December 21st is (in the Northern Hemisphere) the shortest day of the year as the winter solstice arrives. If all of the darkness outside is getting you down, I have the perfect antidote for you: "Daredevil" #7.
While there are some references to earlier issues and plots still running, the bulk of "Daredevil" #7 is a stand-alone story and a good introduction to the series. Matt Murdock takes some of the "trouble" students at the Cresskill School for the Blind on a trip, but when the bus crashes in the snow, it turns into an interesting story about survival, leadership, and the elements.
Mark Waid takes established elements, like the difficulty Daredevil's radar sense has with a snow storm, and uses them to create a daunting set of obstacles for the characters to survive. It's tense watching Matt Murdock having to round up the children and try to lead them through the snowy landscape, and the sudden worry when they find themselves short one student. It helps that the kids actually feel like kids; they argue, they tease one another, they complain about the bad situation, but all without coming across as annoying. They're clearly out of their depth, and when misunderstandings happen it's in an understandable manner.
The only quibble I have with the script is the idea that Matt would shift into his Daredevil outfit; sure, it provides the visual of Daredevil leading the kids through the snow, but considering that they were trying to find help it doesn't seem like the smartest of options to take. The fact that it's the only real issue with the story, though, says a lot about the strength of Waid's work this month.
Paolo Rivera's pencils are, unsurprisingly, gorgeous. He's able to bring this story to life so beautifully, from the ever-present snowstorm that blankets the panels, to the hideous twisted wreckage of the bus that's been sheared in two. There are lots of great little touches here too, like the "SCRRRCH" sound-effect in the path of the snow plow, or how Rivera draws things through Daredevil's perspective with the parallel texture lines. Little moments like bottles of wine at the holiday party or the children in the snow, drawn in Daredevil-vision, help bring the situations to life. Even the cover is beautiful and striking, with Daredevil creating a snow angel on a rooftop; a splash of red in an otherwise black and white scene.
"Daredevil" is rapidly shaping up to be one of the best series at Marvel, and this issue helps cement that position. This is a great little one-off comic, and if you haven't checked out the new series it's an excellent sampler. Great stuff from everyone involved.