. I'm going to be a lawyer. So, I ask you this: Why is it I respond with an old childhood nickname?
I hear the sirens coming from a few blocks away. It will still take the police quite some time to arrive, but I'm going to make my leave. The men are out, and the girl has been saved. I've done my part.
I do one more flip, landing on the same dumpster I'd used to my advantage earlier in the night. With another jump, I grab hold of the fire escape which had rattled with the wind. I move quickly on it. It's obvious the structure could go at any minute. Within moments, I find myself back on a rooftop.
Leaping from rooftop to rooftop as before, I'm left with only my thoughts and the sounds, smells, and other sensations of the night. It's then that I finally put something into words.
I love this.
I told that girl to call me 'Daredevil' tonight. The name that, oddly enough, I was christened with for being a 'bookworm'. Although I don't know what it is, I can feel it. I love the Law -- but I know many will never get to the courtroom to face Justice. And what if, in those cases, I can still ensure that justice?
..It's just a thought.
PART TWO: REVELATION
I heard the click of the gun's hammer and then the thunderclap of a brilliant shot ringing out, deafening in the confined space of the dirty back alley we'd been facing off in. The man stood there for a very long time, staring at me, his eyes wide in that look people always get when they just can't really believe. Finally, he lowered the smoking barrel of his gun. And his mind finally came to register what he had just done. The name of the man holding the gun was Joey Astle.
'Congrats, Joey,' I thought as the world around me slowly faded into oblivion.
'You did it. I'm dead.
You killed Daredevil.'
It took Joey another minute to finally check me, make sure I was dead, and then bolt before the police could arrive. Not that it would help him. Any half-decent department was going to be able to figure out what he'd done and prove it. There was enough evidence lying around me to convict him, some hundred arrows pointing toward his sin.
Footprints in the mud. His shoe size would be known. Bullet's firing range and caliber. There would be a certain amount of protein left within my eyes upon discovery of my body. That would determine when exactly I'd died. Possible fingerprints on the purse of the woman he had been trying to mug. Residues. Thanks to the laboratories, crime-solving's gotten a lot easier in the last century. Unless Joey Astle decided to play fugitive, he would be in jail within the usual forty-eight hours.
Don't ask how a purse-snatcher like Joey managed to do it. Luck, maybe. My old age. A distraction. Take your pick of any of them. I'm not analyzing it. I don't want to. There are bigger things on my mind now.
I look down at my body.
Much bigger things.
It was then that I realized: I had LOOKED down at my body. My eyes- I could see again. The entire scene around me was viewable, in frightening detail. I felt more acute than I ever had, more aware. Part of being dead, maybe. The stereotypes always said it felt like awakening from a deep, deep sleep, or being blind and suddenly allowed to see. Pretty ironic, in my case.
'I'm dead', I thought again, mulling it over in my head. I wonder- Will I get to see Karen?
The thought brought a smile to a ghost's face. Karen. The virus took you from me eventually. I didn't want you to go, Karen. I wanted you to stay with me so badly, even if we could never be what I'm certain we were meant to be. I loved you. I loved you so much.
But what kept me going, Karen, after you passed away and I was left to face the monsters of this world alone, wasn't that I loved you. It was that I knew you had loved me. It was that I knew you still did. Even if I wasn't around to 'see' you smile, I knew it was still there, waiting for me. And there was nothing more strengthening than that, Karen. The last years of Daredevil were completely yours.
I wonder what people will think when they unmask my body at the morgue. I'd like to read that newspaper. Matt Murdock, once a famous attorney, was the masked vigilante called Daredevil. Sounds more like a tabloid story than anything you'd find in respectable media (oxymoron though that may be). Should be fun. Maybe Peter can take the funeral photos.
Policemen finally arrived on the scene of the crime, gaping at my still body. I immediately left the area, making for the rooftops. Call it force of habit.
A storm'd been brewing. When I made it to the gravel top of the nearest building, gigantic, black clouds greeted me, followed by a crack of thunder that seemed to shake every construct of the city. I smiled.
I noticed my appearance for the first time. I would have thought I'd be naked, but I was still wearing the scarlet suit of a Devil. Probably not the most advisable fashion when you're in the After-Life. I hoped nobody would hold it against me.
I checked for my weapons, but I didn't have them anymore, merely my image. I think a wizard or evil telepath or someone explained it to me once, how our spiritual and astral forms would suit themselves in image. I'm not sure I was listening at the time.
There was another great booming from the clouds that rumbled throughout the sky. The first sprinkles of rain started to fall. I felt a chill, then, and I knew what was coming. I raised my hands in an instinctive, mortal gesture. I beheld Satan as lightning fell from heaven.
It had wings, monstrous ones made of feathers, dressed as it should've been for what it was. I never got a good look at it, not really. It seemed to fade in and out of Reality like a bad picture on a screen, there for a moment and then a transparent or entirely invisible thing the next. I'd never know if it actually had a weapon. I'd like to think it was holding a scythe.
We dress up Death to look like a dead man today, when we want a nice image of what we think It will look like. We forget its full title. Death isn't a man. It's an angel. The Angel of Death.
The phantom struck at me and I fell, tumbling through sky like a deranged rag doll.
No man can dodge Death.
I was up again and underneath the scattered remnants of wooden roofing. Old warehouse. I looked up at the hole I made in the roof. I hoped to see the creature when it followed me through.
It came in. I never saw it. Not until my 'body' was crashing through the dank air, through a door (can the Dead really affect the real world like this? Or is the spiritual world simply a replica of the Real?), coming to a stop at the entrance of an old elevator shaft. I stood.
Into the elevator shaft and up. It was behind me. Out of the elevator shaft before it can quite reach me with that invisible, horrific hand. It was an old office area, just above the store rooms below. The cubicles were still there, empty and covered thick with dust. I did what any superhero would do and hid.
Time to take stock of the situation, and it was a situation I didn't understand at all. I was somehow still standing, even after being hit. Did my spiritual body have a different durability than the human shell I'd left behind? A durability that would allow me to take blows like I'd received from It?
I smiled. Peter.
Years ago, we had been debating which of us would enter a nest of bad guys first, myself or him, in his showy role of the Astonishing Spider-Man.
"See, Hornhead, that's the difference between us," he was saying. "I have the proportionate strength of a spider. Your body's still just human, even with your enhanced senses. If the Hulk's in there and he hits you, you're paste."
"What if you go first and he's there? What are you?" I asked with a grin.
"In traction," he admitted with a gulp. We decided to jump down together, at once. The power of compromise in action. I miss Peter.
Nobody outruns Death. Nobody hides from Death. I'm not sure what I was thinking by trying to. I saw the faint image of feathered wings for a moment and then I felt its hands on me, turning my spine to the purest ice, stinging my arms like snow on naked flesh-
I looked up into its eyes and saw the most horrible face in the universe, just for a moment. The face was so contorted with silent rage (it never uttered a sound, not once-...). I won't say anything more about it. Everyone sees that face once. There's no use trying to describe it.
'Why?' I remember thinking as somehow, we found ourselves on that warehouse's rooftop, and it was striking me again. 'God-'
I was being murdered, I realized. My soul was being assaulted relentlessly by this being. I- I thought my soul was protected. The Angel of Death hit again and everything went white from a flash of lightning in that great, black sky. Wonder if Mephisto was watching.
I think I was thrown. I landed on more gravel. Stood. Still alive, to my surprise. I looked up and to my disbelief, I thought just for a moment that It was surprised too-
There was a swift rain of new, potent force visited on me, a black thing that I felt sure would render asunder the city in which we lay. But I was no longer paying attention. I had realized that I could stand again after the attack and did so, miracle. It called down a terror I will never reiterate and I fell again, again.
To my knees. Something faded into and then back out of reality in front of me, then back again. The creature looked at me. It was angry. I was at its feet. But not its mercy. It was then that we both had that same realization. It couldn't hurt me; I was protected. Ball up the fist and stand-
"OH, DEATH-" I yelled, and it hurt to talk.
With a screeching roar that would shatter human eardrums, It reared backwards, its wings recoiling in pain as it toppled, crashing down-
"-WHERE IS THY STING?!"
White of lightning, dark of night. I punched again. Pitter patter of the rain drops. Punch. I had to win. Kick. Karen. My fingers interlocked and I sent my hands across a freezing face, and it was enough. It dropped. Turned invisible again. I turned and ran.
Within moments of my run's start, the rooftop ended underneath my feet. It didn't matter. The physical doesn't really, not in the spiritual world. I was still running, now through the air across the void of the night, Death at my back and ahead, a Light, shimmering white in the black of the clouds, out of place amongst them and oh so beautiful-
Somewhere behind me were words. I didn't turn and look. There was someone screaming at the Angel of Death, telling it to stand and renew the chase before something horrible (wonderful?) happened-
I felt my back turn cold. The phantom was obeying.
The Light loomed ahead of me and I ran faster through night sky. I was just beginning to feel it. A warm glow on my face- Then thunder from the clouds. A cold breath on the back of my neck.
Run. Don't stop. Run- Run and pray- Oh God, I wanted to reach that light-
And as I prayed, the fashion of my countenance was altered, and my raiment was white and glistering. Someone from the depths of a world where the damned go screamed for Death to destroy me right then-
I ran on.
A powerful wind brushed against my leg,but nothing more. The claws of Death had missed in their final attempt to seize their property.
I ran on.
The breath left me. All that was left was the night sky, the deepest obsidian... and that Light.
I ran into it.
The Light reared up, obliterating the black ruling the skies, consuming my world in something pure, new, and white. The universe of the Mortals was left behind me.
And N\now I stand in the Light. I wonder for a final time what Heaven will be like when we reach it. Some people believe it's a beautiful land out of a storybook, with streets of gold and eternal daylight. I almost think I'll miss Night if that's true; I've spent more time in it than the daylight. Others think it's simply a state of cosmic bliss, held forever within God's glory. According to one Biblical theory, there are two Heavens. One in which God and his angels have resided since the Story of Mankind unfolded, and one which would be brought into being for Mankind to live within come the end of Time. Until then, we'd be held in stasis. Interesting thought, but I already know what's waiting for me.
I turn, realizing that I am no longer alone. A human figure is coming out of the white. Its features- HER features- become visible after another moment and I smile. And we break into a mad run for each other's arms.
We embrace. I go blind again. But only until she brushes away the tears.
And I know I'm home.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.
NEXT: A Killer Stalketh the Streets!
Rob Payne resumes the latest present-day adventure of the Scarlet Swashbuckler with "Omissions", this very month in New Marvel!
For an issue that touches the glory of Heaven itself, this issue was Hell to cobble together. During January, our semi-new regular writer Rob Payne ran into some troubles, and I was left with a need for a fill-in writer. I found a writer and relaxed a bit.
My mistake. When the fill-in issue came in, I found that the new writer, while talented and intelligent, did not quite understand- Well, suffice to say we were now LATE and I was still without the first sentence of a 'Daredevil' # 374.
Several attempts to write a new issue equaled six or seven pages of useless material. I was about to go batty. Then came Ryan Jent, who's writing talent since his days of launching New Marvel's "Astonishing Spider-Man" title had developed so that I couldn't be sure it was really the same person. We huddled together. "Genesis & Revelation" was conceived. He got his half of the story to me OVERNIGHT. God bless that man!
So it goes. Rob Payne's back and bountiful now, and 'Daredevil' # 374 should be hitting you by the end of the month to make up for all that nasty lateness. And just wait until you all see what's going to happen for our big 375th issue! It'll be the Scarlet Swashbuckler like you've never seen him before, Ladies and Gents!
And the world turned on.